Creativity 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.

Solstice branch 6

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 ...

A Fresh Start: Early Spring Planning (Printables!)

Fresh start button smallMy friends, I am very sorry it has taken me so long to get these planning sheets posted! I've had them in "draft" mode for so long, and I thought I'd be able to just whip them up quickly during one good sit-down session - but that's not how it played out! So here we are on the very doorstep of Early Spring - four days left! - and I have only just finished them up. Once I post this, I will print out a fresh set for my binder. :)

So I hope the PDF links work for you, and please let me know if they don't. Here's a quick glance at the shades I chose for this season: buttery yellow, robin's egg blue and spring green. :)

A quick note on the format of the sheets ... I have provided "clean copies" so you may use them for yourself, but naturally my own sheets are personalized to match my own seasonal plans! If you look at "Dawn's Overview" you'll notice that in each weekly box I've listed several "ideas" as well as days of note. These are little writing assignments for myself - things I've blogged about before or hope to write more about this year - but I'm sharing them in case they might be of interest to you. β€

Well, without further ado, here are the links - there's a planning sheet for each week of March and April as well as an Early Spring Overview and a color-coordinated sheet for "Home Learning this Week." I hope you enjoy them, and I'd love to hear what you think!

*Note: As I mentioned in my first planning printables post, the vintage images I used were found on Pinterest and to the best of my knowledge, are free for any personal use. So please keep it personal ... :)

Early Spring Overview (Dawn's)

Early Spring Overview (clean copy)

Home Learning this Week (Early Spring)

Early Spring Planning Sheet: Week 10 (2/29-3/6)

Early Spring Planning Sheet: Week 11 (3/7-3/13)

Early Spring Planning Sheet: Week 12 (3/14-3/20)

Early Spring Planning Sheet: Week 13 (3/21-3/27)

Early Spring Planning Sheet: Week 14 (3/28-4/3)

Early Spring Planning Sheet: Week 15 (4/4-4/10)

Early Spring Planning Sheet: Week 16 (4/11-4/17)

Early Spring Planning Sheet: Week 17 (4/18-4/25)

Early Spring Planning Sheet: Week 18 (4/26-5/1)


Also, here's a link to my first set of printable planning sheets: Deep Winter, 2016. I will be happy to share my Late Spring sheets (for May and June) once they're ready and hopefully that won't be quite as last minute! :)

Well my friends, that's all for now, but as always I thank you for stopping by and I hope you all enjoy the rest of your day. I appreciate that you spent a bit of it here!

See you 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 ...

Candles 11

(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 ..

A Fresh Start: Printable Monthly Calendars

Monthly calendars for pdf 2

Hello, my friends and Happy Sunday ... I hope your weekend has been nice!

I've had a couple of folks ask if I might make the monthly calendars I created for my homemade planner available for others to use ... and today, that's just what I did! With Bill's help, natch! ;)

So I have two calendars for you to choose from ... one has (some, but not all) Catholic feast days and the other does not. I believe they should be printable by following these PDF links but please let me know if you have any trouble! Anyhoo - use them as you wish, maybe in your own planning notebook or binder or in your file folders? The vintage clipart was found on Pinterest and to the best of my knowledge is free to use for personal use - so please keep it personal! :)

Monthly calendars for pdf 3

By Sun and Candlelight 2016 Month-at-a-Glance Calendar (Catholic) PDF

By Sun and Candlelight 2016 Month-at-a-Glance Calendar (Secular) PDF


Also, I'm making good fair progress on the Early Spring planning sheets and should have those available to share (as printables) in another week or so. I am so excited to plan for the next season on the horizon ... not that we don't have a WHOLE lot of Deep Winter ahead of us, but a little forward thought turns those "possibilities" into "probabilities!"

Well, that's all for now - I have a game to finish watching with Bill (or not watching, as is my way - I  like to keep busy because I get too nervous to sit down and stare at the screen, lol). I may or may not get to see Downton tonight - supper will be late ... and last night was late ... and my need for sleep may catch up to me. But I will post a recap just as soon as I'm able! And in the meantime, I wish you all well and hope to see you here again very soon ...

(P.S. Please let me know what you think of the calendars if you have a chance - I'd love some feedback!)

A Fresh Start: My 2016 (Homemade) Planner

Fresh start button final
Planners are an important tool for multi-tasking, care-taking mamas, and they're always a popular topic of conversation. (Case in point, my bulging "Calendars and Planners" archive!) Well, today I'd like to show you the planner I'm using for 2016, and you're probably not surprised to hear it's homemade ... ;)

(Now, I'm going to try my best not to be overly wordy, but we are, after all, talking about one of my passions!)

Planner 1

So I started with a notebook I really liked ... loved, in fact, upon first sight. Funny thing was, I had just had a "planner" bound for myself at Staples the week before, filled with favorite loose-leaf and pretty scrapbook paper, when I came across the above beauty at the Paper Source. It was a nice size and weight - easy to hold in one hand (so, portable) and sturdy. The paper itself was gorgeous - a comfortable off-white, lightly-lined, and trimmed in a shimmery silk. The bindings, made of a copper metallic, were strong and tight and the cover ... well, it just wowed me. At the time of my "discovery" I was out Christmas shopping with Bill, and I just looked at him, notebook in hand, and with a big smile said, "Merry Christmas to me?❀

Planner 33

(Here's the notebook set on a file folder to give you a better idea of its size: 7.5 x 9.875").

My long-time tussle over planners has played out something like this: commercial planners, while undeniably beautiful, never quite fit my "exact" needs. (And, when it comes to planners, I can be a bit exacting, lol.) Homemade planners can be tailored to my own specifications but tend to come out a bit too oversized to be practical, and I've never liked the plastic binding to be honest. They're also, admittedly, rather time-consuming to create ... though I do enjoy the work of it. So I decided this particular (and very pretty) notebook was simply made to be a planner and by golly, I was going to be the one to make it! :)

So here's what I did ...

Planner on side

First I counted the pages and determined a weekly spread would fit well in this book, with plenty of room for seasonal planning. (This is what I've found lacking in most planners - seasonal organization and workspace.) I also listed out the events of note for which I need to plan this year. Then I worked in the very back of the book on a "dummy" design ... starting with a wish-list of all I'd want to SEE in my weekly planning, measuring columns and counting lines, etc. And, once I nailed it, I divided the notebook into seasonal sections, including room for each planning project. Then I added monthly tabs for structure and convenience ...

Planner 2

And colorful flags to denote event/project planning sections ...

Planner 3

(Some events fall within the seasons themselves, while other projects are set in the back of the planner.)

Planner 4

Inside the front cover I adhered a year-at-a-glance calendar for handy reference (a printable found online), and the first page (a bit blurred out for privacy) serves as a title page, with my personal and emergency information (name, address, email, phones, kids, who to call ...). I named my planner "My Yearbook," but I also like thinking of it as an almanac of sorts ... eventually filled with all my annual "doings" and seasonal observations.

Planner title


Planner 6

The next pages are for my New Year's planning ... a quote for our family "word of the year" and then an overview of monthly events - from recurring holidays and full moons, to things like inspection stickers, tax collections, and jury duty. Then I listed out my own personal resolutions (or "goals" as I prefer to call them) on the next page.

Planner goals for new year

Beside each goal I made small, succinct notes for next steps to take - i.e. how to make the goal happen. These will get funneled into the planner itself. (Yes, I'm confessing to you all, by sharing this photo, that my old pants don't fit me ... but we're all friends here, right? Lol.)

Planner 9

Now we get to the meat of the meal! On the next pages we find my first seasonal planning section of the year (Deep Winter: January-February). On the left side I (washi-) taped a folded copy of my Deep Winter Overview, which I shared in my "printables" post. This is a breakdown of seasonal notes, things to focus on, each week. (There is space on the front of the fold for more notes.) On the right side I have a page for listing more practical concerns - household tasks, projects and goals. As you can see, I've only started filling in this section!

Planner 7

Planner 8

I used a lot of washi tape and coordinating fine-point markers, as well as several kinds of post-it notes to add color and vibrance to my planner. I think it makes the pages pop. :)

Planner 10

After the seasonal overview comes my monthly calendars. Now these (12 in all) took me a while to create, but I'm so pleased with how they came out! I used the Pages application on my Macbook (just as I did with the printables mentioned above) and chose seasonal shades, quotations and vintage clipart for embellishment. THIS was such fun - if perhaps a bit fiddly - and I love how they look! I printed each month out and cut it to fit the planner page and then simply taped it down. Not the slickest looking calendar you've ever seen I'm sure, but boy do I love it! :)

Now comes the weekly planning spreads for this season ...

Planner 12

My weekly agenda allows a column for each day of the week, as well as one for tasks and to-dos. I like a Monday-Sunday rhythm because Sunday is the "dessert" in my week. :) I used a ruler and pencil and then a Sharpie marker for color. Yes, I did this by hand - 52 times - and yes, it took quite a while. But you know what? I enjoyed it ... I found it kind of soothing. I would work on this when I had quiet times (like now, with Little Bear sleeping beside me) and I would think about each week as I drew its planning page ... and pray for it, as corny as that might sound. I "visited" each week of the year in my mind and breathed hope into those days, and asked God to bless them with His grace and guidance. So it was good work, I think, all in all. Time well spent. β€

Let's take a closer look at the agenda itself:

Planner 13 (1)

The start date is noted in the top left-hand corner for reference, and the first column lists things I need to do sometime THIS week. On the very top lines I listed this month's housekeeping zone and the individual tasks to focus on that week.

Planner 13

There are quotes peppered in the generous white space above the agenda - they reflect the week's seasonal theme (winter stars, here - warming drinks and birthdays, below). Weather and nature notes are scribbled along the far left margin. I leave a check next to each date as we move along in the week.

Planner 15

Along the righthand margin (tough to see in these pics) I have the time ordered from 7 a.m. - 9 p.m. This allows me to write appointments and activities in the daily columns in a timely manner.

Planner 16

Above each date I write what is "of note" that day: a birthday, a feast day, a full moon ...

Planner 14

Beneath the to-do list is a place where I can check off everyday repetitive tasks as I complete them. I had a post-it note for this in my domestic journal, but it makes sense to move it here. I started doing this when I had to keep track of medicine for my special needs son, and it helps remind me what still needs doing in my day. The next section of this column is for recording money spent through the week. 

Each day's column is split into agenda (top half), supper, and to-dos. The to-do's include, first, my housekeeping calendar chores (the ones from those index cards, you may remember?). The very bottom line across the whole agenda is for planning my posts here at the blog. :)

Planner 18

In the Deep Winter section of my planner there are nine weeks (1/4-2/28) and one planning section for Lent. Here is where I will plan out our family Lenten journey and activities. I've allowed two spreads (page turns) for this project.

Planner 21

And next we have the second season of the year: Early Spring! (March & April)

Planner 20

Planner 22

Planner 50

Planner 24

And several pages for planning Holy Week and Eastertide ...

Planner 48

Late Spring! (May & June)

Planner 51

Planner 49

Planner 23

Planner 52

High Summer! (July & August)

Planner 42

Planner 40

Planner 41 (1)

Planner 25

In late August there is a planning section for Back-to-School notes. I adore that washi tape!

Planner 26

And then we have Early Autumn! (September & October)

Planner 44

Planner 35

Planner 43

Planner 34

A couple of pages for Hallowmass planning ... includes Halloween, All Saints and All Souls.

Planner 45

Late Autumn! (November & December)

Planner 36

Planner 46

Planner 27

Planner 28

Planner 37

Planner 29

And here we have space for Thanksgiving planning ...

Planner 30

I love that turkey! :)

Planner 38

There are purple-lined pages for planning out Advent ...

Planner 31

And, of course - space for Christmas plans! This section is several pages long ...

And after the last week of the year (12/26-1/1) I have planning sections for: Blogging, Gardening, A Certain Party We're Hosting, Vacation/Travel, Gift Ideas and Miscellaneous Notes. I can add more tabs for projects as they come up through the year - there are plenty of pages back there!

A note on the monthly tabs (which are made by Avery and are adhesive) - I place them on the page where the first of the month falls. So, the January tab is placed on the weekly spread for 12/28-1/3 and the March tab is on the spread for 2/29-3/6, etc. They lead me, not to the monthly calendars, but to where my weekly planning starts for each month.

Oh, and by the way ... that notebook I had bound at Staples? The one with the loose-leaf and vintage paper? I have an idea how I'll use it, so it will not go to waste ... :)


Well, I am sure there is more I could say about my planner but in the interest of time (mine and yours) I will bring this post to a close. I know many of you are planner junkies like myself, so I hope you enjoyed the tour ... and for everyone else, I hope I didn't bore you too much! ;)

I'd love to hear your thoughts or any questions you might have, and I will be happy to talk more about my planner and seasonal planning in future posts AS WELL AS during the planning chat I'm doing with Mystie and Jen on Saturday! That's just two days away, so don't forget to sign up! You can listen in live (and ask questions) and/or watch the video after it's recorded. We're meeting quite early to chat - 10 a.m. EST! - so you can be sure I'll have a mighty large cup of coffee in hand! It should be such fun!

Well my friends, as always, I thank you for stopping by and I wish you all a pleasant evening ...

See you here again very soon!


A Fresh Start: Printable Planning Sheets

Fresh start button final

Happy Friday, my friends! I hope this week is treating you well.

I have some really fun posts coming up - there's a new "Planner Tour" in the works and of course "Masteriece Monday" as well as a "Birthday Tea" on Tuesday! - but for today I'd like to share some printable planning sheets with you all ...

Now originally, I was designing these sheets as part of a "spiral-bound, weekly planner-book kind of thing." I was also creating another set of pages for further description of seasonal projects and homey little "assignments" ... but this all became a bit overcomplicated (not to mention oversized!) so I decided the planning sheets would work well enough with my file crate folders. I've been looking for a way to make the FCS more useful and this just might be it! So I went on to transform a simple store-bought notebook into a more user-friendly weekly planner (details soon) and the seasonal project/assignment pages are (slowly) being churned out and set aside for that someday (soon I hope) book. :)

Anyhow, since I very recently figured out how to make a document a PDF and link it here at my blog - I thought it would be fun to share these sheets here in case they might be helpful to someone in some way ...

I have two page designs - one is for general planning and the other is for lesson planning. I am stapling them to the front cover of the folders, with general planning on the outside and lesson planning on the inside. You could also use Washi tape to attach them, or a decorative paper clip, perhaps ... but so far, stapling works for me!

I only have my first season (aka two months) done so far, but if there is interest, I will share the following seasons as I complete them. So here first is my Deep Winter Overview 2016 PDF which breaks down the season by weeks and themes, and will perhaps give you a better idea of what those project pages cover. This particular sheet I have attached inside my notebook planner, at the start of the Deep Winter section, secured with some pretty washi tape. 

(Edited to Add: Here is a clean copy of the Deep Winter Overview Planning Sheet.)

And here is a link to my lesson planning sheet:

Home Learning This Week (Dawn's)

Home Learning This Week (blank)

 (I've included my own personalized sheet just to give you a better idea of how I use it, as well as a clean copy for you to use if you wish.)

And, finally, here are the Weekly Planning Sheets for January and February. There are sections for planning "days of note," a weekly "theme," suppers, to-dos, crafts & comforts, home & garden tasks/projects, and thoughts & prayers. I also had fun choosing a bit of vintage clipart and adding a simple seasonal "suggestion" for the week.

Deep Winter Week One Planning Sheet (12/28-1/3) PDF

Deep Winter Week Two Planning Sheet (1/4-1/10) PDF

Deep Winter Week Three Planning Sheet (1/11-1/17) PDF

Deep Winter Week Four Planning Sheet (1/18-1/24) PDF

Deep Winter Week Five Planning Sheet (1/25-1/31) PDF

Deep Winter Week Six Planning Sheet (2/1-2/7) PDF

Deep Winter Week Seven Planning Sheet (2/8-2/14) PDF

Deep Winter Week Eight Planning Sheet (2/15-2/21) PDF

Deep Winter Week Nine Planning Sheet (2/22-2/28) PDF

Planning sheet on folder

I can do a follow-up post to show how I fill out those blocks. This sheet shown above was hot-off-the-presses and just set on top of a folder for a photo-op.

Now as I mentioned, I also have my notebook planner going on, and I use that more actively than I do these folders/sheets. I refer to my folders/sheets for ideas and direction, but I have daily checklists and a weekly agenda in my planner. I hope this will all make more sense once I give you the full planner tour - WHICH I am hoping to have up midweek! I have a busy weekend with family visits and such, but I will be working in my planner as I find time and taking pictures to share. My goal is to post the tour by Wednesday!

So for now, I will let you go, but I hope you enjoyed this post and seeing all my Deep Winter planning! I would love to hear your thoughts on them if you have time! I would also love to write more about how I'm using the sheets but nap time is nearing its end so I'd better wrap up. I will be back very soon, however, and for now I wish you all a wonderful weekend!


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



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! :)

Tea with Friends ... ❀

Good Sunday morning, my friends! And a Happy Advent to you!

Today I have a few "tea and nest" notes to share, beginning with a link to a post written by my dear friend Martha, about her lovingly restored "thinking chair":

Cozy corner martha 1

Wouldn't this be a nice spot in which to curl up and dream? :)

By the way, Martha and I worked together eons ago at my very first post-college job, on the "features desk" at a Boston-area newspaper. Martha was, in fact, my editor! And oh my gosh, did we have fun ... "The TAB" is where I first tested my fledgling writing skills on the subjects of food, holidays, home, gardens and kids - before I even had kids! Martha, and our first editor, Celia, were so good to me, allowing a very "green" journalist to try her hand at a new passion. But those were good times - I learned a lot! - and I remember them fondly. Today Martha owns PulpArt, a fantastic Etsy shop where she sells plantable paper crafts - gift tags, ornaments, party favors, and cards, etc. All handmade by Martha, using ancient paper-making techniques - pop on over and take a peek!


Now here is a wonderful Thanksgiving Tea shared by Denise ...

Thanks tea denise 1


Thank you for inviting us all to Tea Time! I don't have the opportunity to have daily tea with my grands any longer. So, tea time is a bit different now-a-days. I don't have tea every day either (well, in autumn/winter/spring I normally have something hot to start the day!) During this time of starting the Holy Day season, I love that we start with giving of thanks! Thanks to the One who is Creator & Sustainer of all! And oh, the naming! So many things to be named, so many things/people to be grateful for, just leads me into worship of the One who provides the good gifts! Which helps prepare my heart for the Holy Day of Christ-mass!

It is an overcast, windy day. I heard it will be snowing in a couple of days. Much to be done! Moving hay, fixing the well-house (heat lamp or heater?), stacking wood by the woodstove. All of that will have to wait until this afternoon, as I am finishing up in the home office this morning. I had a few tasks for a client and our own to tend to. After I finish this post, I will be heading out of doors!

I normally have several tea varieties. Today I had a cup of orange-spice. I haven't had time to bake, although if I wanted, I have some oatmeal cookie dough ready to pop in the oven. It is time to replenish my dough stash! I like to have several on hand for when I have the pleasure of having the Grands or company!

I just finished reading a novel, light reading. I will be doing reading for Advent & Christmas next. Ann Voskamp's The Greatest Gift AND Unwrapping the Greatest Gift. I am looking forward to receiving a blessing through them!!

Listening to:
During this season, I tend to revisit some old hymns Come Thou Fount, Come Ye Sinners, Be Thou My Vision. I've been enjoying these as recorded by Fernando Ortega. So rich.

Working on:
We are in the "work the plan" phase of Thanksgiving! We started by enjoying our daughter's family last night. Family supper & card games. Oh, and a new made-up game by my grandtwin girl (10yo)! Such fun! I popped back and forth through the grands! Granddaughter/13 was busy making accessories for a Christmas present for her younger sister. 
Grandtwin girl/10 dictated a Thanksgiving letter to me for her dearest friend and cousin. Oh how I miss those days! I was "employed" by her quite often! When she was about 6 she said "When we are working on my books, can you just call me Boss?" (LOL!) Grandtwin boy/10 read a couple of passages from a new book he is reading for school. He also typed me out a paragraph in which I was supposed to correct the misspellings! And Grandson/15 & I walked out towards the pond to see if we could see any geese. He is really wanting to get one this year! I will begin preparing more for Advent & Christmas during the Thanksgiving break. Plus, I will be starting to work on setting up my 2016 planner which I lamented about on one of your Planner Party posts! Something I normally take great pleasure in & I do again thisyear, I'm just not real sure how this is going to go & I am having a hard time getting started. Silly me.

Happening in nature:
As I stated: Windy, overcast today. Blowing in some possible snow or ice. We were trying to identify some new sweet, small birds yesterday. We didn't come to a conclusion.

With the (grand) kids:
I've attached a picture of our "Thanksgiving Table." This is a table in a sitting area, looking out our south-facing windows. We all add to the Thanksgiving tree, you will see in the picture. We will be finishing up the Thanks Living Box. They enjoy that year after year!

Here are my sentiments I sent out in my Thanksgiving greetings, to family & close friends.

"To the end that my glory may sing praise to Thee, and not be silent, O LORD my God, I will give thanks unto You forever." Ps 30:12 Oh! Let me not be silent! The end of all we experience in this life:  To sing praise to Him and give thanks, FOREVER!! Praise His holy name!

Keeping it Simple:
For us this year, we are again in mourning. So, we will definitely be keeping things low-key and home-centered. We will have the obligatory functions to attend, and we will do so with a grateful heart, just not as many scheduled as what we might do. We will focus on just the immediate family, for the most part; with the exception of looking to see who we can offer some blessings. A favorite thing for us to do.

Thank you for letting me share tea with you & your readers today!!  I've been working on this email for a while. I was thankful you hadn't set a deadline!



Thank you, Denise! I love hearing about your family and how you take tea and where you find inspiration! I appreciate your participation, and I love your enthusiasm! Your family is blessed to have you! :)


And here, my friends, are some Tea Notes from Helena ...

What refreshments are you enjoying this week?
My morning cup of Tasha Tudor's Welsh Breakfast tea, and the odd cup of apple cider with the kids. It's been a bit hectic around here, so I'm happy just to have that!

What are you reading this week?
Just finished the latest in a cozy mystery series I enjoy (The Stitching Hour) and also Teaching from Rest.

What are you listening to this week?
I may have broken my own rule about no Christmas music before Thanksgiving to sneak in a little bit of Josh Groban's Noel in the car. :)

What are you working on this week?
Getting ready for the holiday and also working on a proofreading assignment.

What's happening in nature this week?
I'm down in FL, so a bit different from you guys right now. It actually was chilly the other day (overnight low of 48, that's cold for us). The first strawberries of the season are coming in from the fields, our garden is actually doing well so far, and our neighbor's tomatoes and peppers look great. We're starting to see some of our winter visitors at the bird feeder (our female painted bunting appeared the other day, though no sign of her handsome husband yet) and the Canada geese are appearing on the farm ponds across the road.

Any projects with the children this week?
My husband helped my daughter rearrange and clean out her room, does that count? :) Hoping to get some Indian corn in to soak so the kids can string it for necklaces or garlands, but have to figure out how to get it off the cob first!

Any quotations to share, some words to inspire?
"The true way to live is to enjoy every moment as it passes, and surely it is in the everyday things around us that the beauty of life lies."  ~ Laura Ingalls Wilder


Thank you for sharing your thoughts, Helena! I'd love to hear how that Indian corn activity turns out!
And now let's hear from Amy's Tea Journal ... :)

Hi Dawn,

What refreshments are you enjoying this week?
For tea I'm drinking Republic of Tea's Cranberry Ginger tea - tangy and delicious!

What are you reading this week?

I'm reading a seasonal mystery: November Hunt by Jess Lourey. Her seasonal series is hilarious! Also, my stash of old November "Victoria's"

What are you listening to this week?

Thanksgiving channel on Pandora!

What are you working on this week?

I'm a full-time librarian so am prepping Thanksgiving a little bit at a time during the week (tonight: defrosting the turkey breast, defrosting the cranberries, and hard boiling eggs). Went to Trader Joe's yesterday for cranberry chevre and four other types of cheese for Thanksgiving. I'm a DAR member, so sent off a box of necessities for a VA hospital my DAR chapter is sponsoring.

What's happening in nature this week?

I work on a leafy college campus and when I leave work at night the air is so deliciously cold and smells like autumn. The drive into work is lovely too - often very foggy and cool.


Thank you for sharing, Amy! You've inspired me to dig out some of my own Victoria collection - they're pretty much perfect "nest" reading in my mind. :)


Friends, I hope you enjoyed this collection of "tea & nest" notes! I love sharing our thoughts on the season and how we find time to nourish ourselves - in simple, meaningful ways. I look forward to talking more tomorrow as we begin our Advent Tea Journal ... I will be "here" around 4:00, but you are welcome to join me whenever! I'd love to hear about your nest ... I hope it's a cozy spot where we can ponder Advent, and take a break from the world! I'll share my own tea and notes, and pics of course! Our discussion theme will be giving "gifts from the heart" and I look forward to brainstorming with you on that! (And I might have another nest "assignment" for you, too!)

I hope you'll join me this week ...

Tea Journal details can be found here, and please send me your thoughts/pics/links here:

bysunandcandle AT gmail DOT com

I look forward to hearing from you!

Enjoy the rest of your Sunday, my friends ... see you here again very soon!

From Nest to Nest ... ❀

Happy Weekend, my friends! I am so pleased to share a couple more cozy corners with you ... :)

From Chrissy:

Cozy corner chrissy 1

"This is where I curl up most of the time. End of the couch by a window overlooking the marsh ... "

That nest looks so cushy and inviting, Chrissy! I love the soft lighting ... and I bet that marsh is a wonderful window on the changing seasons!

And here's a peek at Denise's corner:

Cozy corner denise 1

"How wonderful to share each other's homes in this way, Dawn!  I so enjoy "visiting" others in this way!  I've attached a picture of my current cozy corner.  The only time I am in it these days seems to be early, early morning (from 4-6am) and evening (I shoot for 9ish to start winding down.) I say "current cozy corner" because it seems to change with the seasons! I like to sit right by the woodstove in late autumn through winter! We try to heat solely by wood, and this spot is the warmest. I took the picture this afternoon, since my afternoon schedule was rearranged for me. Unfortunately, I only had time to write one of the last few Thanksgiving greetings & take a few sips of hot tea, then took the hot tea back to our home office where mounds of work awaited me! The cozy corner looks straightened up!  Normally it has a stand up work station in the corner, also. I had already rolled it back to the office. And my journals were elsewhere. :-)

The morning session is my "communion" time. This is when I read God's Word, study, pray and worship. Of course, I journal a lot of it ... The evening is a time to reflect on the day, on God's goodness to us through this day, to record positives and negatives of the day, to worship, to pray. When I was homeschooling, this is where we would gather for read alouds, practicing math factors, extra reading helps. This is also where I would listen to my grandchildren read to me, with one or both of the now 10 year-old twins on my lap! (I must say, I really miss those days!)

I too enjoy capturing the "firsts" of each season. I must say embracing the autumn and winter are much easier for me! I've attached a sketch from my planner capturing the first fire in the wood stove ...

Cozy corner denise 2

First cup of my dear friend's tea recipe AND first bowl of chicken-wild rice soup! Yum!! 
October 30th was very chilly here!"

~ Denise

What a lovely nest, Denise! Wood stoves are wonderful! I grew up with one, and although I was no fan of moving/stacking wood, lol, I did love the warmth and coziness of that family room stove! Thank you for sharing your sketch as well - I love it! What a nice way to capture the spirit of the season! And you have me curious about your friend's tea recipe ... and that chicken-rice soup! :)


Well my friends, I'm back in my own little nest at the moment ... dark here now, and I just heard my first "What's for dinner?" So I'd best be off ... 

But I'd love to hear from you if you have a moment, and perhaps you'd consider sending me a picture of your own cozy nest? And don't forget, we've got Tea coming up next week! (See post below.) Lots to discuss and look forward to!

You can reach me at:

bysunandcandle AT gmail DOT com

Enjoy the rest of your evening, my friends ... I will see you here again very soon!

Planner Party Guest Post Number 14: Mic!

{Happy Friday, my friends! I am so pleased to present another wonderful guest planner post ... please welcome Mic to the party!}


Dear Dawn,

 I have really enjoyed all the planner posts and wanted to share my own system. I'm actually using a grid notebook at the moment while I wait for 2016 and my hobonichi cousin planner to start. It's a Japanese brand and you can pick different covers and accessories to go with it.
Planner party mic 4 
I had bought a different planner for this year, but it was too small and I stopped using it after a few months. My main gripe was it didn't have a section for a weekly plan. I like to be to see my week at a glance. At the start of the month, I draw the monthly calendar, where I write in holidays, feast days, family travel, birthdays.
Planner party mic 2
On the weekly plan, which I do on Sunday nights (sometimes Monday or even Tuesday, to be honest) I write in my children's after school activities, our meal plan, gym time, and any evening or special activities or holidays. I then make a photocopy on my printer, and stick it up in my kitchen so my husband and the girls' babysitter can see it.
Planner party mic 3
Throughout the week, I add to-do lists, washi tape, quotations, who I wrote letters to, and little doodles.
Planner party mic 1
I just want to close by saying I have been so inspired by everyone's posts! There really is no right or wrong way to plan!
Warm regards,
Oh, Mic! I can hardly begin to express how much I LOVE your planner! You are a gal after my own heart - there's just something so wonderfully satisfying and soothing about a handmade planner! Your artwork and penmanship is just LOVELY. And the that nubby, knitted cover? Swoon ...
I also find I need a weekly plan, for sure. I need to see where I am in the week and I really think about our family and homeschool time in increments of weeks. Right now I'm struggling with: do I actually need a separate daily planner or can I rely on my weekly planner to cover all my bases ... ?
Also, your idea to photocopy your weekly calendar and hang it up so that your family may refer to it ... genius. Absolutely genius!!
Thank you so much, Mic, for sharing your planner here at my blog - I am inspired by your design and am excited to get back to work on my own handmade planner. Friends, how about you leave a little note for Mic and let her know your thoughts. Let's keep this wonderful planner conversation rolling!
And remember, I'm always open to new guest posts ... you may send me your planner pics and thoughts at:
bysunandcandle AT gmail DOT com
But for now, I wish you all a wonderful weekend ... I will be back here again very soon!

Halloween Ideas: A Paper Chain Countdown!

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

Halloween paper chain 5

Hello my friends, and Happy Tuesday!

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

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

Halloween paper chain

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

Halloween paper chain 2

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

Halloween paper chain 3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~* Happy Halloween! *~

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

All good fun!

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

Halloween paper chain 4


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

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

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

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

January Journal Work

January journal 4

Happy Tuesday, my friends! Hope your week's going well ...

So yesterday, as the snow blew and blustered outside - and while the baby napped - I got around to a little domestic paperwork. It being February, I pulled last month's journal pages from my binder and filed them in my Yearbook binder behind the January tab.

I then sat down with a piece of paper and some sticky notes (and a cup of cocoa!) to do some indexing and I thought I'd share with you what I wrote down ... it might give you an idea of the kinds of things I "journal" about and also, some of my deep winter "thoughts and themes" might strike a cord with you! :)

The whole process took me about 30 minutes. I flipped through the journal pages and read over each notation/clipping. If it was something I would want to remember (or return to) I jotted it down on a loose-leaf "index page." (Which would later be added to my Jan-Feb binder.)  If it was something I needed to act on soon or record on another list, I jotted it down on a sticky note ...

So, first, here's a look at my January Journaling:

* spiced white hot chocolate (crockpot)

* first bird of the year (robin)

* blessed chalk handed out at Mass on Jan. 1st

* picked up liturgical wall calendar at Mass

* color of the year announced ("marsala" by Pantone, "guilford green" by Benjamin Moore)

* a scattered list of Jan-Feb themes to incorporate into the season ... (ex. winter citrus, birthday joy, hand-written letters, Burns Night dinner, seed catalogs, snow days, candles/warmth ...)

* book idea: "A Few Nice Things for New Year's Day" ~ a first family walk, first bird, first sunrise, happy jar, pic-a-day, thank you notes, Christmas card review, old-fashioned movies & popcorn, roast dinner ...)

* in the MSL D/J issue: leftover eggnog latte recipe, citrus-spice candle craft

* Jenney C.'s almond milk-gingerbread latte (FB)

* Twelfth Night - beer-braised beef & parsnip stew

* Little Christmas/Three Kings Day 

* Tasha Tudor Museum Newsletter (order back issues)

* craft: wintery jar-candle centerpiece (twine/yarn around ball jar rims, red candles, set in vintage metal cake pan, greenery/berries/pinecones around the jars)

* Downton Abbey "manners guru" interview

* lemon curd recipe for scones (Boston Globe Magazine)

* aggressive coyote noted in neighboring town

* little notes on Little Bear's words and actions

* spied a weasel on next road over

* Boston is the US 2024 Olympic bid!

* "Winter was a time of some leisure on the farm." (quote from Yankee Magazine article)

* book theme idea: "Winter Cheer"

* observed a large flock of robins by library in next town

* spotted a large hawk in tree by mailbox

* heard a woodpecker knocking in woods

* Patriots are going to the Superbowl!!!

* tag-team scribbles by Earlybird and Little Bear

* purple Ball jars idea - Lent, Advent Garden (solar lantern lids)

* Feast of St. Agnes ~ snowflake cake (white with apricot jam)

* National Hot Tea Month

* "Skills Every Child Needs" from Parents Magazine (social graces)

* football-shaped snack ideas (People Magazine)

* National Handwriting Day

* "A Blizzard of Historic Proportions"

* National Catholic Schools Week (1/25-1/31) ~ post idea: how do we weave our Faith into our homeschool/home life? 

* craft idea: paper chain with links for each day in holiday/seasonal papers

* Superbowl goodies (craft/recipe ideas)

* Downton Abbey TV Guide cover

  January journal 3

I filled four sticky-notes with items that need more immediate action:

* info. re ~ a dermatologist to give to Bill

* lesson ideas re ~ American Tall Tales (listening to these with EB) - logging, map of forests in US, tree types, where do legends originate (map), Niagara trip?

* Holy Week Cleaning outline

* Wall-a-Week Cleaning schedule

* summer project: cooking lessons with boys (per BW's request)

* for EB's portfolio - Popular Mechanics for Kids dvd, "Mom, did you know pollution is bad? It comes from cars and buildings ... and it's really bad."

* Ask Magazine, Feb. issue: Fire (Candlemas/February learning theme)

* passwords created recently to record in binder

* a friend's birthday to add to calendar

* weekly news quiz in Globe (for Crackerjack)

* meal rotation idea (4 meals x 7 days = 28 meals/month)

* craft binder - monthly bunting, a "mama" smock for seasons and storytelling

* pick up a beef pie from local farm (per BW's request)

* Great Zoo of China - a book to check out at library (for BW)


So now my main binder has just a couple of journal pages so far ... but I'm sure by the end of February it will be filled up once again!

January journal 2

Now, before I go I want to show you this particular clipping (above) that I added to my January journal ... it's from a Paper Source catalog and I just set up this very set of chalkboard squares (rectangles, really) on my kitchen wall! I can't wait to show you how I'm using them ... they look fantastic! I'll tell you more in my next post. :)

Enjoy your Tuesday, my friends ... see you here again very soon!

More Q & A: journal = scrapbook?

Oliver in sunny window 1

Good morning, my friends! And Happy Monday!

I am checking in quickly this morning - it was a busy weekend and a very late night last night as we cheered on our beloved Patriots ... but I'm quite happy to say this morning that we are going to The Superbowl!! Well, not us personally of course - but our team will be there! And we'll be there too, if only in spirit, watching at home in New England.


Anyhoo, suffice it to say I was not able to watch Downton Abby last night (or TGBBC either). I hope to catch them one night this week and when I do I will get a "Masterpiece Monday" post up so we can chat - only it will probably be more like "Masterpiece Wednesday or Thursday."

So today, I'm a bit sleepy-eyed and slow-moving (much like my Oliver up top), but I'm going to do some catch-up here as I find time. So many of you have left wonderful comments and I can't wait to read and digest and respond. I will also continue working on several upcoming journal/planner drafts, and while I don't have any of them quite ready to post yet, I will answer this quick question from Kelly, because I think I have a pretty brief answer.  

I thought of one additional question, Dawn - could your journal be described as a scrapbook? I love the idea of it but as I mentioned, I tend to keep parts of my life organized differently so I'm having a hard time seeing how this fits in. Understanding it as a scrapbook helps me to understand this better.

Kelly, my journal is a collage of memories and observations, mostly about family, current events and the turn of the seasons. I don't, however, include photographs or stickers ... and it's not all that planned ahead or thought out. And I don't really show other people (though I certainly could and hope I might someday).

So I consider my journal habit to be a form of scrapbooking, just maybe not as formal or clever. I dabbled in Scrapbooking, as a hobby, many years ago when Bookworm was little. I attended "Creative Memories" parties and subscribed to Creating Keepsakes ... and collected TONS of scrapbooking supplies. I remember when I started blogging I called it a kind of "online scrapbooking" ... and that's when my love of photography and capturing memories really kicked in. I couldn't seem to sit down and create pages, but I could upload photos to my computer and write (rather lengthy) texts to go along with them.

Our photos now are stored here at my blog and on my (personal) Facebook page as well as on our home computer. Oh, and my phone. Bill just offloaded about 1100 pictures because I'd used up my storage space - in about a month, lol!

(All that said, I think digital photography has made true, in-your-hands photo albums, a rarity these days. And that's a shame, because those types of memory books are wonderful to display and share with friends and family. That might be a great topic for a post - storing and sharing family photos - though, come to think of it, we might have done that already, lol ... )

Well, this wasn't as brief as I thought it would be, but I hope I've answered your question, Kelly. Please let me know if that cleared things up for you, and if it didn't, feel free to ask for more clarification. Thanks so much for reading and caring and sharing!

One more shot of Oliver because ... well, just because:

Oliver in sunny window 2


My friends, I hope you will excuse a bit of a pause as I get my gears going this week - we're heading back to formal lessons and everything else that comes with it! (I've made note of several homeschool-planning questions and have a draft started!) And I think I might have found a solution for my weekly planning sheet/clipboard conundrum. Photos to come! 

Enjoy your Monday, everyone ... see you here again very soon!

More Q & A: journal vs. planner?

 Hello, my friends ~ how's your weekend going? It's a nice Saturday here - bright, sunny and cold. Look what I put up in our kitchen window this morning:

Carnations in window 1

A whole bunch of pretty white carnations - a January tradition in our house! Next week we'll add drops of food dye to the water and see how the petals change color ...


Now, before I launch into the actual Q & A, I first want to say that I am doing these posts as a way of clarifying things I've mentioned previously but have perhaps not been clear (always a risk when one's as wordy as I am!) and to open up a discussion with other like-minded people. And obviously to answer specific questions! What I don't mean to imply - in any way at all - is that I'm some sort of all-knowing expert on journals and journaling or planners and planning!

*grimaces just thinking about that misperception*

Ok, hardly! Lol. It's just that I focus a lot of time and energy on this topic and I absolutely LOVE comparing notes, thinking out loud, and hearing how others do things ... I find your comments so interesting and insightful! And I'm thrilled when readers connect here and help each other out. Please always feel free to jump in and chat! And of course I always love more questions ...

So today's journal/planner question is from Amy and it concerns both journal and planner:

I have a new question. Maybe someday you will have time to answer it. And of course we would love a post about mothers, and time! I'd write it myself if I had the time, lol!

Q: How do you use this domestic journal separate from your weekly planner? Is it not redundant, in a way?

Journal vs planner 1

Amy, I really love this question because it's one I mull over myself sometimes. I'm always trying to reign myself in and simplify things ... because I tend to create more tools than I probably need. But the short answer is Yes, the journal and planner are a bit redundant ... in some ways. But they each serve a unique purpose and I could not do without one or the other!

Now for the long answer ...

The journal is free-form and fluid ... a continuous stream of thought. It's filled with wordy blurbs I wouldn't put in my planner (nature notes, family memories, lesson ideas) and clippings of all kinds. It's a bit messy to be sure - but for me, that kind of adds to the charm. :)

Journal page

With the journal I get to unload all the thoughts and ideas and observations that cross my brain throughout the day. They are usually seasonal or timely in some way. I add bits of magazines, newpapers, ticket stubs and other random memorablia. It lets me be creative and a bit "artsy" (if quite humbly so) and when I look back at it (even years later) it brings me SUCH joy. I get a real feel for the time in which it was written - the season, the year and where we were in those days as a family. Reading about the things that mattered then and the things the boys were doing is a gift. I never worry about my journal being "perfect" because its very imperfection makes it precious.

On the other hand, the planner is more formal, with more of a framework, and its pages are all assigned a date. With the planner, I get a grasp on what's happening when, where we're going, when we're home, what's important or special this week and what my family needs from me. If Crackerjack tells me he needs a stick of butter for Spanish class on Thursday (lol, true story), I write it in the planner - because on Thursday I'll be reviewing that agenda. I could write that in the journal because it's a neat remembrance, but it would have far less chance of being remembered when it's needed!

This new planner I made with a bit more flourish - space for doodles and quotes, for instance - but that's just because I'm hoping it might help me write that book I have in mind. And also, because when I think of the "perfect" planner, should one exist, each week's page would have a very seasonal and personal feel. The trick though is to keep it clean and not too cluttered. It's a tough balance. I've toyed with the idea of using colored pens as many people do ... but I can't break away from the pencil habit.

I keep both the journal and planner on my workspace at all times and my workspace is usually my kitchen counter. It's a comfort to me to have them both in the open in this way so I can work easily in one or the other - or both!

Amy, I feel like I talked in circles a bit, so if I can clarify further, please let me know. I am typing this up while Little Bear naps and he's making little snuffly noises so my "free" time is coming to an end. Thank you for asking your question and for your contribution to this ongoing conversation ... I look forward to chatting more!

My friends, enjoy your Saturday evening ... my boys are "making me" watch Toy Story 3, lol - because I've actually never seen it and "that just won't do." ;) Sounds good to me ... homemade pizzas are in the oven and I have a salad to toss, so I'll be off!

See you here again very soon!

My 2015 Planner (Living the Seasons)

Planner 4

Happy Weekend, my friends!

In tonight's post I am finally going to show you my newly made weekly planner, and in a follow-up post I will show you the rest of my planning tools and how the new planner will (hopefully) fit into the overall planning repertoire. Such as it is.

(This post is about planning in case you weren't sure, lol.)

Planner 3

But to be honest, I'm a bit shy about showing you now, because it's really a very simple thing. Like, super simple. It is though, all hand-drawn because ... well, I'm just that persnickity. And so it took me a bit longer than usual to pull it all together. And if the hand-drawing part wasn't enough, I also have a toddler in the house ... and a few more boys plus a husband ... and a couple of cats ... and there was that little thing called Christmas that happened ... ;)

Anyhoo! It's a weekly planner - because I really look at my time in increments of *this week* and all that applies to that framework of time. How busy will we be? When are we in/when are we out? What special events are we noting/observing/celebrating perhaps? What will our Sunday dinner be? What learning themes are we working around? What's happening at Church this week? What household projects am I tackling?

And now for the breakdown ...

Planner 6

1. Planner Covera pretty piece of scrapbook paper seen above, plain and simple. (I've since attached a label as seen in the top photos.) I declined the plastic cover sheet offered by Staples when I had the binding done, just as I always do. "But it's free," the Staples associate said, eyebrows raised. Well, that plastic just doesn't sit right with me, so I guess I'll have to take my chances.

Planner 2

2. Planner Paper: Ok, bear with me now ... I used all Staples-brand, loose-leaf, college-ruled paper. (I told you this was nothing fancy!) I have been journaling on this particular paper for a long time and it just feels good when I write on it. (Paper-and-pen enthusiasts will know what I mean.) It's very smooth, the lines are light and I'm very comfortable with it, so when I was getting my planner started I thought, why not use my regular ol' loose-leaf? So what if there are holes along the edges? I can overlook that. (I'm pretty sure.) And it took the coil binding just fine.

Planner 1

3. Title Page: "Living the Seasons ~ at Home * in Nature * with Faith ~ a weekly planner for 2015" Now, I've never named my planner before, but as I've mentioned, I'm trying to planning to going to write a book this year and I'm hoping this planner will provide something of an outline for my writing.

(You see how simple this all is? Just regular pencil on everyday paper ... I was tempted to try using colored pens or pencils ... maybe washi tape ... and get a little more creative with it, but I held off. I hope I will add my own random flourishes through the seasons as inspiration strikes.)

4. Emergency and Personal Information - I didn't include a photo of this page for privacy reasons, but this is on the backside of the title page, and includes numbers I need to know and remember (for myself or someone else should they need it). Allergy information, and the like.

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5. Months of the Year Overview: (Shown above.) Basically, this is an outline of the major events of the 12 months of the year. Things like birthdays, feast days, Sacraments, full moons, major sporting events (the ones we care about) and daylight savings time, etc.

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6. Weeks of the Year Overview: This might seem redundant, but it helps me to see each week listed out this way. It's a two-page spread with one line for each week, Jan-Jun on the left-hand page and Jul-Dec on the right. With this overview I can see at a glance (and maybe underline or highlight in some way) the specific events we will focus on, and this will give shape to my weekly themes. (eg. 1/19-2/25 snowflakes and shortbread)

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7. Monthly Appointment Calendars: Because I envision myself taking this planner out and about with me, I'll need these calendars when making appointments at the doctor, dentist, hairdresser, etc.

*By the way, I used an engineering ruler to make all the grids, columns and rows, etc. (My dad is a structural engineer and I've always preferred this style ruler.) It seems like a lot of work - but while it is time-consuming, it's not hard at all. It's actually quite rhythmic.

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8. Looking Ahead to 2016: Notes for that year ... any big plans or events or hopes (academic activities, career goals, home/garden projects, travel plans, etc.)

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9. Weekly Goals/Routine: An overview of how I wish to use each section in the weekly planning page: of note, theme, suppers, to-do, at home, in nature, with faith, blog, $ log, intentions

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10. Around the Home ~ Monthly Projects: I have a monthly cleaning schedule for myself this year - I've divided the house by rooms/zones and assigned walls to weeks. That sounds strange, I know, but I will explain more in a future post. (January is assigned the Master Bedroom and I begin with one wall a week ... hoping to complete the circuit of the house by Christmas, 2015!) I have it typed out on my phone (written during nursing/naptimes!) and will transcribe the schedule here on this page.

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11. The Months & Weeks of the Year: And here we are at last at the heart of the planner! Each month has a pretty vintage paper divider (and I might eventually add a tab), a sheet for a monthly letter from myself to ... well, myself, lol. About homey, domestic, garden and parish matters and such. And then there are two planning pages per week which I have shown below ...

*Note: I've already changed this part a bit - instead of that chatty letter, I am using this sheet for general notes for the month. For example, "Visit New England Aquarium" in March and "Attend backyard chickens seminar at local co-op" in April. The "domestic letter" is being moved to another spot ...

The February divider page:

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The April divider page (back side) and the April, 2015 domestic letter page:

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The weekly planning sheet for Week #14 (March 30 - April 5):

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The planning sections I created are: of note (special days/events) * theme (tea/craft) * suppers * to-do * at home * in nature * with faith * blog * $ log * notes * intentions (prayer). (This is the sheet I used to staple to the front of my file folders.)

The week-at-a-glance agenda:

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I modeled this planner set-up after a Payne planner I've used off and on through the years - and though I liked it, it always left me wanting something a little more personal. I have space all around for notes and quotes, scribbles and remembrances ... and the space at the bottom of each column is for daily chores and reminders (eg. clean bedrooms (M), clean bathrooms (T), etc.).

The weekly review:

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(Sorry this picture isn't so great!) The final page in each week's section is a review page with a section for each of my four boys, where I can jot down notes about their week. Lessons/activities/things they said or did. The college boy's section is the small spot at the bottom since I'll probably have the least to say about him!

(Ok, true confession - I only finished drawing the pages up through May so far. But all the pages and sheets for the rest of the year are bound in there ... they just need a little pencil work and they'll be ready to go. I will get them done soon as I like to plan ahead as much as possible.)


Now, the last section of the planner is just an extra bunch of sheets for notes and then at the very back I have a piece of tagboard to make the planner sturdy:

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(Fyi, I bought a package of tagboard for a couple of dollars at the Paper Source.)

Here's a look at all the divider pages - each month has such a pretty page with floral/seasonal images on front and then old-fashioned text on the back as seen here ...

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 On New Year's Day, I brought my (mostly) done planner to Staples where a very nice associate bound it for me for all of $4. (I always choose coil over comb binding.) It wasn't the first time I had a planner bound here but I am always a little shy about doing so because well, some people just don't get it. Not that anyone's ever said anything to me, but I sometimes wonder what on earth they are thinking as they see all my scribbles and goals and designs. But what was kind of neat was this woman happened to be an avid letter writer (she thought I might be making a journal) who has pen pals all over the world. She said I had given her an idea to have her letters (all hand-written and many pages long) bound in this way, as keepsakes. I was very glad to have given her an idea and support a fellow (sister?) paper-crafter!

(I also left thinking ... could I write and bind my own book ... and then sell it online? Hmmm. Totally getting away from myself now ... and the subject at hand!)

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So there you have it, my friends - everything you ever wanted to know about my new weekly planner - and then some! (Though if you have questions, don't hesitate to ask.) I've only had it a few days, but so far I LOVE IT. The planner lies flat and the paper is smooth and the pages turn comfortably ... it looks and works like a regular spiral-bound notebook, only I hand selected the pages myself. Most of all, I'm hoping it helps me keep up with my busy household while truly savoring the seasons as they pass ... :)


I'll wrap up now - I've kept you so long! But I thank you as always for joining me and wish you all a pleasant evening and a happy Sunday tomorrow. Take care of yourselves and your loved ones ... and I'll see you here again very soon!

Making My 2015 Planner ...

Well, it's going about as slow as molasses ...

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But I sure am having fun!

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These are pictures from my planner-making session yesterday ... such as it was, lol! I was crouched at the foot of my bed, my baby snoozing soundly above me, settled in cozily amongst the laundry I should have been folding. There was a hope chest for my desk, a floor for my, ahem, seat and a (clean) diaper as my coaster. (Note the tea mug, please - it's part of a new set of dishes my folks gave me for Christmas! More on that later ...)

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We do what we have to, don't we Mamas? :) Not perhaps "ideal" working conditions, but I got about two hours' worth of creating done!

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I enjoyed my tea, the sounds of soft snores and an abundance of natural light as the winter afternoon waned ...

But I ended up moving my work to the floor because my knees were killing me!

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Below are the master sheets for the weekly spread ...

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I'm under a deadline, folks - trying to get it all drawn, assembled and bound by New Year's Day! (I love a deadline don't you?) It's a fairly humble work of art heart, but I'm rather fond of it already. And I'll be showing you what it all looks like once I finish ... so do check back again in a few days!

Enjoy your Tuesday, my friends! See you here again very soon ...


What My Planner/Journal Looks Like Now ...

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Good Sunday evening, my friends ... I hope you've all had a nice weekend!

Recently I've had a few requests to post about my current planner (slash-journal), and of course I'm happy to do so! But first, a little heads-up ...

This is a really, really long post about a very specific topic (my planner/journal), and it kind of got away from me ... like far, far away from me ... and now the day has grown late and I just don't have time to go back in and tighten it up! So please excuse the size of the post - if you (like me) enjoy looking at and hearing about other people's planners (journals, etc.) then this is the post for you!

(And if not, that's ok, too - I'll see you here another time!)

Now, I've actually had a draft in the works for a while now - but, you know how it is ... my planner wasn't exactly the way I wanted it ... I needed to tweak a few things, find the perfect paper, etc. ... so I kept putting the post off until I could get things "just right. But then I figured, it may not be perfect or polished - but I have been using it consistently, and it has been working pretty well for me ... and for goodness sakes, this blog is all about what's real and "right now" in my life, so I'm not going to put it off any longer!


So, care to join me for some planner show-and-tell?

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First off, here's my little workstation - a spot where I can stash my binders, the file crate, a bills/correspondence basket, my shopping notebook, etc. I'm using two main binders right now - one that stays put (red), and one that I use through the day (aqua).

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Shop talk: These are Martha Stewart binders from Staples. She doesn't have a wide range of colors (I think just black and brown aside from the two colors I chose) but they're well-made and the rings are quiet and smooth. They can also be manipulated one-handed, a very convenient feature for me these days!

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So the red "Homekeeping Journal" holds the following tabs: Blog/Endeavors, Household & Family, Faith & Parish, Meals & Food Planning, Education, Money Matters, Emergency, Correspondence. All information I need, but not necessarily every day.

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The aqua "Planner/Journal" holds the following tabs: Monthly Calendars, Seasons, Weekly Planning, Daybook, Journal Index. This is the binder I work in daily and it's almost never to be found in that workstation shown above. I keep it open on the kitchen counter, or dining table or right here on this sunny window sill in the living room ... wherever is most convenient at the time. I refer to it - and use it - throughout the day, which is why I moved my journal pages here. (You might recall how important my journals are to me, so this was a big move. More on that in a minute ...)

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Inside the binder, first: a pretty cover sheet, some vintage alphabet scrapbook paper:

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Next, the months-at-a-glance, with the current month up front:

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These are good old Day-Timer refills - I buy a pack of 12 months for about $15. I have used these for years and no other calendar makes me as happy. Yes, I've tried others (as I've blogged about before) but I keep coming back to the Day-Timer brand because it just looks and feels right. One full month spread across two pages (8.5x11), lightly-lined and generously-sized blocks ... understated shades and a smooth writing surface. It truly does make a difference when your calendar works really well for you in both a practical and aesthetic sense ...

{Some of you will be rolling your eyes at my persnicketiness, while others will be nodding your head knowing just what I mean!}

Now, I'll come back to this section - because this is where I'm actively planning and journaling each day - but very briefly, the rest of my planner is laid out like this:

Seasonal: Brainstorming for each season: holidays, feast days, natural phenomena, little comforts and joys. All the things I weave into our family year.

Weekly Planning: Here's where I keep the planning sheets I use with my weekly file folders. I store them here and then remove one each week to staple to the front of the new week's folder.

Daybook: Journal pages filed for current season.

Journal Index: A dated list of items I'd like to return to - recipes, etc.

Also, because this binder is obviously not pocketbook-friendly, I do use a smaller "pocket" calendar when I am out and about  - at the dentist or hairdresser, etc. I "sync up" this little monthly calendar with just the basics - appts., classes, or events to attend.

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Ok ... still with me?

Here is my current journal page, sandwiched between the February calendar:

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On Friday I jotted down notes about the bluebirds we spotted, project plans I want to start, a future post idea, a potential book title ... and I also added a newspaper clipping about the Olympics and a couple of recipes.

As some of you might remember, I've journaled for YEARS and it has almost always been in a very particular (inexpensive) spiral-bound notebook, prettied up with scrapbook paper. I have tons of these notebooks in storage dating back years. Well, as I was analyzing my overall planning routine, I realized that my favorite planning components are the monthly calendar grid and my daily journal, so I decided to build my planner around them.

So now I keep a week's worth of journaling inside the current monthly calendar and at the end of the week I read back over them - add notes to an index - and then file them away. Situated in between the current journal pages, I have a page marker which is a two-sided reminder list of all my daily chores, Monday - Sunday:

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There is a red tab at the top which helps me find my place quickly. This chores list is another neat item to have in front of me on a daily basis because even though I do the same things over and over, it's helpful to have a routine. A day when certain things are done so they actually get done. (And just for the record, the list is out of date because it still applies to our old house. I need to revise it.)

 So what is the journal for, exactlly?

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Well, a little bit of everything, really. I write the date in the margin, wherever I left off the day before (not necessarily a new page - this is like a stream of consciousness), and then anything and everything that comes to mind. I also add little clippings I find in the daily paper and assorted magazines I read. (I read a LOT.) It's a real hodgepodge of thoughts, ideas and memorabilia - and the less eloquent side of me might call it a "brain dump," lol. It's a way of being creative, and preserving the days of the year, and for me, it's a way of capturing our life as it passes.

Now, a question I get a lot is how do I find things that I put in there? Well, originally, the plan was to go through each seasonal journal before the next season arrived. So, right now I'd be combing back through last Winter's journal(s) to remind myself of things to look for or do. This worked relatively well when I had less children and those children were smaller. I seemed to have more time back then to do things like that, but nowadays I just don't have that kind of time. I do love looking back at my journals, but it's something I do on occasion, not as a regular part of my planning routine.

So instead, I use an index. Once a week I look back at the journaling I've done and "forward" any information I need to follow up on. (To-do items I scribbled down, reminders, gardening ideas, etc.) Any recipes or crafts I added to the journal I write down in my index (2.8 - Winter Apricot Tart, Linzer Cookies). 

Another question I get is how do you decide which recipes go in the journal and which get filed with your general recipe collection (or in a particular week's folder)?

Well, yes it's all kind of haphazard, I'll admit - as I said, it's not perfect! But I so love including seasonal things in my journals, and recipes and crafts are a big part of that. "Seasonal" is the key - if it's very seasonal in nature, (and especially if it's pretty to look at) it goes in the journal.

So for example, the two recipes I mentioned above are both very symbolic of this time of year. The apricot tart is made with dried winter fruit (I found it in the Boston Globe's food pages, underneath, "Seasonal Food") and the linzer cookies were part of a Valentine special in People magazine. Both of these recipes sound wonderful for this time of year so I added them to my journal. I also wrote down the information where to find these recipes in my index.

It's probably frustating to hear me describe this because I know it doesn't quite make sense, lol. It's not entirely logical! But hey, it works for me - I love making up these pages with all these bits and pieces of the day ... reflecting the season, my family's life and current news.

I find it very cathartic to journal, even when I'm not expressing deep, soulful thoughts and ideas. (And really, I'm usually not.) It's a creative impulse I have, and the journal really feeds that need in me - to capture my days and create my own reflection of the world around me.


Ok, I'm going to stop here because I really shouldn't keep you any longer. If you have any questions, please feel free to leave me a comment below, just keep in mind, I don't mean to offer this planner/journal as something that would be helpful or make sense for someone else. I realize this is intensely personal and unique to my own quirks and needs. But as I said at the top of my post, I know I love to see how other people use their planners whether they'd work for me or not - so I hope you enjoyed this post even if you're shaking your head wondering how on earth I get anything done, lol!

 Well, my friends, thank you so much for allowing me to share all of this with you, and thanks to all for stopping by. I'm sure you have things to get to - as do I - supper and baths and then maybe a little tv before bed. I will have the Downton chat post up early tomorrow but I'll call it right now - I'll be joining you on Tuesday as my bedtime is drawing near!

A pleasant Winter's evening to you all ... see you here again very soon!

Fall Fowers (of one kind and another)

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

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

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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 ...
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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 ...