Family Life Feed

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!

Book Party: Dawn's Books & Nooks

Vintage books

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


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

SO here we go!

Book party dawn 1

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

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

Book party dawn 21

Book party dawn 22

Book party dawn 23

Book party dawn 24

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

A closer look at these shelves:

Book party dawn 13 (1)

Book party dawn 14

Book party dawn 15

Book party dawn 16

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

Book party dawn 2

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

Book party dawn 17

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

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

Book party dawn 3

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

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

Book party dawn 4

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

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

Book party dawn 5

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

Book party dawn 18

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

Book party dawn 8

(Different day, different mug!)

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

Book party dawn 7

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

Book party dawn 6

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

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

Book party dawn 12

Book party dawn 20

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

Book party dawn 11

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


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

bysunandcandle AT gmail DOT com

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

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

I will see you here again very soon!

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!

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.



Thoughtful Thursday ~ Living Joyfully with Books

Vintage books

"Reading should not be presented to children as a chore or duty. It should be offered to them as a precious gift."

~ Kate DiCamillo

So important is "atmosphere" when we encourage children to read ...  and not just to read, but to be readers! How do we, as busy (often overwhelmed) parents, do this when we ourselves might struggle with the concept? I adore reading, but the fact of the matter is, I find it a challenge to fit in these days. Partly because I'm pretty busy and partly because I don't always manage my time wisely. Hello Facebook, I'm looking at you! Also, I will admit, in this age of computers and sound bites, sometimes I have to re-train my mind to slow down and concentrate. Reading a book - as opposed to a magazine or web post - often demands greater focus, something I don't always have at my disposal. And yet, still ... I surround myself with books - of all sizes and shapes - and hope that the time (and brainpower) will present itself so that occasionally I might indulge. And that's how I see it - as an indulgence, a gift!

My children are young and have so much free time - as they should! I want them to relish this freedom and choose their passions wisely and cultivate reading habits that will stay with them the rest of their lives ...

So, I say we start with atmosphere. Here are a few of my ideas:

 ❤ Have your books all about - in tidy piles or pretty baskets if it makes you feel better (it does, me) - but the point is, show that books are important. However often they are opened, they deserve to be part of the family circle. I like to set them up in displays, even - especially picture books that tie in with a current season or subject.

❤ Make trips to the library - with and without the children - and get involved at the your local branch! Participate in talks or clubs or perhaps volunteer when you can to offer help where they need it.

❤ Talk about the books you're reading or long to read, and peruse reviews in the Sunday paper. I'm forever clipping (and pinning) books I'd like to catch up with someday. Also, I just subscribed to a really neat service called "Wowbrary" which sends me a list of new releases at my library each week.

❤ Now, it goes without saying that an occasional trip to the bookstore is a real treat for the whole family - especially when a bit of pin money has been put aside for the occasion. We have a Barnes & Noble not far from here and I love to take the boys a few times a year - usually after birthdays or holidays when they've received gift cards. We splurge on a special coffee and bakery treat and just soak in all the mutual book adoration around us.

❤ It's nice to have a special time of day perhaps just before or after supper, when everyone brings what they're reading to a common area to just read together. This very often coincides with tea-time for me. Nothing says let's read! to a toddler like a mama sitting down with hot tea ;) This might not be possible everyday, but perhaps once a week can be managed? What afternoons/evenings are quiet for your family? I'm thinking of setting up a dedicated puzzle/game table in our library ... because quiet pastimes like this make a nice complement to reading.

❤ If you have a true TON of books (like we do), cycle titles in and out of circulation from time to time. It's amazing how interesting a long-stored book looks upon its return to the family shelves! You could set up a "pretend" library with a homemade library card system. You might punch "borrowing" cards and offer rewards for so many books read, while reviews (which earn extra points, natch) can be kept in a notebook with foil stars. And of course, it goes without saying, as soon as the children are "of age" a very big deal should be made about getting that first library card! We even made Earlybird a special felt pouch for his own many years ago.

❤ Subscribe to magazines and keep them somewhere easy to reach. I myself have QUITE the pile of periodicals stacked beside my reading chair, but I encourage the boys to choose a title or two of their own. Little Bear has a subscription to Babybug and Earlybird enjoys Highlights while the older boys - who used to love Legos and Star Wars - have moved on to Time and Entertainment Weekly. I have posted before about my own obsession with affinity for magazines!

❤ Take books with you in the car, to the beach or even the yard. I've laid a blanket right in the middle of the lawn and read aloud as if they were all sitting beside me and not just swinging on swings, or tossing balls or digging in the dirt. I know they can hear me - and they might even come close enough to listen, especially if I have snacks. :)

It's trendy these days to "simplify" but it's nearly impossible for me to declutter our books. We've been collecting them (one might say, amassing them) for many years and they've played such a big a part in our children's lives. And now that we have our Little Bear, why, it makes no sense whatsoever to start culling this vast collection! We'll need ALL those books again - I'm sure of it! (Or that's what I told Bill who is, in this case anyway, definitely more "on trend" than I.) But boy, am I rubbing my hands over the favorites we'll get to revisit ...

I do try, however, to use the library as much as possible because it does cut down on the volume of books filling our house and also, of course, it saves us money. As a homeschooler, the inter-library loan system is a blessing! I make use of it each week and I have been told, we are our library's best customers ... ;)

Well, we're preparing for our weekly trip to the library just now, in fact - I'm rounding up books and videos etc. and adding them to the big tote in the foyer.

Tote bag of books in foyer 2

We don't have a set day for our library run, but our library bag stays packed with things to return and I keep an eye on due dates. It's fun just to browse the library of course, but sometimes give the boys an "assignment" to find a particular type of book. For instance, I asked Crackerjack to pick out a picture book he'd like to read aloud to Little Bear, and I asked Earlybird to take out a book that is not about planets. ;) I myself am going to pick up the selection for next month's book group, and ask how long Bill's request will take to come in. And on the way to and from - as whenever we get in our car - we'll listen to our current read-aloud which is a perfect pick for this time of year! When we're deep in winter but longing for spring ...

So, how about a little conversation about how we store and organize our books? I think that will best be saved for a separate post, but it is something I'd very much like to talk about. Would you be wiling to share your thoughts (and perhaps pictures) of how you live with books at your home? I'll be taking pictures myself and we'll throw a little book party in a week or two. Does that sound like fun? :)

But, while we're on the subject of books, I'd like to address one of the pictures in yesterday's post ... I left a few of you wondering!

One womans year 5

The book I am currently reading - a chapter every night before I go to bed - is called, One Woman's Year and oh, is this book just my cup of tea! Just the kind of book I wish I had (or maybe could) write myself.

One womans year 2

The funny thing is - I bought this last June and didn't get around to reading it till just now! (See first paragraph of this post - its all about finding the time!) OWY was written in 1953 by an English wife and mother recounting her domestic "observations" throughout the months of the year. Every month has its best and least liked chore, a local excursion, a recipe or two, and an anthology, which is to say, a selection of fine reading. Here are a few pictures to give you a better idea:

One womans year 9

One womans year 6

One womans year 7

One womans year 3

The illustrations, as you can see, are lovely and Mrs. Currey's sense of dry, Birtish humor is just wonderful! I don't know how to suggest finding a copy - they are quite expensive through Amazon it appears - but perhaps try your local library or look (and ask) around at vintage bookshops or maybe try good ol' Google. In fact, it was while trying out that last option myself that I found a very nice article about the book published in the Yorkshire Post last year: "Diary of a 1950s Housewife."

Well my friends, I have truly kept you here long enough, so I will wrap up now and thank you very kindly for stopping by and reading. Please leave a comment if you have some thoughts on sharing the joy of books with your family, and keep in mind my upcoming post about book storage and organization! I would love to make it a joint effort, so as always, I am hoping for emails and photos!

You may send me correspondence at:

bysunandcandle AT gmail DOT com

Have a nice evening, everyone ... and I will see you all here again very soon!

My Birthday Tea Journal ❤

Bday tea 21

Happy Tuesday, my friends! I hope your day's been a good one!

Mine has been very nice ... my dear family treated me to a lovely birthday today! By chance, everyone was home, and my folks came over for lunch (bringing said lunch - plus cake and presents!) and now, at the end of the day, I am sitting upstairs in a comfortable chair, sipping tea, blogging and listening to Bill and the boys making supper downstairs ... :)

So originally, I was going to do this big list - a kind of "favorites" quiz I found online, answering "47" things about myself (I'm 47 today!) but my time sort of ran out (and honestly, I'm not that interesting, lol) so instead, I am going to share a whole bunch of pictures from today with you all ... just for fun and kicks! :)

Bday tea 9


"Birthdays are good for you. The more you have, the longer you live."

Bday tea 2

Afghans in lots of colors - this one knit by my grandmother many years ago.

Bday tea 3

 LL Bean tote bags - I adore them! This one is my favorite, though - for the color AND the monogram. :)

Bday tea 12

 Carnations are the January birth flower! This is a small $3 bouquet I bought for myself the other day at the grocery store - that's right, I bought myself flowers! - and I have never seen them in prettier colors. All my favorites: buttery yellow, soft peach and deep coral. "Sunrise" colors. :)

Bday tea 7

 Another shot of the front of my 2016 planner. I love what it says, I love the color of the text (that shimmery copper) and I love the background scenery ... This morning as I walked up the driveway, I realized why I love this notebook so much:

Bday tea 8

Look familiar? :)

"The best journeys take you home."

Bday tea 1

 And these guys ... well, you all know how I feel about these guys. :)

Bday tea 17 (1)

 My favorite hobby, I think, is journaling. I love adding bits and pieces of my days (words, ideas, observations, pictures) to this ever-growing tapestry in a three-ring binder. In the background is a mug I love - red squirrels are another favorite of mine!

"I can measure the quality of my life, at any given period, by how much or little I journaled. They go hand-in-hand." Stacy Duplease

Bday tea 19

 My pretty penuche birthday cake - I think they tried to get all 47 candles on there! ;)

Bday tea 20

(p.s. Penny, I will ask my mum for the frosting recipe - might be similar to the fudge - and the cake was "Golden Vanilla," Duncan Hines I think. All to say ... it was delicious!)

Bday tea 15

I am grateful, deeply blessed, to have all these healthy lungs (and the young men attached to them) around me!

"Sons are the anchors of a mother's life." Sophocles

Bday tea 16

And finally, one last "mug" shot ...

Bday tea post 20

 Bill found this cute little mug in one of the many boxes we still have yet to unpack since moving here 2 1/2 years ago. He presented it to me the other day as an early birthday "present" and he knew how it would make me smile. This came from my late grandparents' house and it was one of my favorites. The date stamped on the bottom says 1978, and like any child in the 70s and 80s, I just about LIVED for rainbows. I drew them, collected them ... wore them everywhere: on my socks, my pajamas, in my hair, on my suspenders. I'm so happy to have "found" this mug and will use it happily and remember my Gram ... who would have been 102 on Thursday. She was my birthday pal and for that and so many reasons, I miss her, deeply.

"Try to be a rainbow in someone else's cloud." Maya Angelou

I think this makes a mighty fine birthday resolution, don't you? :)


Well my friends, I am going to let you all go now ... you've been so good to humor me! So thank you very much for stopping by and I hope you all enjoy a pleasant evening ... I'll be watching a movie with my fellas in a bit and then hitting the hay early, thankful God has granted me another year here on earth. I look forward to seeing what He has in store for me on my new journey 'round the sun!

Next post - pinky promise! - a look at my 2016 planner! I took the pics today and everything! :)

See you all here again very soon ...

My Advent Tea Journal ~ Welcome Winter!

Advent tea winter 24

Happy Monday, my friends ~ and Happy Winter Solstice, too!

I'm getting a late start on Tea, because it's been a busy one today! And mostly it's been a "working tea," so if you've just stepped into the kitchen to join me, please excuse the mess! There are, however, some good smells in the air and soft music in the background ... the kids are all occupied (bigs watching littles), so I'm ready to sit ...

Please grab yourself a cup (there are plenty in the cupboard) and let's chat! :)

Now as you're probably aware, today we begin a new season: around midnight tonight the seasons will change guard, as Autumn retires and Winter makes its triumphant return. Though to be honest, I don't know how triumphant Old Man Winter is in these parts - we hit 50° earlier today! And not a speck of snow to be seen, which is quite late in the game for New England ...

But snow or no, Winter is arriving at our doortsteps and I think it's a wonderful thing to prepare our hearts and home for all it has to offer. I take joy in all the seasons as they turn (and return) - and I love all of them equally. Each one has its unique pleasures and promises to offer, and I've been taking notes for years on how to make the best of each season of the year. It's such a passion of mine! I will spend more time discussing the new season in upcoming posts, but here are a few questions for us to ponder as we Welcome Winter on this dark, chilly night. I've added my own answers, but I'd love to hear yours, too!

What is Winter like where you live? Is it true to form this year?

Here in New England it's unseasonably mild, and has been for some time. They're predicting near 70° on Christmas Eve! This is just unheard of ... although, after last year's epic snowfall, I should probably be counting our blessings! Things will turn around before long, I am sure ...

What are your favorite things about Winter?

I love SNOW! From gentle flurries to snowstorms - big old Nor'easters thrill me! I just love it. And nothing beats a Winter sunset stretching across a clear, frosty sky. Vivid and breathtaking - God's perfect artistry! I also love watching birds at the feeders at this time of year, and savoring the warmth of home on cold days and nights ... with extra blankets, cozy slippers, and nourishing foods like hot cocoa, baked apples and hearty beef stew.

What are some hobbies you might try over these long winter days?

I'm going to recommit to my journal-keeping this Winter, and get more organized about seasonal crafts.

What foods do you like to serve during the Winter? Are there seasonal meals you return to every year?

I love seasonal meals ... so in Winter, that means potatoes and root vegetables, pot pies, stews and soups, oatmeal, citrus fruits, molasses cookies and hot beverages of all kinds.


And now, for my Tea Journal Notes this week, our fourth week of Advent, just a handful of days from that holiest of nights ...

What refreshments are you enjoying this week?

Advent tea winter 2

We are so grateful to have received a wonderful selection of citrus fruits from Bill's aunt who now lives in Florida. Because I know I'll be "indulging" quite a bit later this week I'm trying to eat as healthy as possible these days, so my "snack" today is hot tea and a very simple (but sweet) clementine. I find oranges and clementines very Christmasy, don't you?

Advent tea winter 14 (1)

Now, if you're "game," maybe you'd care to join me in some last-minute Christmas crafting? :)

As I work, the cider is simmering on the stove and the boys are all busy with their own affairs - Earlybird is working with his therapist and my older boys are taking turns playing with Little Bear. I don't always have my kids at the craft table with me, but I like that they see me here ... being calm and thoughtful and taking joy in the season with my hands and my heart. It's one of those pre-Christmas days when the home atmosphere is so important ... one of quiet anticipation and joyful preparation. I try to model this mindset for my children, and hope that their memories of these days will be dear ones.

 What are you reading this week?

Advent tea winter 18

I'm not doing much "personal reading" this week, but that's to be expected. I do love all those holiday picture books, though! Our book basket is full of "Winter Welcome" this week, and here is a list of some of our favorites:

Winter is Coming

The Shortest Day


Grandmother Winter

Winter Waits

Winter Lullaby

Dear Rebecca, Winter Is Here

Waiting for Winter


When Winter Comes

The Yule Tomte and the Little Rabbits

 Also by my side is Winter: A Collection of Poems, Songs and Stories for Young Children, as I look for little verses to journal or share or write into curriculum plans.

What are you listening to this week?

Advent tea winter 20

And Winter Came ... by Enya. It is just so lovely, and an early Christmas present for me! :)

When Bill and I were first dating (in the late 80s/early 90s) then engaged ('91) and then married ('93), Northern Exposure was our favorite tv show ... for its quirky plotlines and lovable characters as well as the very cool soundtrack. Several Enya songs were used throughout the series and we just fell in love with her music. To listen to this or this just takes me right back to those sweet, early days! We're actually re-watching this series with the boys over vacation, and loving it all over again. :)

What are you working on this week?

Advent tea winter 1

Setting up a Blessings Jar for the New Year, organizing a family meeting, and finishing my monthly calendar for the file crate ... as well as my 2016 planner. The notebook above is - potentially - my new daybook for 2016. I found it at Paper Source (while Christmas shopping with Bill!) and not only did I love the cover, but the pages are gorgeous. It's a nice size, too. I have to play around with it a bit - but of course, I will let you all know how it turns out!

 In addition, this week is all about readying ourselves for Christmas ... a bit more in the practical sense than the pensive, but I'm trying desperately to keep things in perspective. To keep the peace we've cultivated ... in me and around me. 

A couple of projects:

Advent tea winter 10

Sun and moon ornaments I made for the tree ... :) I have a plan to make "nature" ornaments throughout next year - a couple each month to reflect the changing seasons and natural phenomena. I found some plain, kraft-brown, round ornaments at AC Moore that are very easy to paint up and decorate. On the back of each ornament will be a quote or sentiment I wish to pass on to my children ...

Advent tea winter 11

I also made this ornament, a mama robin on her nest ...

Advent tea winter 13 (1)

(The eggs are painted whole nutmeg!) 

What's happening in nature this week?

 Mostly, we've been taking advantage of dry, mild weather and enjoying the last sunsets of Autumn ...

Advent tea winter 4

Advent tea winter 3

Advent tea winter 7

Any projects with the children this week?

We set up a Solstice Tree for our little furred and feathered friends ...

Advent tea winter 6

Advent tea winter 25

And this week in our Advent plans we're focusing on "Friends, Family and Fellow Man," so it was time to move our Holy Family into the manger where the rocks, plants and animals have gathered to welcome them ...

Advent tea winter 23

Shepherds wait on the windowsill amongst the nativity-themed books ...

Advent tea winter 21

While the wise men began their journey in the bookcase across the room. :)

(and finally)

Any quotations to share, some words to inspire?

For my friends who are not quite as pleased to see Winter makes its appearance:

Advent tea winter 12


Now, speaking of Winter, I am so pleased to tell you all that there will be ANOTHER Live Planing Chat between Jen, Mystie and myself sometime next month! Details to come, (and of course I'll share them as soon as I can) but I do know we'll talk further about planning strategies (nitty-gritty stuff!) and brainstorm ideas for the first couple of months of the year. If you have any suggestions please drop me a note! I will be picking up speed with my Fresh Start series starting next week, and I will address the "mind map" I mentioned in the talk last week as a couple of you have asked about it. I think it's a great tool for anyone thinking about their responsibilities and routines or perhaps beginning a new planner. A timely topic for sure!

As always, I would LOVE to hear from you, my friends, about your own Tea this week and/or your thoughts on welcoming Winter. If you have a moment, please drop me a note below or send me an email here:

>> bysunandcandle AT gmail DOT com <<

(Pics are always welcome!)

I look forward to hearing from you and chatting more about all these fun topics! Thank you so much for joining me today and letting me prattle on about this and that ... I appreciate your time and kind attention! :)

See you here again very soon ...

My Advent Tea Journal ~ Magic & Meaning

Advent tea magic 1

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. 

O project 12-13 2

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?

Advent tea magic 9 (1)

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 ...

Advent tea magic 10

One basket for Winter books ...

Advent tea magic 11

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 ~ 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?

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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?

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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 ... :)

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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:

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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!

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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 ...

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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.)

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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 ...

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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! :)

November Nightfall

It comes so early now ... the night. And some might say too early, but it's all just part of that rhythm. Outside there's a fading of color and a sharpness to the air ... while inside we have our lights burning and there are extra blankets on the beds. At this time of year the comforts of home seem all the more comforting, but the outside is still welcoming too, especially on evenings like these ...

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Sunset, 4:20 p.m. Sunday. Just before the Patriots Game.


How wonderful for a little one to get all rosy-cheeked and leaf-littered on a cool autumn evening ... then to come inside for a warm bath and a good supper before bed. I love teaching my children to appreciate our days in ALL seasons and by "teaching" I mean, sharing my own joy right alongside them. That's the best lesson, I think - what we show them. Because those little eyes watch us so closely! Little Bear might not read his mama's blog yet, but I know he can read my moods ...

You know, I've been working on that book of mine, and trying to figure out just where I'm going with it ... getting distracted sometimes, or maybe even a little defeated ... but when I look back at this post, I can see it. This is what makes me tick, and this is where I zoom in: on the simple, little joys ... the easy, homey comforts. Every week brings something new to learn and share ...

As organic as it seems it should be to just follow the seasons and accept nature's rhythm, I find that Life As We Know It often gets in the way. So I create a little structure - weekly themes and file folders - and hope that by planning ahead we'll make more of the moment. The seasons pass so quickly - not to mention the years! So this week we're watching our world get sleepy and dark and we're feeling grateful for things like light and warmth (and peace) ... in nature we're observing a fallen log and exploring the tart curiosity of cranberries, while baking breads to bring to neighbors across town ... 

November days - are they dark? Yes, they can be. But dull? No, they don't have to be. There's much to be thankful for and so many ways to explore this big, blessed world. It is my hope to highlight these joys in each week of the year ... to work them into my "plans" so they become more than just ideas, but actions ... and then to share them all with my family, and you!

So anyhow ... that's where I'm at right now. I mostly just wanted to share all these happy photos and then I got carried away. (You all know how I get.) And now I'm watching another (early) sunset, lighting a candle on our seasons shelf, and conjuring some good smells in the kitchen ...

And putting the laptop down, for now. But I'll be back here again sometime soon ...

(Good Night!)

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. :)
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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. :)
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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!

Planner Party Guest Post Number Seven: Tanya!

{Happy Friday, my friends! It's Tanya's turn today!}


Hello Dawn! Thanks for hosting this planner party!  

First, I must say that I feel as if I am floundering along this autumn. I’ve cobbled together some plannerish things but by no means is my system complete and I have found that things are falling through the cracks as a result. Two of the three systems I’m going to share are working….one decidedly is *not*! 

The first thing that is working is this little daily planner page. I made it up for myself while Steve was away for five days. (I was solo parenting and quite desperate!) Since then, I’ve adopted it wholeheartedly and (other than wishing I could pre print it) it continues to work well for me. I modeled it a bit after your homemade planner but tweaked it to work for my family. I love having a column for each child. Two of my kids require therapy and medications so it’s helpful to see them all laid out for me in the morning! 

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The other part of my planning trio that is working is my lesson planner. I used an inexpensive coil bound book and used it to plan lessons. This has been SO helpful. Especially when I have been able to preplan a few weeks in advance. I’m careful not to plan too far ahead as often my son’s chronic illness will dictate how much work we are able to get to each day. I love having everything set out for me though! 

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And the part that definitely isn’t working for me? My wall calendar. It makes it easy to see what appointments are coming up but it isn’t doing the job I need it to anymore. I’m definitely at a point where I need a proper paper planner rather than only the wall calendar.

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Thanks for hosting Dawn! I’m looking forward to learning from others and gleaning some great ideas. 



Tanya, you and I have "talked shop" a lot through the years, and we are often on the same "page" so to speak. :) Like you, I find myself floundering this autumn and some things are slipping through the cracks ... I feel like it's my own fault because if I could just stop being so picky and just stick with something - even if it's not exactly what I want - I'd do so much better overall in keeping up with ALL THE THINGS ... but there it is.

So I thank you for sharing your planners with us, Tanya! They look very much like things I have going on at this time! There is just something about putting our own pen to paper that creates a more meaningful and workable planner ... even when my head get turned by professionally made planners, I truly love the homemade ones best!

Now, I really love clipboards - I think they are perfect for daily planning as you show above. And they're so portable. I still like my Day Designer planner, but I don't care for how heavy it is - I don't really feel like grabbing it if I'm heading upstairs or if I'm going out somewhere. It's just a bit took bulky to come-with, so I tend to leave it on the counter ... but a clipboard is so easy to tote around - and clip things on if you need. Right now my clipboard holds my master to-do pages as well as our weekend POW pages. (Something we can all work off of all weekend.) Basically, I think clipboards are brilliant and much underused.

And also, I LOVE making planners out of spiral-bound notebooks as you have! In fact, I really like your simple, straightforward layout - a column for each day. I used a plain notebook for a lesson planner this year and I like it but I think I might have made it more complicated than it needs to be ... 

As for the wall calendar - I had one on the fridge but Earlybird commandeered it, lol. He wanted it on the December page AT ALL TIMES so we could see when his birthday was. (As if I'd forget!) I finally took it down and hung it out near his play area in the family room. I like having a large monthly planner that all the family can refer to when we're making plans or kids/husband are wondering what's going on when.

Great food for thought, Tanya! Friends, what say you?

I hope you'll drop Tanya a note if you have a chance! Are you someone who prefers making a homemade planner? I think that's becoming an increasingly popular project - just check out Pinterest! (But only if you have a few hours to spare ...)

Also, before I go, I wanted to mention something I posted about on Facebook yesterday ...

As I am working on my next-week plan I realized that November 1st is just ONE WEEK away from this Sunday! Which means I need to get my gratitude project in order if we're to start on the first of the month. (Our remembrance altar as well.) So this weekend I've made a note to finalize a design and pick up any supplies I need. Next week I'll get the projects pulled together in my "spare" time (ha!) and hopefully be ready to roll on Sunday morning.

But for now, have a nice evening my friends - and Happy Weekend! Today is a special day for us - Bill and I celebrate 22 years of marriage! Where has the time flown?? Anyhow, I am going to take the weekend off from posting, but will be back on Monday with more party plans! Happily, we still have a few more guest posts in queue! :)

See you here again very soon ...

Halloween Ideas: A Paper Chain Countdown!

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

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Hello my friends, and Happy Tuesday!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~* Happy Halloween! *~

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

All good fun!

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

Halloween paper chain 4

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

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

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

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

Homeschooling: Year 16!

Boys vintage 1

Wow, I can't believe I just wrote that, but - as Facebook reminded me yesterday - we began our homeschooling journey 15 years ago this month! Holy crow, that's a lot of years ... and boy did they go by really fast!

And so begins our 16th year ...

We are still getting used to a new daily routine here at home, with Earlybird's therapy taking place every morning for two hours, Monday through Friday. This is a Godsend, honestly, but I am realizing this means I need to tweak my daily routine (and expectations) a bit. EB's therapist is here from 10-12, and though I'm not directly involved, I need to be close by for support and sometimes, translation. Before he arrives, I'm scurrying about getting myself, the kids and the house ready ... and after he leaves I'm throwing together lunch and then getting Little Bear down for his nap. Next thing I know it's 4 p.m. - time to tidy up and make supper! So, I'm asking myself ... when do I clean? When do we homeschool? When do I get my older son to his classes and back? 

And how about ... when do I blog? 😉

So this new schedule will take some adjustment, but I know it is for the very best, not just for Earlybird, but for all of us. Autism is very much a family diagnosis, after all - it changes your life in ways you never expected. So ... I will work a new routine into our day and we will all adjust ... I am blessed to have many helping hands around me and I certainly plan to make use of them! 

Anyhoo ... today I just wanted to wish all my readers, and their families, a wonderful back-to-school season! Whether your kids are in traditional school or learn at home or even if you have no kids at all - enjoy this month of transition! A time for new supplies and fresh attitudes, as we let go of Summer's freedom and embrace the structure of Autumn ...

If you have a moment, I'd love to hear about your kids and if they are in school or homeschool or have perhaps flown the nest! Just to catch you all up to speed - my four boys are now 20, 16, 13 and 27 months! The oldest is in college (junior year!) and the rest are still homeschooled. Well, except for the toddler  ... who hasn't quite begun his homeschool career just yet *wink* ... though he sure does like to be in the thick of things!


Well my friends, I hope you are enjoying your Wednesday, and that your September is off to a great start! Thank so much for stopping by ... I will see you here again very soon!


We're Celebrating Crackerjack's 16th Birthday!

Which means, I have a whole lotta pictures to share! But first, a little throwback, just to keep it all in perspective ...

Cj bday 2

Some of you may remember this wee fella from way back when I started blogging ... ten years ago (almost)? Well, as hard as it is for me to believe - let alone say - this little laddie is now a young man of SIXTEEN!

And let me tell you - though I know some of you know this - what a different experience it is planning a birthday party for a six year old as opposed to a 16 year old! There's far less planning and preparation involved - for example, there are no pinatas to hang or favor bags to fill, lol. Anyhoo, what we did this weekend was to have Jack invite friends over on Saturday to watch movies in the cool man cave ("cool," as in escaping the heat) and then on Sunday our family gathered for a simple cookout to celebrate our young man.

Jacks fam party 16

The Birthday Boy himself!

Jacks fam party 5

And the family gathered: my folks and Bill's folks and all our boys!

Jacks fam party 8

August means farm-fresh corn at every chance. Seriously, we eat it several times a week at this time of year! And baked beans are traditional New England fare in any season, but I love them at parties, and they are always a Little Bear favorite!

Jacks fam party 27

And here are some beautiful heirloom tomatoes from my friend Debbie's garden ... like jewels in the sun, so pretty in this bowl.

Jacks fam party 11

And voila the birthday party spread! Hot dogs, burgers, (sliced sweet onions, tomatoes and crispy bacon), sausages, potato salad, garden salad, corn on the cob, baked beans, chips-n-dip ... and crabbies (a family favorite)!

 Jacks fam party 7

The liquid refreshments and pretty glassware were set up on the kitchen jetty ... lemonade, sodas, iced tea, and wine. 

Jacks fam party 26 (1)

A tiny pumpkin from our garden! I love how it looks amongst all the summery-ness - a glimpse of things to come ...

Jacks fam party 14

Bill and I with our boys - a bit of Christmas card practice!

Jacks fam party 10 (1)

And here's our Bookworm, talking about his new TA position at BC this fall. He'll be quite the busy undergrad this year!

Jacks fam party 21

I just love this picture of Mum and I with Little Bear. I love that we laugh so much as a family ... we have a lot of fun. :) 

Jacks fam party 2

My brother Matt had to work all day but came up to the house after he got off of work a bit early. Earlybird was so thrilled he ran to the doors to let him in - with a big hug, natch. :)

(He brought some amazing grapes, by the way - he works at Trader Joe's, fyi - they are absolutely the sweetest I've ever had!)

Jacks fam party 3

My brother (aka Unc Matt) and the birthday boy.

Jacks fam party 26

Little Bear enjoying his bubba with his Papa. How sweet is this picture?

Jacks fam party 23

LB giving out hugs and fist bumps. This one was for his Great Aunt Anne.

Jacks fam party 19

What a happy day - love spending time with these folks! With my Dad and Bill's Godmother, Aunt Anne. 

Jacks friend party 1

For CJ and his friends, I made "monster cupcakes" - aka squash muffins with a simple powdered sugar glaze. They were a hit! (And LB was a bit obsessed with the candles.)

Jacks party 2

I am so grateful that CJ has such great friends and that they've been friends since they were little kids. Note the tiny guy on CJ's lap ... sneaking in where the action is. ;) He insisted on being at the table with the big boys. 

Jacks friends party 4

Here's CJ with his friend, Kurt - and a great new Disney t-shirt in his favorite color!

Jacks friends party 5

Crackerjack is a lot of things - kind, funny, thoughtful - but I especially love what a fantastic big brother he is. I think the greatest compliment anyone can be paid in life is to earn the love and trust and attachment of a young child. It says so much about a person when little ones feel safe and happy with them ... and as you can see from this picture, Little Bear and Crackerjack have a truly special bond. Fourteen years apart, but best buddies at heart. <3


Well I'll wrap up now, but I thank you for stopping by and sharing in our special day! I will be back to chat more another time - and I have pictures of my Day Designer to share (remember the daybook I bought at Target a while back?) ... I think I'm liking it!


Enjoy your evening, my friends and see you again soon!

Time Flies - and Little Bear turns TWO!

O party 7

 We can hardly believe that our littlest man - our happy surprise baby - is now a TWO YEAR OLD! Time does truly fly when you're having fun ... and boy, is this boy FUN! I'd like to share some pictures from his birthday if I may? 

O party 13

Here we are, my Little Bear and I, taking a moment during the party to relax under a shady canopy. You might notice the bottle in his hands ... well, he did wean himself from nursing around 19 months ... but giving up the bubba is not as smooth a transition, lol! But we're working on it ...

Ah, but before I get too far with the party pictures (which took place last weekend), here is our Little Bear with all his big brothers on his actual birthday night, reading cards and having a little birthday cake after supper ...

O birthday 3

O birthday 2

O birthday 1

He actually didn't eat a bite, lol! Little Bear's not the one for sweets ... give him some hummus or pasta, however ...

But now, back to the party ... our theme was "Things That Go!"

O party 6

Because Little Bear just LOVES all things that move, particularly trucks and trains. I placed vibrant red Gerber daisies in blue and green mason jars alongside some party store decorations ... so simple and pretty. Every table got bubbles as well because Little Bear just LOVES to chase bubbles!

O party 15

My mum made this cake, topped with her famous fudge frosting and some construction vehicles "on the job" ...

O party 24

There were also plenty of buttercream-topped chocolate cupcakes (also made by LB's Nana) with tiny vehicle picks for decoration ...

O party 5

There were balloons aplenty, natch ... 

O party 4

And because it was such a nice day, we were able to enjoy the outdoors and hold the party on the patio and in the yard ... You never know in June hereabouts, but we dodged the rain and got ourselves a dry day!

O party 48

More balloons! This one was tied to the mailbox ...

O party 3

The main tent was set up on the patio and that covered the dining tables ... we also set up two smaller brown canopies where we had a "bar" and casual seating. Note my herb containers off to the left ... more on those very soon!

O party 24

 So as I mentioned before, my mum made the cake and cupcakes ... I did the arranging and I think it came out rather clever! Those are chocolate sprinkles being hauled around by the trucks. :)

O party 9

Here's the little guy joining family at the table ... that was my grandmother's tablecloth - a soft white terry adorned with strawberries and yellow flowers. I love it for summer entertaining.

O party 12

And here are my two oldest sons with the birthday boy ... :)

O party 47

Here's my Bill manning the grill, catching up with our friend, Paul, my cousin Kate's husband. Our party menu featured burgers and hot dogs and sausages along with all kinds of sides.

Here's the buffet table in the sunroom as it got piled up with food. I lined the windowsills with favorite truck/train/boat/plane books and toys.

O party 59

There was, of course, punch!

O party 16

And after lunch came presents - present-opening is very much a family affair around here. ;)

O party 44

 Little Bear received many thoughtful gifts - trucks, books, finger puppets, summer tees and even a wading pool!

O party 26 

And then it was time for cake! Note the face, lol ...

O party 31

... and then some yard games ...

O party 32

O party 37

O party 50

As well as some quality time in the sandbox!

O party 40

O party 53 (2)

O party 41

It was a lovely day spent with people we love, celebrating the littlest member of our family.  Time is indeed flying fast and I am grateful for every day - every simple, sweet, slow (or not) day I get to spend with my dear ones. And oh, how dear is this little one ... in all of his two year-old glory?


Well, my friends ... that's all for now! I'm hoping you all have a good week and thanking you all for stopping by!

I'll see you here again very soon ... 

Finally ... SPRING

 A few pictures from our Saturday, the springiest day we've had yet!

Rhubarb 1

Fresh rhubarb I found at the market! I can't wait to turn it into this.

Seeds 1

Garden seeds purchased at the local agricultural co-op. I am especially excited for the pickling cukes, mini pumpkins and the lovely lupines!

Mrs meyers apple

A new hand soap for my kitchen sink - Mrs. Meyer's newest scent: Apple. Heavenly!

O and daddy out in yard

Bill had the boys out in the yard today - which is nearly snow-free - to start the cleanup. Little Bear is just getting over a nasty virus (high fever, runny nose) but he was loving the fresh air ... and the plentiful "sticks."

Purple crocus

Beautiful purple crocus growing out back.

Washi tape rainbow

A rainbow of wash tape! (For my new file crate folders!)

Daffodils under log bench

Daffodil shoots growing beneath our log-bench ...

Vernal pool 1

Our vernal pool out front ... pretty soon it will be peeping!

Hummingbird nest

I found a bird's nest underneath a bush, lying on the ground. It has a unique shape - kind of high on the sides with a fairly small hole. Nothing inside at all ... might have been a dummy nest but clearly deserted. I was very happy to place it in my birthday cloche ...

And so begins a new year of nature study ... 


Some of you on Facebook saw my post this morning about my sunrise walk with Earlybird. Truly, it was magical. The day was just getting light and the sun was glowing warmly behind the woods ... we could hear so many songbirds! And ducks ... crows ... geese ... a woodpecker! It was a lovely way to start our day and I felt such a reconnection with the world. I did enjoy the long, snowy Winter (honestly!) but goodness, I am ready for Spring!

Dear friends, I hope you are all having a nice weekend - wherever you are and whatever your weather. Another nice day on tap for us tomorrow - and by Monday it will be 70!

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

Housekeeping Calendar Q & A

  Cards q and a 1

Oh, my friends - this post has taken me so long to compose! I see my draft was originally started on March 5th! But let's talk about those cleaning cards, shall we? I currently have a crayon-wielding toddler climbing up my back but I should be able to type while he climbs ...


Now, I must admit, I sort of fell off the "cleaning cards wagon" back around Easter - not that I wasn't cleaning furiously for the holiday, but not at all according to my cards. I'm happy to say, however, I'm right back on track - in spirit if not yet totally in practice. And I still feel this system can and will work well for me. 

So I want to share this week's cards with you (and later, my master lists) and talk about the concept of "off weeks," but first I want to address some questions that were posted a while back ...

First question, from Leah:

Q. Did you write out the whole year's worth at once?

I am working on it, Leah! I would really like to have them all filled out ahead of time because it bodes better for me down the line. Firstly, I like the commitment of it - if they're all done ahead then I'm less likely to give up on them. Goodness knows I might fall off the wagon on occasion, but if the cards are already written out then they're available for me to use whenever I'm ready to climb back on that wagon. I'd like to think I will become devoted to my calendar, but I'm only human - and a human mother of four boys at that! But I know if I do get away from it, I'm much less likely to get back on track if I have to stop and write out cards first.

(Am I talking in circles, lol? I feel like my blogging "skills" are a bit rusty ...)

Q. And, assuming the tasks are the same next year, do you plan to rotate through the same stack again?

Well, yes - that's my plan, though I feel like I'm getting ahead of myself by saying that! But that's the heart of the matter, isn't it? Housekeeping is neverending - by its very nature it needs to be repetitive to be efficient. The tasks are all pretty basic but I may tweak things as I go along. Some tasks may not need to be done as often as I think while others may actually need more frequency.

Q. Do you keep a master list somewhere other than in the cards now that you are done?

Yes, I have master lists for all tasks, broken down by room/zone and frequency. (Discussed in this post.) The post-it note grid I made on posterboard has been transferred to paper as well - as a set of schedules (first week of the month, second week of the month and so forth). I keep those in my planning binder and use them to write out the cards as I move forward on the calendar.

Q. Do you have your basic daily chores (dishes, etc.) as a part of this system? 

Leah, daily chores are separate for now. I have a post-it note checklist in my master planner-binder (see below) that I use for marking off daily tasks as the day goes along. I use a new post-it note each week. It is absolutely low-tech, lol - but it works! It has occurred to me though, that I could list my daily chores on the back of each cleaning card ... I like that idea a lot, but that would mean even more time and energy put into creating the cards.

Rd q and a 2

(Note: as we discussed in an earlier post, this cleaning calendar is reminiscent of the system designed by Pam Young and Peggy Jones - aka the "Slob Sisters" - many years ago. Index cards are really indispensable when it comes to organizing tasks!)

So now for a question from Sue:

Q. I, too, tried Pam and Peggy's system, but found myself constantly refiling cards for tasks that did not get done. So, what if you do some but not all of the tasks on the card for that day?

Sue, this calendar is very much a work-in-progress and I am finding that many days I just can't get to all the tasks. It's still better than before when I wasn't even aware of whatall I should be doing! That said, if a task doesn't get done, typically I let it go until the next week (or next month). If it's a task that is assigned only a couple of times a year, however - for example: clean out bureau drawers - I try to fit it in somewhere, sometime soon. Typically his means pushing it onto the weekend ... where I hope with the assistance of other family members, it might get done.

So this bring up a thing I've been wanting to blog about for a while now, but have yet to mention. Bill set up the board shown below a while back ... It's called a "scrum board" based on a book/system he and his team are employing at the office.

Scrum board

(I don't think they use floral Washi tape on their board, however.)

We use this board to get a handle on what needs to be done - who's doing it and how tasks are progressing. On the weekend, we discuss (as a family, ideally with boys present) what we want/need to get done. We write each action/idea on a post it note - assign importance (low, medium or high) - and stick it up in the TO DO column. Then we all work together to make these things happen - either doing the task itself or supporting the person doing it. As tasks are in progress, the note gets moved to "DOING" and then finally, to "DONE!"

This is basically a "master to do list" but I have added some cleaning calendar tasks to the board - tasks I don't want to go undone and hope to get to at some point, assisted by my family. 

 (More on the scrum board in a future post!)

 Now, before I go, I just want to mention another thing: "off weeks" in the cleaning calendar. The calendar I designed is set up as a four week cycle; the 1st week of the month has its set of tasks - as does the 2nd, 3rd and 4th. As no month is exactly four weeks long, this system will get off balance. So I decided I will take "off weeks" on occasion. These weeks will coincide with holidays and vacations. Holy Week was one such week.


July 27th-August 2nd (vacation/summer project?)

November 23rd-29th (Thanksgiving week)

December 21st-27th (Christmas week)


March 21st-March 27th (Holy Week)

July 4th-July 10th (vacation/summer project)

September 5th-September 11th (1st week of school)

November 21st-November 27th (Thanksgiving week)

December 19-December 25th (Christmas week)


Well, this post has gone on rather long now, so I will stop here and in my next post (up on Friday, I hope) I will share a week's worth of cards with you all.


Ok my friends, wishing you all a pleasant mid-week and thanks so much for stopping by! Please let me know if you have any questions - about this topic, or anything, really. As always, I will do my very best to answer ...

Once I get the crayon-weilding, mama-climbig toddler down for his nap. ;)

See you here again very soon!


Every Day Has a Story ...

Candle on napkin

Happy Wednesday, my friends ... long time no see!

This post has been an open draft on my computer for some time now ... but things have been a bit topsy-turvy here with all the snow! We're in a short lull now (weekend storm ahead!) and I'm trying to get back on track. Thanks for your patience as I worked on this long-promised post!

So today I'd like to talk about something I mentioned in a previous post - about how I like to give my days "stories." It's really quite a simple concept - not very original or life-changing - but I think it's a great exercise in getting yourself one step closer to a "system" that works best for you. And that's something we've been talking about recently: how do we establish routines that help us manage the needs of our family and home? (While keeping our own health and happiness in mind?)

I have always "written stories" when planning out big projects like holidays, seasons and parties, but it works well for all kinds of things - mornings, bedtimes, Sundays, babymoons, and spring cleaning, etc. I like to start by envisioning a story for whatever it is I am planning - so here's what I do, in a nutshell:

I simply grab a piece of paper and a pencil and take a few - or several - quiet moments to think about what it is I am trying to plan. I imagine how it looks, what is happening, who's present and how I feel ... and create a vision that is, perhaps a bit idealized, maybe even unattainable, but will ultimately represent my true hopes and values.

I know that sounds a bit elaborate for something so commonplace, but I really do feel this "mental exercise" helps. And I don't know about you, but I can use all the help I can get when it comes to managing my responsibilities - namely, my family and home! 

But before diving into the days individually, I begin with "my day" in general ... so I imagine waking up and going through the motions of the day. I try to think about how I'd like things to be, ideally ...

  • My bedroom is neat and I'm up early enough that there is quiet around me.
  • I have a cup of fresh coffee thanks to my sweet husband ...
  • Phone in hand, I take time for a bit of contemplation: prayer, news, and email
  • I have clothing laid out and the bathroom is tidy and set up for quick washing and dressing.
  • I leave the bed freshly made and head downstairs ...
  • (Bill has helped with changing and dressing Little Bear. Earlybird is most likely up and he's been given juice and a snack.)
  • Coffee is hot and the kitchen is neat as a pin after a thorough once-over last night.
  • Breakfast is warm in the crockpot (or set out on kitchen table, ready to assemble).
  • I check my journal-binder and look over the day's agenda.

(And so on.)

As I read back over these rather comforting thoughts, I see where I can take action to make this more of a reality. (Underlined words indicate where action is needed ...) I can see that a lot of morning "joy" begins the night before, so I add tasks to my evening routine with that in mind ... set coffee maker to brew before bed, tidy bedroom and master bath before bed and set out washcloth and hair tie, and outfits for myself and the younger boys. Charge phone and have apps/subscriptions that allow for daily prayer, news updates and email. Etc.

(NOTE: This is not what happens, exactly ... not everyday, anyway ... this is an ideal situation!)

As for planning the days themselves, I begin with Sunday because this is the day I really want to get right. In fact, this was the day that kind of kicked off my daily stories, because I was so frustrated that our precious Sundays were starting off harried and ending up as a catchall of missed chores and last-minute errands!

So my ideal Sunday has a story like this ...

  • We (some of us) attend early Mass ...
  • We are not rushed, things have been organized the night before: donation envelopes, church clothes, Crackerjack's Mass signature card, my "nice" pocketbook :)
  • We arrive at Mass early so we can sit quietly and pray, read over the bulletin, relax/absorb, connect with our fellow parishioners ...
  • A light breakfast (bread/muffins/fruit) is ready when we get home, along with fresh coffee and Sunday punch. 
  • We have a quiet day, there are no outside commitments, and we don't shop or run errands.
  • Instead, we spend time on home-oriented projects, visiting perhaps, and there's a big family sit-down dinner in the early afternoon.
  • Over dinner, we talk about the week's homily and any church news, as well as the week ahead and family goals/schedules.
  • Time is spent outside whenever possible - in the garden or as a family, on a hike or bike ride. "Walking the boundaries" together to see how the property is faring. 
  • I spend time catching up on correspondence with family and friends.
  • I read back over my week's journal and index information.
  • I spend time with Crackerjack, updating his assignment board and discussing expectations.
  • I might spend time baking for the week if I didn't get to it on Saturday.
  • I look over the household budget - organize receipts/statements from previous week; talk with Bill about upcoming week's expenses.
  • I prepare homeschool materials for week ahead and the boys' daily task cards.
  • I place grocery order for the week.
  • The trash and recycling is organized for morning.


And remember, this is my STORY ... not always my TRUTH. At least not in its entirety. :)

And as you can see, the exercise kind of morphs into a more traditional list of things to do, but still, it's part of my vision to have time for these things. And it's safe to say, every vision includes the whole house being neat and clean ... whatever the day or occasion ... but it is also safe to say, that's a pretty high horse to climb! But a clean home, to my mind, is the canvas for much family joy and a balm to the spirit as well ... but that's a post for another day. :)


I've had these stories in my head for years, and I like to revisit them in quiet moments, especially when I'm tweaking my routines. (I can put myself back to sleep at night by walking through a story in my mind ...) But I'm now going to keep these stories printed out and stored in one of my binders (either my main planning binder or in the general housekeeping binder).

And from here I feel I can start making some helpful day-by-day task lists that will assist me in creating the kind of week I want my family to live. That I want to live. I know what I do as a wife and mother is important - I don't suffer any insecurity on that front - but when I connect my homekeeping "heart" to my everyday routine, it makes the whole process that much more meaningful and rewarding. I think so, anyway. Does that make any sense, lol?


Oh my goodness, this is so long-winded I'm afraid I have surely bored some of you, but I hope there is some items of interest here for my like-minded homekeeping friends! Honestly I can (obviously) think and talk about this topic at great length ... in fact, I have often thought, I would actually read a novel(la) written entirely about a housewife's days spent caring for her family's home, through the seasons and the ups and downs of everyday life. There wouldn't have to be any drama or suspense ... it would still be exquisitely interesting to me! For example, we are listening to Little House in the Big Woods right now - a wonderful story for the children to hear for many reasons (and especially during our own long winter) - but my favorite parts are the detailed sections on Ma's chores and home keeping! And I often find myself appreciating how simple life was back then ... but then I remember how "easy" we have it nowadays. (I don't face down any bears when getting milk for my family!) And it keeps it all in perspective. :)

Ok, that's enough from me, I think! I'll be back again soon - hoping to have my routines post up next. (Or perhaps, the wall-a-week cleaning post.) But I'd love to hear from you if you have time ... about your own stories, and if you do anything similar when contemplating how you'll manage your week at home, with your family. Or maybe you do this with your work? Bill has been sharing with me how at the office, his team works together to come up with stories for how projects will go ... and then breaking them down into tasks that will make sense to everyone and move them closer to their goals. I loved hearing about their method and he loved hearing that I've been doing something like this (in my own humble way) for years!

Right. I'm off ... lest I continue, lol. Enjoy your Wednesday, my friends ... see you here again very soon!

A Cozy Day + New Calendars!

Vintage new year card

Happy January, my friends! I hope your new year is off to a great start!

First off ... did you remember to say "Rabbit, rabbit" yesterday morning? I did - just barely - at 12:14 a.m., having been awoken by Little Bear - who had been woken by fireworks going off somewhere nearby! And also, have you noticed your first bird of the year yet? Tradition says the first one you see in the new year will be "your" bird for the year. I saw a robin on the way to Mass, and I'm quite pleased with that. :)

Speaking of Mass, here I am with a sleepy Crackerjack, just pulling into the church parking lot. It was hard getting up and going but we were very glad we made it.

Jack and mama at mass

(Quick story: Just before Mass begun we were asked to bring up the gifts, something we've never done before! I had just finished praying my request that God help me grow more fully in faith and become more involved in my church. A lovely sign, don't you think?)

On our way home, we stopped at a local Staples where I had my new weekly planner all bound up nice and neatly! I am just sooo happy with it and will be showing you all what it looks like and how I organized it in my very next post. I know I keep saying that and I honestly don't mean to be a tease ... I just need to find some quality "snap-sit-and-write" time! "Snap" being the picture- taking part of the process. :)


"There's nothing like staying home for real comfort." ~ Jane Austen

Oh, Jane - we are of like minds! Our New Year's was a quiet, homey day ...

New years 1

This stuff might not look very appetizing but let me tell you, it smelled so incredible! It is a concoction of milk and cream and spices and marshmallow that cooked on low for a few hours and became this ...

New year 13

(Disregard the mess surrounding the mugs, please - we had a bit of a whipped cream mishap!)

This is Spiced White Hot Chocolate - a recipe I found on (where else?) Pinterest. It is almost like a warm eggnog (the nutmeg is predominant) and just so rich and creamy ... very indulgent. I knew I wanted to make a white treat in honor of the Jan. 1st Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God. Served in blue mugs, natch. :)

Bill hung my new wall calendar - my hope is it will be a "family central" kind of calendar.

New year 3

 (And it's awfully pretty to look at!)

New year 5

And because I am a nut for calendars, I also have this pretty engangement calendar set up on the kitchen counter ...

New year 4

As well as this page-a-day calendar I found in my stocking ...

New year 6 

A daily dose of forgotten English and folklore - should be fun!

Here's a peek at the January page divider in my planner - love this vintage style.

New year 8

And below are last year's domestic journal pages, a calendar of sorts as my notes and clippings are quite seasonal, all stored away in a binder ...

New year 20

 And here are a couple more pictures from our quiet (relatively speaking) New Year's Day ...

New year 10 

 Earlybird asked for a "selfie" and I love it when he's ready to smile for the camera!

New year 14

Pretty blue mug, creamy white hot comfort ... just a dash of cinnamon on top!

New year 15

 I asked the boys to watch this movie with me (sweetening the deal with that hot chocolate!) because it's one of my all-time favorites and they'd never seen it.

New year 11

Love spending time with my boys - the youngers and olders!

New year 17

A beautiful sunset to end a lovely first day of the year.

Well my friends, I hope you all had a nice New Year's, and that 2015 is kind to you and your loved ones. Enjoy your Friday and I'll see you here again very soon!

(p.s. Are we all excited for a new season of Downton Sunday night???)