Domestic Bliss 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 ...

Dianthus

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!

“Live 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 200° 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 ...


Playing Catch Up!

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

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

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

THIS!

Chicks 1

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

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

Chicken pen

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

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

Flower cupcakes

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

Flowers 1

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

Here is a lovely pond in our neighborhood ...

Morning pond

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

Phlox

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

O party 17

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

Rugs 1

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

Rugs 3

Thankfully, Archie approved the purchase ... ;)

Kitchen table with peonies

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

O and l reading 1

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

But back to the garden ...

Yarrow 2

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

Peonies 3

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

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

Foxgloves sunshine

Foxgloves pink

Foxgloves 1

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

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

Flag day foxgloves

(Happy Flag Day!)

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

Woodchuck 1

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

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

Woochuck 2

I can't wait to watch them this Summer!

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

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

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

***

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

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

See you here again very soon! 


Happy National Notebook Day!

A word of warning: you may only find this post interesting if you, like me, are passionate about paper! But feel free to read on wherever you stand on the topic ... :)

Notebook day 6

So I only heard of this holiday the other day on Instagram - apparently it's new this year! But of course, notebook-nut that I am, I could not let it pass without a little peek at my favorite notebook these days! The photo above shows my journal from last year, with all my pages organized and tabbed by month, neatly stored in a large binder. I get so much joy looking back over past journals!

Now, notebooks can be used for all kinds of things - journals, planners, academic notes, shopping lists - there's so much  you can do with a notebook. Notebooks can be easily found (or made) but some of us paper enthusiasts have rather strong opinions about what makes a notebook work and what doesn't. I am a collector of notebooks, that's for sure. I almost never pass up a chance to browse a stationary aisle, whether I'm in a large store like Staples or Target or a smaller specialty store like PaperSource. I'm always looking for smooth paper and good coil binding, a sturdy back and a neat cover. I despise perforated pages ... reinforced pages ... dark ink ... scratchy paper ... and ACK, heaven forbid, a wide rule! ;)

Ok, enough with my rambling ... here is where I'm notebooking these days:

Notebookday 5 

So no, this is not a typical notebook - it is a section in a 3-ring binder (my home keeping binder in fact) filled with my favorite paper EVER. (Years ago, during the back-to-school sales, I found a batch of loose-leaf paper that looked and felt so amazing - I snatched up as many packs as I could! I have never again found its like.)

I call this my domestic journal, and it's a real hodge-podge of things ... notes, ideas, observations, reminders, clippings, post-it notes, the occasional sticker or swatch of washi tape. I write for a month, then review and index the pages before lifting them out and placing them in a large storage binder (such as the one shown above). Then I add more paper to my home keeping binder for the new month!

Notebook day 1 

I keep this binder open on my workspace ("command central," if you will) in the kitchen. It's the first section of this binder and I add to it every day. I use a page finder to mark my place and a binder clip to connect the daily journal with my weekly planning section ...

Notebook day 3

Notebook day 4

I've grappled with needing to see my week AND my day at the same time, and I find this arrangement works rather well. I can't see both sections at the same time of course, but I can go back and forth between my daily notes and my weekly planning pretty quickly. I use a pagemaker here too, and it's a perfect spot for post-it-note "task" checklists.

Notebook day 2

To the far right of my binder sits my clipboard with my Day Designer on top. The DD allows me to see exactly what I'm doing that day. (I don't write notes so much here as to-do's and time-sensitive information.) 

So there you have it - the notebook "system" I am using right now! It's not perfect, but it works well for me and I really enjoy attending to it throughout the day. I do hope you enjoyed this post and I'd love to hear about your note booking habits if you have a minute! In the meantime, I wish you all a pleasant evening and will hope to see you here again very soon!


A Fresh Start: My New Day Designer!

DD1

Happy Wednesday, my friends! I hope your week is going well! Today I'd like to give you a tour of my new Day Designer ...

For those unfamiliar with the DD (as I'll call it in this post), it's a spiral-bound, paper planner designed by Whitney English, with a page devoted to each day of the year. My new DD runs from June 2016 through May 2017, so I have not actually started using it yet; indeed, I only received it about a week ago! (The packaging itself was just gorgeous - wish I had thought to take pictures before I ripped into it!)

Now, I'm not completely new to Day Designer ... off and on, I've used a Blue Sky-DD crossover planner I found at Target last summer. Made with different materials (though a similar design), and a significantly lower price point, this planner is something like a B-level version of the original DD. Anyhow, I say I used it "off and on" because the sad truth is, I have serious issues with planner commitment. I can never seem to find a "perfect" fit ... and often end up wondering what might work better ... but we've talked about this issue before, no need to hash it out again here! ;)

(And just for the record, I am not affiliated with Day Designer, nor am I being compensated for this "review" in any way. I bought this planner myself and wanted to share it here in case anyone is curious about the DD and/or has been using one of her own and would like to chat!)

So ... obviously I must connect with the DD on some level, because I saw fit to pay a pretty penny for this beautiful new edition!

DD4

I went with the blue floral pattern, though I was also tempted by the green palmI love shades of blue ... this pattern kind of reminds me of the "fancy" dinner dishes my mum used when I was growing up. 

The pre-order sale lasted from March 9th till April 20th, and I ordered my mid-year "flagship" DD in the first ten minutes of the sale window! (I had the start time written down in my - ahem - other planner, and I even set my phone alarm to alert me to log on!) I believe some patterns did sell out, but others will be available when the shop reopens today, Wednesday, May 11th.

DD2

So here is the planner set on my kitchen table ...

DD5

... and to give you an idea of the size, here it is next to a file folder.

It's a good size, yes - but it would need to be to hold 365 daily pages plus the 12 months and a few extras! Personally, I don't mind a big planner ... I am mostly a stay-at-home, home-schooling mom who does most of her planning at ... well, home. I do like to tote it around with me - through the day if I'm working at the kitchen counter or resting upstairs while the littlest sleeps or in the evening if I'm sitting in the family room with Bill. I may grab it if I'm picking up one of the boys and may be waiting for a bit in the car.  But practically speaking, I don't often need to take my planner out and about. If I did -  if I worked outside the home or if I was a full-time student, say - then the heftiness of this planner might be a drawback. But I'm pretty much A-OK with the large size - it's worth it to have a page devoted to each day of the year.

As you can see above, the planner is edged at the corners with a gold metal bracket - this reinforces against the inevitable scuffs, bumps and bashes. And to give you an idea of the thickness ...

DD3

 The coils are made of metal and are very sturdy and tight. The covers are thick and hard - a bit awkward to fold over (creaky, stiff) but I think that will lesson over time and with use.

Inside, the paper is all white with light gray text and the monthly tabs are gold ...

DD6

Honestly, I'm not a fan of the bright gold - they're a bit garish, I think - but I could overlook that. What bothers me is that the tabs add just enough extra "bulk" that when you lie the planner flat there is a slight buckle to the page on which you are writing. Most likely not everyone would notice this ... I tend to be super picky when it comes to my writing surface - but I wanted to mention it. I am thinking I MIGHT carefully snip the tabs out and use something else to mark the monthly calendars ... possibly a self-adhesive tab or post-it flag.

I will say the feel and weight of the paper is great. Smooth and light, but not too thin. And I'm a fan of the soft gray print - I like my planner pages drawn subtly in a neutral shade such as this. (Kind of how when I make my homemade planners, I prefer to draw them in all soft gray pencil.)

Here's a peek at the first few pages ...

DD7

Title page with space for contact information ...

DD8

A page devoted to describing how to use your DD ...

"It's not about having it all. It's about focus, priority and intention. Day Designer was created to help you focus on the most important things in life"

>>>>> ❤ <<<<<

Similar pages appear in the Blue Sky version but honestly, I hardly read them. I was so so eager to dive in and start personalizing my planner I kind of skipped the "how-to" part of the process. (I can be very impatient like that.) This time I'm paying a little more attention to the suggestions so that I might better understand how this particular tool works ... and therefore perhaps not give up on it as I have other planners in the past. I have a hard time with goals ... taking "big" ideas and breaking them down into realistic goals ... then further breaking them down into manageable steps. I'm really hoping this planner helps me out on that score.

DD9

"Your daily tasks become more effective if you know how they support the overall goals for that month, that year, and  your ultimate goal of living a well-designed life."

And that's really what we should all be doing - living our days with purpose. Not just stumbling through them "putting out fires" as they pop up. (My very first boss always said that he spent too much of his time each day "putting out fires" instead of getting anything of importance done.) God gives us only so many hours on this earth and how better to thank Him than by treating those hours with respect?

There are several more goal-oriented pages after this, but now I'll get on with the really important part ... the monthly calendars and daily planning pages!

DD11

Each month (June 2016 through May 2017) has its own two-page month-@-a-glance spread. It's a basic design ... there's a column on the left for notes, and lots of space at the top for stickers, washi tape, more notes ... perhaps quotes or some seasonal bits and bobs. One might even consider shading in the month's title to add a splash of color. Holidays and other events are clearly marked.

DD12

The calendar blocks are a generous size, but I confess, I appreciated the lined boxes in the Blue Sky edition I used last year. I like a lined calendar - so very helpful for keeping your writing straight and arranging events in a timely manner.

Now, for the daily pages ...

DD13

There's an individual page for each weekday ... 

DD16

... while weekends share a page.

DD15

Each day is dated (natch) and has a quote at the top with space for embellishments and/or notes. Then there are spaces in which to write today's "top three" (most important events, tasks or goals of the day), what's "due" today, dinner, dollars spent and a place to note - don't forget! Then the left side of the page features a vertical agenda in hourly increments, from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m., while the righthand side is for a to-do list with boxes to check. The bottom of the page features a space for notes and a spot in which you might write your daily gratitude.

Here's a closer peek ...

DD14

I don't use colored pens or markers in my planner so I can't say if there's bleed-through or not, but I do love the feel of the paper beneath my mechanical pencil and my favorite inked pens.

DD17

And finally ... the back cover. :)

At a later date I will do a follow-up post to show you how I'm working those pages. And where I fit that DD planning into my week. And how I fit the DD into the rest of my planning protocol!

Now, most (or at least many) people choose ONE planner and decide between a daily, weekly or even a simple monthly format. I'm not ashamed to say I need all three. (Plus something for planning out seasons.) I've tried to find/make just one single planner that encompasses all my needs, but it's just too much for one space. Better to use a few planners well than one planner poorly!

• For monthly planning I use (and have for years) a large, "folio" sized two-page month-@-a-glance calendar in my homekeeping binder. It's made by Day-Timer and I love it - it's lined and simple and I can write a LOT in it. This is the main family calendar, and it sits behind my domestic journal which is kept in the very front of my binder which sits open on my kitchen counter at all times.

• My weekly planning is how I weave the seasons into our life, so I generally use homemade things in that endeavor - lately a spiral-bound planner and printed out sheets. When I am living (and teaching) seasonally, I break it all down into weeks, and each week has a theme that ties back into the season. (For example this week's theme is "Spring Fire," connecting with Pentecost Sunday and the elements.) I also plan our homeschooling this way because it's not quite realistic to plan each day, but rather work off a week's worth of goals. I keep our lesson plans in their own notebook-planner (for now).

(I mentioned above that I do not use colors, but I am actually trying out an idea right now in my weekly planner that utilizes colored pens. I like to write everything in pencil and for the most part we have pretty typical weeks - the kids have regular class and therapies and we attend Mass and go grocery shopping (etc.) at the same times. But of course, there are other things that come up - an appointment, a dinner out, a party, a social visit ... when I look at my week I like to see what is "a-typical" this week. Where will we be pulled outside of our normal routine? So by writing these - or underlining these? - in color, I can see at a glance where that will happen.)

• As for daily planning ... if the week is the big picture, working in themes and ideas, then the day is fitting in the nitty gritty. I like to see in vivid detail what the hours ahead of me look like and what things I need to be doing. These would be the everyday tasks, the housekeeping for that particular day, the supper I need to make, the exercise I want to do, the water I need to drink, the times I need to be somewhere and with whom. These are tasks that are to be done that day - not, say, something that should be done sometime that week. Examples - a time-sensitive phone call, a prescription pickup, anything that needs doing or readying for the next day. Would that I could work a day's details into the weekly planner, but somehow it's just not a good fit. The "grit" gets lost in the spread. The trick of course is the overlap - nobody wants to waste time re-writing things in more than one planner. 

And so comes in the DD, a place to do my DAILY planning ... :)

>>>>> ❤ <<<<<

Does it get a bit much juggling all these planning tools? Sometimes, yes. But for now this seems to be the best way to combine and manage my needs. It's not perfect, certainly, but there's only so much "planning the planning" you can do before you just have to get on with it! ;)

Right now I have my home keeping binder open on my kitchen counter, along with my weekly planning pages (currently kept in the binder, not bound separately). Then next to the binder is my clipboard with my (Blue Sky) DD sitting on top open to today's page. My Late Spring (May-June) seasonal binder is tucked in the back of my file crate for easy reference. Here is all of my planning in one place!

I will expand on all this in a follow-up post, but I think I'd best wrap up for now since this is getting rather long and I'm straying off-point a bit. But I do hope you enjoyed this tour of my new Day Designer! I think it is a lovely planner and I am eager to make it work well for me! (Especially since I aim to be a good steward of our family budget and wouldn't want this expense to have been wasted!)

Once we're a week or so into June I will show you how my pages look "in action" ... :)

But for now, I will send you off with my thanks for stopping by and reading and my hope that you enjoy the rest of your day ... and week! I will check back in with you all again soon ... 


Themes & Plans for May (Updated!)

Violet in grass

(Note: This is a post originally composed in 2008. I have fixed any broken links and updated the content to correspond with the current year, 2016. Hope you enjoy!)

May brings flocks of pretty lambs, skipping by their fleecy dams ... 

It's no wonder it's called the merriest month of the year - there is just so much to love about May! And it's no surprise this post is a day or two late - the call of "the wild" gets stronger every day. :) I hardly ever find myself at my desk anymore - and boy, does my inbox show it!

So, what follows is just a sampling - of things to do, things to notice, and things to remember this month. I hope you might find something useful in my ...

~ Themes & Plans for May ~ 

Nature

  • Flowering trees at their peak.
  • Lilacs bloom around Mother's Day.
  • Tulips are up now.
  • Violets and wild pansies in the grass.
  • Warblers in the tops of the trees.
  • Orioles passing through.
  • Goldfinches are brilliant yellow.
  • Cool rainy days are possible ...
  • ... but so are 80 degree days!
  • The lawn might need mowing ...
  • ... but watch for toads in the yard!
  • The orchard is frothy and white.
  • Wood ducks are returning.
  • Nests spotted at the pond.
  • Tent caterpillars in the trees.
  • Morel mushrooms sprouting.
  • Spring butterflies are here.
  • Watch for hummingbirds.
  • Jack-in-the-pulpit in the woods.
  • Last frost occurs this month.
  • The Full Flower Moon rises on the 21st.

Folklore

  • Birthstone: emerald
  • Flower: lily-of-the-valley
  • "A swarm of bees in May is worth a load of hay ..."

Food

  • sweet onions
  • rhubarb
  • early strawberries
  • new potatoes
  • radishes
  • artichokes
  • asparagus
  • baby lettuces
  • morels
  • peas
  • spinach
  • mint juleps
  • pecan pies
  • edible flowers
  • spring herb soup
  • first barbecue of the year

Faith

  • May Devotion ~ The Blessed Mother
  • Season: Easter; Ordinary Time (Summer) begins
  • St. Joseph the Worker (1)
  • Minor Rogation Days (2-4)
  • Ascension Thursday (5)
  • Our Lady of Fatima (13)
  • Pentecost Sunday (15)
  • St. Isidore the Farmer (15)
  • Trinity Sunday (22)
  • Corpus Christi (29)
  • The Visitation (31)

Household (& Garden)

  • Mow lawn; leave grass clippings down as mulch.
  • Clean and arrange deck/porch furniture.
  • Clean the grill; fill the propane tank.
  • Inventory/organize the kids' backyard toys.
  • Hang hummingbird window feeder.
  • Visit the family graves on Memorial Day ~
    • Tidy and add new flowers.
  • Purchase citronella candles or torches.
  • Famly physicals this month.
  • Launder spring linens and hang in the sun to dry.
  • Make travel plans for summer.
  • Clean car and organize for summer activities:
    • Beach
    • Picnic
    • Road trips
  • Plant garden on Memorial Day weekend.
  • Hang the American flag.

Life

  • American Bike Month
  • National Duckling Month
  • National Salsa Month
  • National Strawberry Month
  • National Egg Month
  • Be Kind to Animals Week (1-7)
  • National Postcard Week (1-7)
  • National Wildflower Week (2-8)
  • National Nurses Week (6-12)
  • National Herb Week (1-7)
  • National Police Week (8-15)
  • May Day (1)
  • Mother Goose Day (1)
  • Star Wars Day (4)
  • Cinco de Mayo (5)
  • Midwives Day (5)
  • The Kentucky Derby (7)
  • Mother Ocean Day (7)
  • Village Plant Sale (7)
  • Mother's Day (8)
  • National Apron Day (12)
  • Leprechaun Day (13)
  • Tulip Day (13)
  • Letter Carrier Food Drive (14)
  • National Train Day (14)
  • World Fair Trade Day (14)
  • Chocolate Chip Day (15)
  • Hug Your Cat Day (27)
  • Indianapolis 500 (29)
  • Memorial Day (30)

Book Basket

Field Trips & Outings

  • Visit the apple orchard to sketch trees in bloom.
  • Nature walk to the pond.
  • Visit the cows at a nearby dairy farm.
  • Purchase herbs at the garden store.
  • Lilacs walk at the arboretum.

Crafts & Activities

  • Make homemade bread and butter
  • Decorate fresh butter with clover.
  • Look for 4-leaf clovers in the yard.
  • Find a special spot in your yard for a Mary Garden.
  • Celebrate Derby Day:
    • Read the papers and choose a horse to cheer for.
    • Make "Juleps" for Derby Day (herbal iced tea)
    • Wear big fancy hats while watching the race.
  • Make a paper bag piñata on Cinco de Mayo.
  • Decorate a canvas (field) bag with leaf prints.
  • Decorate a plain canvas apron (smock) on Apron Day.
  • Make nature playdough.
  • Collect and press wildflowers; begin a herbarium.
  • Plant a sunflower house.
  • Make a toad home.
  • Attract orioles passing through.
  • Spend an afternoon coudwatching.
  • Learn about waterfowl: ducks, geese, gulls.
  • Visit a duck pond and observe nesting behavior.
  • Play Duck, Duck, Goose!
  • Make a feather collage.
  • Make wind chimes with flower pots.
  • Go on a mushroom walk after a few damp days.
  • Make a catnip toy (with real catnip!) for the cats.
  • Eat rhubarb stalks with dixie cups of sugar for dipping.
  • Paint and fill herb pots for Mother's Day gifts.
  • Mix up some herbal mosquito repellant.
  • Make a handloom; weave it with rainbow yarn.
  • Fill a box with food for the letter carrier on the 10th.
  • Work ahead on handcrafted Father's day gifts.

Whew! As posts go (and mine can go long) that was a big one! ;) Thanks for reading through, and thanks, as always, for stopping by. I hope you'll enjoy the lovely new month which begins in but a few days ... and I hope you'll let me know what you love the most about May!

See you all again very soon ... :)

"What is so sweet and dear
As a prosperous morn in May,
The confident prime of the day,
And the dauntless youth of the year,
When nothing that asks for bliss,
Asking aright, is denied,
And half of the world a bridegroom is,
And half of the world a bride?"
~ William Watson, "Ode in May," 1880


Spring Garden Plots & Plans ...

Happy Tuesday, my friends! :)

It's been such a nice day here - for one thing, Bill is on vacation all week, so our days have been fairly slow and easy (what a treat!), but also, the weather is just so deliciously "Spring!" Today started cloudy and a bit damp, but by afternoon the sky had brightened and the air dried out - and now this evening is just lovely! We've been out and about in the yard a lot lately, so I thought I'd share a few pictures. Are you doing any gardening this spring? Do you have any new projects planned? We have a few things going on ... :)

Spring yard 9

First off, this is my new garden journal and matching mug - aren't they pretty? I bought them at Joann's Fabrics last month, and could hardly wait for the first nice day to sit in the garden, sip tea, and "plan." 

Spring yard 3

And here we have the beginnings of our ... chicken coop! Bill is building it himself (coop + pen) so it will take a little while before we actually have chicks of our own. (The play set will be moved to the other side of the yard ...)

 Spring yard 7

This doesn't look like much but it's a nice little sloping garden bed beside the patio - I have some things growing here (coneflowers, coral bells, snapdragons, sedum, yarrow, thyme, lavender) but would like to make it a little more formal and add a few more bee- and bird-friendly things.

Spring yard 2

Along the back of the house is a bed that, though shaded in this picture, gets a lot of full, southern sun. Our rhubarb plant thrives here and last summer we had good luck with tomatoes and peppers. I'd like to try growing things upright against the house, too - something climbing perhaps. (Currently, Little Bear considers this his personal digging spot.)

Just beyond the edge of the house is a hedgerow in front of which last summer I parked my herb pots. I'm moving those to the patio this year for easier access (and a better view).

Spring yard 4

I love these stone steps that lead from the driveway to the backyard ... I'd like to do something more creative in the beds on either side. They get good sun in the summer.

Spring yard 5

This here is an untamed "bed" beneath a large maple tree. It doesn't look so shady at the moment, but once the leaves are formed, this is a really nice, cool "alcove." I forget the name of the ground cover here, but that's about all that grows in this spot. The chiminea has been parked here since we moved - it was just where it landed! (We don't burn in it anymore.) In the summertime I love to step into this "bed" - it feels a bit secluded, all shady and enclosed. I was thinking of making it into a little shade garden of sorts. I might use the chiminea as a planter and weed out the ground cover and establish this as a true bed ... with shade-loving herbs and flowers, stepping stones, a wind chime, a thistle sock for goldfinches, and a comfy chair for nestling in ...

Well, these are all just thoughts for now, but this is such a fun stage of the process! The "planning part" when so many things seem possible ...

So these are a few of the gardening "areas" I'm concentrating on this year. I hope to grow lots of herbs and flowers plus a few kinds of vegetables. I hope to grow things we can use and that are attractive and beneficial to bees, butterflies and birds. I am also hoping to have garden areas that are fun for the younger boys to work/play in! I'd like to be better about harvesting and preserving what we grow. I have organized a binder (green of course!) with alphabetical tabs - her is where I will record information I glean from research, friends and first-hand experience!

Garden journals

This month we are concentrating on preparing the beds - next month we will get our plants. The average last frost is in mid- to late-May for my area. We don't really grow much from seed - I keep things simple and buy plants! Next month I will visit the local village plant sale as well as a local farm that specializes in herbs of all kinds. Hopefully this year I will have better luck with finding the best spots to grow what I buy!

🌱🌱🌱🌱

Well my friends, I'd best be off now, but I thank you very much for stopping by! I would love to hear about your gardening plans for the growing season ahead! Drop me a note if you have time! :)

Wishing you a pleasant evening and a lovely day tomorrow ... 

See you here again very soon!


Our Happy Easter Sunday!

Sunny easter flowers

Alleluia, my friends! Happy Easter! I hope you've all had a lovely start to this beautiful new season. :)

Today I'd like to share some of the pictures from our Easter weekend ... but first, I'd like to remind you all that today's the last day to enter my "Happy 10 Year Blogging" giveaway! I'll be drawing the winning names tomorrow morning! Here is the post with all the details ... :)

Now, onto the celebration pictures!

Easter 2016 41

The Alleluia has returned! This little plaque (which we made several years ago), gets hidden away on Ash Wednesday - just as the word disappears from our Lenten liturgy - and then makes its triumphant reappearance on Easter Sunday, announcing to us all:

Alleluia! He is Risen!

Easter flower shopping

This was a last minute run for Easter flowers from, where else but Trader Joe's - which has the best cut-flower prices! We entertain often and I always make a note to stop by TJ's for flowers. Today's "haul" included flowering branches, roses, tulips, carnations, and Gerbera daisies. (I also made a note in my gardening planner to grow more cutting flowers this year!)

(Another note: my friend (and longtime reader) Tanya had a great suggestion - that I do a post on family gatherings and entertaining! And I would LOVE to do that! It is certainly something we do often (host family gatherings and fairly large parties) and I really enjoy the whole process. So a post on that subject will be forthcoming!)

Back to this post, though ... a little Good Friday morning activity:

Egg hunt 3

Keeping the younger boys busy with a word puzzle egg hunt. It was meant to be an outdoor event, but since the day was quite rainy we hid the eggs all over the first floor of the house. This was an activity I set up for Earlybird to do with his therapist but Little Bear, naturally, insisted on taking part!

Easter baskets

On Easter eve, the boys' baskets were ready for the eggs ... no natural dyes this year, as much as I'd hoped to try them! Next year for sure ...

Easter 2016 8

And here we have dining tables set up in the sunroom - we welcomed 20 for dinner!

Easter 2016 10

A fun veggie basket I made up - Bill helped me with the cabbage dip dish!

Easter mantle

We stashed desserts in the living room before it was time to serve. I love how our grapevine cross blooms with life once Easter Sunday has dawned. :)

Easter 2016 4

Ok, funny story. So ... I made a lemon cake for my Bookworm (home from BC on Easter break) because he LOVES lemon cake. Only, I was running out of time ... so homemade became "Duncan Hines." And then, the frosting wouldn't cover the whole cake! So I decided to use Peeps ("borrowed" from the boys' baskets) to hide the skimpy frosting job!

And voila, c'est la Peep Cake! ;)

Easter 2016 30

Tulips - not my favorite flowers, but boy do they "shine" at Easter!

Easter 2016 39

A favorite Easter decoration, hung between the kitchen and dining room.

Easter 2016 9

And here we have some (lots of) family photos, starting with Little Bear who, as you can probably tell, was a little shy at first, as his home filled up with people much larger than him! (Note how he's clutching the hem of his shirt ...)

Easter 2016 2

He needed to spend a little time up on his mama before he was ready to mingle!

Easter 2016 55

And here we have most of my family, in my kitchen, on Easter Sunday. I can't get much happier than this. :)

Easter 2016 56

Earlybird did really well, even though large gatherings can be a challenge for his sensitivities. He was really looking forward to Easter Sunday! We allowed him to use the TV in our bedroom throughout the day so when he got a little overwhelmed (by noise, smells, expectations, whatever) he could retreat upstairs for a bit.

Easter 2016 21]

The spiced orange rum punch, served in my grandmother's punch bowl, was a hit - though our initial plan was to serve a really neat rhubarb cocktail. Rhubarb is so seasonal for early spring! Unfortunately our frozen (garden-grown) rhubarb defrosted in a rather sludgey way PLUS I realized I was out of sugar late on Holy Saturday. Eep! So this became our "signature cocktail" for the day. Thank goodness for Pinterest! It was pretty yummy I must say. :)

And now for some family photos ... how I love these people!

Easter 2016 18

Easter 2016 46

Mum and dad easter 2016

Easter 2016 20

Easter 2016 24

Easter 2016 16

Easter 2016 1

Little Bear needed a few breaks, too ...

Easter 2016 59

Trains inside ...

Easter 2016 50

Trucks outside!

Easter 2016 25

Thumbs up for a good dinner, Mom!

Easter 2016 57

Enjoying Easter dinner with three of my four boys. <3

Easter 2016 51

Through the family room window ... I love how bright the day was, the sunroom is such a joy on days like this!

Easter 2016 31

Mum and Matt catching up ... my brother had to work on Easter but was able to join us for dinner!

Easter 2016 27

Little Bear, avidly watching the "volcano" egg my brother gave him for Easter. Have I mentioned how much LB loves volcanos? :)

Easter 2016 32

Bill working on his Spring Blessings egg ...

Easter 2016 43

In the tradition of sharing our thankfulness at Thanksgiving (on autumn leaf shapes) I made up manila paper eggs for a similar activity. After dinner we all wrote out what we love best about Spring and then I read them aloud as we savored coffee and dessert. My family is very kind about my crazy little ideas!

And here's the desserts table ...

Easter 2016 33

That pineapple-upside down cake in the foreground was baked by my Uncle Karl and it was SO delicious. And I can tell you it was equally delicious the next morning with a cup of coffee ...

Easter 2016 60

Coffee was served in my grandmother's Irish tea cups ...

Easter 2016 34

A close-up of the pretty paper plates I picked up at Home Goods ... a little bigger than a cocktail size plate so it can hold more than just one dessert!

Easter 2016 38

A sugar cookie Peep bunny!

Radishes in teapot

I couldn't decide how to use the beautiful radishes I picked up at Whole Foods so I plopped them in a teapot - and I think they looked pretty cute! (They were placed back in the fridge at the end of the day.)

Well my friends, I think that's all I have to share today ... I hope you enjoyed this peek into our Easter and I thank you for taking the time to read through this rather long post! How was your Easter? And how is your March leaving you today ... like a lion or a lamb? Very mild here today (near 70) but then cold weather swoops in - perhaps flurries, I hear? - for the start of what T.S. Eliot called, "the cruelest month." The weather has been quite crazy lately so I guess we'll have to wait and see ...

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


Friday Bits and Bobs ~ Domestic Bliss

Tea puttering st. patrick's day

Good morning, my friends and Happy Friday! I hope your week is going well. We're still slogging through a cold (flu?) virus of some sort here. Thankfully, Little Bear is MUCH better and aside from a bit of a runny nose and occasional cough, seems fine. My mum is also feeling better, thank God. Earlybird, however, has started coughing ... and I have come down with it as well. Ugh. Its been a while since I've been sick but last night's fever was a real doozy! Very kindly Bill has told me to stay in bed today and he's working from home. So here I am. In bed, surrounded by tissues and cough drops and cats and my giant mug of tea. :)

Anyhoo, enough of that - I am here to share a few photos, just some little moments from yesterday. As you can see I'm having fun with text bubbles again! (Click on the image if you can't read the text!) Above is a glimpse of my workspace on the kitchen counter. I'm really trying to pare down what I have out at any one time, not that you could tell that from the picture! In an upcoming post I'd like to talk more about our home keeping binders and why I have the daybook back on my counter in place of my homemade planner ...

Tea roses with blurb

I love hanging herbs and flowers in my kitchen window, and I absolutely adore these tiny yellow tea roses, leftover from my cousin's baby shower. I thought I'd try drying them and using the petals in a homemade potpourri - perhaps blended with lavender and chamomile or other herbs from the garden. In the meantime, I think they look very pretty hanging over my kitchen sink!

Archie sampling tea with blurb

Now that the weather is warming up, I love sitting in the sunroom every chance I get. Here I was working out an Easter menu ... must check in with Mum to get her thoughts ... but meanwhile, Archie helped himself to my tea. The silly thing.

Tablecloth with blurb

A new tablecloth for the aforementioned sunroom. Aren't these colors gorgeous? :)

Tea break with blurb

Rest assured, this picture was taken before the Archie shot! This is an old mug from my grandparents' house and it seemed rather fitting for St. Patrick's Day. :)

Victorias on bureau with blurb

And here we have a whole bunch of April issues of Victoria magazine - dating back to the 90s! I set them on my bureau for inspiration, hoping to find some time to page through them ... I may get my wish later today. :)

Well my friends, I hope you enjoyed these snippets of my day ... it was a rather quiet day spent at home, nursing Little Bear's cold, enjoying the sunlight and open windows. Spring feels so close ... and yet, New England is expecting a snowstorm late Sunday (the Vernal Equinox, of all days!). Fingers crossed we don't get too much and that the mild weather coming next week takes care of any white stuff lickety-split! I'm hoping for nice weather, Easter Sunday ...

Thanks so much for stopping by, everyone, and I wish you all a wonderful weekend!

See you here again every soon ...


Seasonal Food: Special for Rose Sunday!

Rose pie 1

Happy Monday, my friends! I hope your week is off to a great start!

As some of you saw me "tease" on Facebook, I made a special dessert for Laetare (or Rose) Sunday yesterday ... and I'd like to tell you all about it! Because not only was it yummy, but it was also fairly easy to make and came out rather pretty. :)

Now, I've made custards before on Rose Sunday (the fourth Sunday in Lent, also known as Mothering Sunday in Europe) but this is the first time I've made a custard "tart." I first saw the clever apple "roses" on Pinterest a while back and thought - how pretty - but when I came across the recipe for an Apple Custard Tart of Roses I knew it would be perfect for this particular Sunday!

The crust was made from a blend of almond meal and AP flour, as well as confectioner's sugar, vanilla, orange peel, an egg and unsalted butter. I pressed it into a deep dish pie plate, but I think I'd use a shallower pan next time. )The custard didn't fill this pan to the top.)

Rose pie 3

I placed it in the fridge while I set about making the custard ...

Rose pie 2

More goodness in here - egg yolks (I use organic ingredients whenever possible), vanilla, sugar, orange peel, whole milk, cornstarch and Moscato wine. I find custard can be tricky but this cooked up very quickly - once it was thickened a bit I set it aside to cool and turned my attention to the apples.

Rose pie 5

This seemed like it was going to be so much harder than it actually was! Basically, you use apple peels to form rosebuds. The recipe called for Pink Lady apples which I was able to find at my market and they were very pretty indeed.

Rose pie 6

I had to have Bill help me though, as I had trouble wielding our peeler. He was a great sport and added all these roses to the custard tart for me!

Rose pie 7

Rose pie 8

Once the pie was full of "roses" (note the two that came from McIntosh apples, lol - we ran out of Pink Ladies!), we brushed them with warm apricot jam. 

Rose pie 9

(If you're thinking that's a kiddie paint brush, you'd be right. It was new, I promise! I am in dire need of a few kitchen tools, one being a pastry brush!)

The tart was popped into the oven to bake for 40 minutes ... and BOY did the house smell amazing! I had boys coming out of the woodwork to wonder what on earth was in the oven. (It even got the college boy home on break out of bed!)

Rose pie 11

And here it is all done!

Rose pie 12

I think they look like antique roses ... a very pretty effect!

The best part of course was its taste - which was wonderful! The custard was sweet and creamy, with the tang of the wine and freshness of the orange. And the crust was thick and tender, really lovely. As for the apple roses, I think next time I will use strips with more flesh than peel - they'll be easier to shape and softer looking like those in the original recipe. All in all though, this is a keeper - a really nice recipe to add to our seasonal menus! I love this for Rose Sunday for its symbolism, but as I mentioned above, it would also be nice for Easter or Mother's Day, or even a summer garden party.

This recipe is a great example of seasonal eating - not necessarily in its ingredients (though apples can be stored year 'round), but in the real spirit of the meal. I am so pleased to add this to our Early Spring repertoire. Another favorite alongside Good Friday's hot cross buns and St. Patrick's brown bread and St. Joseph's homemade donuts and the Vernal Equinox's pasta primavera ... etc.!

Well my friends, I hope you all enjoy the rest of your day ... I am mostly staying off social media until I see last night's episode of Downton Abbey - hopefully I'll catch up tonight, though I must admit there's a big part of me that DOESN'T want to watch ... because if I don't watch, then it can never be over ... right? ;)

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


On Meal Plans & Seasonal Eating

Menu planning 1

Hello my friends and Happy Friday! I hope this post finds you well ...

Today I'd like to talk a little about menu planning. I'm wondering when you all do it ... once a month? Once a week? On the fly? And where do you make note of your meal plans ... in a planner? On a white board? On your phone?

I've been posting our dinner menus on my sidebar for a couple of months now, but you may have noticed I fell behind recently. For one thing - well, I got lazy, lol - but also, I'm trying to keep our meals rather simple throughout Lent, so it's kind of the same menus over and over again. That said, tonight our Bookworm comes home for his spring break! #happymotherdance! So I'm putting aside "simple" for savory and satisfying over the next week. I have planned a few of his favorite meals as well as a couple of new recipes I've been waiting to try when he's home.

Friday: spinach-cheese ravioli, tossed salad, artichoke bruschetta

Saturday: takeout from our local pizza place

Sunday: beef & ale stew with cheddar-mustard dumplings, rose-vanilla custard

Monday: American Chop Suey, roasted winter veg, garlic bread

Tuesday: cookout (cheeseburgers), pasta salad, green salad, rhubarb grunt

Wednesday: homemade calzones & pizzas, zucchini tots

Thursday: slow cooker cashew chicken over rice

Friday: lemon-roasted shrimp with asparagus and linguine 

Saturday: beef pot pie from local farm, roasted potatoes & carrots, biscuits, lemon cake

Sunday: leftovers!

**

Now, while we're talking about menus .. a few people have asked me to write about seasonal meal planning and I would love to investigate this further in a future post. (Three of my favorite things - food, seasons and planning!) But since Little Bear's nap is stretching on, I'll share a few thoughts on the topic today ... :)

Eating with the seasons - that is to say, using produce that is at its peak and available locally - is always a goal of ours, because it makes solid economic and environmental sense. But to my mind, it's also the kind of food that truly nourishes both body and soul. And this goes beyond fruits and vegetables - special seasonal meals figure into this, too! But we'll get into that in bit ...

Obviously it's much easier to eat seasonally at certain times of the year than others, especially if you live in colder climates. There are strategies one can employ, of course; with careful planning and preserving and such, there are ways to stick to a seasonal schedule. I'm certainly no expert in this area, but I'm always eager to learn and do better!

First up would be understanding what fruits and vegetables are available in your area and when ... and where you can get them! Visiting local farms with year-round markets is a great place to start. You can keep tabs on what's available and strike up conversations with the folks who run the market. They may have a schedule they can share with you so you'll have a rough idea of availability and can make notes on your home calendar. (Even if the farm is closed, check their website - many post seasonal calendars online.) Lots of farms these days also offer shares for the growing season - you pay a subscription for a preferred portion (family, single, etc.) and each week you take home your "share" of the farm's bounty. We've done this several times and it is SUCH a fun experience plus it's great to support local farmers.

Also easy - especially if you're on Pinterest - is to just type in the search term, "seasonal eating" and up will pop many charts and references for you to work with when making your plans. Speaking of, here's a neat graphic I found in one of my old journals - aka old-school "pinning." ;) It's a handy kind of list to keep in the meal planning section of my home keeping binder.

Menu planning 5

(Of course it goes without saying - home gardening is a fantastic way to eat seasonally! Eating something you've grown, picked fresh from the garden is perhaps the best form of seasonal eating - in every sense! Not everyone has the space or desire to do so, but I think growing your own food is a wonderful learning experience for old and young alike.)

 In addition to using peak produce, I like to plan meals that are in keeping with the "spirit" of the season. This is easy enough for anyone to do really - just start by asking yourself (and your family): what are meals that appeal to you in each season? Jot things down as they come to you - in a loose seasonal outline. Maybe "applesauce" in autumn, "clambakes" in summer, "strawberry-rhubarb pie" in spring and "pot roast" for a cold winter's day. That kind of thing.

Now, your food lists might not resemble mine at all, because A. we may live in different parts of the world, so our growing seasons are slightly (or perhaps vastly) different, and B. seasonal eating is often tied to memory, preference and emotions, which makes it all quite personal! So there are certain foods and meals that really MAKE a season for me and my family - but they may not appeal as much - or at all - to you and yours.

After you exhaust your memories, take a look around for more inspiration. There's the internet of course, but how about good old-fashioned cookbooks? And I mean that quite literally - I find older books tend to focus more on seasonal foods (fresh and preserved) because they were cheaper and plentiful and people were making things on their own more back then. (Ketchup and jam and bread and the like.) Not to mention grocers of long ago were not as diverse as ours are today. Not to say our food system is better today - it's probably not - but it is more convenient.

So unsurprisingly, I tend to collect cookbooks - old and new - that organize their contents in a seasonal way and/or highlight natural foods at their peak. Here are a few ...

Menu planning 2

For fun seasonal menus, my favorite of all time is The Silver Palate Cookbook. There's a bit of nostalgia tied to this particular book - I received it before I was even married, from my high school best friend who knew I was enamored of homekeeping and home cooking. I have read it many times over  - before I had my own kitchen! - simply for the seasonal inspiration. Also, a little story - before I was married I worked as a journalist for a Boston-area newspaper and my kind editors let me try my hand at food writing. Oh, the fun I had with those assignments! Well, I once got to meet the Silver Palate authors, Sheila Lukins and Julie Rosso! And they were really fun and lovely ... though I only stood nearby and smiled when they looked my way, lol. Still, that's a fun memory for me. :)

Anyhoo - here's a look at the book's contents to give you an idea:

Menu planning 3

And I know I don't have to tell you that the library is THE place to turn for cookbooks of all kinds. I do love the books I own but of course, they can be expensive! And they take up precious shelf space. I love to search my library system for cookbooks I've made note of at Barnes & Noble or books that are no longer in print ... then I can photocopy recipes I'd like to try someday.

Magazines, too, are a great place to find seasonal recipes - by their very nature they are seasonal, usually on a monthly or bi-monthly basis. And don't forget your local paper's food pages! We no longer get the daily Boston Globe but when we did I was always finding wonderful regional and seasonal recipes in the Wednesday food pages! (The Sunday Globe has a lovely magazine though, with a regular food column.)

Now, I don't want you to think that every meal I prepare is completely in sync with the season! Hardly, lol. What works for us - not that it's perfect but it gets us by - is a repertoire of our usual meals (things we all like that fit our budget) and then I work in seasonal items as I can. Usually as side dishes or baked goods - banana bread in January, strawberry bread in June ... acorn squash in November, asparagus in May. And there is always an occasional "seasonal" meal, and Sunday dinners are a wonderful time to do this. Holidays and liturgical feast days are also perfect opportunities to embrace seasonal foods! 

I store my recipes mostly on Pinterest these days, but the ones I've clipped from a magazine or newspaper I file in seasonal folders, while precious recipe cards written by my mother or grandmother are kept in a very special box. (I'd like to do a separate post about recipe organization in the future.) When I do my weekly menu plan, I like to look at the calendar as well as my Pinterest boards. I have a board called Feeding the Family, as well as one for Seasonal Fruits & Veggies and yet another for Baking. Recently I started boards for each season and I store links for things particular to those two months. So for example, in my March & April board I have seasonal recipes for St. Patrick's Day and Lent.

 (Another time I'd love to address the topic of preserving foods in season to enjoy later. I'd like to do more of it myself and would love to hear about other folks' experiences.)

What I love about seasonal eating is how it reinforces that connection to the natural rhythm of the year: to everything a season ... and all that. :) Fresh peaches don't taste, smell or feel right in January ... but in July? Oh, what heaven! A beef stew on a blustery Sunday makes me so happy it's winter ... and the same thing goes for a tomato sandwich in summer. It's all about nurturing that awareness of where we are in the year. Such a simple way to increase our family's overall comfort and joy! (All while respecting the earth ... and our household budgets!)

There's so much more to say on this subject, but for right now, here is a lovely passage from a book I'm reading this week. It's called A Sense of Seasons, and it was written in 1964 by Jean Hersey of Connecticut.

Menu planning 4

"Every month has its satisfactions." YES! And on the previous page not shown, "Each month has its passions and plans, its idle dreams and ruminations, even its colors." 

There are so many blessings in every year - and they are all the more beautiful when savored in season. :)

I'm grateful to my friend Kimberly for recommending these books to me - I am just loving them! (They are much like One Woman's Year which I raved about recently.) Mrs. Hersey writes just as I'd like to someday ... narrating her joy in the seasons and sharing her observations of the world around her. 

 Ok, I will wrap up now, I promise ... I've kept you here so very long today. Clearly this is a fun topic for me to discuss! If you have any questions or something I said needs clarification please let me know. I tend to go on (and on) and then run out of time to tighten things up! And of course, I'd love to hear your thoughts on meal planning - seasonal and otherwise!

Enjoy your weekend, my friends and I will see you here again very soon ...


Themes & Plans for April (Updated!)

Daffodil 1

(Note: This is an updated version of a post I wrote back in 2008 - I added a bit of content, fixed broken links and revised event dates for the current year, 2016. I hope you enjoy - I've had such fun with this series!)

April brings the primrose sweet, scatters daisies at our feet ...

April also brings us (at long, long last), the first true Spring days: mild, soft, fresh and alive with sound and color. Nature is finally shrugging off its Winter shawl, and showering us with a warm and friendly welcome.

It feels so good to open the windows again, and to leave the house with just a sweater - or none at all! There are so many joys to expore with our children this month, and what follows is but a sampling, just my own thoughts for the season. As always, I'd love to hear yours! But for now, please join me as I consider ...

~ Themes and Plans for April (PDF) ~

Nature

  • Crocus are now in full bloom.
  • Skunk cabbage grows in marshy areas.
  • Bears are waking in the (deep) woods.
  • Daffodils are in their full glory.
  • The skies are gray one minute, blue the next ...
  • ... and so rainbows are quite possible.
  • Forsythia is bursting all over.
  • At night we hear the spring peepers.
  • Mourning cloaks are the first butterflies we'll see.
  • Returning ~ thrush, phoebe, mockingbird and catbird.
  • The smell of wild onions is in the air.
  • There could be a light flurry or two.
  • We'll have rainy days; the rivers will swell.
  • Warm days are more frequent now.
  • Juncos leave; chipmunks re-appear.
  • Humpbacks are migrating back north.
  • Time to check for ticks again.
  • Dandelions are plentiful underfoot.
  • The Full Pink Moon rises on April 22nd.
  • There are buds on the cherry tree ...
  • ... which the sparrows love to nibble.
  • Bluebells appear along the wood's edge.
  • The grass is greening.
  • The goldfinches are brightening.

Folklore

  • Gem: diamond
  • Flower: sweet pea
  • Saying: April showers bring May flowers.

Food

  • chives
  • new potatoes
  • asparagus
  • fiddlehead ferns
  • dandelions
  • radishes
  • spring lamb
  • pasta primavera
  • snap peas
  • artichokes
  • spinach
  • sorrel
  • goat cheese tart
  • rhubarb grunt

Faith

  • April Devotion ~ The Blessed Sacrament
  • Liturgical Season: Easter (Paschaltide)
  • Divine Mercy Sunday (3)
  • The Annunciation (4)
  • St. George, Patron of England (23)
  • St. Mark (25)
  • St. Catherine of Siena (29)
  • Walpurgisnacht (30)

Household (& Garden)

  • Take outdoor furniture out of storage.
  • Rent de-thatcher; aerate lawn.
  • Harden tender seedlings.
  • Plant trees and/or shrubs.
  • Clean out potting shed.
  • Establish new garden beds.
  • Prepare containers; purchase new ones.
  • Purchase summer blooming bulbs.
  • Organize garden tools.
  • Prune flowering bushes after blooming.
  • Visit the nursery for spring plants, garden structures.
  • Rake and compost leaf litter/debris.
  • Spread fresh mulch.
  • Spring cleaning (if not done before Easter).
  • Have lawnmower serviced if necessary.
  • Family meeting re ~ summer plans.
  • Turn off fireplace.
  • Turn on outside faucet.
  • File taxes by 4/15.
  • Organize financial files.
  • Clean dryer vents and hoses.
  • Spiff up the bikes.

Life

Book Basket 

Field Trips & Outings

Crafts & Activities

  • Make wilding sticks and nature bracelets.
  • Clean up litter in a local park.
  • Prepare field bags for spring.
  • Begin new nature journals.
  • Hang a hummingbird feeder.
  • Paint a butterfly house.
  • Catch tadpoles at the pond.
  • Conduct a rainbow experiment.
  • Paint rocks for garden markers.
  • Dig in the dirt.
  • Set up a nature table at home.
  • Make tissue paper butterflies.
  • Color a butterfly guide.
  • Befriend a tree; start a notebook.
  • Re-enact St. George & The Dragon.
  • Build a bluebird house.
  • Look for nests before leaves come in.
  • Update our Bird List.
  • Prepare May baskets.

Well, I think I'd better stop there, as my lists are getting rather lengthy! I do hope this post gives you some ideas for the month of April, though. I keep this outline in my home keeping binder, (alongside the other months) and hope that I remember to notice, savor or do some of these things - but I never expect to get to them all!

April is fleeting - so let's make the most of it, my friends! Happy Spring!

"The sun was warm but the wind was chill.
You know how it is with an April day.
When the sun is out and the wind is still,
You're one month on in the middle of May.
But if you so much as dare to speak,
a cloud come over the sunlit arch,
And wind comes off a frozen peak,
And you're two months back in the middle of March."
-  Robert Frost


Themes & Plans for March (updated!)

Crocus

{Happy Monday, my friends - and Happy Leap Year, too! I have started the process of updating my old Themes & Plans series (eight years old and in need of some pruning!) and I thought I would start with March since that month begins TOMORROW! So I'm fixing broken links, adding new ones, and correcting dates to correspond to 2016 ... I hope you find these posts useful or at the very least provide something happy to read. 😊} 

March brings breezes loud and shrill, stirs the dancing daffodil ...

So tell me friends, how will March greet you this year? As a LION or a LAMB? Or perhaps somewhere in between? Pansyegg_2

Here in New England we've enjoyed a relatively mild Winter and this week looks to follow a similar pattern. Tomorrow (March 1st) is forecast to be sunny and 50° - not too lion-ish I'd say!

Though Old March can be fickle - chilly and gray one day, mild and bright the next - he brings with him Spring's first tender tidings - a soft breeze, a few bits of green, and the stirring of hope in our hearts. And so, with faith in Spring's return, I offer you some ...

~ Themes and Plans for March (PDF) ~ 

Nature

  • a quiet gray landscape, awaiting its green garb
  • the old March wind arrives to blow winter away
  • blackbirds returning (that squeaky gate sound)
  • drip, drip, drip - melting underway
  • pussywillows along the riverbank
  • mud, mud and more mud!
  • potholes that will eat your car in one gulp
  • forsythia blushing yellow
  • little pots of shamrocks at the grocer's
  • The Full Sap (or Worm) Moon (23)
  • migrating salamanders on mild, wet nights
  • robins hopping in the yard
  • maple sugaring in the woods
  • the first colorful crocus, tiny jonquils, too ...
  • the sun gains warmth; the days lengthen
  • skunk cabbage in wetland areas
  • fox sparrows passing through
  • lambing time at the farm
  • a surprise snowstorm is not out of the question ... ?

Folklore

  • March gem: aquamarine
  • March flower: jonquil
  • March comes in like a lion, goes out like a lamb.

Food

  • potatoes
  • carrots
  • turnip
  • radishes
  • spring onions
  • early rhubarb
  • leeks
  • meatless Lenten Fridays
  • egg custards
  • maple syrup
  • shamrock shakes
  • Girl Scout cookies
  • corned beef and cabbage
  • Irish soda bread
  • Irish coffee
  • oatmeal scones
  • sloppy joes
  • donuts for St. Joseph
  • fig tarts on Palm Sunday
  • Hot Cross Buns on Good Friday
  • cheesecake
  • ricotta pie
  • lamb cake
  • baked ham

Faith

  • Month of St. Joseph
  • Liturgical seasons:
    • Lent
    • Eastertide
  • St. David (1)
  • Laetare Sunday (6)
  • St. Patrick (17)
  • St. Joseph (19) 
  • Holy Week:
    • Palm Sunday (20)
    • Holy Monday (21)
    • Holy Tuesday (22)
    • Spy Wednesday (23)
    • Holy Thursday (24)
    • Good Friday (25)
    • Holy Saturday/Easter Vigil (26)
    • Easter Sunday (27)

Household

  • Rake winter debris from yard.
  • Sweep porches, doorsteps, decks and driveways.
  • Inspect yard and home exterior for winter damage.
  • Clean birdfeeders thoroughly.
  • Plan garden plots.
  • Start seeds indoors.
  • Arrange for mulch delivery.
  • Purchase fresh sandbox sand.
  • Put windowboxes up; fill with hardy pansies!
  • Launder spring bedding.
  • Plan Easter dinner.
  • Order ham.
  • Order basket goodies.
  • Buy Easter lilies at the nursery.
  • Organize Easter clothes.
  • Shampoo rugs.
  • Take down storms; hang screens.
  • Wash windows
  • Polish woodwork with beeswax.
  • Re-stock craft supplies for the spring.
  • Organize rainy day play gear.
  • Start planning summer vacation time.

Life

  • National Craft Month
  • National Hobby Month
  • American Red Cross Month
  • National Nutrition Month
  • Irish-American Heritage Month
  • National Umbrella Month
  • March Madness
  • Peanut Butter Lovers Day (1)
  • Dr. Seuss's birthday (2)
  • Alexander Graham Bell's birthday (3)
  • Antonio Vivaldi's birthday (4)
  • Elizabeth Barrett Browning's birthday (6)
  • National Mario Day (10)
  • Daylight Savings Time begins (13)
  • Uranus discovered (13)
  • National Pi Day (14)
  • Albert Einstein's birthday (14)
  • The Ides of March (15)
  • Return of the Swallows to San Juan Capistrano (19)
  • National Agriculture Day (20)
  • First Day of Spring (20)
  • National Waffle Day (25)
  • Make up Your Own Holiday Day (26)

Book Basket

Field Trips & Outings

  • Maple sugaring demonstration
  • Visit new lambs & fresh eggs at farm
  • Children's Passion Play at church
  • Museum of Science: Planetarium

Crafts & Activities

Crocus clipart

Now, I'd like to clarify that my family will not be observing each and every one of these March ideas! (Who ever could?!) But having them in mind - and even better, on paper - is a big help when I'm trying to weave a little seasonal awareness, organization and fun into our family life! I like to sit down once a month (usually the second to last weekend) to do a little planning ahead on the seasonal front. I make it part of my weekend "office hours." :) It might seem silly to work "seasonal planning" into an already busy family schedule, but honestly - if I didn't, it's unlikely I'd remember or even try to fit it in!

Well my friends, I've rambled long enough ... thanks so much for stopping by and I hope your March is just lovely, whether wild or mild!

P.S. I wasn't on Pinterest back when I first wrote this post in 2008 - maybe it didn't even exist yet? - but I now have boards for "storing" seasonal ideas such as the ones linked above. I will go through these links to be sure the are still valid and then add them to my March & April board.)


Book Party: Dawn's Books & Nooks

Vintage books

Hello again, my friends! It's time for another Book Party post! I've had such fun reading all the posts so far, and today I'm excited to share a few of my own book-filled nooks ... :)

**

Like many of you, I have books all over my house - beside my bed, in the kids' rooms, on the family room shelves, stored away in basement bins - but the best reading spots can be found in the library. Now, one might call this a living room, or even a parlor, but we are optimistically coining it "the library" because we hope to have lots and lots books stored in here one day! And by "stored" I mean - arranged in a way that is well organized and inviting. I want this to be a room that celebrates books and encourages hours spent in joyful reading, whatever the season or time of day. This room is on the west side of the house so it gets fair natural light (as well as a nice view of the sun setting behind the woods), but good lamps and overhead lighting are important! As, of course, is comfortable seating ...

SO here we go!

Book party dawn 1

These are the two larger bookcases in the room and they are situated to the left of my writing desk. They belonged to my husband's dear grandmother and we have beautiful glass doors for the front of each - something for the future when our littlest is no longer little! The one on the left holds books we use for homeschooling: history/geography, science/nature study, myths/legends, picture books and classic literature, poetry/fingerplays and some of my general homeschooling resources (Charlotte Mason and Waldorf, for the most part).

A closer look at the shelves (which, it should be noted, were neatened specifically for the purposes of this post):

Book party dawn 21

Book party dawn 22

Book party dawn 23

Book party dawn 24

The bookcase on the right is known as "Mama's," and holds books about homekeeping, seasons, crafts, nature, New England, Tasha Tudor, gardens, vintage style and, well ... many of my favorite things! My novels, however, live elsewhere: (most) in storage and (some) in a basket at the foot of our bed.

A closer look at these shelves:

Book party dawn 13 (1)

Book party dawn 14

Book party dawn 15

Book party dawn 16

The bottom shelf holds my most current issues of Martha Stewart Living (I have all of them actually, going back to her premiere in 1990!) as well as an assortment of favorite magazines I'm keeping (rather than clipping).

Book party dawn 2

I have to share a couple of pictures of the "nest I built" under the south-facing window. The foundation is a rather large beanbag type of chair that is actually meant for the family room (where the tv is) but for various reasons we moved it out here. The gray suede-like cover was not a good fit for this room so I covered it with a beloved afghan in the coziest of colors. To make it even more enticing, I placed a pillow and a couple of Little Bear's soft toys here as well. Crawling into this nest - which easily fits two of us - is a joy! All the books are at our disposal, and there is such nice light ...

Book party dawn 17

This is not the most flattering of pictures, lol - but I had to share it. It was snapped this morning by my Crackerjack, as I read to Little Bear in our nest. It's such a snuggly space ... 

Now, in the center of the room, on the coffee table, I have my personal reading basket:

Book party dawn 3

I've always had a reading basket for current magazines and books I'm trying to spend time with ... if not everyday, then at least a few times a week when I find a little downtime. On Sundays I clean it out a bit and refresh the selections if necessary. Not shown is the book I'm reading in bite-size pieces each night before falling asleep - the one I wrote all about in this post. That book I keep on my bedside table.

Now here is our Catholic bookcase on the other wall ...

Book party dawn 4

The bottom shelf is for display, set behind these lovely sheers which I change up according to season (purple for Lent at present). The two bookshelves above contain my liturgical resources - the very top shelf contains books for grown up use, while the next shelf down holds books for the younger children. To the right of the tiny tote bag are the story books that we use throughout the year (after year) - for feast days and such. I try to keep them organized by date.

Now, below you see Little Bear's main book basket - which is now at the perfect height that he may peruse and decide which book he'd like read. Most often these days it's a book about trucks. :)

Book party dawn 5

There are even more books on the other side of the chair!

Book party dawn 18

In the smaller basket in front of the curtain I have our various field guides. The larger basket under the table holds oversized picture books. And the very small basket near my mug has LB's most requested reads. :)

Book party dawn 8

(Different day, different mug!)

On the opposite wall from "my" chair is the fireplace, and in front of it we have our nature puppet collection, our peace basket (slowly filling up) and the seasonal board books basket. 

Book party dawn 7

Tucked behind the loveseat is the larger seasonal book basket ... these are titles for January through March. I use these books with our weekly seasonal themes, pulling out what I need when I do my weekly planning ...

Book party dawn 6

Fyi this week's theme is "windowsill gardens" and the books I'm using, Linnea's Windowsill Garden and Linnea's Almanac, are actually not in our basket - but on request from the library! :)

We've collected a lot of wonderful books through the years and I find it very helpful to organize them, as much as possible, by season. Off-season baskets are kept downstairs in the basement. Books are often set up on display in the front windowsill, or perhaps on the top of a table ... 

Book party dawn 12

Book party dawn 20

Oh, and before I go, here are my cookbooks - kept in the kitchen!

Book party dawn 11

I keep my favorites here, and I will confess, I often read them more for pleasure than practice! (I use Pinterest for recipes nowadays.) There are more cookbooks in storage downstairs ... in fact, there are quite a lot of books still in storage downstairs! It will be three years since we moved here this June and it really is getting ridiculous that we still have boxes to unpack!

**

Well, my friends, as usual I've gone on longer than I intended, but I hope you enjoyed seeing all (or most) of my books in their special nooks today! I would love to see yours - to hear about where you keep your books, how you encourage your family to read and make time for reading yourself! If you'd like to join our Book Party, please send me your thoughts/pics at ...

bysunandcandle AT gmail DOT com

I'll pick one of the party guests to win a little Pre-Spring Giveaway (just a package of goodies I'm putting together). I'll draw a name randomly and announce a winner on Tuesday, March 1st ... So there is plenty of time left to join in our Book Party. I do hope to hear from you!

But for now, thanks so much for stopping by and enjoy the rest of your day ...

I will see you here again very soon!


HomeCrafts: Candles for Candlemas!

Candles 9

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

Ok, here we go!

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

Candles 1

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

Candles 2

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

First step:

Candles 3

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

Slowly melt the wax ...

Candles 4

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

Candles 5

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

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 Few Crafts for the Cross ...

But first, Happy Valentine's Day, everyone! Happy Sunday, too! I hope your weekend's going well ... :)

Today I'd like to share some of the pictures I have piling up on my phone, and the crafts we worked on last week. Each one was a suggestion from our purple cross countdown, a chance to spend some time each day doing a little something nice for someone else ...

On Thursday, I began the day with a quick, last-minute craft for Our Lady of Lourdes ...

OL Lourdes 1

A tiny paper baking pan + printed image + craft moss + a few rocks + a paper river + a candle = a little grotto of sorts! I kept it lit on the Lenten altar throughout the day.

(Note: Before lighting, I swapped the beeswax tealight for an LED candle since this whole situation was quite flammable!)

Later in the day we followed the suggestion of our daily post-it to create a donation box for the foyer. Here's how that went:

Donations box 1

I covered an old moving carton with plain white wrapping paper and added some sticker sentiments around the outside of the box (give, help, lift, love). Then I asked the boys to help me draw happy things ...

O project 2016 2-11 1

Since Little Bear's favorite things right now are volcanoes (complete with hot "la-blah") he requested I add a couple of those ...

O project 2016 2-11 2

It's certainly a colorful box!

Donations box 2

It now resides in our foyer where each week we'll add items for various collections in which we're participating.

 

On Friday, we continued our commitment to care for creation, by making some edible valentines for the birds ...

Valentine birds 4

After lunch I asked all the boys to pitch in with this very simple craft. We threaded cheerios onto pipe cleaners, bent them into heart shapes ...

Valentine birds 2

And then looped them all together ...

Valentine birds 5

Even the youngest could do it!

Valentine birds 3

(Well, the cheerios kept him busy anyway ...)

Finally, we hung our valentines outside for the hungry birds ...

Valentine birds 6

(Translated: Mama threw on her boots and her parka and braved the arctic wind to hang the valentines where we could see them from the windows. It really is SUPER cold these days in these parts!)

And finally, yesterday we worked on sharing our love, by making small hearts written out with the reasons why we love each other. I kind of did this secretly - making up the small red paper hearts early in the day and then passing a batch of five to each family member. (Well, except for the 2 yo and the 20 yo off at college.) As the hearts were completed and "turned in" I glued them onto pretty doilies and then - trucking outside in those boots once again - I snipped some magnolia branches for a vase.

Valentine branch 2 edited

And this was our Sunday breakfast centerpiece! I loved watching the boys faces as I read aloud the hearts. :)

Well my friends, I hope you enjoy the rest of your Sunday! We're quite hunkered in because it's all of 8 degrees at the moment (and only because the wind isn't blowing) ... but the sun is shining and the snow is sparkling and our home is warm and full of people I love ... so you'll hear no complaints from me! 

But as always, I thank you all for stopping by and taking the time to read ... take care of yourselves and your loved ones ...

I'll be back here again very soon!


Book Party: Marianna's Books & Nooks

Vintage books

Happy Friday, my friends! Who's ready for the (long, holiday) weekend? :)

I am so pleased to bring you another Book Party post today, and this one is from Marianna. But before we get to her lovely photos, I'd like to announce that I am extending the giveaway deadline to Monday, February 29th! (Winner to be announced March 1st!) I've heard from a few folks who'd like to participate but could use a little more time, and that is fine - boy, do I hear ya! ;) I truly would love to hear from more of you (I know we all would, because isn't this fun?), and all the Party details can be found here. Please send me your book love (thoughts, pictures, a link to your blog?) whenever it's convenient, here:

bysunandcandle AT gmail DOT com

**

Now, let's hear from Marianna!

Books are a major part of my home. They are in pretty much every room! 

Book party marianna 1

Main bookshelves. I love the way the light hits them in the afternoon. 

Book party marianna 2

A little bookshelf at the end of a hallway. 

Book party marianna 3

The kitchen shelf. 

Book party marianna 4

Books in baskets. 

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Books under lamps. 

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Magazines! 

Book party marianna 7 (1)

A basket for the coloring books! 

Book party marianna 8

Library books stay on the coffee table. 

**

I love all of your pictures, Marianna, but that first one - with the sunlight hitting all those shelves, is just beautiful! This is a perfect example of what I meant when I asked, how are we creating an atmosphere of joyful reading? By thinking about where we store and display our books, how we arrange them - in which materials and in what lighting - so as to only further increase our enjoyment ...  as well as to entice those around us to settle in and join us. I mean, I could (and pretty much do) put books in any room of the house, but there is something special about books that are organized into an especially inviting nook. And you have created several, Marianna!

My friends, this is such fun, seeing each other's book collections and cozy corners. I think one of the things I like best about these Book Party posts is that they connect us to each other in such a comforting and happy way. Our book pictures are so intimate - this is where we live and learn and let ourselves ... well, be ourselves! So when we get to peek into someone else's baskets and bookcases, it's just such a privilege. I feel as though we've been treated to a glimpse into a very personal part of each other ... so I thank each of you who have taken the time to share your books so far. And I hope more of you feel encouraged to do the same!

 Do you love books, too? Is reading a hobby you try to cultivate - for yourself and your children? How do you do that? Where do you do that? Would you tell us ... or perhaps show us in a future post?

All mail can be sent here - bysunandcandle AT gmail DOT com - and I will share your thoughts (however lengthy or brief) and pictures (as many as you care to send) in a future Book Party Post. :)

Speaking of, I have just taken a real slew of library pictures this week so my own Book Party post is coming up, too!

But for now, and as always, I thank you so much for stopping by ... enjoy your evening and do have a nice weekend. I will see you here again very soon!


And so Lent begins ...

Lenten altar 7

Happy Thursday, my friends! I hope this post finds you well. :) I'd like to share some more pictures with you today, if I may ...

Pictured here is the fireplace mantel in our living room, and yesterday I cleared it off completely, dusted it a bit (ok, a lot), and took down the print hanging on the wall above. Here is where we'd set up our Lenten altar ...

Lenten altar 4

First, per Ash Wednesday tradition, we "buried" the Alleluia ... a word that disappears from all worship until Easter. This is something we've done in different ways through the years, but this year I just simply wrote the word on a strip of paper (using a gold Sharpie) and we placed it in a plain butterfly-shaped box. (Easter morning the box will be transformed - with gold paint and bright stickers! - and a beautiful banner will be found inside.)

Now, I wanted to keep this altar pretty sparse, but there are a few special objects here: the butterfly box mentioned above, a brass crucifix that was made by my great-grandfather, and two glass jars - one for collecting alms and one to hold our purple post-its as they are pulled off the cross. Hanging above the mantle is our grapevine cross ... 

Lenten altar 10

And just below is a plain white pillar candle standing in a bowl filled with soil and blessed palm ash. To be honest, we were out of potting soil so that last bit has to wait for a weekend trip to the nursery. The candle will be left unlit and plain until Easter, and the cross will slowly come to life through the coming weeks. (I will secretly add smalls sprigs of greenery as we walk our journey through Lent. On Easter it will be blooming with fresh flowers and the "Alleluia" will be hung here as well.)

Just below the mantel I hung our Stations of the Cross collection.

Lenten altar 1

I used to keep these 4x6 cards in a small purple binder, but I wanted to have the images more visible this year. I decided to hang them along the mantel, secured with clothespins to a length of twine. (I'm hoping to make some simple wooden shrines so they can be used for an outdoor "Way of the Cross" on Good Friday.) 

Lenten altar 5

Lenten altar 2

My friends, as always I thank you so much for stopping by and if you have a moment, I'd love to hear from you. How is your Lent going so far? (All of two days in!) How about your February? Are you trying something new this year? Reading something new? Is this a season you embrace or endure? I think some years it's one or the other - or perhaps a little of both. I'd love to pray for your intentions ...

I will be back again before long - because I always have things to talk about! And more pictures to share, too. But for now, I wish you all a pleasant evening and hope to see you here again very soon!


Snowy Saturday ...

Snowy saturday 1

Happy Weekend, my friends! I thought you'd like to see some of the pictures I took just after yesterday's storm. As you can see we got a LOT of snow and the skies cleared just in time to enjoy a beautiful, pink sunset. Alas, our power went out, so we also got to enjoy dinner and bedtime by candlelight. Being Catholic comes in pretty handy at times like these - we always have plenty of candles on hand!

Snowy saturday 6

Snowy saturday 9

Snowy saturday 7

Snowy saturday 2

Snowy saturday 1-

Snowy saturday 3

Snowy saturday 5

That last picture was taken early this morning - a favorite tree in a nearby field. We still have no power, but boy is it lovely out there!

Hope you all enjoy your weekend and that you stay warm and safe ...

I will see you here again very soon!


Book Party: Kelly's Books & Nooks ...

Vintage books

Happy Wednesday, my friends! How's your week going so far? :)

I am so pleased to bring you our second Book Party post today! This one is from Kelly and she has lots of creative book spaces to show us, along with wonderful notes on how books play a part in her family's life. I do hope you'll join in our party - we're discussing how we share our love for reading with our families and create (convenient, interesting) spaces where our books may live alongside us. Or maybe you - like me - are in a state of disarray. Too many books and not enough space! However big or small - a few words, a couple of pictures, or something even more - all party "submissions" are welcome. :) 

Remember, I'm collecting Book Party contributions by comment box or email or a link to your blog - and everyone who participates will be entered in a little pre-spring giveaway. (And that sounds cryptic, I know - but I'm still collecting things for the package: a few pretty magazines, some note-paper, spring stickers, etc.!) A name will be drawn on Monday, February 15th so there is plenty of time to add your two cents on the beloved subject of books ...

You can reach me here:

bysunandcandle AT gmail DOT com

But enough from me ... now let's hear now from Kelly!

**

Hi Dawn,


In our home, books are top priority. About three years ago, I became intentional about building up a large home library. I have it in the back of my mind that maybe some day I will have a homeschool lending library, but only God knows if or when that will happen. In the meantime, I love to provide great books for my boys, 10 and 7! 

Book party kelly 1

We use all available wall space in our two main living spaces for bookshelves. All of the books are in a database - around 4,500 or so - and they are all labeled based loosely on the Dewey 100s.

Book party kelly 2

I am in the process of adding special labels for some of the seasons and holidays, but I do keep our large collection of Advent/Christmas books in tubs. Even if I had the shelf space for them, I would keep them put away so they are a surprise for the season. :)

Book party kelly 3 

I am pretty picky about books for my kids; our collection allows them a lot of variety but I am able to make sure the books meet a certain standard. I have acquired most of these used and it has taken awhile! I am still adding books but at a much slower pace than the last few years. 

 I just created this area (below) over the weekend - the basket holds our seasonal books and the shelves hold beginning reader books (for easy access - my son put them there!) and our oversize atlases and coffee table books.

Book party kelly 4

Below is my personal reading basket. I keep it on my desk during the day and try to grab snippets of reading time, even just a page or two! It then goes upstairs with me at night for reading before sleep. I am currently reading: The Mysteries of Life in Children’s Literature by Mitchell Kalpagian; The How-To Book of the Mass by Michael Dubruiel; Home Education Volume I by Charlotte Mason; and I just chose The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot for my next fiction read. I don’t read on the Kindle normally, but have found it to be a great way to read on the treadmill - I am reading G.K. Chesterton’s Orthodoxy. (Behind the basket is our collection of Beatrix Potter tales - we are reading through them all in order!)

Book party kelly 5

These are some of our current read-alouds and lesson books, kept on the mantle:

Book party kelly 6

This cabinet houses lesson books read a bit less often, as well as some of my seasonal planning resources. The basket holds my boys’ daily individual lesson materials.

Book party kelly 7

This bookshelf is under the counter in my kitchen! It holds my cookbooks and binders (in need of some re-organization), and many of my planning binders.

Book party kelly 8

And these are some shelves in a cabinet next to my desk. They house some of my personal reading (when I get some extended time for study), my commonplace book and books awaiting entry. I also have an extensive collection of books about books (I just love booklists!).

Book party kelly 9

Book party kelly 10 

Thank you for letting me share!

 Take care,

Kelly

**

Thank YOU, Kelly, for sharing with us! I so enjoyed seeing all your books and how you organize your vast collection! I think it is wonderful how you have them all cataloged and that you may one day offer a lending library to your homeschooling community. What a terrific and generous service that would be!

I like how - and I try to do this, too - you have dedicated spaces for the many categories of reading resources. I think when one's book collection is quite large, it's easy to lose track of what books we actually own and what's being read - or unfortunately, overlooked. Too often I'll find a bunch of books stashed somewhere (in the basement, since our move) and there will be titles I wish I had pulled out sooner ... it would be a huge undertaking (as I'm sure Kelly knows) but I would love to index all our titles someday!

Kelly, this was such a wonderful tour of your home and the books you love - thank you for taking the time to put it together! Dear readers, I hope you will leave a comment if you have time ... do you have any questions for Kelly? Do you have some ideas or strategies to share? Please let us know in any of the ways described at the top of this post.

In the meantime, I will wish you all a very pleasant day and hope to see you here again very soon! I will be posting about our Lenten cross  (the purple post-its project) in another day or two. :)

Be well and blessed, my friends!