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Michaelmas Merrymaking


Hello, my friends and Happy Thursday! I hope you're all having a nice day, and if you are celebrating Michaelmas, Happy Feast! Here's a little glimpse of our Michaelmas celebrations ... actually, 20+ photos are a bit more than "a glimpse," but I just couldn't hold back. It was a very nice day. :)

First I must show you my pretty bouquet ...


One of the things Earlybird did with his therapist today was to check the yard for "Michaelmas Daisies" - a variety of aster that springs up all over New England right around this feast day (hence the name). He found them, identifying them with a field guide, and tomorrow he will compare them with a potted (nursery) aster and color a page for his nature journal. The few little daisy blooms he brought me went directly to my sunny kitchen windowsill, set in a cordial glass filled with water. :)

When therapy was done and lunch was over, I broke out the supplies to make this cute dragon craft ...


This was very simple to put together - though I will admit I did most of it myself. I used a hot glue gun for the pom-poms and googley eyes and masking tape/washi tape to cover the dragon heads (rather than construction paper).


They came out pretty well! They were a very big hit with my littlest knight, especially ...


This was when I asked him to make a dragon face:


Next I told him he had to share one of the dragons with his brother ...


That went about as well as expected ...


Lol, actually they had a blast with the dragon puppets!

Meanwhile, I started the Michaelmas cupcakes in the kitchen ... Earlybird LOVES to watch me/help me bake.


My original plan was to make an apple-blackberry crisp (like the one shown in this post), but I discovered I had far fewer apples than I thought. So instead, I made "devil's food" cupcakes and frosted them, topped them with autumn sprinkles and a single berry. Then we pierced them with colorful cocktail swords ...


These were an even bigger hit than the dragon puppets!

A bit later on, thanks to a post on Facebook by my friend Joanna, I followed a neat link with some printables for today's feast ... thank you, Catholic Sistas! I set Little Bear to work with some assistance from Crackerjack ...



I love the look of concentration on his face! 

Since Earlybird had zero interest in coloring, I came up with another colorful, glue-y kind of craft ... a meteor ball!


Some of you might be wondering what on earth a meteor (or shooting star, comet) might have to do with Michaelmas, but in the Waldorf festival tradition, this feast is connected with the late summer/early autumn meteor showers that light up the night sky. In this way they are seen as the flashing of Michael's brave sword with which he battles the dragon ...

And since Earlybird loves all things outer space (not to mention, copious amounts of glue), I thought this might pique his interest!


As we worked, Little Bear came in to show us his project. This was actually his second print out - he didn't want to be finished so I made him another one. :)


I hung the angel medallions in our kitchen window ... pretty how they caught the setting sun.


Now, at this point Little Bear got a touch disturbed that I was hanging his artwork out of reach (have I mentioned he's recently given up naps?) and so had to be distracted with a little romp outside. So outside we went!

After checking our chickens (and feeding them some leftover spinach - and the last of the blackberries!) we combed the yard for neat things like mushrooms and acorns and mole holes and a few different kinds of Michaelmas daisies ...


Above are the ones EB brought me this morning ...


Whereas this next patch appears a little more "weedy" ...


And these two blooms were actually much larger than the ones pictured above them ... I am eager to differentiate between all these varieties of aster!

Mostly though, the boys just ran around, testing out their streaming dragon fire ...


And oh, yes! That meteor, too (covered with glittering star stickers and trailed by a tail-full of colorful streamers).


Some kind of game formed with CJ holding the comet aloft and running it around the yard for the younger boys to chase ...



Days like this ... they are so good. 💛


Once back inside, I pulled out one of our old Catholic Treasure Box issues. This one had a story about the Archangels with some pretty cool illustrations ...


... as well as a nice story for the weekend, when we celebrate the Feast of the Holy (Guardian) Angels. :)

And now here I am ...


 I brought a cup of tea and my Michaelmas daisies to my desk and finally noticed today's page-a-day calendar ...

"For the mother is and must be, whether she knows of it or not, the greatest, strongest, and most lasting teacher her children have." (Hanna W. Smith)

Well that's a wonderful thought, isn't it?

I so enjoy spending my days with my children, and even after 21 years, it just never gets old. Every year I look forward to things like special feast days and interesting full moons and back-to-school time and apple picking and Thanksgiving Day and winter snow and spring's return and ... well, you get the idea. My dearest hope is I'm passing some of this joy in the little things along to my children! I can't know if they'll comb their yards for Michaelmas daisies when they're grown men (and somehow I doubt they will), but I do hope they remember the gentle pace of their childhood, the wonder we held for the world around us, and the comforting rhythm their family embraced through the years ... :)

Well my friends, I'm going to wrap up now, but I am so glad to have been able to pop in to chat, and share a bit of our day. I hope you all have a good night's rest and that tomorrow brings a day of inspiration and refreshment. How will you spend the last day of September? What plans will you make on October's eve? What memories will you carry forward to next year ... what impressions will you leave on your family's collective heart?

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

When Plans are Not Perfect (The Last Days of Lent ...)

Lenten cross project near done

I happened to notice our Lenten cross this morning and - not that I haven't been looking at it every day for over a month, but - today it caught me by surprise. Because, oh my - we're nearly there! There are only a few (nine in fact) purple post-its left to pull off! Easter Sunday is truly, right around the corner ...

And doesn't the cross look pretty, with its flowers, butterflies and golden letters slowly being revealed? I'm leaving the very center post-it for last as that will uncover the letter "E" and on Holy Saturday the whole happy message will be announced ... :)

Lenten cross nearly done 2

Now friends, I'd like to confess that the plans I made up to go along with each post-it were at times a bit ... erm ... ambitious. Some days were just more hectic than I anticipated, and not everything came to pass as I'd envisioned. But such is life, right? Plans can be great (awesome, in fact), but LIFE happens and we must remember that, ultimately, we're not in charge. And flexibilty is a virtue, I believe ... or if it isn't, it should be! ;)

All kidding aside, I do think it's vital to stay flexible and try not to get frustrated, when planning any and all areas of life. This is something I have to work at, constantly. I'm a planner, as you know. I make a lot of plans - I LOVE them - but I love my family even more. When things get off-track, it's important that I check my disappointment - to remember my intentions were good, to remember the end goal - and to adjust my thoughts (plans!) accordingly.

Lenten cross project nearly done

For example, I had something a bit more "hands on" sketched out for today but - with a very sick Little Bear who was up half the night - I knew my plan would have to be changed up a bit. A quiet read-aloud and a coloring page quickly printed off the internet would have to suffice. And tomorrow's "Irish Tea" may not happen as I originally thought either (my mum is also sick), so I'll simplify that day's plan, still keeping in mind the Feast and our family's intentions. Oh and Monday's sunrise prayer? The day after we hosted a large party AND lost an hour of sleep? Well, an early rising was simply NOT in the cards. (As you might imagine!) Instead, I thanked my loved ones for all their help and hard work and encouraged the children to do the same. (Who can you thank today for their help?) So the sunrise activity will be rescheduled on another day in the near future ... maybe even Easter Monday?

One good thing is I've kept that master outline to myself (tucked away on my clipboard) and I write each post-it out before bed ... so I've been able to tweak our plans daily. And if a day's proposed plan looks to be an ill-fit, I can simplify on the spot: Read a book from our liturgical bookshelf. Do something nice for somone else. Sit quietly for five minutes and think of what makes you grateful.

Admittedly, I put a lot of time and thought into those plans, and I tried to keep the activities simple and meaningful. But the point of our Lenten journey (and all of my "plans") was not to keep busy and pull off 40+ crafts and activities, but instead, to slow down and focus our energy on a purposeful Lent ... sharing mercy, developing generosity, accepting responsibility and increasing tolerance. Being mindful of how others live, recognizing their needs, and respecting our place in the world around us.

My hope - or end-goal, if you will - is that by lighting a spark of compassion, we're tending the fire of Christ in our hearts. And come Easter Sunday, we may shine all the brighter! Plan or no plan, that's what we're all aiming for, I believe.

Well, my friends, this post went on a bit longer than I planned, but I thank you, as always for reading. I'm grateful you spent a little of your day here at "my place!"

Enjoy the rest of your Wednesday, 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!

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!

Our Shrove Tuesday Fun!

 O project 2016 2-9 1

Lent has begun, my friends! And our countdown is underway, but I first wanted to share "the feast that came before the fast" ... so here are a few pictures from our Shrove Tuesday at home. :)

Mardi gras 3

Our afternoon activity: Mardi Gras mask-making! This is a long-standing Shrove Tuesday tradition in our home, and I always rope as many of my boys into it as I can. ;) This year, the older boys were elsewhere (one at college and one at a homeschool class), so it was just the younger two and myself ... well, and the cat, as you can see above. You know, the cat who is NEVER allowed on the kitchen table ... ahem.

Mardi gras 2

After lunch I set the boys up at the table and they were eager to pitch in! (They do love crafts, these two.) So after I cut the eyeholes, they set right to work on their masks ... and, as you can see from his expression, Little Bear was quite excited to be allowed the use of markers, a rare treat in our house!

Mardi gras 4

Woohoo! Mardi Gras Masks!

Mardi gras 6

With a little planning and prep, this is a simple, 20 minute craft. Materials include paper plates, scissors, popsicle sticks, markers, stickers, (you could provide glitter if you are brave), tape ... and that's it! Actually, I stapled silk flowers to mine and boy did the boys get a kick out of Mama in her mask, all incognito. Pity, we didn't get a picture of that ...

We were going to make crowns too, but interest and energy waned (theirs and mine, respectively) so I didn't push it. I did however find these old frames in my stash, made several years ago and painted in Mardi Gras colors. I had to squish two of the boys into one frame since our brood has grown by one Little Bear since 2007. 💜

 Mardi gras 1

For supper, we had pancakes with whipped cream, maple syrup AND colored sprinkles. There was bacon, too ... and there was meant to be homemade hash-browned potatoes but I completely forgot.

Mardi gras 5

(None of the boys complained about the missing vegetable component.)

Last touch - a Mardi Gras "lantern" I made with a green Ball jar and a colorful star garland I had in the cupboard.

Mardi gras 9


Now, this morning it was a different story around here ... I swept the table of sprinkles and fallen stars, and we pulled our first post-it from the kitchen cross. We found it instructed us to "abstain from meat and set up our Lenten altar." So that is just what we did ... and I have some more pictures to share but as I've already kept you quite long here, I will save all of that for tomorrow. :)

But as always, I thank you very much for stopping by and I wish you all a very pleasant evening.

See you here again very soon!

Our Lenten Countdown: The (Printable) Daily Activities

Purple post its

Happy Monday, my friends! We have another snowstorm here - near blizzard conditions, I hear - but we're hunkering down and hoping the power holds! Wherever you are I hope you are keeping well - and warm. :)

So here at last is a follow-up to Friday's post, a closer look at the purple post-its themselves. As I described here, each note will offer a simple suggestion - a way of living Lent together as a family. I tried to come up with ideas that would be meaningful but still manageable - things that would resonate with my children but not overwhelm them. (Or me!)

The focus of Lent is threefold - to fast, to give alms and to pray - so I included opportunities for these actions throughout the season. Inspired by the words and actions of Pope Francis, I also tried to weave in ways for for us to work together on the concepts of forgiveness, awareness, (less) consumerism and waste, and care for creation.

Now, as I mentioned before, the activities are quite particular to my own family, so they may or may not be something that would appeal to you and yours … but in the spirit of sharing, here they are:

Post-Its with Purpose: Our Lenten Countdown

(Since it appears the links don't show up in the PDF, I am adding the countdown text at the bottom of this post. Sorry for any confusion!)

I am happy if something here is helpful to you, and you are welcome to print my notes out if you wish. It may look like "a lot" when you open it up, but remember - the italicized dark purple text is what I’m writing on the actual post-it for the children to read. It's just a brief sentence or two. The text in violet is for me ~ my own notes and reminders for that day. You know me - when I'm planning something, I get wordy. :)

Well, Ash Wednesday arrives in two days, and I'm glad to feel a little more prepared for Lent, knowing I have this plan to follow with the children. I aim to review my notes each Thursday and see what will be happening in the week ahead. If need be, I can even tweak the post-its as we go along. Some of the activities will be pushing things a bit with our special needs son - he's not a fan of giving things up or doing extra chores! - but it's important to me that he live Lent along with us, in his own way. I tried to come up with activities that would work around (or perhaps with) his challenges and inspire him to do his best ... for those he loves, for God and for himself!

Ok, that is all for now, my friends! I missed Downton last night because my husband was watching the Superbowl, and I decided to watch (listen) along with him. Lol. I do plan to catch up tonight and post a recap tomorrow ... provided our power holds! I also have a lovely Book Party post in queue and hope to have that up mid-week.

So for now, and as always, thanks so much for stopping by! I wish you all a pleasant Monday and will see you here again very soon ...

❤ Post-Its with Purpose: Our Lenten Countdown ❤


Throughout each week there will be opportunities to:


PRAY ~ for someone, about something, or perhaps learn a new prayer

GIVE ~ monies (by reducing our wastefulness/consumerism), extra help and attention for those who need it

FAST ~ from meat/certain foods, from negative behaviors

OBSERVE ~ Faith traditions at home


Below is my outline for the 40 days of Lent, and as I mentioned before, the activities are quite particular to my own family, so they may or may not be something that would appeal to you and your children … but in the spirit of sharing, here they are! I am happy if something here is helpful to you, and you are welcome to print this out if you wish. The italicized dark purple text is what I’m actually writing on the post-it for the children to read - just a sentence or two. The text in violet is for me ~ my own notes and reminders for that day.

 2/10 “No meat today! Let’s set up our Lenten altar.” On Ash Wednesday we’ll bury the “Alleluia” (golden letters) in a butterfly-shaped box. This will rest on our mantel throughout Lent. We’ll also burn last year’s palms (as we've done before) and sprinkle ashes over a pot of soil in which stands a plain white candle. Set pot on Lenten altar (library mantel).

2/11 “Today we’ll set up a donation box in the foyer.” Our Lady of Lourdes. All help set up our family donation box to be kept in the foyer throughout Lent. Decorate with words and symbols of love.

2/12 “No meat or dessert today! Let’s make treats for the hungry birds, and watch a family movie together.” As “Friends of Francis,” our mission is to care for creation. We’ll make suet treats - a valentine for the birds! Tonight is family movie night: The Song of Bernadette.

2/13 “Gather donations for parish pet drive. Make hearts for St. Valentine’s Branch.”  On heart shaped doilies, we’ll each write things we love about one another. No peeking! Mom will gather the hearts and tomorrow morning they’ll be hanging from a pretty branch on the breakfast table.


Sunday, 2/14: At our family meeting, we’ll talk about awareness and consumerism. Instead of just giving money to charity, what if we also worked on buying less and wasting less? How can we respect our resources? Let’s learn about how children live all over the world. Some have much less than we do! Measure this week’s grocery bill against the average - any saved money goes in the alms jar. 

 2/15 “Help Mom clean out refrigerator. How much food waste did we find?” Create a pile of food that has gone by and tally the waste dollars. Later in the day I’ll introduce the idea of a “peace corner” where we’ll spend time learning how children live all over the world. Read Let There Be Llamas!

2/16 “Help Dad set up a compost pail for the kitchen.” Brainstorm ways to waste less food. Set up our peace board in library corner - let the boys decorate with flag stickers and add first prayer cards (made from plain index cards). As we find people and situations to pray for, we’ll decorate a card to post on our board.

2/17 “Use Amazon gift cards to buy toys to donate.” Go online and buy items for the community toy drive at the first of the month. (Use some of their Amazon Christmas gift money to do this.) While online, we’ll watch the Pope’s video, Care for Creation. Look through Children Just Like Me. Ask: Where would you live if  you could live anywhere in the world? Why?

2/18 “Choose a toy or book to add to the donation box today.” Encourage the children to choose at least one item each. Look through A Life Like Mine. What do we need to live safely and happily everyday? Make a list for our peace corner. Pray that all children, everywhere, have those things.

2/19 “No meat today! Help Mom launder clothing to donate.” Work together to clean the clothes we’re donating - fold them and place in donation box. Read What We Wear: Dressing Up around the World.

2/20 “Help Mom food shop today.” Encourage the boys to skip the snacks and processed foods. Compare food costs. How do we save when we’re careful to buy only what we need? (Money, excess trash, extra sugars and fats we don’t need.) Read What the World Eats.


Sunday, February 21st: At our family meeting, we’ll talk about forgiveness and examining our conscience. What might you have done that you are sorry for? (Inner thoughts.) Give this some thought this week. Can you ask for forgiveness - from the person you sinned against, from God, from yourself? Can you forgive someone who has wronged you? What does that do for your heart to let go of that hurt? Also, look at grocery bill for savings to be deposited in alms jar.


2/22 “No complaining today!” Chair of St. Peter. Stop yourself before complaining - if the urge arises, stop and write one thing you are grateful for on the white board. How many blessings came up today? (If time and interest, make a holy-spirit stained glass and/or learn about St. Peter's Basilica.)

2/23 “Forgive someone today.” This could be something that happens today or something that’s happened in the past -  tell them it’s ok and that you forgive them - and then let it go. Also, go to store with Mom to purchase diapers for community drive. Add to donations box.

2/24 “Ask for forgiveness today.” Think of something you wish you’d done better, or something you wish you hadn’t done. Apologize - to the person you wronged and/or to God and know you will do better. Forgive yourself for things you wish you could change. Promise to work on these things and feel good inside that you’re doing something positive!

2/25 “Do something for your brothers today.” Offer suggestions: neaten desks, make beds, fold laundry, clear dishes, clean lunch bag, play with the little one, let someone use your computer, make a welcome home sign for L. Read Brothers and offer thanks to God for each other.

15. 2/26 “No meat today! Pray the stations together.” We’ll gather in the library to look at the stations I’ve set up along the Lenten mantel. (Pinned to burlap garland.) First we’ll talk about what these pictures portray … ask how Jesus may have felt and what he might have needed? How would we have helped him if we could? What about now?

2/27 “Make pretzels with Mom. Family movie night!” Talk about why pretzels are a Lenten tradition as well as a wholesome, homemade snack. What other healthy snacks can we make instead of buy? Read Brother Giovanni's Little Reward: How the Pretzel Was Born. Watch The Bells of St. Mary's tonight.


Sunday, February 28th: At our family meeting we’ll talk about our local community (neighborhood, parish, family). How can we help those that live around us? How can we contribute to our community? Also, look at grocery bill for savings to be deposited in alms jar.


2/29 “Bring cookies to our elderly neighbors.” Include a note with our phone numbers in case they ever need us. Offer to help with spring yard work. At home, start our "pink roses" for Sunday.

3/1 “Take a clean up-walk through the neighborhood.” Walk the neighborhood and clean up trash that might have blown about. Bring trash bins back up driveways for neighbors. (Help mom make daffodil pins for St. David’s Day - or perhaps sit and color with Mom while she works.)

3/2 “Make a card for someone who needs cheering up.” Talk about who we know that might miss us or feel lonely sometimes. Make cards at home (say a prayer over each), then help Mom mail them. Be polite and cheerful with the folks at the village post office. How many smiles can we offer?

3/3 “Buy pajamas for library drive.” Go to store and buy pajamas for children whose families  can’t afford new clothing. What does homeless mean? Let’s add to our peace board today and give thanks for the comforts we enjoy in our own home.

3/4 “No meat today! Pray the stations together.” After praying the stations, read aloud from our parish bulletin and talk about the groups that need assistance. Where can we offer out time/talent/treasure? Tonight at supper read aloud from our local paper and do the same. Where is help needed? How can we pitch in?

3/5 “Think about this person and what they need.” Each person receives a name and is encouraged to think about what that person might need (physically, spiritually), then choose a way to help. Keep it to yourself, but do what you can as you can. Read One Hen: How One Small Loan Made a Difference.


Sunday, March 6th: Today is Rose Sunday! We will have a special family brunch after Mass. Nana's delicious egg custard will be served. Today let’s talk about our prayer habits and how we can make room for prayer in our life. Ask the grandparents about their favorite prayers. Also, look at grocery bill for savings to be deposited in alms jar.


3/7 “Learn a new prayer this week.” Each of us chooses a new prayer (have suggestions ready) to learn by heart this week, with the goal of sharing at next Sunday’s family dinner. Write them out on index cards.

3/8 “Pray for people who are sick and their caregivers.” St. John of God, patron of hospitals, nurses and the sick. Do we know anyone who is sick or recovering in some way? Do we know people who care for someone in need? These folks need special prayers!

3/9 “Write a letter to Jesus.” Set the table with paper, colored pens and stickers, and let’s write a letter to Jesus together. This can be about anything - giving thanks, saying hi, telling him a bit about ourselves. Attend Adoration in the evening (older boys and Mom).

3/10 “Fast from electronics tonight.” After supper, turn off all tech devices - and read, talk, sing - or just visit with each other. How are the prayers coming along?

3/11 “No meat today! Pray the stations together.” Look in our donations box - what can we add? Look at our local food pantry’s list online and add items to our Saturday shopping list.

3/12 “Do something nice for someone today in secret.” Shhhh! Encourage the children to engage in a conspiracy of kindness today. Offer quiet suggestions.


Sunday, March 13th: Daylight Savings Begins! Isn’t light wonderful? How is Christ a Light in our lives? Let’s talk about Easter Sunday - how can each of us pitch in and prepare? (If possible, have children present their memorized prayers.) Mention early rising time tomorrow - 6:30 a.m. Also, look at grocery bill for savings to be deposited in alms jar.


3/14 “Let’s have a sunrise prayer this morning.” Sun rises at 6:56 a.m. so we’ll gather shortly before in the family room - which will be fairly dark. As sunrise approaches, I’ll open a window so we can listen. We’ll watch the sun rise behind the trees and the light grow … I’ll read a little prayer thanking God for our new day. (If it’s mild enough, we may even walk outside.)

3/15 “Today we’ll drink only water.” I’ll keep a pitcher in the fridge and we’ll focus on the blessing of fresh, clean water at our disposal Read One Well: The Story of Water on Earth.

3/16 “Today we’ll prepare for St. Patrick’s Day.” The boys will work on a shamrock craft (how does it represent the Holy trinity?) and help Mom make scones for tomorrow.

3/17 “Let’s learn about our family today.” St. Patrick, patron of Ireland. Today we’ll have an Irish tea for Nana (scones, tea) and talk about our family history. Where in Ireland did our ancestors live? (Have a map ready.) Read Patrick: Patron Saint of Ireland. Irish supper tonight!

3/18 “Let’s surprise Dad with a big thank-you!” Fathers work so hard for their families! Make a big sign thanking Dad for working so hard for us. Surprise him with a text picture of the boys holding up the sign. (Also no meat, stations in the afternoon.)

3/19 “Help Dad with tasks around the yard today.” St. Joseph, patron of workers and fathers. We’ll have a simple St. Joseph’s supper tonight. Read Song of the Swallows.


Sunday, March 20th: It’s Palm Sunday ~ Holy Week begins! Also, it is the first day of Spring! Today we’ll bless our garden patch with a little of our Lenten soil (prepared on Ash Wednesday). The rest of the soil will be planted with grass seed. If the day is nice we’ll have a little procession around the property. Look for pussy willows by the creek. (English “palms.”) Read The Colt and the King. Also, look at grocery bill for savings to be deposited in alms jar.


3/21 “Today we spring clean: tables and chairs!” The first three days of Holy Week are spent preparing the house for Easter. We will use a natural cleaner to wash the dining and kitchen tables as well as all the chairs. If it’s a nice day, the windows will be open to allow in fresh air. Mama will launder the linens for Easter dinner. Read The Donkey's Easter Tale.

3/22 “Today we spring clean: windows and doorways!” Spring cleaning continues … note how brightly the sun shines through the clean windows. How much easier it is to let in that light when our windows are clean! (symbolism) Decorate doorways for spring. Read Petook: An Easter Story.

3/23 “Today we spring clean: floors and rugs!” Help mop and vacuum. It is also Spy Wednesday so we will have “silver dollar” pancakes for dinner. Read The Tale of the Three Trees.

3/24 “Create paschal candle today.” Decorate the plain pillar standing in soil pot on mantel. Eat dinner by candlelight tonight, using our baptismal candles. At the end of the meal, say a prayer together, and blow out candles. Sit in darkness for a few moments.

3/25 “No meat today! Pray the stations together.” It’s Good Friday, so this will be a quiet day, close to home. Hot cross buns for breakfast, and let’s walk the stations outdoors. (I will have this set up beforehand.) Read The Jesus Garden: An Easter Legend.

3/26 “Today we’ll take a Praise Walk.” It’s Holy Saturday, the last day of Lent! Today we’ll color eggs and bake for tomorrow’s feast! But we’ll take time to walk through the spring woods and look for signs of life, marveling at the wold God has made for us. Tonight we’ll light our Paschal candle from the Easter Vigil fire.



Our Lenten Countdown: Post-its with Purpose!

Purple post-its 6 (1)

With Ash Wednesday less than a week away, I've been trying to come up with a project that will help my family live the Lenten season in a meaningful (yet manageable) way. Something that will remind us each day what this season is about, and help us grow closer to Christ ...

Now, I know there are a lot of great plans out there for families to follow - in books and online - and many are truly wonderful resources. I love all the sharing that happens when special seasons and events arrive in our liturgical life! But usually I find it most beneficial to work around my own family's particular needs - to create a plan that takes into consideration our autistic son, our wonky schedule, (our struggles), and what lessons will be most relevant to us. In addition, it's very helpful for my younger boys to have a visual reference for how close we are to any holiday. Six weeks to Easter is a long time when you're young ... meanwhile it flies by for mum and dad!

All this to say - after a little pondering and poking through my craft bins I came up with an idea that really "clicked." I decided it would be nice to make use of the purple post-it notes I've been hoarding for a year or more now - and since I have PLENTY of them (no really, anyone need a spare pack?) it just seemed to make sense that I could use 40 notes for the 40 days of Lent. That would be perfect!

But where could I set up such a sizable project? Forty small post-its take up a surprisingly good deal of space ...

Well the answer - as I sat at the kitchen table, surrounded by the usual mayhem, with notes spread all around me - was staring me in the face. Right here where we are ALL the time - this is where our Lenten project should be! And just look at the lovely shape of our kitchen door ... those six panels forming a cross. Why, this would be perfect!


So here's the nitty gritty:

Purple post-its 3

Materials I used: the aforementioned purple post-it notes, white craft roll paper, spring-y stickers, and sparkly golden adhesive letters. Also ... tape, a ruler, a pencil and scissors ... as well as a teenage son to keep the younger boys busy while I worked. I found that last item absolutely essential. ;)

Purple post-its 5 (1)

First I made sure the 40 notes would fit where I was wanted them, and then I measured the cross shape on our kitchen door (77" long, 29" wide). Next I cut long strips of white paper to fit the space and taped them to the door. (You might also use white sentence strips here. Less measuring and cutting!)

So here was my base for all those pretty stickers!

Purple post-its 5

With the boys occupied elsewhere, I quickly covered the white cross with flowers, butterflies, and golden letters ...

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... then covered it all up with 40 purple post-its!

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Starting at the bottom of the cross (the sooner we get beyond the toddler's reach the better) we'll pull a post-it each day and underneath the note will be written a simple Lenten suggestion for the children: something to give up, an extra task, a kind gesture or a special prayer to say. Perhaps a family activity that celebrates a liturgical event or faith tradition.

Purple post-its 2

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As the days go by and the post-its are removed the white cross will be revealed underneath ...  and it will be coming to life!

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The last notes to go will be the ones at the very top and along the arms of the cross ... these will also reveal golden letters:

Purple post its 9

The lesson I hope my boys take from this project - aside from boy, does mom go crazy with the crafts at certain times of the year - is this: When we give a little something to Jesus each day - we're lifting that cross alongside Him. And as we lift - purple-note-by-purple-note - we will see that we're building a beautiful thing!   

(P.S. I have a list of the children's suggestions for each day - a work in progress, kept on my clipboard - and if anyone is interested, I'd be happy to share. Some ideas might be useful to you, while others may be too particular to my family's own situation, but I will work on setting up a page to share here just as soon as I can.)

So now when Earlybird asks for the umpteenth time of the day hour, "How many days are there until Easter, Mama?" I will point to the cross in the kitchen and say, "Well, how many post-its are left? That's how many days."

Purple post-its 15

And there it will be - there HE will be - right in the middle of it all. All the clutter and craziness of our everyday life. I'm so looking forward to living Lent as a family this year - with post-its and purpose!

Well, thanks so much for stopping by today, everyone! I hope you enjoyed this post and that you too are looking forward to Lent. I'm in the midst of organizing my reading basket - as well as our bookshelves - so I hope to do a Book Party/Nest post very soon ... I'd love to talk Lenten reading ... and I have not forgotten those planning sheets! Those are coming along, too. Very soon! :)

My friends, enjoy your Thursday evening, and I will see you here again sometime soon!

Happy St. Brigid's Day!

Brigid 6

Now, I've been Catholic my whole life and blogging about liturgical crafts for nearly 10 years ... but this was my first attempt ever at making a Brigid's cross! Mine's a humble creation for sure, but I'm quite glad I made it! I had help, of course ... and I'll explain more below. :)

But first ~ blessings to all on this lovely first day of February! I don't know about you, but today was very un-February here in New England: the sun was bright and the temperature soared to 60°! Mid-morning, as we scuffled around outside (because who can stay inside on a morning like this?), I asked the boys to help me find something that was somewhat like "straw" on our property ...

Brigid 2

So we came across this ornamental grass which I thought might work ... and as I cut several stalks, the boys ran off to do other things. Like swing and throw rocks in the puddles and run down the driveway and be neighborly to the horses next door. It was SO nice to get out in the yard!

Brigid 3

A while back I googled the directions for making a Brigid's cross, and though they looked a bit like Greek to me, I thought I might try anyway. So I started by clipping the leaves and trimming the stalks to a similar length (roundabouts 10-12 inches) and then soaked them in a shallow tub of water for about 30 minutes. (I used the lid of a storage bin for this because bending the stalks would break them.)

Brigid 4

Next, I let the stalks dry for a bit on some paper towels. Meanwhile, the boys were digging into lunch ...

Brigid 5

... while I worked at the counter. Archie was NOT letting me (and that grass) out of his sight!

I started weaving the stalks as shown in the graphic and oh my gosh, it actually worked! Well, kind of. It was a bit messy and I used binder clamps and paper clips as extra "hands," but at the end it did look like the picture! Or, close enough. Most of all, I really liked that we used "greenery" from our own backyard and that boys running outside and mum working on a craft became part of the fabric of our day. :)

Brigid 7

I tied the cross into our grapevine, heart-shaped wreath which is hanging on our front door - and I think it looks nice here! Originally I was going to use a blue ribbon to write out Brigid's blessing (embellished with stars, a la Brigid's Cloak) but I had no blue ribbon on hand, so instead, I used some vibrant star garland to add some color - it kind of makes me think of Mardi Gras. :)

Tonight we're having deconstructed shepherd(ess) pies - which his to say, meatloaf, mashed potatoes and peas. Oatcakes may happen if I get my act together but there WILL be Irish apple cake made on Friday's baking day!

Here are some supplies for tomorrow's project ...

Brigid 1

We'll be making candles for Candlemas. :)

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

My Christmas Tea Journal, 2015

Christmas tea 4

Happy Tuesday, everyone! I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and that your week is off to a great start! Our Christmas was very nice and I have lots of pictures to share, but in the interest of time and keeping our tea hot and fresh ... I will share them in a separate post. For today I'd like to invite you to sit and share a bit of your Christmas with me ... how your holiday went, is going still, and how you'd like to see it go next year. So grab a favorite mug and let me pour you a hearty cup of "brew" - I need something bracing today - and let's chat!

Firstly, how was your Christmas?

Ours was lovely! Spread out over a couple of days, we celebrated with family and friends and had a really nice time. As usual it seemed to fly by and I can hardly believe we are but a few days from New Year's ... 

What was the best thing you ate (or drank) this Christmas?

My mother's homemade penuche fudge is my FAVORITE Christmas treat - she makes it every year and I remember bringing pretty little packages to my teachers when I was a child. As for drinks, our signature Christmas cocktail this year was a really yummy punch called, "Jingle Juice." It made quite a large batch and while potent, was quite refreshing - nice for the mild day we had! Lots of citrus zest and juices plus frozen cranberries and ... spiced rum, Amaretto and Grand Marnier! Recipe found here ... though I will tell you, we used bottled juice instead of fresh. There just wasn't time for anything else!

What are your hopes for next Christmas? What would you like to do differently?

This was something Bill and the boys and I talked about at our family meeting last Sunday. I wrote down what each of us said so we can remember our thoughts next year. I myself wished for more time to just be home and bake and less last-minute running around. We all wished we had made more gifts. We also had to skip our town's tree lighting and caroling on the common. We talked about why these things happened (or didn't) and, moral of the story: we need to start earlier and give ourselves more time. Too many to-do's were left till late in December.

Do you celebrate Christmas beyond December 25th in any way?

Yes! There's so much fun to be had throughout the Christmas season! We keep most of our decorations up till Epiphany, and I try to leave a bit of greenery tucked somewhere till Candlemas (Feb. 2nd). On New Year's Eve we have a quiet celebration at home - a good movie or two (this for me, this for the fellas), cheers at midnight (or as close as we can get) and before bed we'll "wassail" our little apple orchard with a blessing of warm cider (an old English tradition). We'll honor Mary, Mother of God, on January 1st by attending Mass, enjoying a special breakfast after, and refreshing our peace corner ... and we'll bring blessed chalk home from Epiphany Mass with which we'll mark our front door for the New Year (20 + C + M + B + 16). Speaking of C, M and B - every day we're moving our Wise Men closer to the nativity set, and reading stories about their journey. They'll arrive at the manger on Twelfth Night (January 5th), and our dinner that night will feature a spiced beef (slow cooker) stew, hot wassail and gingerbread.

On Little Christmas (January 6th), in Irish tradition, the menfolk will be in charge of packing up decorations, picking up dinner, and doing up dishes! Yours truly will work on organizing Christmas bins and making notes for next year.


Now, I'd love to hear your answers to my questions above - either here, in the comments below, a post at your blog, or in an email sent to bysunandcandle AT gmail DOT com. I hope to hear from you! For now, though, here is ...

My Christmas Tea Journal

Vintage christmas bells and birds

What refreshments are you enjoying this week?

In my Christmas stocking I found a box of my FAVORITE tea - Allegro Black Decaf. It's organic, and rather expensive, so I only buy it once in a while, but I just love the flavor. I'm enjoying it in my special snow angel mug along with a couple of festive yogurt-covered pretzels ... sitting at my writing desk which looks out at the side yard, which, as you can see, is (finally) covered in snow!

What are you reading this week?

In my stocking I also found: 


Illuminations: A Novel of Hildegard Von Bingen

I discovered Mary Sharratt's books this past year and I'm so eager to read this one next! I have just started digging in ... but it's so hard to find reading time in a busy mama's days!

And with the younger boys:

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The Twelve Days of Christmas, a beautifully illustrated favorite, and so nice for this week "after" Christmas. I have also requested The Chronicles of Narnia (audiobook) from the library - this will be our Winter read-aloud. For New Year's Eve there will be Cider Apples and I've moved the Epiphany books up to the front of the Christmas book basket. I have listed some titles over on the sidebar under, "Epiphany Basket."

What are you listening to this week?

How about some seasonal songs? We Three Kings, Here We Come A-Wassailing, Go Tell It on the Mountain, Do You Hear What I Hear?, Joy to the World, Auld Lang Syne ... and one of my favorites, What Are You Doing New Year's Eve? by Ella Fitzgerald. I heard this standing in line at the bookstore last week and thought, what an oldie but goodie! Next year I think a little unit study on Christmas carols and what their lyrics mean - where they fall in the Nativity story - would be fun.

What are you working on this week?

Christmas tea 2

Oh, I am so in love with this "planner" ... still very much a work in progress! I bought the notebook last week at Paper Source and it's just gorgeous. Smooth, lined paper and NON-perforated, silk-trimmed pages ... sturdy, copper-coil binding ... and a stunning front cover with a powerful reminder (All We Have Is Now). I am transforming this notebook into a very personalized weekly/seasonal planner and am having SUCH fun in doing so! I am trying to replicate the weekly planner I made last year but in a more manageable size. With better checklists and more planning space. I will post all about it VERY soon. :)

What's happening in nature this week?

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Winter has finally arrived ...

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Christmas was incredibly mild this year - we hit 70 on the 24th! And then today, at last, we had our first snow ... mixed with ice and sleet, however, so it's kind of gunky and wet. Still, it's nice to see white on the ground again!

Any projects with the children this week?

Not really - it's kind of a breather week here!

Any quotations to share, some words to inspire?

 "Write it on your heart, that every day is the best day in the year." Ralph Waldo Emerson

Vintage holly sprig

Well, my friends, do we have time time for one more cup of tea? Ah well, perhaps not today ... here in my corner of the world it is dark and suppertime is upon us ... so it's time to clean up my crumbs and get back to business. But I hope you enjoyed this Christmas Tea post! I can hardly believe how quickly these weeks have passed ... and now here we have our last Tea together. It's been such a fun journey and I thank everyone for reading and commenting and especially those lovely ladies who sent me their own Tea posts to share here at the blog. What a gift this sharing has been! I would love to host more Seasonal Teas through the Winter ... I'm sure we can all do with a weekly sit down during this long, cold season. Spending time in our nests - WHICH will need some attention now that the festive holidays are winding down. I could use some revitalization next month, how about you?

So please stay tuned! And as always, thanks so much for stopping by ...

I will see you here again very soon ...

Tea with Friends ... ❤

Advent Tea with Friends button

Happy Sunday, my friends, and blessings to all on this 4th Sunday in Advent! I can hardly believe our Advent Teas are winding down ... it feels like I just posted the idea! But here we are with Christmas but a few days away ... are you ready? Wrapped presents and cookie platters aside, are you ready in your heart to embrace Christmas? Did your Advent go the way you had hoped?

Well, tomorrow afternoon I will post my final Advent Tea, and our theme will be one of "Welcome." We will be welcoming Winter (which arrives tomorrow night!) and looking for ways to embrace this new season in our hearts and in our homes. There will be lots to talk about there! But for today, I'd like to share a lovely cup of Advent Tea, poured by my dear friend Denise ... I hope you enjoy! 


Advent tea magic denise 3

We love weaving our faith and the true meaning of Christ-mass in our Holy-Day celebrating, (which for us begins with Thanksgiving) especially with our grandchildren. We do that in lots of various ways. Decorating the tree, which has many faith-symbols and talking about what they are, what they stand for. Another I think I wrote about, our Jesus gifts. When they were a bit younger, we would find the Christ-babe for our nativities. I have a couple who still enjoy the hunt, and now for the older ones especially, we also add in a time of discussion, "How can we *find* the
Christ-babe in our lives today? How have we LIVED the Christ to those around us?" As the Scripture says, "One generation will praise Your works to another and will declare Your mighty acts." (Psalm 145:4) Oh for us to take *every opportunity* to declare HIS mighty acts to our progeny! Passing on our love for the One who first loved us!

~~ Advent Tea Journal ~~


Advent tea magic denise 2

An assortment this week: Chai Tea Latte (homemade!), peppermint tea, hot cocoa! These little Grinch cookies, that did NOT turn out like Pinterest! I only had brown candy hearts (what?) and they weren't supposed to spread out quite so much. Next time bake in mini-muffin tin, maybe??? But cute all the same. Family story that goes along with this, so the Grands will have quite a laugh!! 


The prophecy of the Messiah - and then the FULFILLMENT of those prophecies, as recorded in the Holy Scriptures!  WOW! The lineage is spelled out. The locations are pin-pointed! The most miraculous, the Holy Son being born of a virgin! WOW! Oh, help us, Holy Father, not miss the Christ-child, who grew to be a man freely giving Himself a sacrifice for all who would receive in faith! Now, I'm not a great woman of faith, but I know Almighty God who is ever-faithful, fulfilling ALL His promises!!


Christmas music continues. I've been enjoying Christmas music by Third Day this week! And a little David Crowder Band Christmas as well.

Working On:

Thinking of the new year, the great growth potential! Praying about what the LORD wants to do in my life, what my "focus" of the year will be.  Trying to see how this new planner will fit me(?) It's a fun thing, playing in new planners, but I am a little timid about how this one is going to work!

Nature Notes:

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We've had rain so that was good! But, we had a Christmas surprise! We've lived here 6 years and this is the first year these big, green leafy bushes (out front, facing south) have flowered! White flowers (which I didn't get a picture of) and then these adorable RED BERRIES! Not many, but a few bits of bright color here & there! I can't wait to get down to Mom's to cut the red berry-limbs that will last until March!!! Also, I am trying to identify a new-to-me bird that has been visiting our home. Has just a slight bit of red on its head, and maybe in the folds of its wings.

Projects with children:

Our focus this week is our Children/Community theater's production of Elf, Jr.!! My husband (Gramps) is co-directing this one & three grands are IN it, and one is backstage hand! They have been working diligently and I am sure it will come together beautifully, although there is some worry. Opening night is THIS Friday (18th)!! So, we are busy & excited around here, and to be candid, tired!

It seems like just yesterday you were announcing your Advent Tea, Dawn! Yet, here it is so very close to end our waiting! It has been a time of calming for me, to come to your "web-home" and join you in the pausing, the calming, the anticipating, the sharing. Thank you!



Thank you so much for sharing your Advent Tea Journal with us, Denise - such beautiful thoughts and pictures! I hope the play was a success for you all on Friday night ... I am sure you all must be exhausted, but what memories you are making! Do you know, I have never seen the movie, Elf?! It seems to have become quite the holiday favorite, but so far it has slipped under my radar. I will have to sit down with the boys and check it out sometime as I know many people enjoy it. :)

Well, my friends, as I mentioned above, tomorrow I will share a last pot of Advent Tea with you all, as Winter slips into our lives and we consider how to best make it welcome. And following that, on the very next Monday (the 28th) I will have one more Tea to share, and that will be my Christmastide Tea, with thoughts on celebrating the 12 days of Christmas at home with the children. I hope you will join me!

For today though, on this beautiful 4th Sunday in Advent - bright and cold here! - I wish you all a wonderful start to your week. I hope these next days bring you little stress and much peace as we head towards The Moment we've all been waiting for ... hearts and arms wide open. :)

See you here again very soon ...

My Advent Tea Journal ~ Magic & Meaning

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Happy Monday, my friends! I hope your week is off to a great start! It's time for another Advent Tea, but first off ...  how on earth did it get so far in the season?! Honest-to-goodness, time seems to pick up speed as we get closer to New Year's!

Well, on Sunday (Gaudete Sunday) we rejoiced to light our third (pink!) Advent candle. What a great time to stop and take joy in our life today - right this very minute! Joy is such a gift, something we give others and something we receive as a blessing from God. I love when He opens my eyes to the joy around me ... because sometimes I can get so wrapped up in the trials and tensions of everyday life, I forget to look around for the JOY.

Wouldn't this be a great prompt for a new year's journal?

>> What brought you joy today? How have you made this day joyful for others? <<

Advent candles snowmen

(Clearly, some of these snowmen get it, while others do not.)

I have such love for this week ... because for one thing, I love that pink candle! (I don't see a lot of pink in my life, lol.) But also, on this Sunday we are still very much in the heart of Advent ... I'm still able to take peace in the season that is now ... not fret over the season to come. (Ok, truth be told - I'm fretting a little. I really am a wee bit behind.)

But most of all, I love this Sunday because it almost always arrives right around my Earlybird's birthday ... and he is as joyful a boy as you will ever meet. In fact, this very DAY happens to be his actual birthday (he turns 14 on the 14th!). So it's a very special day in our household! :)

Well, this week I'd like to talk a little about sharing Christmas with children ... the magic of the season, as well as its deeper meaning. Christmas comes for all of us, but how very special it is for the children in our life. They are so ready to soak it all up and just BELIEVE ... what they see, what they hear, what they are told ... and that's sometimes a good thing, but other times not so much. How do we hone the message they receive at this time of year?

>> How do we shape their joy? <<

Speaking of joy, we have these lovely pink, sparkly letters that spell out JOY - I made them several years ago and I always bring them out on this particular Sunday. Unfortunately, I seem to have misplaced one of the letters ...

  Advent tea magic 15

... and the message isn't quite what I meant. At least, not on most days. But it gave us all a good chuckle!

So before I go any further, here are some Advent questions for you, in regards to our theme this week: 

What are your children's favorite aspects of Christmas?

How do you share with them the true meaning of Christmas? In what special ways do you pass on your Faith traditions?

How do you keep your family from burning out before the Christmas season has even begun?

For me, it's all about pacing and balance. Filling the weeks before Christmas with quiet delights for the senses: warm lights in the growing darkness, soft music in the background, good smells and tastes from the kitchen ... and of course, a touch of season's magic. Our Advent countdown message, a mystery unfolding in the empty manger, flickering candles, books appearing each week, packages arriving in the mail, a letter posted to Santa ...

Where is Santa right this minute? When will he come HERE? What is the angel saying? What is the candle in the manger all about? Who are the rocks and the plants and the animals all waiting to see? What do they all know that I don't ... (yet)?

Children respond so deeply to magic and mystery and anything that attracts their developing senses. They're like super-curious sponges! And boy, do they love a good story ...

But I think my children enjoy the family traditions we've created most of all - they look for them and request them every year - which makes me think that all these "little things" we've done through the years have possibly made a big impression. Living a quieter life, a bit outside of the mainstream in some ways, we are able to avoid the commercial side of Christmas that colors so much of the season these days. To a comfortable degree, anyway. We attend Mass, and soak in the atmosphere of our Parish and the words of our Pastor. I try to weave liturgical events and meaning into our days, as I do every week of the year ... 

We eat certain things and read certain words ... light special candles and believe amazing things ... and we wait, and we wonder ... because we are Catholic, and this is what Christmas means to us. It's a privilege to live this way, and though we may be entertained by the world around us, we are sustained by what we share with each other.

Christmas lights are a good example of "magic and meaning." Without a doubt, those sparkling lights are a hallmark of Christmas - shining through the darkest nights of the year. They are SUCH magic - especially for children - but why do we light them? What is their meaning? How can we make our own inner lights shine as brightly?

Here is a beautiful passage shared by my friend Michelle M., from Vermont, in which she describes an Advent walk she shared with her family and special friends. This is EXACTLY what I am talking about when I say I want my children to experience a season full of magic and meaning ... 

"I am paring down the usual Advent festivities and just trying to find quiet. With some sadness and a whole bunch of relief, I decided not to host our beautiful Advent spiral walk in the lovely round building we usually use. This has been the most lovely and spiritual part of my Advent for years and years, watching the children grow up walking in the candlelight circle. But there is just too much happening and the children are growing and transforming, so our rituals must too. I decided to invite one special family two nights ago to wander up our hill in the dark, drink hot cocoa from real mugs, light a tea light in a squat Bonne Maman jam jar, and place it somewhere in the dark while whispering a prayer or wish or hope. It was a vision now etched in my forever memories to see those sweet children's faces bent over their candle in total silence in the dark. Of course, this mood was soon changed as they came together over one jar and descended into bathroom noise humor...but that's all part of the journey, no?!"
 Thank you for sharing, Michelle! What a lovely memory for you all! :)

I'll have more thoughts on this topic in time, and I hope to post more as the week goes along, but for now - because this post is already running long! - here are my tea journal notes:

What refreshments are you enjoying this week?

Advent tea magic 4

This week my "tea" - in the spirit of childhood - is a cup of creamy, minty homemade cocoa! Earlybird LOVES our fire pit and so as a birthday surprise, we had one last bonfire out back yesterday afternoon. I used our old favorite snowman mugs (Crate & Barrel, from before we had kids!) and added a natural candy cane "stirrer" as an extra-special treat. 

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Just before Bill lit the fire pit, I had the boys gather 'round the Advent garden so we could light the third apple's candle, and check today's rock. Our prayer for the week: God, please help us spread joy to those who need it most!

Once the words were said and the fire was lit, I took Little Bear for an amble around the yard. We had some nature walking to make up for after a rainy, head-cold kind of week!

What are you reading this week?

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It's all about the children's books these days, and on our coffee table I have an array of books featuring "Animals in Advent" (our "Advent in Nature" theme this week). Many of these we own, but I request several books each week from our inter-library loan. (I often joke/worry that our librarians either love us or hate us ... but we sure do love them!)

I also parked a couple of our rather LARGE seasonal book baskets in my library nest ...

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One basket for Winter books ...

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And another for the bulk of our Christmas books proper. These get divided and dispersed to certain corners and baskets around the room as themes pop up through the season.

What are you listening to this week?

"Christmas Piano Music" on Pandora. I had a facial this week (finally using a gift certificate my boys gave me LAST Christmas!) and this was the music my esthetician was playing. So beautiful and calming!

What are you working on this week?

Planner in car

 Getting my 2016 planner in order! I just had it spiral-bound at Staples today. (Needless to say, there will be a great big post all about it in the very near future!)

There is also, of course, much Christmas to-doing this week, as we get down to the wire. Making teacher gifts is the top of the list this week.

What's happening in nature this week? 

Well, as I've mentioned, we've all been sick, and the weather has been a bit miserable, so outdoor time has been limited. It's been very mild for November, though, and the plentiful winter moths are ... shall we say, a bit disconcerting.

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Meanwhile, we are happy to see so many acorn caps!

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This means we should have well fed squirrels this winter! (I brought in a whole bunch of caps to set on our nature shelf to remind us our critter friends will be eating well! I'm also googling lots of "acorn cap craft ideas" ... and if you follow me on Pinterest, you know what I mean!) 

Any projects with the children this week?

We have some more handmade gifts to be finishing, and this week we'll be working with the theme, "Animals in Advent." We will be taking special care of our cats and assembling a donation to a local animal shelter ... as well as migrating our barn animals to the manger ...

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Also, we'll be organizing our Solstice Tree for next week ... but that will be a topic for another post!

Any quotations to share, some words to inspire?

In addition to all those children's stories, I am (re)reading a lovely little book called Festivals with Children. It is a small book written in the Waldorf tradition with a focus on the Christian festivals (or feasts) of the year. Needless to say - right up my alley!

I love, in particular, how the author describes the season of Advent:

"The calm and quiet which is prerequisite for every "inner becoming" is under attack everywhere today but especially during Advent. Today it can only be achieved by conscious effort ... There are so many customs and suggestions for the celebration of Advent that we must choose consciously to meet our particular situation. This period of time is in danger of losing its own characteristic mood. The atmosphere of preparation is often overwhelmed by the Christmas mood of fulfillment itself. Children have often already had enough by Christmas. Too often Christmas Eve is experienced as a hard-to-achieve climax followed by exhaustion, making the celebration of the twelve days of Christmas very difficult."


I've found that constant activity really takes its toll - not just on me, but my children. And boy do I hate feeling tired of Christmas before it's even arrived. Community is important, absolutely, and it's hard to pick and choose among so many wonderful opportunities: a tree-lighting here, a card-making there, a cookie-baking marathon somewhere else. But as with anything (and especially with children) less often means more. The one great thing you do with your family this Advent will make an equally great memory ... eighteen great things will just make a blur. These days I try to choose carefully where we spend our energy and leave ample space in our December for rest ... so we might learn to appreciate the mood of the season as well as the magic.

As always, I'd LOVE to hear your thoughts on this week's topic and of course, get a peek into your Tea Journal, too. Please leave a comment below or - even better! - send me an email with your thoughts and/or pics and I'll share them here at the blog. You can reach me here:

>> bysunandcandle AT gmail DOT com <<

And I'm still hoping to do a little video tour of our Christmas library (tree and all) but that didn't get accomplished in time for this post. Hopefully I will have it for you later this week, but for now here are a few "quick pics" ...

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Now, before I go I have one more thing - no, make that TWO more things to tell you!

The first is to announce the winner of my Christmas Books Giveaway! I so enjoyed reading all the "hellos" and "heys" and "howabouts" from you all! I wish I could send everyone a package, but for today, I must choose one ...
So the randomly picked winner of the giveaway is:

Here's Carolyn's question which I LOVE and will definitely address soon ...
Hi Dawn!
Happy Advent! I've really been enjoying your blog these last 2 months! What homeschooling resource books would you recommend for a young mom looking at starting homeschooling kindergarten next fall?

Oh, such a fun time in a homeschooling family's life - kindergarten! I've been there three times so far, and am thrilled to revisit it with Little Bear in a few years. I have some definite favorites when it comes to resources and will get a post up as soon as I can, Carolyn. :)
And I'll be in touch soon to arrange mailing details ... hope you enjoy these books with your family!
Now, before I go, I also wanted to remind you all that TOMORROW I am participating in a live planning workshop with Mystie Winckler of Simplified Organization and Jen Mackintosh of Wildflowers & Marbles! We've got an hour to talk about all kinds of planning topics - and answer questions as we go along! You can watch our chat and submit questions by signing up HERE. There will also be a chat replay and you will receive a link for that as well.
Ok, well, as usual I have just gone on and ON and I thank you very much for your time and kind attention. I will be off now because as I mentioned, it is our Earlybird's birthday and before the littlest wakes up I have a few presents to wrap and a chocolate cake to frost ... :)
But I'll see you here again very soon!

My Advent Tea Journal ~ O Christmas Tree!

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

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

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

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

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

(Except for the sore throats and fevers.)

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

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

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

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

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

>> bysunandcandle AT gmail DOT com <<


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

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

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

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

What is your favorite ornament?

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

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

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

Colored lights or white lights?

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

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

What refreshments are you enjoying this week?

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

Wassail 1

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

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

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

What are you reading this week?

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

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

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

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

A Wish to Be a Christmas Tree

Night Tree

The Legend of the Poinsettia

The Family Christmas Tree Book

The Story of Holly & Ivy

(and not shown, on request at library):

 Christmas Farm

The Littlest Evergreen


What are you listening to this week?

Ancient noels

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

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

What are you working on this week?

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

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Refreshing the file crate ...

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... and assembling another homemade planner for 2016!

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

What's happening in nature this week?

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Early sunsets ... surprisingly mild afternoons.

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Though the mornings are quite frosty!

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

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

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

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

Any projects with the children this week?

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

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That candle burns steadily all day and night.

Watching, waiting ...

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

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

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

Any quotations to share, some words to inspire?

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

~ Larry Wilde 


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

>> bysunandcandle AT gmail DOT com <<

I look forward to hearing from you!

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

Advent Crafts: Pretty Pebbles, Sparkly Stars ...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Clean and dry rocks, frame and glue gun.

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

Here is the grotto, finished at last:

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

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

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

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

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

The Star Child

Three Pebbles and a Song

The Christmas Star

Star Mother's Youngest Child

Only a Star

The Tiny Star

This is the Star

Lucia and the Light

Winter is Coming

The Shortest Day


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

I will see you here again very soon!

Our Advent Garden: A Christmas Countdown!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Can you guess?




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

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

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


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

My Advent Tea Journal ~ Gifts from the Heart

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

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

(How I'd like it to be - and not be.)

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

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

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

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

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

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

What refreshments am I enjoying this week?

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

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

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

(They still tasted great, though ...)

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

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

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

What am I reading this week?

Advent One 22

Advent One 1

Advent One 6

Advent One 17

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


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

What am I listening to this week?

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

 What am I working on this week?

Advent One 2 (1)

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

Advent One 14

Advent One 5

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

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

Advent One 25

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

What's happening in nature?

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

November Woods


A project with the children this week:

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

Advent One 11 (1)

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

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

Advent One 20

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

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

Waiting, wondering ...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Words to inspire:

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

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

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

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

Advent One 13


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

> bysunandcandle AT gmail DOT com <

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

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

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

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

My Thanksgiving Tea Journal, 2015

Thanks tea button

Happy Monday, my friends! It's Thanksgiving week here in America, quite possibly my favorite week all year! All over the country, folks are traveling home to their families, looking forward to a day of togetherness, thankfulness ... and feasting! I love spending this week spiffing up my home and setting tables and baking stuff and listening to music ... but most of all, I love that deep sense of just HOW blessed we are to be doing all of this in the first place. To have loved ones to gather with, and a warm, safe home to gather in ... food to put on the table, with some extra to share.

So today I am kicking off my Advent Tea Journal, with a post that is - ok, yes - several days ahead of Advent. But I wanted to start our journey before we get swept up in the season! Does a weekly teatime sound good to you? A brief time each week to sit down (in our cozy nests) and share how we're living the season? 

Well here's what I'm dong on my end! On this Monday and those to come in December, I will share my tea journal notes along with some photos of my home and holiday preparations ... and then I will touch upon our weekly discussion theme. (This week: Simplifying the Season.) And I would LOVE to have you join me! You can leave me a comment here, or send me an email with your own notes and pics, or perhaps link me up with a post at your own blog! (Feel free to grab the tea button here or in this post.) We'll continue our conversation throughout the week, and I'll add you in as the days go by - no rush to get me something by Monday!

> bysunandcandle AT gmail DOT com <

Now onward with our Thanksgiving Tea ... are you settled in and ready to chat? :)

What refreshments am I enjoying this week?

Thanks tea 5

My Thanksgiving Tea shown above is a bit "rustic and random" - not quite the "Victoria" moment I had originally envisioned, lol - but all that color and clutter is who I am these days! A sturdy (inexpensive) acorn mug and some ginger cookies to share with my little guy ...

And here's my cute little tea box, a gift from my sister-in-law:

Thanksgiving tea 3

I keep a LOT of tea on hand - some of you might remember my tea drawer from years back? Well nowadays my main tea stash is kept in my pantry, but I like to use this nifty box for holding the teas I'm drinking currently. It holds plenty of packets and fits nicely in a kitchen cabinet. (You could do something similar with a basket or divided tin.)

As for the cookies, well, you all know I love to bake ... but sometimes baking a batch of scratch cookies just doesn't mesh with the overall busy-ness of the household. (And this would be one of those weeks!) But these break-apart cookies are made from natural ingredients so Earlybird can enjoy them along with the rest of us. They could be frosted but honestly, they're even better on their own - they're quite yummy and the seasonal spices really come through!

What am I reading this week?

Thanks tea 4

Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, and More Secure Kids

I've had this book on my shelf for a while now - almost two years! - and I've read bits and pieces, but I'd like to go through it chapter by chapter, slowly but surely. This premise resonates with me, yet I'm a great one for making things more complicated than they need to be. With an eye toward the New Year (as I think about general goals and plans for the months to come as well as our home environment) I'm trying to create a slower world for myself and my kids. More on that as we move forward through the season!

What am I listening to this week?

Do you enjoy listening to music in your nest? I find my normal "household soundtrack" provides plenty of erm, stimulation so to say, so any added sound can be a bit much ... but I do love some music at the holidays!

Thanksgiving tea 3 (1)

This traditional song is pretty much is all I need, and belted out with gusto by small voices is best. This is a page from a beautiful little book of poems, a thoughtful and generous gift from a reader last year. But I also love listening to music from A Charlie Brown Thankgiving and George Winston's Autumn as well as this gorgeous song. Do you have any favorite Thanksgiving music?

What am I working on this week?

We have the honor of hosting our family's Thanksgiving so that's my focus this week! There's a lot that goes into planning a season or holiday, and trying to keep things simple is a challenge! But I have found by starting early, I have a much better chance of maintaining a less frenetic atmosphere - for myself and those around me! And this "peace" contributes greatly to a simplified season. So here are some of the things I've been working on ahead of Thanksgiving ...

Thanksgiving tea 4

Once we know how many guests to expect, we can decide which tables to use and where to arrange them as well as what tablecloths and napkins to prepare. About a week ahead of the holiday I find a day when I will be home for several hours - then I can wash and dry and fold the linens without any lag time in-between. We all know what happens when we only finish part of the laundering cycle - smelly, wrinkled linens! Then out comes the iron or we have to start all over again ...

The other thing is, if I leave this task too close to Thanksgiving, it feels like a chore ... I feel rushed and even (in my less generous moments) a bit put-upon. By doing things like this well ahead of time, at a time of my choosing, I focus instead on the beauty of it. I think about the people coming to dine with us, at our table, and how nice the setting will look for them. In this way, I focus on the pleasure of the chore, not the pressure of it.

How about tablescapes then? This is another thing I like to think about early, so I can be a little thoughtful and creative with it ... as well as economical!

Thanksgiving tea 1

There will be flowers for sure - I can never resist fresh blooms at the holidays - but I also like to tap into the treasures to be found in our very own yard. Acorns, pinecones, dried flowers and weeds, interesting rocks, colorful leaves - the possibilities are endless! A lovely activity would be to take the children on a "gathering walk" early in the month of November. (Earlier the better if you want a small share of the acorn crop!) Here we have some glass bowls filled with our acorn stash and a small beeswax tea light candle. I may even tuck some autumn leaves under the globes. Now, you could use any bowls you have on hand ... and if you can't find acorns, cranberries from the market would also be beautiful! Once Thanksgiving is over, we will scatter these seeds on the deck ... and watch them disappear!

Here are some of my pretty baking pans - easy to collect, hard to give away!

Thanksgiving tea 6

 But when we're blessed, we want to bless others back. It's a great theme to work on at this time of year, especially with children! Because the simplest way to celebrate this season (and the next) is to just give. Give to others, give of ourselves ... it's a sure path to joy! That's a message I want my children to learn and practice in their own life as they grow. There will be more on this particular theme next week, but for now, how about setting aside time to bake together and make some extra for those people who have helped us or befriended us in some way?

Here's a little bit of a story, but I hope you'll indulge me. So this is a big deal for my 13-year-old Earlybird: making friends and learning to be a friend. He's autistic and we're working with a wonderful therapist on getting him out in the community, learning how to conduct his affairs in a polite and practical manner. Well, those folks who take the time to help him - even just a friendly greeting each time we see them - are blessing our son in ways they don't even realize. So this year we're baking breads (something EB loves to do) and bringing them to those special people in our life ...

Like the librarian who patiently helps him check out his planet books and train DVDs, the pizza place owner who greets him heartily and lets him visit the kitchen (and asks after EB when he's not with us), the grocery store clerk who gives him a high-five and tells him he's doing a great job (and then quietly tells me the same), the neighbor who lets him visit her henhouse and take home an egg, the therapist who works with him every single day and tells him over and over how awesome he is ...

These people can't know just how deeply they are blessing us, and a bread is a pretty small gesture, but one I hope will bless them back, even a little. No, it won't make my week simpler to bake with my son and deliver breads around town, but it will make us feel good ... and maybe a few others, too. :)

What's happening in nature?

Now this was the part where I was going to attempt sharing a short video ... but alas, I did not get very far! (In other words, Bill left for work before I got his help with it!) I would very much like to try this sometime soon, and as it happens Bill is home all week after today ... so we shall see! I can tell you it is bright and brisk here today, very "Thanksgiving in New England." :) A beautiful buck crossed our road on the way to Mass early yesterday morning ... he stopped and looked back at us from a frosty field. Gorgeous. And birds are furiously flocking to the feeders (squirrels, too) but no wild turkeys to report ...

Thanks tea 1

Well, except for these guys who I found at CVS for $2 each. I buy these foil-wrapped candies every year "for the kids" but they lend a little color and whimsy to our buffet. :)

A project with the children this week ...

Thanksgiving tea 7

Here's our living room mantle, adorned with a garland of family blessings. We're in the home stretch now - there are only a few blank leaves left in the basket! This was a very simple project, but the message I'm hoping it imparts to my children is that we are grateful for all of God's blessings, and that every good thing comes from Him. Some blessings are BIG, but lots of them are little. In fact, if you were to read through our leaves they would not impress you with meaningful remarks on the Big, Important Things ... but they might make you smile with their simple, sweet, smallness:

"the cats "

"pears and hot dogs"

"packages in the mail"

"dirty boots"


Sometimes I think by focusing on the simple joys in life, we train ourselves in a kind of habit - a mindfulness that prepares us to see the big things for how great they really are. I think this is something really important to share with our children, but equally important to remember ourselves.

Words to inspire:

 "Life holds so many simple blessings, each day bringing its own individual wonder."

~ John McLeod

What a lovely quote for my season's journal ... it says perfectly what I'm always rambling on about in a very roundabout way. ;)

Oak leaves branch
Well, my friends, I'd best let you go ... I've kept you here long enough! But 
I hope you enjoyed my Thanksgiving tea Journal ... and I would love to hear from you, too!

What refreshments are you enjoying this week?

What are you reading this week?

What are you listening to this week?

What are you working on this week?

What's happening in nature this week?

Any projects with the children this week?

(and finally)

Any quotations to share, some words to inspire?

I'd love to see your tea, hear about your tea, your week and/or your thoughts on keeping it simple. This will be a good topic to discuss as we head into the "most wonderful time of the year." Is there ever a time when "keeping things simple" is harder to manage than in the weeks leading up to Christmas?

Comments, email, links - ooh, and nest pics! - all are welcome! More on Advent and simplifying our seasons in my following posts. We have many weeks of tea to come and lots of areas to discuss! I am hoping to use this weekly "refreshment" as a chance to sit back and take stock. Am I keeping it real? Am I staying true to the season?

For a look ahead, please click over to this post for my full tea schedule. And remember, all are welcome - brief comments or lengthy posts. I appreciate each and every contribution.

Thanks so much for stopping by, my friends! Enjoy your tea, and the evening to follow, and I will see you here again very soon!

In November: a basket of blessings, a branch of light ...

Blessings branch 14

November's family focus ~ gratitude and remembrance. Today I will show you one of the projects we have underway ...

Blessings branch 5

 Like many families, we do an annual gratitude project in the month of November. It has taken many forms over the years, but I generally come back to colorful construction paper and autumnal shapes and themes. This year I decided a blessings branch would be a wonderful thing, and I'm also thinking it might be something we end up using all year long ... but I will get into that at a later date ... for now, here's what we're doing this month.

I began with, as you can see above and below, an array of oak leaves, cut from multi-colored construction paper.

Blessings basket 1

 In addition to (hopefully) fostering an "attitude of gratitude" in my family, this activity will also (hopefully) help my special needs son pace his excitement (and anxiety) and understand just how long it will be before the holiday is here ...

So after cutting out 26 leaf shapes, I placed them in a small basket.

Blessings basket 5

 I told Earlybird that when the basket is empty, Thanksgiving will be here. And I set the basket on the living room windowsill where I have all kinds of seasonal books and decor on display. It is just out of the toddler boy's reach. ;) 

Here's a look at our Thanksgiving window ... 

Blessings basket 7

Blessings basket 9

Blessings basket 11

Blessings branch 12

 You might notice there is a space there in the book display - that would be so Oliver (the cat) can get up in the window and look outside at the birds. This is one of his favorite lounging spots and he'd only be knocking over books if I didn't leave him a little space. ;)

Ok, so what about this branch then, you must be wondering?

Well, a couple of weekends ago I chose a good-sized branch from our log pile - one with no apparent bugs and only a small amount of lichen - and asked Bill to drill four evenly spaced holes ...

Blessings branch 4

A few minutes later (truly, it took him less then 10), I had this:

Blessings branch 3

Four tea-light holes!

Blessings branch 2

I filled those holes with some lovely beeswax tea lights, purchased at a farmer's market this summer. When lit, or warm from the sun, they smell heavenly ...

The branch is now sitting on our living room mantle which has been decorated for the month of November ...

Blessings basket 8

Blessings branch 15

Blessings branch 13

Now, here's where the blessings part comes in ...

Each day we'll take one leaf out of the basket and write down what each of us is grateful for on that day. Then we'll hang the leaf on a length of twine that is strung along the front of the mantel.

Blessings basket 10

(I keep the hole-punch handy for this purpose.)

On Sundays - there are four between November 1st and Thanksgiving Day - we will light one of our candles and look over the leaves from the week. We'll say a little prayer, remembering it is God we have to thank for all these good things! And before we know it will be Thanksgiving Day, and we'll have a whole row of pretty leaves to admire!


Our other November project is one that fosters remembrance, and I will have a post up about that sometime soon. I can give you a sneak peek, though ...

Remembrance 1

More to come soon!

Well my friends, thanks so much for stopping by ... I hope you are all having a good week! Tomorrow I will be back with another guest planner post ... hope to see you here then!

Planner Party Guest Post Number 10: Mary Ellen!

{Happy mid-week, my friends! Please welcome Mary Ellen to the Party!}


Dear Dawn,
I use the Catholic Mother’s Daily Planner and have done so for many years now (maybe ten?). This is where I write down all of the kids' activities, my own appointments, business trips, work deadlines, bits and pieces of my husband’s schedule and feast/holiday/family celebrations. I mostly use the month-at-a-glance section for scheduling and the daily pages for notes about the day, homeschool notes, a menu note or doodling. :)
Planner party mary ellen 2
Planner party mary ellen 3
My brain dump is not a planner at all. I use the Mead Cambridge Business Notebook which has a wide left margin suitable for lists and a pretty sturdy cover. I usually use one a year. In this goes all the lists I make, menus, groceries, errands, ideas for articles, party planning, field trip ideas, homeschool ideas/projects. The book ends up being a hot mess and really useable only to me because it only makes sense to me. It’s not pretty but it’s a good reflection of how my brain works, also not pretty. :)
Planner party mary ellen 1
Lastly, I have a pretty commonplace book, purchased for cheap at Marshalls where I keep quotes, thoughts and ideas that I find inspirational. Also some doodles.  For school work I use Seton planners and lesson plans with an eye towards making it work for my family. Flexible is my favorite word in homeschooling. :)
I hope you find this useful ...
Mary Ellen 
Mary Ellen, this was very useful - thank you! I have long admired The Catholic Mother's Planner - not sure why it's never made it into my repertoire! It is lovely to look at, especially that monthly page with all your cheerful family notes. I think the fact that you've used it for so many years is its best recommendation ... anything we return to, and use so thoroughly, is a winner for sure!
As for your "brain dump" - it sounds much like mine! I LOVE that you call it a "hot mess" ... that is PERFECT. And I know just what you mean when you say, it only makes sense to you. Same here ... it might amuse someone else (because sometimes I sound rather silly) but I have all kinds of information stored here, some whimsical and some important. And I know that exact notebook you are using; it is a very nice one. I have used small Mead notebooks in the past for my own "domestic journal" ... but nowadays I use loose-leaf paper filed in the front of my home keeping binder ... though I kind of miss the convenience of the notebook platform.
I don't have a separate commonplace book as you do - I throw it all in the same place - but I think it is nice that you store special quotes and (lovely!) doodles somewhere apart from the less formal brain-dump. Honestly, I think all this doodling and scribbling and information gathering is keeping our maternal brains fit and flexible, to capture your sentiment!
Thank you so much for participating, Mary Ellen! I enjoyed seeing and hearing about your planning systems, and I'm eager to hear what our readers have to say!
Friends, I truly feel that all this planning - while often fun and sometimes frustrating - is actually quite important to our role as mother. Not just for keeping our families on track (the appointments and commitments, and such), but for laying down the good and true tracks to begin with. I have a vision (as I'm sure you all do) of how I want our time together to go ... the days and weeks and seasons, etc. But it is only with planning that I can hope to bring it into focus for my loved ones.  
Now, looking ahead to November I'd like to point you in the direction of Mary Ellen's latest post at Seton Magazine, in which she discusses November Feast Ideas for the Family.  A great place to start planning the new month ahead!
Enjoy the rest of your Wednesday, my friends ... see you here again very soon!

On Michaelmas Day ...

Confirmation flowers

Happy Wednesday, my friends! I hope the week's treating you well ...

I'd like to share some pictures with you from our Michaelmas (yesterday), starting with the above arrangement of flowers - which are still blooming beautifully, long after purchase! These were the flowers from Crackerjack's Confirmation, 11 days ago - and they've stayed practically perfect ever since! I love how they look, bathed in autumn sunshine ...

The weather was gorgeous yesterday, so I am saving a couple of liturgical crafts for later in the week when the rain will keep us indoors. Plus, yesterday was a particularly busy day for us -  EB's therapy, CJ's classes, a market stop and a toddler who decided not to nap - so I kept things very simple.

Once we were home for the day, I started in on an apple-blackberry crisp (or crumble as I like to call it) ...

Michaelmas crumble

And once I got it in the oven, it was time for a little Michaelmas nature study. Originally I was going to have the boys observe dragonflies, but on this balmy afternoon it was Michaelmas daisies that caught our attention. I had found a neat description of these flowers in one of my favorite field guides ... and I mentioned to the boys that I was pretty sure we had some growing in our yard ... and wouldn't it be neat if there were in fact feast day flowers growing in our yard? :)

Michaelmas daisy page

This is a page from Wildflowers of North America by Pamela Forey ... I've had this for many years and it's my absolute favorite field guide. It's an oversized hardcover book filled with beautiful watercolor illustrations. I've identified many "weeds" and wildflowers with this book!

Now, needless to say, I was 100% sure we had them in our yard, so I knew our "search" would be a success. ;) I've been enamored with Michaelmas daisies for years - even when I knew them only as autumn asters. You can buy pots of bright purple blossoms at the nursery, but I tend to prefer the pale, wild ones that grow along the roadside. They bloom reliably every late September ...  

Michaelmas 2

 Our trusty pocket field guide came outside with us ... love its laminated pages!

Michaelmas 12

While Crackerjack took over with Little Bear, Earlybird and I went on the hunt. I try to make it a game, a little contest almost - who can find the (insert whatever it is we're studying that week) in our yard? This kind of "spin" appeals to my boys ...

And as it happened we had not just one, but THREE varieties of asters growing in our yard! 

Michaelmas 3

Michaelmas 4

Michaelmas 15

It was a great exercise in identification (are these asters and why?) and observation (how are they different from each other?) ... not to mention mindfulness (be gentle, don't grab!) because boy, do the bees love these flowers!

As we walked around the yard, I made sure to encourage the boys to smell the air, listen to the hum of insects, the call of a crow, and notice the soft light. It was a beautiful afternoon and it felt just like early fall - all golden and fresh. I couldn't help but mention that days like these are numbered ... before long it will be cold and snowy and a backyard stroll will not be as enticing (or practical). Back inside the house it smelled heavenly ... to my mind, just like a fall home should - a blend of warm fruit and spice.

Here's how that crumble came out:

Michaelmas 5

Honestly this might be the best fruit crisp I've ever made! Bill enjoyed it so much, he called it, "Marry Me Now Crisp," lol. I found it during a quick google search, but it's a keeper for sure.

Next on my feast day agenda, was making a dragon bread ... and I have a few different, very cool, recipes in a few different books for such a bread (complete with stories) ...  but I kept it SUPER simple this year, acknowledging how busy our day was. So this year, we had "Dragon Eyes" with our Michaelmas meal ...

Michaelmas 9

Aka pesto pinwheels ... just refrigerated crescent roll dough, organized and pressed into rectangles, filled with prepared pesto and chopped roasted peppers, rolled up, sliced and baked till all puffy and crisp. They may or may not look like dragon eyes exactly, but they were very tasty! I think the boys got a kick out of them, anyway ...

Carrots are also a traditional dish on this feast day, so I roasted some along with potatoes and onions and they went in the oven next ...


 Final dish - not shown here - was a platter of baked chicken. As I understand it, goose is the traditional Michaelmas meal, but I'm not fan of goose - and who eats goose these days anyway, lol? So I made up some of our favorite dijon-and-cheddar chicken tenderloins. A bit of a mess to put together, but they cook up super quick and all the boys love them.

And that was that for our feast day! I have some other activities planned that I will space throughout the week: an angel lantern, a prayer/verse to copy, a coloring page, a storybook to read together ... pacing ourselves is a good idea, as is spreading all that activity throughout our week. We'll learn more about the hierarchy of angels on Friday's Feast (Guardian Angels) and we'll follow St. Therese's example (her Feast arrives tomorrow), by brainstorming some "little things" we can do for God this month. These will go into our notebooks as well.

This morning's quiet work ...

Michaelmas 7

 The flower print-out is a photocopy from a fantastic little Dover coloring book, The Language of Flowers. This is the "Michaelmas Daisy," and it will be colored by EB - not today as I planned, but tomorrow - because he didn't want to do it today! Lol. Note, EB's not one for drawing, and coloring is a bit of a chore, but he's loving these new beeswax crayons - they fit his hands well and smell nice, too.)


Some of you have asked me about how I include the older kids in our nature studies - and I am working on a post answering that very question - but for today I can tell you, I aimed the activities at Earlybird and Little Bear. Little Bear, just tagged along and smelled flowers and buzzed at bees. Earlybird paid a good deal of attention, and I was happy for that. I have to teach him with experiences more so than books or lectures. And Crackerjack was with us, too, helping with LB as I walked and talked with EB at a more leisurely pace. He had a whole bunch of homework to do so I didn't have him do anything other than be part of the experience - another "teacher" in a way. If my older boys are not actively participating in the assignments, I like to have them* involved in the feel and experience of the day. Perhaps they accompany us outside, or help me make the meal, or add to the conversation at supper ... sometimes though, I'll ask them to learn alongside us ... CJ is doing science at home this year so I have a whole year's worth of nature study prepared for him, too!

*And by them, I mean mostly Crackerjack as Bookworm is, of course, off to college. But don't think I don't involve him as I can when he's home on break! Or remind him via text sometimes, too ... :)

Speaking of liturgical celebrations - here is a lovely article on living the Catholic seasons of the year, written by my dear friend, Mary Ellen. It's full of wonderful information and ideas ... I'm sure you'll enjoy it as much as I did. :)

So that's all I have time for now - because it's taken me all day to wrap this up, and I now have a wiggly toddler tugging on the hem of my shirt, hoping to get a plate of pasta just as quickly as his mother can manage it ... so I'm off for now. But thanks so much for stopping by and I hope to see you here again sometime soon!

Favorite Resources for Seasonal Planning

Seasonal resources

Hello my friends, and Happy Thursday!

I hate to wish time away, but I do love the promise of a new week! So on Thursdays I try to schedule myself an "office hour" in order to sit down and look at "what's what" for the coming week. So today, as I was combing through some of my favorite seasonal resources (searching for a dragon bread recipe for Michaelmas next week), I remembered that a few folks have asked me to share a list of said resources. So below I've done just that ...

The Catholic Home

Baking Bread with Children

All Year Round

Festivals, Family and Food

Ceremonies of the Seasons

Vintage Notions

Mrs. Sharp's Traditions

A Child's Seasonal Treasury

Book of the Seasons


The New England Butt'ry Shelf Almanac

China Bayles' Book of Days

A Book of Feasts & Seasons

Catholic Traditions in the Home & Classroom

The Nature Connection

A Continual Feast

The Nature Notes of an Edwardian Lady

The Ancient Celtic Festivals: How We Celebrate Them Today

The Catholic Parent's Book of Feasts

In addition to my books, I also rely on old journals, some magazines, a few websites and good ol' google when planning our family's seasons. There's more information and inspiration out there than one could possibly need in a lifetime! The trick, I think, is identifying what will click with YOUR family at THIS time, and knowing how to balance ideas with reality ...

Now, I've had most of these books for years, and I've read them so many times I could probably recite them in my sleep, but I still like to page back through them from time to time. Sometimes an idea pops out at me that perhaps didn't resonate before ... sometimes I just enjoy reading the words of someone who is enthralled with the same things as me. :)

When I'm brainstorming ideas for celebrating the seasons, I like to use a wide blend of resources - Catholic, Waldorf, Nature/Science, Home/Garden, New Age or Earth-based traditions. When I'm looking for seasonal ideas I don't worry if the author and I differ on fundamental life issues. In every year there are so many things to observe and honor in both the natural and liturgical season ... so I look all over for ideas ... you never know what will strike a chord! Obviously I do have many Catholic books since A. we are Catholic and B. we follow the Church calendar of feasts and observations ... but the rhythm of nature is embraced by people of all walks of life. Some folks are more attuned to that rhythm than others, but honoring nature is just being human - aware, interested, awed.

Anyhoo ... I was going over thoughts and ideas for October in general and next week in particular - which is such a busy week for my nature-loving, Catholic homeschooling family! We have a bunch of neat things coming up - a Full Hunter's Moon (a Blood Moon-Supermoon-Lunar eclipse to boot!), the Feast days of the Archangels (aka Michaelmas), St. Therese, the Holy (Guardian) Angels, and - AND - our family patron saint, St. Francis. Oh! And the new month of October begins, so don't forget:

Rabbit, Rabbit!

I won't try to do every last thing of course - the dragon bread may wait till next year - but I will certainly pick a few activities to plug into our week. I've been busy in my lesson planner, consulting my calendar and the weather app on my phone - looking at where we'll have a chance to get outside ... where we might have a chance to sit down and craft or bake or read a special book ... what we might pray over or talk about ... all those little moments that take some forethought and preparation, perhaps a bit of extra energy ... but have us looking back later on and saying ...

"Yeah, that was a really good week."

Well my friends, the night is now approaching and I'm taking too long to finish this post, so I'll stop here ... and hope I made sense. ;) But at least there's the book list! I'd love to hear about your favorite seasonal resources ... drop me a note if you have a chance!

In the meantime, as always, thanks so much for stopping by ... take care of yourselves and your loved ones ... I'll see you here again very soon!