Crafts Feed

Summery Thoughts & Pics ... 🌞

St. johns wort 1

Happy mid-July, my friends! I hope everyone is doing well and enjoying their Summer so far ...

I know my posting has been very slow lately, but all is well here - it's just a very busy, hands-on season in my life! Days begin early - end later than I'd like - and I'm afraid naps are just not a regular thing anymore, lol. I'm finding it a challenge to carve out blogging time these days ... but I am still here! And I appreciate all your thoughts and queries, both here and at my Facebook page. I do not have my blog email working yet, so if you need me, please contact me by leaving a comment here or at FB for the time being. :)

Well, I'm popping in today to say hi and share a few photos if I may. I'm working at the kitchen table right now, sipping some cold coffee and listening to my boys all around me. Little Bear is singing a Spiderman song with Crackerjack while they work on a puzzle on the family room floor ... Earlybird is working hard on math skills with his therapist in the sunroom ... and Bookworm is weaving in and out of the kitchen, getting his own day going ...

Free time might be hard to come by these days, but I'm awfully grateful to be here in this season of life. These full and blessed days go by all too fast ...

Ok. First up - here's a sun craft I made for the Summer Solstice:

Sun plaque 2

I have always loved those colorful sun and moon plaques you see hanging on the sides of sheds or garden gates ... but goodness, they are expensive! This one is handmade (and rather humbly so) with salt dough. We left it to finish drying outside under its namesake. I haven't had the courage to paint it yet, but once I do and it is sealed against the weather, I will hang it somewhere in our garden ...

Speaking of my garden, it's doing very well, too!

Bee balm

Above is the Bee Balm which started blooming just before Independence Day. I think it looks like little firework explosions! And boy, do the hummingbirds enjoy them ...

The herbs we planted last year are quite plentiful - I've been gathering them on dry days to hang over my kitchen window.

Herb basket

In my basket above is St. John's Wort (seen in top picture, too), Thyme, Lavender and Rose petals. The rose bushes out front really did well this season - in fact they are now mostly covered in hips!

Rose hips 1

I'll be researching what to do with rose hips, but in the meantime, I used the petals I collected to make some rosewater:

Rosewater 1

Doesn't that look pretty? 

Rose water 2

Very easy to do - I placed a cup of rose petals in a glass bowl, covered them with 2 cups boiling water and then allowed them to steep (with a dinner plate resting on top) until cool. Then I strained the water into a jar as seen above. I purchased some amber glass spray bottles which I plan to fill with a couple of different herbal concoctions, one of them being a "rosewater refresher" for hot summer days. :)

And here is the "pretty pink forest" growing in my front yard ...

Astilbe 1

These lovely blooms are Astilbe, and there is tons of it growing beneath the family room windows. And out back the Spirea is a veritable pink explosion:

Spirea 1

This whole area (which stands right beside the chicken coop) is a bumblebee haven!

A little more pink to be found along the front walkway ...


These are Cottage Pinks! I love their clove-like scent - and that they remind me of my grandparents' garden AND that they were a favorite of Tasha Tudor's. So much of gardening is creating and recreating fond memories, isn't it?

 Now, here's a very "interesting" visitor we had in our yard recently ...

Fox in yard 1

Yes, that is indeed a red fox - and we've never seen one before (even at our old house) but wouldn't you know, the year we finally get chickens ... this fella shows up?

One more garden pic ...

Faerie flower

This tiny plant popped up all on its own beside my herb patch, and I wasn't sure what it was, but after consulting google - and helpful friends on Facebook - we've identified it as "Straw Foxglove!" A tiny cousin to these beauties out front ...

Foxgloves 1

I love that it's a mystery how it got there ... :)

And here's a pretty picture from my living room, taken on Independence Day morning ...

4th of july morning

The summer weather has been wonderful here in New England - bright and hot for the most part. Maybe a bit too hot this week (mid 90s by Friday) ... so as much as I love open windows, I'm very grateful for air conditioning!

Speaking of gratitude ...

Magnetic letters

It's been many years since we've had magnetic letters on our fridge! I LOVE this age, don't you?

And how about a family pic? 

Happy birthday dad

We celebrated Bill's birthday last weekend, and I just love this shot of him surrounded by all his boys (and me)! In case you can't tell, he's lighting the candles on his cake - we couldn't fit all FIFTY on there! ;)

(Any longtime readers here astounded (as I am) at how big my boys are all getting? They were tiny when I started this blog!)

Parting shot, taken at my local Michaels craft store recently ...

Fall at michaels

Mind you, this was taken BEFORE the 4th of July! I am all for planning ahead - and you all know how much I love autumn - but even for me this is just a wee bit too early!

β€œLive in each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influence of the earth.” ~ Henry David Thoreau

(His birthday was yesterday - aka National Simplicity Day - and this is a topic for a whole 'nother post!)

Well my friends, I am going to wrap up now, because if I don't push "publish" soon there's a chance it will be another day or more before I get this post up! (Remember how I was sipping cold coffee back in that third paragraph? Yeah, it's taking me a while to get this post done!)

Plus, I have supper to make, and tonight it's sloppy-joe biscuits, corn on the cob and waffle fries - a real "boys' favorite." I've been a little lax in the meal planning department and really need to get back on track. I'm at the food store more than I'd like these days! 

(Another topic for another day!)

But as always, I thank you for stopping by and reading, and I hope this post finds you well ...

See you here again very soon!

A Craft to Celebrate the Summer Sun!

Solstice branch 2

Hello everyone, and Happy Wednesday! 

I wanted to share a project I worked on yesterday, in celebration of the Summer Solstice and all the plentiful sunshine we've been enjoying here in New England. But I can't take credit for this idea ... I found bits and pieces of it on Pinterest while filling up my Late Spring Planning Board. (Gosh, I love Pinterest. What did we ever do before Pinterest?!)

Now, as I've mentioned before, I like to assign seasonal themes to each week of the year. This gives me a chance to weave some seasonal awareness into our busy family life ... because otherwise time just flies by and I find myself thinking, where on earth did that season go? It's all too easy to miss out on the little joys that make each season so special! So this week we are taking note of the Summer Solstice and the brilliant Summer sun. Working off a brainstorm list and an established weekly rhythm, I have activities planned for nature, crafts, food, reading, learning and family togetherness. Some of the ideas will appeal to the younger boys and some will hopefully be enjoyed by us all ...

And some ideas are meant just for me! :)

For example, yesterday I made a decoration for our bright and shiny kitchen window where we all gather to eat and watch the wildlife in our yard. I could have involved the boys but they were busy and content to just observe and take comfort in watching mama work quietly while they went about their day. That said, it's really a very easy project and definitely doable with children of all ages. Materials include branches (one big and several smaller, similarly sized), colorful yarn and embroidery thread, a glue gun and oranges.

Solstice branch 1

(Not to say I didn't have some help ...)

On Monday (nature day), Little Bear helped me gather branches from the yard. We had some stormy weather the other night and it brought down a lot of twigs and branches. LB loves nothing better than driving that wheelbarrow around our yard, picking up leaves and sticks and rocks and whatnot. The ones we found came from our favorite oak tree that lines the drive, and some of the branches will be used in a "bonfire" (fire pit) later this week, while several were deemed perfect for my craft.

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On Tuesday morning, I sliced up an orange and placed those slices on a cookie sheet fitted with a cooling rack. The sheet went into a 200Β° oven for 2-3 hours. Once the orange slices (now dry) were cool, I threaded them onto golden embroidery floss and set them aside. Meanwhile, I took the largest branch we found and hung it in the window (by loops of yarn attached to the ends of the branch and small hooks hung just inside the window frame). I had the older (taller than me!) boys help me hang the orange slices from that branch ...

Solstice branch 4

I love how they catch the light and look like little suns themselves!

 Later in the afternoon, while the younger boys played nearby, I made up a few God's Eyes, a craft which has always reminded me of the sun, with its colorful center and radiating arms. From what I understand, a God's Eye (or, Ojo de Dios) is of Mexican origin and is made as a blessing, often for children. I like to make them for the Christmas tree, roundabouts the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, and though I've previously made them using popsicle sticks, this time out I chose to use natural twigs. I formed the twigs into cross shapes, attaching them at the center with my glue gun and then wove my designs in sunny-colored yarn. There are many directions to be found online for making this craft - and while I'm not skilled in fiber craft, this is so simple and satisfying!

Solstice branch 5

Finally, I attached the three God's Eyes to the branch and our Summer Window was set ...

Solstice branch 3

This window faces south so it gets plenty of light ... I love how this looks here!

Today, Wednesday (modeling day), we are making a salt-dough sun plaque for the garden. Or I should say we might ... if we have time! It's also Bookworm's (21st!) birthday so there's a lot going on, including a special dinner for the birthday boy! If we don't get to making our sun shape today, we'll try to work on it tomorrow ... 

{It's always good to make plans and follow a rhythm, but as in all things, flexibility is key!}

Before I go, here are some of the books we're reading this week:

Sun Bread by Elisa Kleven

The Sun Egg by Elsa Beskow

Summer by Gerda Muller

The Longest Day by Wendy Pfeffer

The Summer Solstice by Ellen Jackson

It's a lovely week - the Solstice, the Full Strawberry Moon, Bookworm's birthday and Midsummer Eve/Day - aka, the Nativity of St. John. So many things are blooming in our yard - I gathered a bunch of flowers to dry over my kitchen sink for future crafts ...

Summer flowers 1


Well my friends, thanks so much for stopping by! I hope you are all doing well and that your week is being kind to you. Happy Summer to all and see you here again very soon ...

HomeCrafts: Candles for Candlemas!

Candles 9

Earlier this month, over at my Facebook page, I shared a picture of the candles we made for Candlemas, along with a promise to do a follow-up post at the blog with all the project information ... but it just occurred to me this morning, I never actually did that! Well, here I am now to share all the details - because I think many of you would enjoy this craft and also, I'd like to do it again myself. :)

Ok, here we go!

So ... I knew I wanted to make candles in early February (with the hope of having them blessed at Candlemas) and I knew I wanted to use natural beeswax, so I googled a little and found this post, written by Jill Winger at The Prairie Homestead. I added it to my Deep Winter Pinterest board and started gathering materials ...

Candles 1

{Beeswax is so lovely, isn't it? We are so blessed by those industrious little bees!}

Candles 2

I already had the wicks and beeswax on hand, having planned this as an Advent craft (that never came to be). I also bought a few tiny glass jars at the craft store ($1 each) and found an old coffee tin in the pantry (previously used for steaming brown bread).

First step:

Candles 3

Add beeswax to the tin and set the tin in a simmering stockpot of water. The water should come about halfway up the can. (Too much water will tip the can.)

Slowly melt the wax ...

Candles 4

{Keep an eye on it, but it didn't take more than 20 minutes or so.}

Candles 5

Now, while the wax was melting, I hot glued the wicks to the bottom of the jars. Then, once the the wax was completely melted, I carefully poured it into the four ready jars ...

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(Using a kitchen mitt of course!)

I was pleased the wax filled all four jars! 

Candles 6

I placed dowels on either side of the wicks to keep them straight as the wax cooled.

Candles 7

Love how the wax went pale as it solidified!

I placed the candles up in the window and once the wax had fully cooled I trimmed the wicks.

Candles 8

And that was that!

I must say, we were quite glad of these little candles when a few days later a storm knocked our power out!

Candles 10

Now, I did add a bit of essential oil to the jar as the wax was added, but I don't think it added much scent. As I understand it, essential oils don't do well with high temps. I might fiddle with that a bit because I'd love to make some more of these candles with seasonal scents ... 

Also, (and I don't have a picture of this but wanted to mention) you can easily screw the lids on the candles and give them as gifts. Add some ribbon or twine around the jar and a pretty label on the top of the lid with your wish for a Merry Christmas, Happy Mother's Day, or Blessed Birthday! Etc.


I love it when a craft you're very keen to make works out just as you'd hoped ... and, even better, when the end result is something quite useful and meaningful. I will definitely be making these again (for myself and as gifts) and would love to experiment with adding herbs from my garden. My friends, have you made candles before at home? I'd love to hear about it if you have! Please leave me a note in the comment box below. :)

In the meanwhile, and as always, thanks so much for stopping by today! I hope your Monday is a good one, and I will 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 ...

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Clean and dry rocks, frame and glue gun.

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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!

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



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! :)

Creating Seasonal Themes: Corn Week!

Corn 1
(Plus a bit of book news at the end!)

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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


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

Corn book 2

The Life and Times of Corn

Corn book 1


Corn book 3

Corn is Maize

Corn book 4

The Popcorn Book

Corn book 5

Raccoons and Ripe Corn

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


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

Corn music

Under the Green Corn Moon (Native American Lullabies)

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

Corn 2


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

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

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

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

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

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

(Case in point, this post.)

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

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


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

Our Advent Calendar this Year (2014)

Advent calendar 15

Happy Tuesday, my friends! I hope your week's going well ... :)

Today I'd like to share our Advent calendar with you all. In keeping with my hopes for the season, I tried to keep this project simple and use mostly what I had on hand. Not that I don't love me a craft store trip, but I haven't been able to get over there in a while, so I worked with what I found in various old craft bins (that have yet to be organized since the move!).

Anyhoo ... I decided to use the posterboard in the kitchen where the Blessed Turkey sat last month. I ordered adhesive library pockets online and, as neatly as I could, arranged 25 of them on the front of the posterboard ...

Advent calendar 3

The envelopes needed some decoration, so I scattered paper-punched snowflakes across them (applied with a glue stick). (Stamping would have been nice here.) I also trimmed the edges of the board with some seasonal washi tape. 

Advent calendar 4

So far so good!

Earlier last month, I ordered a book of 400 reusable Christmas stickers. It's filled with all kinds of very life-like, photgraphed images. Realistic pictures work best for EB.

Advent calendar 5 

I went through the book and chose 25 stickers to use as Christmas vocabulary. Then I rifled through my index card stash and pulled out 25 cards: 21 white + 3 purple + 1 pink. After trimming about an inch off one end (so it would better fit inside the library pocket), I wrote the date at the top of each card in green pen. (Holding the card vertically.) Each card has a sticker with a vocabulary word describing what it is. 

Advent calendar 7

And then on the back of the card there is a note about the date and a simple seasonal activity we'll do that day.

Advent calendar 8

Here they are all laid out ...

Advent calendar 17

Now, though I have all the dates organized in my planner, I am writing the cards out each night before bed. This buys me some time and discretion. For one thing, EB is quite likely to pull out a card in advance - thereby ruining the surprise! - but also, I need to gauge mood/energy and weather on a day-to-day basis before committing to an activity. (Such is life with a special needs kid!)

So here's how it all shaped up ...

Advent calendar 9

Hope 3

 (Sorry the pictures are all kind of dark. I took these photos late on a cloudy day!)

To jazz the calendar up a bit, I used some sparkly letters in the empty bottom right corner ... 

Advent calendar 1

... and some vintage silver-lined postcards along the top of the calendar.

Advent calendar 13 

(I've had these cards for years and years - I'm glad to finally put them to good use!)

So there you have it - an Advent activity calendar to guide a young child through the weeks leading up to Christmas. We are on day three and so far it has been really nice for EB. He was SO excited for Thanksgiving I was afraid he'd have a hard time switching gears, but now it's all about Christmas is coming and how many more days? With this calendar, he'll have a visual way to see The Day get closer and some fun to make the waiting a little easier!


(By the way, we follow Advent according to the church calendar, so it doesn't always begin with December 1st as do most Advent calendars. This one began on Sunday, November 30th (the First Sunday in Advent) and will continue through Christmas Day. And yes, we include Christmas Day itself, because that just makes sense to EB. When that last card is read he will be told that Advent is actually over and Christmas has finally begun!)


Thanks so much for stopping by, everyone ... have a great night and I will see you here again very soon!

 p.s. I will do a post on the 25 images and the proposed activities next!

Our Thanksgiving Garland & a November Book

Hello, everyone!

Popping in today to expand a little on a couple of photos I shared last week. First of all, this is our Thanksgiving garland, draped in front of the library mantel ...

Thanksgiving banner mantel 1

Thanksgiving garland up close

This simple project is in lieu of a "grateful tree", and was inspired when I found a large batch of aged construction paper. (My folks found it in their attic, actually!) The paper was butter-soft and the colors were somewhat muted ... perfect for a November craft!

So I made a small ring of paper for each day leading up to Thanksgiving (28 in all) and stapled them closed. It's a bit like a traditional paper chain, only I didn't link them with each other, but rather strung them along a length of ribbon, one after another.

This is a two-part project, plus a learning tool to boot - each day we take off one ring and write on it something for which we are thankful. The pulled strips get placed aside, and as the garland gets smaller, Earlybird can see how time is passing. (Is it Thanksgiving yet, Mom?)

On the holiday itself we will have many "feathers of thanks" to pin on a paper turkey which I will set up. Dinner guests will be able to add feathers of their own.


Now, I also had a couple of folks ask about the book shown in this photo:

November begins 1

This is the November page from Around the Year by Elsa Beskow, one of my beloved "seasonal" books. I have a true love for books that celebrate the changing seasons, whether through recipes and crafts or poetry and pictures. I enjoy including them in our nature and reading displays.


Well my friends, I hope this post finds you well. Our week is off to a nice start so far, and I hope yours is too! Thanks so much for stopping by ...

See you here again sometime soon! 

Crafting Confessions

Remember when I showed you all this?

Well, six weeks later, this is as far as I've gotten ...

Knitting progress 1

Knitting progress 2

As you can see, progress has been slow - but I think I've finally found my groove!

(In my defense, I had a good bit done last month when somebody got his hands and/or paws on it and the whole kit and kaboodle came undone. I felt so defeated I put the project aside for the time being.)

But I'm back at it now, and I finally got the first square knitted (or is it knit?) and today my mum showed me how to tie on a new color. Hooray for a new skill! I'm knitting strips of these colored squares to eventually sew together into one good-size baby blanket. These are the little one's nursery colors - spring green (shown in the link above), buttercream and soft aqua blue. :)


What crafts are you working on these days?

Organizing the Nest Survey, Part 8 ~ Arts, Crafts & Hobbies


Happy Monday, everyone!

Today's survey focuses on the time, space and materials involved in arts, crafts and hobbies. Speaking in FlyLady terms, this is another "hotspot" for me. I love collecting (Bill might say amassing) craft supplies of all kinds, but I'm not always careful with how I store them ...

And finding time to fit crafting into an already pretty full schedule is no easy task either. When the boys were little we crafted regularly as part of our homeschooing week, but now that they're older it's not as big a part of our curriculum. I love to dabble in crafts and Earlybird really loves art projects - the messier the better! - and I suspect with the new baby coming, I'll l be back on the "kiddie craft wagon" before long. :) So I'm itching to get my supplies in order and figure out an easy (easier?) way to fit crafting - creative expression - into our week.

So, my questions for you all today are as follows ...

1. What kinds of arts/crafts/hobbies are part of your life?

2. Where and how do you store crafting supplies?

3. Time-wise, how do you fit crafting into your life? (On your own or with kids?)


Now if you'd like to revisit previous survey comments (to read through or add your own), please click on the following links:

1. to-do lists (daily and someday)

2. family food

3. calendars

4. file folders and paper management

5. family finances

6. homeschooling

7. seasonal planning

(Remember - each time you comment your name is entered in the contest!)


Thanks so much for taking the time to participate in my survey! I'll have a few more posts this week and then I'll announce the TWO winners on Friday. :)

Have a great Monday my friends ... see you here again sometime soon!


p.s. That crockpot cake I made yesterday came out great! Even after Earlybird unplugged the crockpot for an undetermined length of time ... it recovered beautifully! :)

Fall Fowers (of one kind and another)

Flower bags 2

An embroidered floral applique, so lovely in rich autumn shades.

It inspired me to make myself a pretty pair of bags!

 Flower bags 1

A simple ecru tote and an olive green messenger bag. Both are (well) made of a light cotton canvas, and I got them both - as well as the floral patches - at JoAnn's Fabrics.
(What don't I get there these days, lol?)
And before I go, here area some true fall flowers ...
Fall flowers 1
Cheerfully gracing our front walkway!

You know, it's wise to appreciate all the glorious colors at this time of year, because before long they'll be dimmed by winter wind and darker days ...
Have a great weekend, my friends! Take care of yourselves and your loved ones, and I will see you here again very soon ...


A Pretty Lantern for Dark Autumn Days

Lantern 1

My friend Kim introduced me to this craft several months ago ... I think it was back in March because I originally planned to make a "Lenten" lantern out of these materials. Alas, it all sat in my craft bin until just today. :)

Instead of a Lenten lantern, I decided to make something for the coming fall. This will look nice in our learning room, tucked into the corner where I enjoy my afternoon tea. (Remember my Tuesday Tea posts? They will return after the autumn equinox.)

So in the top photo you see most of the materials I used: small framing mats, plain vellum paper, adornments (butterfly stickers, floral acetate sheets), ribbon and a battery-lit candle.

I started by cutting pieces of vellum to fit the mat openings - I taped them down on the backside of the mats. 

Lantern 2

I then did the same thing with the acetate sheets.

Lantern 3

I could have used glue, but tape seemed to work rather nicely. (Though glue might hold things down more permanently ... a light hand would work best.)

I then applied the pop-up, slightly translucent butterfly stickers to the front side of the vellum. Finally, I attached the three mats at their corners using a hole punch and a sheer green ribbon.

Lantern 4

(Note: I had an awful time with the hole punch - I ended up using very sharp scissors to complete the holes.)

Finally, once the three panels were secured, I added the battery-lit candle ...

Lantern 6

This whole project took me about an hour and with a little help and adult supervision I think even young children could make something like this ... I think it would make a lovely homemade birthday or Christmas gift.

Lantern 5

I'll keep mine in my reading corner ...

Lantern 8

... and as the afternoons grow darker, I'll enjoy its soft glow all the more.


Now it goes without saying, this lantern could be made in any and all colors and designs - it could be made for a season, a holiday, to match a room or to celebrate a special person or event. It's such a simple project but quite versatile and the colorful results are so pleasing. Thanks to Kim for sharing this wonderful idea with me!


Well, I hope you've all had a nice day, and thanks so much for stopping by and sharing in my "craftiness" today. Have you been working on any crafts lately? If so, I'd love to hear about them!

Have a good night, my friends ... see you here again very soon!

Busy Birthday Bees

So the boys and I worked on some birthday crafts today and I thought you might like to see what we got up to! We made these crafts for Bill - the person whose birthday it is tomorrow and who was told NOT to read my blog tonight! (Right, honey?) I had a lot of fun putting these crafts together ... it's been a while since I've had a quiet, crafty day like this!

The first thing we decided to do was make Bill some barbecue sauce since he loves barbecue and hot sauce (especially really hot sauce) and I found this neat recipe on Martha Stewart's website. So here are the ingredients, all gathered and organized on the kitchen counter ...

Bday bees 1

I had everything on hand except the chipolte peppers - but they were easy enough to find. :) Once I got the sauce simmering on the stove, I dug out some supplies to make a neat little gift box...

Bday bees 2

I've always wanted to make one of these "sailor's valentines" for Bill - he grew up on the water and has a real affinity for all things nautical. To the best of my knowledge, these boxes were made as gifts for sailors' sweethearts back home - using shells they collected while at sea. There's probably a lot more to it than that, but this was the inspiration for my craft. :)

I had all the supplies already on hand - lidded box, paints, clear-drying glue (Mod Podge), seashells, beach sand, twine. I began by painting the box in acrylic paints. The boys chose soft green, blue and gray - the colors of the Atlantic. We then worked on an arrangement of shells - and once we had our design, I glued the shells (and a tiny starfish) in place.

Bday bees 3

And while the shells were drying, the sauce was just finishing up...

Bday bees 4

It doesn't look like much -  but it sure smelled pretty good! I really hope he likes it...

Back to the box while the sauce cooled  - it was time to glue on the "rope" trim and dust the top with sand.

Bday bees 5

For the rope, I just braided some kitchen twine and knotted it at the ends. I used a bulldog clip as a "clamp" to hold the trim to the edge while the glue dried.

By late afternoon, our gifts were ready!

Bday bees 13

I used stickers to decorate the glass quart jar holding the sauce...

Bday bees 8

And inside the "sailor" box, there are a bunch of curled up notes ... the boys brainstormed "Daddy Saturdays," which are basically things they'd like to do with Bill when he has a free day - aka, go hiking, have breakfast at the beach, make ice cream, visit the Apple store (lol). They wrote these ideas on slips of paper and tucked them inside the box.

Bday bees 12

And the very last thing we did was to sign cards and wrap the rest of the presents...

Bday bees 14

Bill LOVES popcorn and our old popcorn maker recently kicked the bucket - so we got him a new one. The other box contains something far less exciting - he's been after me to replace our tupperware with glass storage containers, so I picked up a box at Target and wrapped it up for his I think he'll get a laugh. :)

As a final touch, the boys embellished the plain brown kraft paper with smiley stickers and Sharpies.

Bday bees 17

Bday bees 16

Bday bees 15

And now we're all ready for tomorrow!


Well, I hope you enjoyed a peek at our birthday craftiness today! I think it feels nice to make something homemade for someone you love ... just as it feels nice to receive it! We don't always have (make) the time to be so creative and hands-on with our gifts, but I'm always so pleased when we do ... :)

I hope you all have a lovely night and a pleasant day tomorrow ... I'll see you here again very soon!


Afternoon Outing: Lovely Latte, Pretty Papers

Pretty papers 6

My friends, I had such a nice afternoon! I was able to meet a very dear friend of mine for "tea" while I was out and about. We met at the most adorable cafe not far from where my boys take their art classes, and honestly I wish I had had my camera with me because I was so charmed by this sweet little shop! It was a small place, but airy and bright and there were all kinds of little treats and gifty things like local preserves, quirky wooden signs and herb-scented laundry detergent. There was even a little wine corner and some microbrews in a fridge!

(Needless to say, I'll be visiting again soon!)

Now, the menu featured all kinds of interesting brewed teas, but I actually skipped over the tea, and chose instead a quite potent and very tempting "raspberry mocha latte."

Oh my.

I may pay for indulging in such heady caffeine (especially so late in the day), but it was deliciously worth it!

Well, after catching up for a bit, Lynne and I went our separate ways (with a promise to do 'this' again soon). But as it happened, I had a few minutes to kill ... and as it also happened ... my favorite paper-craft store was right across the street!

So naturally I popped in to take a quick look around and as usual, I spied so many new and beautiful things! (This place is like a candy store, I tell you.) In under 10 minutes I had picked out some pretty pastel papers and coordinating embellishments, keeping my "new" planner and "Spring Newsletter" in mind.

Here's a peek at my purchases: 

Pretty papers 2

Pretty papers 3

Pretty papers 4

Pretty papers 5

Don't you just love all those soft, springy shades? They feel just right for this time of year ... plus I have such a weakness for "vintage" and "Victorian" things. :)

So I have some new supplies to work with, and while my planner is (once again) underway, my Newsletter is still just a bunch of notes in a notebook. ;) Speaking of the Newsletter - I'm hoping to have it ready to go sometime soon after Easter. (I'd like to say before, but I'm sure that's overestimating my time and energy, lol!) It will be loads of fun to work on it, though, and I must thank you all again for your enthusiastic response!


Well my friends, I must now sign off for the night ... the kitchen timer is due to ring in oh, about seven minutes. Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing in my day ... I hope yours was a good one!

Have a nice night ~ I will see you again soon!


A Project for 7 Sundays ...

... making a "stained glass" cross.

Stained glass cross 6

Some of my readers might remember this project from four years ago (though for the life of me I can't find that post, lol). Anyhoo, it was fun and pretty and I thought we might do it again this year ...

 You see, we have large glass doors in our family room that are paned, and the middle section of the middle door has just the right number of panes for this project (seven panes for seven Sundays). Now, that's not to say you couldn't do this project without window panes! It's just the design of the door was what inspired this project. :)

So each Sunday between the First Sunday of Lent and Easter Sunday itself, I will make one panel of our cross. Each panel will feature the same overall design and colors, but the center image will be different, symbolizing something from that week.

I used just a few simple materials:

Stained glass cross 2

Black construction paper, transparent vellum paper and multi-colored art tissue. Decoupage glue is shown above, but I ended up using a glue stick instead.

I cut a frame out of the black paper (sized to fit the both the window pane and the vellum sheet) and then I looked for an image for the center of my panel. I chose a daffodil for this week, to go along with St. David's Day.

Stained glass cross 3

I centered and adhered the image onto the vellum sheet and then stuck torn bits of tissue all around - this created the "stained glass" effect.

Stained glass cross 4

Then I placed the final results in the door ...

Stained glass cross 7

(I love how this project emphasizes the return of the light at this time of year.)

Stained glass cross 8

Six more to go and we'll have our cross for Easter!

It's not a hard craft to do, but it is time-consuming and a little bit fussy. I wouldn't want to make all of the panels at once, but making one for each Sunday is pretty do-able. In fact, I like how the cross will be built up all throughout Lent ... and to lend to the "suspense" I'm keeping the weekly images a surprise for Bill and the boys. ;)


Well my friends, I hope your Tuesday is off to a good start ... it's very bright and cool here this morning, but it definitely feels a little like Spring. I'll be back here again later today to share a spot of tea with you all ... until then, thanks for stopping by, and have a nice day!

Organizing Spring Crafts

Happy Weekend, everyone!

Well this afternoon I sorted through my Spring craft supplies, so I thought you all might like to see a few things I'll be working on in the upcoming weeks ... 

These styrofoam eggs will be covered with colorful sequins and adorned with a golden ribbon. (Following the same idea as this Christmas project.)

Lent crafts 1

They may be given as gifts, or simply hung as Easter decorations.

Below are framing mats, vellum paper, ribbon and an electric candle ...

Lent crafts 3

These materials will be assembled into a small Spring lantern. My friend Kim described this craft to me the other day over the phone and I knew I just had to try it. What I will also need are images for the lantern "windows" which I will find using clipart and/or stickers. (Remember that Kate Greenaway clipart book I received for my birthday? That might work nicely here.)

But speaking of stickers, here are some pretty Spring faith-and-nature themed stickers I found:

Lent crafts 2

(I'll use these in all kinds of ways ... I just love stickers.)

These tiny wooden crosses I bought at Michaels, for about $1 apiece.

Lent crafts 4

I plan to paint them (one for each of my boys) and back them with bright art tissue or vellum paper. Then we will hang them in our learning room windows to catch that wonderful Spring light.

This here will be a family monogram ...

Lent crafts 5

I plan to paint it and (perhaps) embellish it with stickers. I chose a deep red paint and a golden-red glitter - colors to match the sitting/learning room.

This project will be a small family "intentions" candle set.

Lent crafts 6

It's hard to see, but behind the butterfly there is a small wooden dish, three glass votive candleholders and a spool of golden ribbon. I chose battery-lit votives as they are safer for children to use.

And below are the makings of some Lent & Easter banners ... 

Lent crafts 7

I have here several pieces of felt in shades of purple and glittery white, as well as sequins, stick-on letters, ribbon and wooden dowels. These will be two-sided banners - Lent on one side, Easter on the other.

I've listed these craft projects in my Lenten binder and over the next several weeks I'll plug them in where I (we) have time. I can say, I plan to work on the banners with EB this week. (Ideally I'd already have them up but that nasty virus set us back a bit.)

Once I had all my supplies sorted, I tucked them in this handy storage box ...

Lent crafts 8

I like to use clear bins for storing craft supplies and I usually separate materials by type (i.e. knitting crafts in one box, painting materials in another ...). But I also like to have one handy bin that is devoted to crafts that are timely or seasonal. As in the case of my "Spring Crafts" seen here. :)


Well, I hope you are all having a nice weekend! Have you been out and about? Or perhaps catching up on the homefront? We're doing a little of both here ... but the weather has been just crazy! Bright and blustery as all get out - wind speeds around 60 mph! It makes me realize how close we are to March 1st, which of course traditionally comes in "like a lion." With the roaring of the wind outside, I'd say he's knocking on our door already!

So enjoy your night, my friends, and your Sunday tomorrow ... I will see you again very soon.


Ash Wednesday Traditions

And so Lent begins ...

Ash wednesday 2

If you follow my blog, then you know that seasons and traditions are a big part of my family's life. We honor and celebrate seasons (both natural and liturgical) and we include traditions (big and small) in our everyday life. Today being Ash Wednesday, we welcomed the season of Lent.

We received ashes at very early Mass, and then at home we made some ashes of our own. We just burned one of last year's palms (from Palm Sunday) until we had ash. 

Ash wednesday 3

This sparked lots of good questions (a little impromptu science lesson in fact), and just for the record, I kept a very close eye on this and only I handled the matches. Also, I kept a cup of water within reach, and the windows were open to air out the room.

Next I cleared off the nature shelf and set up a simple Lent corner:

Ash wednesday 9

Here I have a jug filled with barren branches - but I added no water, lest they bloom too soon. I also set our Lent binder here, as well as a planter pot full of dirt (with a pinch of the palm ash), our rice bowl and a plain beeswax candle. The cross hanging on the wall is made of simple grapevine.

This is pretty much how this space will look all throughout Lent ... though the cross will start to "sprout" little bits of greenery (silk ivy leaves) as we move closer to Easter. On Palm Sunday we'll plant seed in the pot and I'll add water to the jug (with fresh branches if need be). During Holy Week we'll work on "dressing up" the candle for our Easter table.

And on Easter morning there will (hopefully) be blooms on the branches and new growth in the pot ... the candle will be gilded and the cross will look something like it does in this postBut as for the tradition of the "missing alleluia" well, this year it went well and truly missing on me! 

Lol, I can't find that pretty little plaque anywhere, so I had to make up something else on the spot. I grabbed a plain cross shaped box from my craft supplies and I photocopied a page from one of the boys' song books.

Ash wednesday 5

I cut out the "alleluia" and placed it inside the box ...

Ash wednesday 6

Secured it all with twine ...

Ash wednesday 7

And we "buried" it in the back of a file folder drawer.

Ash wednesday 8

We do this because we do not say (or sing) "alleluia" at Mass until Lent is over. When we "resurrect" this tiny package on Easter morning, we'll find it all sparkly and fine, inside and out.


I also packed away the Winter books this morning, and set up EB's corner with good seasonal reads:

Ash wednesday 10

On the sill, and in the basket ...

Ash wednesday 11

(I'll update my sidebar booklists asap!)

Here's a craft basket I put together last weekend, filled with materials for making various projects throughout Lent ...

Lenten crafts 1

... and here's the last section of our Lent binder: the "Stations of the Cross."

Lent binder 3

For this project I used 4x6 prints purchased from CHC several years ago, and I printed out station passages found at I adhered the images and words to folded ivory copy paper and fitted the pages inside sheet protectors. I really like how it came out, and my hope is that we'll take time each Friday afternoon to sit down and do the stations together.


And so Lent begins ...

A quiet and still season ... a time when we patiently await signs of new life. The journey can seem long, but these little traditions remind us where we're going, and keep us together on the path.

While we make fond family memories along the way!


Well, have a great day, my friends ... and thanks so much for stopping by. I'm going to sign off for now, but I will see you here again very soon...


Afternoon Candle Craft


Well, the Groundhog may have been onto something ... it felt very wintry today! The air was cold, the skies were gray, and we even had a wee bit of snow. The boys and I were in and out quite a bit through the day, but once things settled down, I indulged in a little crafting. Candle crafting, that is, in honor of today's feast. :)

So I decided to try my hand at a craft my mum used to do with us when I was little - decorating candles with small bits of pretty paper napkins. This is very similar to the tissue paper candles I'm rather fond of making.

The materials were basic and few: patterned paper napkins, plain pillar candles (I chose small, electic candles, $2 apiece at the party store), mod podge (craft glue) and paint brushes. (I didn't use the scissors shown, but I found tweezers quite helpful.)

Here's where I worked - the left corner of my new desk!


(Don't let the open window fool you ... it really was quite cold. I opened it to entice the cats away from the craft zone.)

So very simply, I just tore small images from the napkin, and applied them to the candle with a small swipe of glue.


These napkins were three-ply, so I pulled the two back layers away from the printed top. This kept the images very thin and sheer.

I then brushed an area of the candle with a small amount of mod podge and pressed the napkin bit against that area. I used a second brush to smooth the edges, though my fingers worked just as well (maybe better). I also found it convenient to use tweezers when picking up and placing the napkin bits.

It didn't take too long ... but just long enough that I only had time to make one.


Final step - the top lip of the candle.


And then I was done!


I think (if I may say so) it's quite pretty as is, but maybe even prettier, lit up:


I think these candles would make lovely Valentines for moms, nanas, aunties and the like, or - thinking ahead - even Mother's Day gifts. The project is a bit fussy so if you're working with a younger or challenged child, you might want to have the napkin bits already picked apart and ready to paste onto the candle.


So it was a very candle-centered day. We started at Mass where our tealights were blessed alongside other parishioners' candles as well as the main parish supply. And then there was my craft project, of course ... and now, as dark falls and supper is nigh, I have many candles "lit" all over the house. It makes this cold February night seem warmer, brighter ... a bit friendlier even. :)

Well my friends, I hope you all had a nice day ... and I hope this night brings you much comfort and peace. Thank so much for stopping by ... I will see you all again very soon!