Hello and Happy Wednesday, my friends! I hope you all had a nice weekend, and a lovely Easter too, if you celebrate! I am currently writing up a post about the file crate, but for today I thought I'd pop in quickly to let you know I just added a photo album to my sideboard (right side of the blog and linked below) with many pictures from our Easter. Most of them are from Holy Week but there are several from our Sunday celebration as well. I hope you enjoy, and I will see you here again soon!
Hello my friends, and Happy Weekend! As hard as it is to believe, Lent begins this coming Wednesday! I thought I'd share a few of the things my family will be doing this year as we journey through this beautiful season ...
I considered repeating the elaborate post-it note countdown I created last year, but in the interest of time and energy, I decided to keep things a bit simpler. I'm hoping to set a mood, offer opportunities, and then step back and let Lent happen naturally ... beginning with a few things arranged on our library mantle.
To ready the space, I first took down all the Valentine decor and dusted the mantle itself - a little squirt of lavender spray lent a nice cleansing touch. :) Then I took down the boxwood wreath and placed in its stead our grapevine cross ...
We've had the grapevine cross for many years - I found it at either a Michaels Crafts or A.C. Moore store. It's hard to remember now! It's seen a bit of wear and tear, but I just love it. :)
The small wooden "Hope" sign I found at Michaels several weeks ago and thought it would be a nice theme for both Lent and spring. (I love merging nature and faith!) I simply tied the word onto the cross with some plain kitchen twine. I kind of like the symbolism of Hope tied closely to the cross ...
And throughout Lent, a little "life" will spring forth here each week - tiny sprigs of greenery I'll add in secret - and come Easter morning the cross will be covered in bright flowers!
Beneath the cross I placed a single white candle ...
I planted it in some potting soil and will leave it like this until Palm Sunday, at which point we will sprinkle the soil with grass seed - and fingers crossed it will bloom a week later! (I adapted this idea from one I found in All Year Round, one of my favorite resources for seasonal celebrations.) Finally, on Easter morning, the boys will find the candle lit and hopefully surrounded by pretty green grass.
A plain little butterfly box also sits on the mantle ...
On Ash Wednesday we will "bury the Alleluia" (an old custom) by placing that small slip of paper inside the butterfly. On Easter morning the butterfly box will be open and empty - the slip of paper will be gone! Instead there will be a golden "Alleluia" banner hung above the mantle and perched in the middle of the cross will be a bright and beautiful (silk) butterfly.
I also placed a glass jar for collecting alms here ...
(Monies saved by skipping certain purchases each week.)
On the left side of the mantle I placed the brass crucifix made by my maternal great-grandfather, along with a small crystal votive candle holder (a gift from my parents - straight from Ireland!) This candle will be lit on Fridays as we contemplate the Stations (described below). I added the simple wooden rabbit because I plan to explore with the boys the many aspects of Easter that are tied in with both nature and faith ...
On the far right side is our Marian statue (which belonged to my paternal grandparents) as well as a prayer card for the March devotion (St. Joseph) ...
The purple jar will be used as a vase in which we can display any little bits of blooming nature we find through the season - forsythia most likely or pussy willows, perhaps. I may also add small vases for tiny things that pop up like crocus, snowdrops, and dandelions, etc. (I like to use small cordial glasses for this.) These will be flowers for the Blessed Mother but also a growing sign of returning life.
(As part of our seasonal homeschooling I have a few nature-based activities planned for each week, and these too will be woven into our Lenten path.)
Also seen in these pictures are the read-alouds we'll be using throughout Lent: The Parables of Jesus and The Miracles of Jesus, both by beloved author, Tomie dePaola. My hope is to read a passage aloud to the boys in the library each afternoon. I'll have a coloring page for Little Bear to work on (and ask Crackerjack to help keep him busy/interested) and see if Earlybird might want to participate, too. Listening to read-alouds can be difficult for EB (due to sensory issues) so this might be quite a sacrifice for him! I might even schedule this activity for earlier in the day when EB's therapist is here for support.
Finally, I strung a wide length of burlap ribbon along the front of the mantle to which I attached the Stations of the Cross, using small wooden clothespins. (The ribbon and the clothespins can be found at Michaels, or any craft store most likely. The lovely Stations cards were purchased through Catholic Heritage Curricula.)
Once again, I had a lot of help as I set up this special space ...
(He asked me to take his picture in front of the mantle. He was very proud!)
I have one other activity planned for Lent - and that involves working Lenten themes into our journey. Each Wednesday at dinner I'll present this small basket of rocks ...
... and one of us will choose a rock for the coming week. As you can see above, each rock has a word written on it in purple: prayer, silence, gratitude, forgiveness, service, spirit. Whichever word is chosen from the basket will be a theme we can all work into our week - privately and as a family. (I have some activities planned to help the younger boys with this project.) At the end of each week the rock will be placed upon our Lenten mantle.
Well my friends, I hope you enjoyed hearing about our plans for Lent this year! Are there any Lenten traditions you follow with your family each year? Are you trying something new this year? Do you have a special book (or books) you are reading this season? Drop me a note if you have a moment - I'd love to hear from you!
In the meantime, I wish you all a wonderful weekend and as always, I thank you for stopping by! Take care of yourselves and your loved ones ...
I'll see you here again sometime soon!
Hello my friends and Happy Friday ~ Merry Christmas Eve! As I feared might happen this week, things just got too busy, and I didn't have time to finalize my post yesterday. But I'm here today - on this rainy and mild Christmas eve - to share with you one last cup of Advent Tea. For tonight we begin a most beautiful and blessed new season ...
"Blessed is the season that engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love." ~ Hamilton Wright Mabie
In our final week of Advent my family continued our celebration of God's amazing creation. We had previously explored the wonder of earth and sky, the peacefulness of plants, the joys of wild (and not so wild) creatures and now, we aim closer to home. This week it's all about God's greatest creation - humankind - and the love He has for us - that we have for each other! So this week we relished our family being together and rejoiced in our beloved home ... while remembering the holiest family, their humble first home, and the noble journey that started it all ...
Let's start with a look at our Advent Garden. This was a really fun project and I am sure we will do this again next year ... remember how it started?
In week one (earth & sky) we added pebbles (and later soil) and surrounded our garden (a shallow glass terrarium) with beeswax tealights. Well here is how it looks now as Advent comes to a close ...
Soil was topped with moss from which frosted tiny trees soon sprouted ... then a pretty spotted deer appeared. And this week, up rose a cozy little neighborhood. ❤
(Note: I bought the trees, deer and houses at my local Michael's craft store. They were fairly inexpensive. The houses were plain but I spread the rooftops with a little white paint and added a few shakes of white glitter. The moss and pebbles came from our yard and the earth was found in a bag of potting soil parked in the garage. The candles I ordered through Amazon.)
Today I moved the Garden off the kitchen table (which will soon be set up for a Christmas buffet!) and into a small nearby alcove ...
Above it I hung a pretty wooden ornament also embellished this week ...
This was a very inexpensive wooden craft, one of several I've picked up this season ...
I actually really love the look of unfinished wood, but the addition of a little white paint and glitter lends a soft and simple touch ...
A few more nativity scenes around the house ...
This is a new lawn decoration this year! Bill and the boys "gave" me this as a gift last Christmas - but it took me till this fall to find one I really liked. We have this nestled beneath - appropriately enough - our family room windows. :)
Let's pop on out to the library and take a peek at the tree for a moment ...
Isn't this ornament gorgeous? You'll probably tire of hearing me say this but this is another treasure I found at Michael's. This was discovered in one of the boys' Advent pockets this past week.
And how about this one? :)
I found this picture frame ornament up by the registers for a couple of dollars. So very pretty and perfect for a small family photo. I think I'd like to make this a tradition - add a new family picture ornament each year.
Speaking of ornaments, one of our crafts this past week celebrated our family members and what Mama loves most about each of them.
I started with a plain plastic ornament ball ... wrote our family names on small heart stickers and placed them all over the ball's surface ... and then filled the ball with colorful strips of construction paper. Each slip of paper was curled up tight, with a hidden message inside.
I think this might also become a new family tradition ... :)
One more peek at the tree, a few new ornaments were added this week ...
I found these pretty red glass initial ornaments at Target, and bought one for each of my boys. (The "H" is actually made out of cardboard or some such material.)
And since we're talking about my boys, here's a peek at our Christmas card this year!
It's the first time we've done a collage and I rather like it! It was such fun to look back over all the photos from last year ... though it proved a shocking reminder just how quickly time has flown. We even added a couple of photos to the back - one of the chickens and one of the cats!
I absolutely adore Christmas cards, don't you? We display ours here on this door leading into the library ...
Bill sets up the ribbons and then I attach the cards with tiny clothespins. I love to see this doorframe fill up! Visually, it's a wonderfully decorative spot - but also a lovely reminder of the friends and family we have been blessed with over the years.
And though we've been doing "photo cards" for years, I still love traditional Christmas cards. We always bought ours from a company called LANG, and when I spied some boxes of Lang cards at Joann's Arts & Crafts recently (marked down 60%!) I just could not help myself. I bought a few varieties for next year ...
Switching gears now - because we haven't even talked about tea yet! Now, if you scroll way back up to the top of this post I showed you my teatime spread this week ... or, here it is again ... :)
As you can see, I was in my glories at Tea this week, surrounded by all my boys. They were supposed to be helping me with neatening the tree - I bribed them with cookies! - while I sat down to look over my holiday notes. In my "Blessed" mug (a new favorite) I had a large serving of my preferred black tea with a lot of milk and a bit of sugar. The cookies are store bought, but were still gobbled up quickly! I had hoped to make Bill's grandmother's much-loved gingerbread recipe this week but that just did not pan out. (I'm going to try again at Epiphany.) So a box of "Gingerbread Family" cookies had to do. Thank you, Pepperidge Farms!
Yes, it is wonderful having our Bookworm home! I never sleep as well as I do when all my sons are home. The older boys do love to sleep in though if they are allowed ... but this morning we needed to get an early start so I made up a platter of cinnamon-sugar toast in hopes that the fond and familiar aroma would get them out of bed!
Cinnamon-sugar is without a doubt, one of the best things in my kitchen. (Along with my fresh coffee beans and a large bottle of vanilla.) I grew up eating cinnamon-sugar toast made by my mum or grandma and its scent still says "cozy, home, comfort" to me. :)
It's little things like this that make a home feel warm and welcoming. Because a home is so much more than just walls and windows and a (hopefully) sturdy roof. Home is where our loves live ... it's where we come together to share our journey, our thoughts and our memories. We are nurtured and encouraged and accepted here. We are allowed to crave comforts and seek solace ... it's the place we can relax and rejuvenate and gather our strength when we once again face the world outside that front door ...
Jane Austen had it right. Home is where it's at ... and that's that. :)
Oh, and how could I forget? Here's another "Giveaway" sneak peek! January is a perfect month for letter writing - in fact, 1/23 is National Handwriting Day! So here are some pretty notecards to help you catch up on all those holiday thank-yous. :) And once the busy-ness of Christmas has past, time frees up again (in theory!) for leisurely pastimes like reading for pleasure ... how about a nice issue of Mary Jane's Farm? Both of these things will be tucked into that Winter Comforts Basket! :)
I am having such fun putting together this basket, and although only one reader will win it, I really wish I could send a little wintertime "comfort and joy" to each and every one of you. I am so grateful for you all - for all your support and kindness and encouragement over the years. I know most of us have never actually "met" in "real life" but I count each of you as my friends. I always look forward to hearing from you and I keep every one of you in my prayers. My wish for you on this beautiful Christmas eve morning is that your coming days are filled with the blessings of family and home, that you know friendship and love, good health and happiness, and that your new year will be an AMAZING one. I look forward to sharing 2017 with you all!
Now, before I go - I am still accepting teacup (mug) submissions! And I have several more friend posts stockpiled to share next week ... if you'd like to join the Giveaway contest, please send me a picture of your favorite mug - whatever you most enjoy drinking your tea (or coffee, cocoa, cider, etc.) from ... and you are entered. I will announce a winner on New Year's Eve - a week from today!
You can reach me at: drhanigan AT gmail DOT com.
Next Friday I'll have a Christmas Tea of my own, but in the meantime, I wish you all a wonderful weekend. Take care of yourselves and your loved ones and see you all here again very soon ...
Hello and happy weekend, my friends! Welcome to another Advent Tea ... may I pour you a cup of something tasty and warm? :)
Well, our third week of Advent has arrived and the pink candle has been lit ... Oh Joy! And you know how they say "all good things come to those who wait?" Well, that old adage is perhaps never more true than during the season of Advent, because in these special weeks we are a people who wait and wonder ... enjoying the here and now, yet knowing there is a greater joy that lies ahead ... ❤
Which is why this mug seemed perfect for today's Tea ...
Now, I am not a patient person by nature, but like most moms I've had plenty of opportunities to work on developing this particular habit. I've learned that life is easier when patience is a daily practice, not just an admirable (if abstract) idea or something left to people with loftier ambitions and/or holier lives than mine. Patience is perhaps the greatest of all virtues when one is a parent ... and if I may so, especially when one is a special needs parent. (Progress can be slow ... perfection is overrated ... patience is essential.)
But whether we're born with a patient nature or not, the world-at-large rushes us all right along, urging us onward with its message of now-now-now! Instant, immediate, super fast results ... no waiting necessary!
If we're aware of this influence we can recognize when it is affecting us falsely or adversely. It's good to pause and ask, whose time clock are we following anyway? Sometimes time is of the essence, but it's important, I think, to remind ourselves to appreciate the here and now ... to savor the wait if you will. Learning to be patient is an excellent exercise in humanity - and humility - and I think one of the greatest teachers of patience (aside from our children!) is nature. As you all know I love nature! I respect its cleverness and consistency. It doesn't rush ... it always has a plan. A plan that has worked for ... well, eons. It glories in every turn of every season, knowing everything happens in its own time ...
"Adopt the pace of nature. Her secret is patience." ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
Case in point - yesterday was brutally cold with temps barely in the teens, and this morning it's snowing! It's the Saturday before Christmas ... and the weather is just not getting on board with my to-do list! But admittedly, it is doing my spirit a world of good. Because it's been a long - and, frankly tiring - week. We've all been running here, there and everywhere, getting our busy-ness accomplished. But now nature is advising me to sit back and take it slow. Leave the errands for later. Breathe in, breathe out ... maybe let Amazon Prime do the leg work today.
Even my page-a-day calendar is sending me a message ...
So, ok. Balance is necessary. We can't always rush and we can't always lag ... managing my time and energy accounts is an-going #lifegoal for me!
But ... that's a topic to explore further, in the new year perhaps. For now, let's get back to the here and now. We're deep in Advent, halfway through December, and it's snowing ... I'm happy in a well-insulated snow globe today. :)
Here's a look outside my window this morning ...
So glad we made sure to fill our feeders yesterday!
As I've been describing, our family's Advent is a celebration of God's beautiful creation ... because the whole world waits together for the miracle of life (and light) to return! Just as the earth goes quiet and dark at this time of year, we too slow down and turn inward, looking for ways to light the path before us. So in our first week of Advent we explored the wonder of earth and sky, and in the second week it was the serenity of plants and trees ... and this week we are finding joy in the beautiful wildlife with which God has graced our earth ...
And as we've ambled along our journey, our Advent Garden has slowly been coming to life ...
Stones and soil were topped with moss and trees ... and now we spy a pretty deer in this tiny forest. Meanwhile, outside there is much evidence of creation all around!
We've been enjoying a snowy December here in New England and the boys have fun checking for tracks left behind by the creatures who call our habitat home. Mostly it's the usual suspects, but you never know ... sometimes there's something new to investigate!
Now from my pictures you can probably guess we live in a woodsy area, and that's true. We live next to a state forest and our town, while suburban, has old agricultural roots. Our own property is not quite a farm per se - though we are sort of heading that way! This past spring we began keeping hens and I must tell you - they just bring us such joy! The fresh eggs are wonderful, but our girls are such dears ...
I do relish my "farm chores" such as they area ... walking out to the hen pen to bring them food and checking their water.
Good morning, pretty girls!
And how fun to gather eggs with my fellas ... we're still getting several eggs a day even though we were warned they would stop for the winter. Not sure what our girls' game plan is but we're thrilled with our daily harvest!
I love to tour the corners of our yard and I especially love the mornings when the sun is just rising in the east ...
Those are my neighbor's horses - aren't they lovely? They also own three goats, six dogs, a flock of ducks and lots of chickens! They are the very nicest people, too. I took this picture yesterday morning as I was visiting the hens. I was channeling a little bit of Tasha Tudor here, walking about my own homestead and tending to my critters, the domestic and the wild. (Only I was in a parka and pajama pants ... not quite Tasha's pretty red cloak!)
We regularly set out several types of food - black oil seed, suet cakes and nyjer seed for the finches. We use a variety of feeder designs - both tubes and trays - and I throw out seed on the deck every day ...
Yes, my beloved squirrels get fed right alongside their feathered friends - I don't play favorites! (Well, except when it comes to predators like hawks, owls and foxes. Those creatures I shoo off as best I can.)
But speaking of Tasha Tudor, this is a page from the beautiful book, Forever Christmas, the chapter called, "The Animals' Christmas" ...
This is a wonderful book, full of old-fashioned goodness and gentle reminders to slow down and let nature be our guide. Tonight we're watching the video Take Peace, which is a tour of Tasha's Corgi Cottage at Christmas. And then perhaps we'll catch the latest episode of "The Great American Baking Show." (Anyone else watching that?)
So yes, there is much joy in creation to be found, all around us and even right in our own backyards - but it's awfully bitter today so let's head back inside! I'm greeting you in the kitchen, wearing my favorite winter apron, a gift from my parents ...
I find such joy in cooking for my family, especially in preparing seasonal foods! And though I love baking from scratch, sometimes you just have to cut a few corners, right? For example ...
Last Tuesday was the feast of St. Lucia and once again I did not make the traditional saffron buns as I'd hoped to - BUT! I did throw some cinnamon rolls into a tube pan, baked them, glazed them, decorated them, and then set them aflame. Voila - feast day morning joy!
More joy in our week ... Earlybird celebrated his 15th birthday on Wednesday! Yes, this little boy is now FIFTEEN years old ...
(That was a book about trains, his FAVORITE subject. He was very happy to receive a couple of books about the planets as well.) And I thought this birthday card was rather fitting - true in every word but also, such a lovely woodland design!
Ok, since I'm keeping you so long, how about another cup of something hot?
Snow days call for cocoa, don't you think? Tea soothes me, coffee revives me ... and cocoa brings me joy! And ding-ding-ding ... this is another one of those giveaway gifts! Yes, there will be a tin of this "Warm Me Up Chocolate & Cream Cocoa" in my Winter Comforts Basket! (More giveaway details at the bottom of this post.)
Oh, and that pretty blue notebook sitting beneath the tin?
There will also be one of these in that giveaway basket! I have strong opinions on notebooks, and this is a notebook I just love! It's so nice to write in - smooth paper, soft lines - with a solid spiral-binding. I also have a pink one (that says, "Create a little magic everyday") that I'll use for a new diary project, but I use this particular blue notebook for my "to-dos, weekend plans and projects." I know I've been asked to post a little more about how I use this notebook and I will ... soon. :)
But since we're talking about notebooks and planners for a moment, let me give you a quick glimpse at a new planner I picked up recently ...
(If you're thinking I might have a bit of a planner problem ... well, you might be right.)
I found this Woodland Tales planner at Barnes & Noble - it was the last one on the shelf, but I've also seen it online. I liked the layout and just could not resist the charming design! It's a smaller size - nice for the pocketbook - and it's specifically for week-at-a-glance planning. This will be used in addition to my Day Designer and my master planning binder ... and all that too, will be blogged about after the holidays!
Now, getting back to Advent, how about a look around our Christmas room (aka the library) where a woodland theme reigns ...
Starting with the children's nativity set where "all creation waits ... "
You can just imagine the kinds of stories that get played out in this corner!
This display is set up on a table behind our loveseat and stretched out along the wall behind that is one of my favorite Christmas books, Woodland Christmas ...
A lovely (and long) fold-out book that tells the tale of the animals preparing for Christmas. It is an Advent countdown too - with flaps on one side and labels for all the creatures on the other. I highly recommend this book if your children love animals! The drawings are soft and pretty but quite realistic.
Now our Christmas tree has a woodland theme going as well ...
A ribbon of gold encircles the whole tree - featuring a holly-bedecked red squirrel! - as well as several strands of wooden cranberries. We've collected woodland ornaments since we were first married and some of these ornaments we've had for many years. (The birds above are from when I was little!) The reindeer lantern was new this year, though - the boys found it in one of their Advent pockets last week. :)
Even my daily Advent reading has a nature theme this year ...
All Creation Waits - the very theme of our Advent! - has been a wonderful read so far. Every chapter (25 in all) presents a short meditation on one of God's creatures as it adapts for the long cold winter ahead - never fearing the darkness, knowing there is a new beginning ahead. Accompanied by gorgeous woodcut illustrations ... these reflections are certainly a new take on Advent, but they resonate deeply with me.
And while we're speaking of books - I am so thrilled for this one! I stumbled across it at B&N yesterday ...
Yes, a little early Christmas present to myself! Earth Psalms is a weekly devotional reflecting on how God speaks to us through nature. I am beyond excited to read it this year and I don't even feel badly I splurged on myself! (It was 50% off!) Now, I did offer to wrap it up and place it under the tree, but Bill let it slide ... ;)
Another early gift, this one from my husband who knows how much St. Francis means to me ...
Such a lovely wooden rosary bracelet. Something comfortable - and comforting - to wear every day. :)
Now, before I go (and yes I am planning to wrap this huge post up!) I'd like to share pictures of my very favorite animals of all - our cats, Archie and Oliver. It gives me such satisfaction and true joy to care for these two sweet boys ...
Oliver by the heating element, tucked behind the loveseat in the library ...
And Archie, snuggled up next to the chimney in the dining room. :)
Well my friends, as always I thank you for stopping by and I leave you with my wish that each of you are filled with joy, wherever you might find it. I hope your weekend brings you the rest and relaxation you need ... snow or shine, whatever challenges you might face, whatever comforts you crave ... may your time be full of the things that mean most. :)
I'll be back again on Monday - we've a week more of Advent Teatimes to go! I may even double up some of our friends as more readers share their cups with me ...
But oh, yes! So about that giveaway ...
At the start of the year I will be sending out a "Winter Comforts Basket" to one lucky reader. This basket will be filled with little random seasonal comforts and joys. I've been giving you "sneak peeks" each week during my Friday tea posts, and there will be one or two other surprises, as well. To enter the giveaway, all you have to do is send me a picture of your favorite cup or mug - whatever you use to drink your beverage of choice in the cold winter months. Please email me your picture(s) with description here ...
drhanigan AT gmail DOT com
I will share your submission in one of my daily teatime posts and then on New Year's Eve I will announce a winner!
I hope to hear from you! In the meantime, take care of yourselves and your loved ones ...
I will see you all here again very soon!
All throughout Advent I'll be sharing readers' favorite cups and mugs, every weekday at 4 p.m. ... and returning on Fridays with my own special Tea post. Anyone who participates will be entered in my "Winter Comforts Basket" giveaway ... and on New Year's Eve I will announce the basket winner!
If you'd like to join us, please read more giveaway details in this post - but for today, let's pop in at Leslie's and see what she has brewing by the fire ... ☕️
Hello Dawn! Last night I texted some neighborhood friends and said "tomorrow morning I will put on a large pot of coffee and place a log in the fireplace. Will you join me after you drop the children off from school?" I took out our fanciest cups and saucers (including the cream and sugar bowl passed down from my grandmother) but everything else was quiet and casual ...
A great way to start the day!
Oh my goodness, what a lovely setting, Leslie - and such a gracious gesture, to invite friends in for morning coffee and conversation by the fire. Thank you for taking the time to share a little of your Advent with all of us ...
Dear readers, isn't this a nice idea - to begin a cold December day with the warmth of fresh coffee and friendship? What a wonderful example of sweet and sincere hospitality. I must say I was especially pleased to stop in at Leslie's today - not just because it's all so inviting! - but also because ... Leslie is family! She is my husband's cousin and we met for the first time at a family reunion a couple of years ago ... in the backyard under the "train table tent" with our little ones all around. :)
It was so nice to hear from you Leslie, and I'm wishing you and your beautiful family a very happy holiday season! ❤
And friends, thanks to all of you for joining us at teatime ... I hope these posts are a little bright spot in your day. Have yourselves a wonderful Monday and ... see you here again very soon!
Hello my friends, and Happy Sunday!
I'm back to talk a little more about Advent, and what I'd like to discuss today is the topic of celebrating the season with older kids ...
I was inspired by a recent comment from Michelle P., whose three boys are almost exactly the same ages as my older three boys:
I am determined this year to try to do more with my older boys to celebrate Advent. I have a huge binder of ideas (crafts, foods, and activities) that we did when they were younger. I have pulled the binder out and I am pouring over the ideas. It brings such fond memories of when they were young, however I am at a loss for ideas now that they are older. Do you have any suggestions? My boys are 21, 17, and 15.
So Michelle's question got me thinking ...
I happen to be in a fortunate place right now, with my kids spread out in all age brackets - we have a little guy (3), a middle guy (our 14 yo with autism is still very young developmentally), a high schooler (17) and gulp an adult son (21). When I'm planning out Advent activities I do try to think of the whole family, but so many of my projects are geared towards the younger two. They're the ones who have all kinds of energy to spare and are really looking for something to do every day ... that's not to say however that my older boys don't take pleasure in the Advent atmosphere and partake in the fun now and then!
When thinking about how I hope my older boys view Advent ...
I want them to experience the season with a lightness of spirit and a subtle thrill of anticipation. I want them to be open to letting go of the outside world a little and spending more time with their family, at home. I want them to understand the deep satisfaction of gift-giving and the true beauty of giving non-material things ... and/or items that have been made by hand and with love. I'd like for them to make room in their hearts for faith and trust ... and wonder. And I want their memories to be filled with good smells and yummy flavors, comfort and quiet joy ... and lots of love around them.
(There I go again with those lofty goals, lol!)
Since most older kids spend the bulk of their day busy with educational and/or work things - whether they be in traditional school or homeschooled - then you'll probably want to plan your activity time for evenings and weekends. My Crackerjack, a high school junior, has a pretty decent-sized work load and is in outside classes several days each week. I try to plan projects he can be part of for the days when I know he (and we) will have more time at home. Also, Bookworm will be returning home after he finishes exams, so needless to say that will be an extra special time for all of us. I try to take these things into consideration when planning out our Advent activity calendar.
So below are some ideas for involving the older kids in our Advent journey - I've been jotting them down for the past couple of days and I fear I've gotten a bit carried away. Yet I'm sure there are many things I haven't thought of! Dear readers, if you have some ideas for older kids participating in and celebrating Advent, I would love to hear them! Please leave a comment and I will add your thoughts to my post. This would be a great resource to grow over the years ... :)
- How about choosing a multi-chapter book to read over Advent? Something the whole family will enjoy? It could be read aloud by one or more family members or perhaps you all might listen to an audiobook. (Add extra pillows and throw blankets to the family room - create a cozy, relaxing atmosphere!)
- Perhaps each family member could take a turn finding a quote, verse, song lyrics or a bit of Scripture to share each day? This would be fun to do with a chalkboard placed in a central location, spruced up with some holiday flair.
- A nice family table tradition is to read aloud any holiday cards that arrived in the day's mail. Together say a prayer for the sender's health and happiness.
- How about encouraging the kids to send Season's Greetings of their own? They could pick out a package of cards (available any and everywhere these days) and mail them off to surprise friends! Elderly relatives, especially, would delight in receiving messages of good cheer.
- Maybe older kids would enjoy actually making the family Christmas cards this year? Leave it all up to them - organizing photos, choosing a design, creating artwork. Encourage them to begin early, though!
- Surprise community workers and volunteers (think post office, school offices, library, fire station, etc.) with home baked goodies one day.
- Revisit favorite tv shows as a family - for us it might be Northern Exposure, Downton Abbey, Sherlock or Fawlty Towers (an old British comedy). I find my older boys more willingly join us for evening television if there are some yummy refreshments involved!
- How about surprising them with a dinner out one night at a new restaurant you've all wanted to try?
- Ask one or more of your kids to join you on a neighborhood walk after supper - admire the lights and decorations around the neighborhood.
- For active families, a day of skiing, skating, snowboarding or sledding would be great fun.
- What about taking a family hike at a local nature spot? Find out if there are workshops, programs or guided walks available. Here in Massachusetts, the Audubon sanctuaries are a perfect place for this kind of experience.
- Plan a shopping excursion as a family - how about splitting up (or pairing up) to buy secret gifts for each other?
- There are plenty of parish and community events to check out at the holidays (tree lightings, Christmas pageants and concerts, outdoor nativities, etc.). Look in your local papers and church bulletins. Or call town hall!
- How about taking a train ride somewhere? This could be a transit ride into the nearest city to soak in a little of that holiday "hustle and bustle?" Pick up some goodies and a hot beverage for the ride back ...
- Help your kids use their Advent season for giving of themselves. They can offer their time and talents where there is need - how about reading aloud to nursing home residents or spending an hour playing with shelter animals? Encourage teens to call around (nursing homes, children's hospitals, homeless shelters and animal shelters) to see what is needed. Then brainstorm and organize as a family!
- Can the kids offer to help an older relative or neighbor around the house? Does Grandma do Christmas dinner every year? Could she use a hand with vacuuming and hauling out dishes? Could the kids offer to help with yard work or putting up a tree ... could young drivers run holiday errands for those who are more housebound these days?
- Babysitting services! How about offering a few hours of child care to help out busy parents?
- What about organizing a holiday play? The kids can write up a story and assign lines to each family member. The play to be performed at the extended family Christmas gathering ...
- And what about organizing a holiday party for their friends? Something festive but informal - good food and movies or music. A community service project to work on together? How about creating cards and/or packages for soldiers?
- What about investigating holiday handcrafts? So many older kids (mine included!) are all about the audio/video at this age but what about getting them to slow down a little and try something new? Or revisit something they might have enjoyed when younger? Perhaps try their hand at hobbies that were too challenging when they were little - candlemaking, soap making, wood-whittling? Bookworm used to love origami ... I bet I could get him to try his hand at it again, if only for one night.
- Why not bring out the Legos? Hold a contest - who can build the most holiday-related Lego creation? Or everyone builds "something" and then the rest of the family must guess what it is ...
- Start a family puzzle - set up a table where it can be worked on little by little throughout Advent.
- Board games are always a great source of family fun. Maybe surprise the kids with a new game to try this year ...
- What is each older child interested in? Is there something they absolutely love to explore? Rent a documentary about a favorite subject and watch it together.
- How about a museum visit? Or play tourist and investigate a local attraction.
- Attend a matinee movie on the first day of Christmas vacation ... or perhaps a Christmas concert or holiday play?
- Have the kids offer piano lessons (or something else they can teach) to someone (young or old) who would love the time and attention.
- Why not go caroling through the neighborhood one night? Surprise local friends and family? At a nursing home or hospital ward? (Obviously call ahead to ask about this idea!)
- Call your parish center and ask what your kids could be doing to help out. Where is help needed? Could they perhaps organize a teen night with cookies and a movie?
- Movie nights - each of you shares a movie you love and want the others to appreciate. These could be action, suspense, comedies, classics, etc.
- Visit a local historic site - these places often run special holiday-themed programs. For example, if you live in Massachusetts, there is "An Alcott Christmas Stocking" at the Louisa May Alcott House in Concord.
- Have the kids help make something for the yard - a creche? A birch-log reindeer or family yule log?
- Entice them with food! Trader Joes, for example, has all kinds of delicious-sounding, limited-time, holiday goodies. Pick up a few things to try one weekend. Let the kids plan out (and maybe help prepare?) their own family supper one night. Sit down and list out favorite holiday foods - plan to make one of those things together one weekend or evening.
- Work on a family scrapbook together. Plan a page for each month of the past year ... organize photos, mementos, ticket stubs ... jot down notes and memories! Reveal the final product on New Year's Eve ...
- If it seems like a lot to fit in during this busy season, work on a list of Christmas vacation ideas ... brainstorm fun family ideas for 12/26-1/6 (or until whenever your kids return to lessons). Fill a jar with ideas, and then read them aloud Christmas eve ...
So I hope this list might have sparked a few ideas but dear readers, please jump in and add to my list if you have a moment! How do you involve your older kids in this beautiful season of Advent? I think being together is what's key here so even if an activity doesn't seem very "Christmassy" to you, if it's appealing to the kids, and brings you all together, then I say just roll with it! Inevitably there will be holiday atmosphere all around you - at home or out and about - whatever you decide to do!
Thank you, Michelle, for asking this important question ... it was good for me to step back and remember that my young men are still my boys and they still look to me for guidance in many ways. As mothers, the holidays very often start with us ... what we do at home becomes memories these kids carry with them throughout life. They might have gotten taller, more informed and aware of the outside world, but that doesn't mean they don't still want to be kids again at Christmas - because don't we all?
Well, I hope you all enjoy the rest of your weekend, and thanks so much for stopping by! I will see you here again very soon ...
Hello again, my friends! It's a busy posting week here as we get our Advent season underway! This Friday I will host my first Advent Tea - and I am so excited about that! - but right now I'd like to share with you what we're doing for an Advent Calendar this year. (Daily activities are listed below.) I've teased a few pictures on FB and IG but here are ALL the details ... :)
Now, first of all, I cannot take credit for this idea. I first saw it on Pinterest as I searched for "nature-oriented Advent ideas" which led me to this lovely blog post by Kelly Rowe. As soon as I saw Kelly's Advent calendar project - which brilliantly utilizes an over-the-door, 24-pocket shoe organizer - I knew immediately we must do this! I am ALL about interesting visuals and hands-on holiday projects, so needless to say ... this really got my wheels turning!
First I ordered a plain plastic shoe-organizer from Amazon and hung it up in the kitchen. I did this before Thanksgiving to give it some time to air out. (Our guests were wondering what on earth we were getting up to!) Then I got my thinking cap on and started brainstorming our Advent activities.
Just like last year (and in Waldorf tradition - though that's not why I do it) I assigned each week of Advent an aspect of nature. So the weeks unfold like this: earth and sky (11/27-12/4), plants (12/5-12/11), animals (12/12-12/18) and humankind (12/19-12/25).
*Note: if you're wondering why I connect the two concepts - Advent and Nature - my reasons are explained in this post. :)
Next I listed liturgical feast days and natural phenomena such as the full moon and winter solstice ... as well as birthdays and any family/community events. Then I started brainstorming potential activities, going from pages of scattered notes to a more organized grid of 24 post-it notes, one for each day of each week:
As you can see in the picture above, I also added book titles to each day's note. Some of these we own, but many we request from the library. (Note to self - I've got to get on that!)
With our activities decided, it was time to get those 24 pockets filled! So after Thanksgiving I stopped by the craft store with a hefty supplies list in hand. Thankfully I had coupons, plus there were plenty of sales. It was a MADHOUSE though and about 10 minutes in ... I really just wanted to be done and go home! But I kept going and got most of the things I needed. (A few things will be ordered or picked up at a later date.) As you'll see in my activities list below, we don't really do candy or toys, but rather, simple crafts and seasonal projects. They might take a little more effort and preparation but I feel it's worth it ... :)
Now I'll admit I'm a bit like a kid in a candy store when I'm at the craft store. Can anyone relate, lol? I try so hard to stick to my list, but then I keep seeing all these neat things and envisioning all these "potential" projects - so I can hardly resist picking up extra supplies "just in case." Sometimes that turns out to be a good thing though, because an original idea might not work out right and something I picked up randomly might work even better. In any case, I am not ashamed to say I have a pretty healthy craft stash - but it all gets used in one way or another before too long.
Ok, enough of my explaining myself ... ;)
So now it was time to make that shoe organizer look pretty! So I tied a ribbon to each hook and wrote down the four weekly Advent candle themes (with a fabric marker) ...
And then I decorated and filled each pocket ...
On the front of each pocket is a small beige doily with a woodland-themed adhesive chipboard number. (They look like a slice of log with a little holly sprig and a red number.) I found these in the final moments of my HOUR-long craft store expedition! Just as I was about to give up on finding number stickers I liked, I stumbled across (literally) this last package dangling from a hook. And they are so perfect! If they had had a second package I would have bought more ...
Each pocket was then fitted with a small brown treat bag ...
... and then filled with a few simple items.
Some bags just have one or two things that will suggest what it is we'll be doing (while the bulk of the supplies are set aside).
I really, really love how this came out!
Now admittedly, it will be a challenge to keep my younger two boys out of these pockets! Earlybird (growing like a weed) can peek into most of them and Little Bear is just the right height (and age) to be filching through the lower bags whenever he gets a chance! So far though they are taking it to heart that they MUST keep their hands off ... and wait for it.
In the meantime, I have a "key" to all these bags and I will check in with it each night. If tomorrow's project doesn't seem "doable" (due to time, energy or weather) I will change things up before morning comes - by either switching bags around or changing a bag's contents for something simpler.
Now finally, here is the description of each pocket - organized by weekly themes and listed by ...
Date: (items found in the bag), activities for the day, the book we will read. :)
Week One: Earth and Sky (Hope)
12/2: (starfish) Make a shell ornament for the tree. Song of the Stars
12/3: (pipe cleaners, colorful beads) Make a star ornament. The Christmas Star
12/4: (decorative items and paint) Decorate a small vase for our St. Barbara's Day branches. Let's hope they bloom by Christmas! The Star Child
Week Two: Plants (Peace)
12/5: (silk poinsettia bloom) Field trip to the nursery to buy poinsettia plants. (gifts) It's so peaceful in the greenhouse. The Legend of the Poinsettia
12/6: (candy canes & cocoa packs) Enjoy a special St. Nicholas Day treat! The Baker's Dozen: A Colonial American Tale
12/8: (apple, small star cookie cutter) Enjoy a cup of spiced cider and grind spices for "glogg." The Tomten
12/9: (muslin spice bags, cinnamon stick, lemon) Fill spice bags (gifts) and help make a dried fruit garland. Amazing Peace: A Christmas Poem
12/10: (evergreen sprig) Make salt dough ornaments (with evergreen impressions), make silver pinecones (gifts). Cobweb Christmas
12/11: (red candles): Walk with dad to find our yule log in the woods. Isn't it peaceful out here? Christmas Farm
Week Three: Animals (Joy)
12/12: (polar bear wooden ornament) Let's learn about the arctic! What can we do to help the polar bear? Who's That Knocking on Christmas Eve?
12/13: (reindeer lantern) Field trip to a local farm to see the lovely herd of reindeer. The Wild Christmas Reindeer
12/14: (new train ornament and "15" candles) Happy Birthday, EB! Here's the story of when you were born ... ❤ A Night of Great Joy
12/15: (colored Christmas light bulbs) Look outside - our solstice tree is all lit up! We hope the critters enjoy! Night Tree
12/16: (baby food jar, white glitter) Make a snowglobe. Decorate the solstice tree with edible ornaments. The Animals' Santa
12/17: (beeswax) Make candle jars and rolled candles. (gifts) An Early American Christmas
12/18: (mitten-shaped cookie cutter) Bake sugar cookies with Mom. The Mitten
Week Four: Humankind (Love)
12/19: (jingle bell ornament) Watch the Polar Express as a family. Discuss trust. The Polar Express
12/20: (clementine) Bake clementine snowball cookies and watch The Snowman. Discuss friendship. An Orange for Frankie
12/21: (snowflake cupcake liners) Bake "welcome winter" cupcakes. Discuss comfort. Sleep Tight Farm
12/22: (nativity ornament) As night falls, a surprise in the garden (new nativity figures under spotlight). Discuss family. B is for Bethlehem
12/23: (frame ornament) Make a family picture ornament for the tree. Discuss love. The Christmas Story
12/24: (felt heart shape) Make a scented heart tree ornament (stuffed with wool and herbs). Discuss giving. The Christmas Baby
Ok so that was a very long post! But I hope you enjoyed hearing about our Advent Calendar project this year and that maybe you found a few new ideas for your family. I am really looking forward to giving a little of my time and energy each day this Advent to this project. I think my children will enjoy it - I KNOW I will enjoy it. I know it probably sounds like a lot, but truly, these are all simple activities. They won't take up too much of our day. We have a few other Advent rituals planned and I will discuss them a bit more in my Tea post on Friday ...
What a wonderful season this is! So rich with potential and promise ... a wonderful time to shape how our children view the world. The one they live in at home and the one they face when they step outside their doors. My HOPE is that I bring a little peace, a little joy and a whole lot of LOVE into their Advent journey. So grateful to have these days before us!
So enjoy the rest of your evening, my friends! I will see you here again very soon ... later on Friday ... with a cup of tea and some pics to share ... and more thoughts on this most wonderful time of the year. :)
Take care of yourselves and your loved ones ... see you here again very soon!
Hello, my friends ~ and Happy Thanksgiving Eve! :) Things here are all a-bustle as we prepare for tomorrow's big family gathering. My happiest news is that our oldest son came home last night from college! It is so good to see our Bookworm! Despite all the cleaning and decorating I've been doing this week, our Thanksgiving holiday officially began once this boy stepped in our front door ...
(I never sleep so well as when ALL my boys are at home.)
So today I'd like to pour you all a cup of tea, offer you a cookie or two - pre-made I'm afraid, but quite tasty! - and catch up over a little Turkey Day chat:
If you're American, how are you celebrating this wonderful holiday? What's your favorite tradition? What does your menu look like this year? For my friends living outside America, how does your weekend look? Are you enjoying these last days of late autumn?
And how about your weather? It's VERY cold and windy in these parts ...
We even had our first snow the other night! Just a coating, but it was quite pretty. A gentle reminder that more white stuff is coming ...
So if you had a peek at my Thanksgiving planner then you know I have lots of things to do this week! I absolutely relish this week though, because Thanksgiving is all about family, home, food and GRATITUDE. A time that highlights all the dearest pleasures of home, and the kinds of things I love doing best ... baking, decorating, welcoming, remembering. And with all my boys home and the house shining and smelling of baking - well, I'm a very happy mama today!
So here is where I was yesterday - out in the sunroom, working on table linens, flowers, place cards ...
... and lists, of course! Always the lists. :)
Now, I usually drink my tea out of a very large mug but it's nice sometimes to sit down with a fine china teacup don't you think? And as you see in my top photo, I enjoyed yesterday's tea in a beautiful cup that once belonged to a dear friend's grandmother. When Shoshana stayed with us last month she was in the midst of cleaning out her ailing mother's home, preparing to sell it this fall. A difficult task (both physically and emotionally) and I was glad we were able to find some time to sit down and really talk. As she cleaned, Shoshana found many family treasures, including unpacked boxes of teacups that once belonged to her maternal grandmother. Knowing how I love teacups, she offered them to me!
So as I sipped my from that cup yesterday, I thought fondly of Shoshana and our friendship that dates back to kindergarten. Shosh (or Susie as I called her growing up) has lived in California for many years, so we don't get to see each other very often but I am so grateful for her friendship. There were lots of cups to choose from but I picked the black and white print yesterday because it reminded me of a pilgrim. :)
(And by the way, I was drinking "American Breakfast" tea - a caffeinated blend because I needed a little shot in the arm yesterday!)
But now here's today's tea ...
Back to my favorite decaf - with a spoonful of raw sugar and LOTS of organic whole milk - served in one of my gigantic tea mugs. Oh, and those cookies ...
These are just Pilsbury holiday sugar cookies - because yes, I'm a sucker for holiday marketing! Just pop them in the oven and 10 minutes later, freshly baked cookies! I made them for the boys this week but honestly, I'm pretty sure I've eaten the most of anyone so far.
And here again is my helper, assisting in the placement of china and napkins and turkeys. :)
About those paper turkeys ... remember I showed them to you in a previous post? Well, as you can see they are serving as place cards and on the back of each turkey we glued a printout of our grace ...
He was SUCH a big help with those glue sticks ... ;)
And now each guest can follow along with the grace as it is said ...
After grace, each guest can use the crayon by their plate to write down what they're thankful for then hang their turkey blessings on the learning line. It will be fun to see what everyone says!
Now before I go, a few random things ...
This is my favorite Thanksgiving decoration - a pretty little pilgrim-turkey-angel jingle bell ornament I've had for years. I have it hanging in my kitchen window. :)
Our favorite holiday special ... we watch it every year WHEN it is on. (I mean, we could watch it any time obviously - between YouTube and DVDs - but there's something really neat about participating in the annual airing!) Which is tonight, by the way - at 8 p.m. on ABC. :)
And here's me, having tea in the sunroom (aka learning room), wearing a new sweater I bought myself this morning!
I have a longtime love for cardigans, and my favorite is one I've had for years - a long soft gray sweater that I wear ALL the time in cool/cold weather. Well, it was time to have a second sweater for changing things up! I saw this navy blue cardigan at Target and couldn't resist. And then I had to show you all, because if you're looking for a soft and WARM, kick-around, but nice-enough-to-wear-out kind of sweater, this is it. $30 is not bad in my opinion for a well-crafted sweater. There were other colors to choose from but I just honed right in on this deep blue. It's one of my favorite colors to wear.
Oh, and there are pockets! :)
Had to share this too ...
A fresh binder and pad of vintage-style cardstock! Revamping my homekeeping binder with fresh supplies makes me very happy! I'm working on tweaking last year's seasonal planning sheets so that they're current for 2017. Adding a few new page designs, too. Hope to have a post on all that sometime in early December!
Here's a peek at the November-themed page ...
(P.s. Remember a while back on Facebook I mentioned I was hosting a homeschool moms meeting with the discussion topic, "time management tools?" Well I have not forgotten I promised to share notes from that meeting! But we had so much to discuss, we're actually having a follow-up meeting next month! In a future post I'll tell you all about the meetings and all the different planning styles we discussed.)
One last picture ...
Basking in the sun, taking all the holiday prep in stride (while Oliver hides) is my Archie. :)
Now I have a couple of pies to make and some cranberries to brandy, but first a bit of housekeeping ...
(And how about another cup of tea?)
I will post the follow up to my Advent planning sheets after the holiday (but hopefully over the weekend, or at the very latest early next week). I have notes on each of the planning sections to share, but I'm still in the midst of organizing this year's plans! (Hitting the craft store on Friday!)
I can show you this though ...
So this is something we'll be doing for Advent! I saw an idea on Pinterest (originating at this blog here) and I just thought - how very clever! I'm still mulling this over, but I will fill you all in once I get all those pockets filled in!
I will also be hosting a weekly tea here all throughout Advent ... up till New Year's actually! Stay tuned for more details but I would love to have you join me. This year I am eager to see YOUR favorite tea cup. What do you like to drink your tea/coffee/cocoa/mulled cider in best? Every one that sends me a picture of their favorite cup (or mug) will be entered in my Winter Comforts Giveaway. This package will be mailed out after the new year. :)
Note: I still don't have my blog email up and running so for now, if you'd like to send me a picture (or just a hello!) you can send it to drhanigan AT gmail DOT com. :)
Ok, I think that's all I have for now. I do hope you enjoyed our tea, and I would love to hear from you if you have a moment. I know many of us are busy scrambling about getting ready for tomorrow's big feast, so maybe we'll catch up in a few days. But as always, I thank you for joining me here and I look forward to visiting again!
Take care of yourselves and your loved ones ... I will see you here soon!
AND HAPPY THANKSGIVING!
Happy Weekend, my friends ... I hope you all had a good week. Or at least, I hope your week was not so bad. Or maybe things got better as the week went on? I know this is a tough time for a lot of us - and I am not going to talk politics here (never have, never will) - but I just want to say, I'm wishing all of my friends peace and hope. I myself am focusing on all the good things in my life that, God willing, will always be here for me and my loved ones no matter what's going on in the world ...
Ok, on with my post! :)
So today I'd like to share some more November projects - a few of those craft supplies getting used up as we near the middle of the month. This week we had the feast of St. Martin of Tours (aka Martinmas) and if you have read my blog for any length of time you know this is one of our favorite feasts to celebrate with the boys. (You can read more about our traditions, here.) In the past we have baked horseshoe cookies and read stories and made glass lanterns to display in dark windows, but this year ... I baked a cake instead of cookies, we told stories instead of read them AND ... we crafted our lanterns - not out of glass but - balloons!
(And didn't I buy the stubbornest worst tasting/smelling balloons ever made? Ugh. Oh well!)
I've seen lanterns done this way over the years and have always wanted to try my hand at it. Well, this was finally the year and as you can see I had a very eager little helper!
Goodness, but does this boy love himself some GLUE!
This craft is a bit messy but very easy to do ... and best to start a day or two ahead of your celebration since the lantern will need time to dry. You simply brush an inflated balloon with layers of glue (thinned with water, about a 50-50 ratio) and overlapping pieces of colorful tissue paper. You might also slip autumn leaves in between layers ...
... and you might cut some of the tissue into shapes like pretty stars.
While Little Bear worked diligently on gluing his balloon, I did about five or six layers of tissue paper on mine.
Once finished, we left them to dry in the dining room. Here's mine hanging over the table.
Meanwhile, the boys played outside, enjoying the misty autumn weather ...
(That's a meteor shower suncatcher in Little Bear's hand.)
Next morning ...
There were some packages on the kitchen table for the boys ...
Recalling the story of Martin's kindness, each of my boys received a gift of warmth and comfort - pajamas (Earlybird) and slippers (Crackerjack) - while Little Bear also received a new prayer book in addition to some superhero slipper-socks. :)
(Bookworm will get his new flannel PJs when he's home for Thanksgiving break.)
Then it was time to check on the lanterns!
Mine is on the left and Little Bear's is on the right. We kept his balloon intact since it was pretty much all that was holding it together! (For all the glue he used, lol ...)
The glue seemed to be dry so I popped the balloon and was left with (more or less) a colorful lantern! Really neat to watch that balloon pull away from the lantern interior!
I trimmed the top and punched holes along the edge for twine.
Love all the autumn colors and shapes!
I've read instructions which describe using a real candle inside this lantern but for what I think are obvious reasons we went with something more child-safe.
Side note: Below is a lovely passage from a book I've had for years called, Lifeways. This quote is from a chapter called "A Walk through the Year with the Festivals," something I re-read quite often for seasonal inspiration ...
How lovely is that?
Now, there are usually special foods tied to feast days and Martinmas is no exception. In the past we've made horseshoe-shaped oat cookies on this day, but this year I decided to try a recipe my grandmother made for years, something called "Poor Man's Cake." Rather fitting for the day, as St. Martin is the patron of the poor ... plus, this cake is full of autumnal flavor.
My grandmother made this cake quite often - it was a favorite of my grandfather's - and I believe she found the recipe during the Depression. You can read more about the cake (including its recipe) in this post of mine from 2007.
It's quite dense and moist - "a good bake" if I may say so myself! But you know who loved the cake best? Bill - it really is right up his alley. (He hardly cares for chocolate, he's more a ginger-and-spice kind of guy.) The boys however were all ... hmmm. I dunno, Mom ... raisins?
Outside we go boys!
Another Martinmas tradition (especially in Waldorf schools) is to have the children participate in a lantern walk. In the gathering darkness of a late autumn afternoon, the children set out with their shining lanterns all together, singing special lantern songs. The symbolism here is that we all must tend our own little light, so that we might carry it forth into a world that can often be quite dark and cold ...
(Page from Festivals, Family and Food, by Diana Carey and Judy Large)
We were a very small band and there was only one working lantern - and we didn't sing of course, because Earlybird has sensory issues - but I did recite the above verse to my sweet little lantern-carrier as we walked through our woods!
It was SO windy and chilly yesterday and since some of us are fighting a cold, some of us headed in for another piece of that cake and a hot cup of tea. A bit later on, as the darkness surrounded us, Bill and Little Bear came inside at last, all pink-cheeked and bright-eyed. Then I hung the lantern in the dark dining room for the rest of the night ...
Down with darkness, up with light;
Up with sunshine, down with night.
Each of us is one small light,
But together we shine bright ...
Before I go, here's today's page from Little Bear's new daily prayer book ...
I can't tell you how much I love this book ... we are weaving it into our weekly rhythm. Short and sweet, with a special daily prayer to share, reflecting each day's rhythm and grace. 💛
Well my friends, time to wrap up now, but as always I thank you for reading. Or maybe you just looked at the pictures? Well, that's nice too. I always appreciate your visit! :)
Please enjoy the rest of your weekend and take care of yourselves and your loved ones ... I will see you here again very soon!
Hello and Happy Thursday, my friends! I hope your November is off to a great start!
I posted the above picture on Facebook and Instagram, because I find it so inspiring when craft supplies are organized for a particular season or month. I don't always have them so well-ordered but I do like to keep items stored in seasonal groupings when possible. This is my "stash" for November and I thought I'd share what we got up to these past couple of days ... :)
November is the month for remembering our blessings and expressing our thanks, and like many families we enjoy keeping a "gratitude project" of some sort in the days leading up to Thanksgiving. There are all kinds of variations on this annual activity, but I kept things super-simple this year ...
A grapevine heart ($8 at Michaels Arts & Crafts), hung up with some twine, and autumn leaves cut from colorful cardstock ...
I hung the wreath on our kitchen/dining room door and each day we'll write down our blessings and add a leaf (or leaves) to the wreath. We're only two leaves in now, but I added extras as seen above to show you the overall affect. I think our "Thankful Heart" is rather pretty!
I placed the extra paper leaves in a small box along with a pen and left it on our kitchen table. Hopefully this will remind us to record our blessings around the supper table each night.
And yesterday (Nov. 2nd) was the feast of All Souls (also known as the Day of the Dead). One of these years we will make the traditional sugar skulls symbolic of this Mexican feast day, but this was not that year. Instead, I used some cupcake liners decorated with colorful skulls (found at Target) ...
... and made up some "harvest" muffins with that applesauce I told you about in my Halloween post, as well as some mashed squash ...
... and four beautiful eggs laid by my chickens!
I try to keep muffins low in sugar but for today's feast I added some simple icing and a pretty chrysanthemum from the garden:
(Marigolds are actually the traditional Day of the Dead flowers, but my little calendula plant - aka pot marigold - stopped blooming some time ago. I will try to keep next year's plant alive in a sunny window just for this feast day!)
But the muffins were quite a hit with the boys who enjoyed theirs with apple cider, while I had mine with a hot cup of orange spiced tea. All the flavors and smells seemed so autumnal and it was a gorgeous morning, too - so warm and breezy. I had my kitchen window open as I worked and just savored such a blessed day. And baking those muffins really made me think of my grandmother, who was well known for her delicious pink applesauce. In particular, as I milled the apples, my mind was on Gram ... I was using kitchen tools that once belonged to her!
All I could think was Grama, I hope you can see me and how much you have inspired me. I hope you know just how much I admired you and how your love and vision lives on in my heart and my home even now. Goodness I miss her ...
Anyhoo ... here's another Day of the Dead decoration, a little planter my brother gave me last month:
So fun! I keep it on my kitchen windowsill. That's an aloe plant growing there ... hopefully I'll keep it alive!
Now, in Catholic tradition, November is dedicated to praying for the Holy Souls. So on the first of this month I set up a small remembrance altar so that we may honor our loved ones who have passed away. I've done this in a windowsill in recent years but this year I decided to devote our living room mantle to the project.
I started with some particle board letters ...
I bought these at Michaels for $1.49 each and painted them in a soft bronze shade. While they dried (where Little Bear couldn't reach) I got to work on the rest of the altar items - photos, candles and flowers. I have several vases in my collection but I wanted something small, so I made up some simple vases from things I had on hand ...
These are glass votive candleholders (about $1 at craft stores), along with a bit of sheer ribbon, some rustic twine and small beige doilies.
I wrapped the green ribbon around each glass twice (securing the ends with a hot glue gun), then wrapped and tied the twine around the middle. The doilies are just lightly glued to the bottom of the glass. (And as you can see I had my usual assistant close at paw hand ... keeping his eye on that twine, sneaky thing that it is ... with all that twisting and twirling.)
Then added more of those orange mums ...
These fit in nicely with the other remembrance items, but I think they would also be lovely on a Thanksgiving table. Or possibly even a Christmas gift - a paperwhite bulb stuck in some pebbles? I don't know if the glass would be too small, but I think it would be very pretty.
For this annual project I have some small photos of our late loved ones which I display in tiny metal holders (prayer card holders actually - purchased a long time ago at a local Catholic gift shop). But I found I was one short, so I made up a makeshift photo stand with a small binder clip!
And lastly the candles, which we light as we pray for our dear ones ...
I have plenty of real candles on hand - some of them blessed at church on Candlemas - but because I have curious cats and young kids about, I decided to stick with battery-lit tea lights this year.
I really love how the altar came out. I laid down a wide "ribbon" of burlap before setting it up and hung a garland of autumn leaves just under the mantle edge. I placed our Halloween roses on either end along with some white miniature pumpkins and our beeswax candlesticks ... plus a few Thanksgiving decorations. :)
I am always fond of projects that involve candlelight, but especially so at this time of year. The days are short and dark and we can all use a little brightening as winter nears. As the year ends we watch nature dwindle and fade - reminding us that our own lives will end just as surely someday. But in the midst of that sadness comes human love and our memories and God's love and our prayers ...
I found this quote the other day and felt so moved by it:
"How can the dead be truly dead when they still live in the souls of those who are left behind?"
(From The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, a book I never read but I sure love that sentiment.)
Traditional prayers are deeply meaningful, of course - but I like to think our every loving thought and memory is a prayer in its own right. Feeling my Grama as I cooked those Macintosh apples and lifted my face to that warm window breeze - is something that is not only good for her soul, but mine. I pray for my loved ones all the time, but I hope I do them as great an honor by living my life by their example, with their unconditional love in my heart. 💛
Now, it was supposed to be Mexican for supper last night, but I didn't have all the appropriate ingredients on hand ... so American Chop Suey it was ... and with garlic bread, no less! Tonight is a catch-up night with assorted leftovers and grilled cheese sandwiches. Maybe some soup, too ... it's quite rainy and dark out there! Leaves are blowing about and the hens have tucked themselves away for the night. But our lights are lit and our den is warm, so it's all good here ...
November really is a lovely month. :)
Thanks so much for stopping by my friends ... see you here again very soon!
Hallowmas Greetings, my friends! I hope you all had a happy and safe Halloween night. Yesterday was quite fun, and naturally I took a whole lot of pictures, so today I'm here to share! :)
As per family tradition, Bill took the day off from work so we could spread out our celebrating and spend the day together, doing simple but meaningful things. To begin with, Earlybird's therapist arrived dressed as ... Spiderman! Oh, did that give EB quite the chuckle! EB himself dressed in a bright orange t-shirt (his "pumpkin shirt") and black pants, and together we drove over to a favorite farm where we picked out our jack o'lantern and a pie for supper. We took our time riding home over back roads, enjoying everyone's festive decorations. (Some people really go all out!)
Back home, around lunchtime, I started in washing up the last of the farm apples ...
I love making applesauce on Halloween. Something about the agricultural roots of this holiday appeals to me, which was "summer's end" to our ancestors. Those folks, in order to survive, had to carefully store crops and put their livestock away for the winter - complete with a blessing of some sort. We're quite fortunate nowadays to live much more freely, but I can still appreciate that deep respect for the earth's natural rhythm.
(Of course I can still buy - and store - all kinds of produce, but these apples were purchased in bulk from a farm visit last month and were definitely getting a bit mushy. Perfect for sauce! And as for our livestock, we put our hens to bed a little on the early side last night. The nights are very cold now so we've set up a heater in the coop ... and the dear girls have JUST started laying eggs. Or one of them has anyway ... we are getting 1-2 eggs a day! Not a one of them in their nesting boxes though, lol! We find those eggs in the oddest spots ...)
Ok, back to the Halloween doings! After lunch, Little Bear and I set about painting our teal pumpkin ...
Have you heard of this wonderful project? You can read more about the Teal Pumpkin Project here, but briefly, a teal-colored pumpkin on your doorstep signifies you offer non-food treats at your house (in place of, or in addition to, the usual candies). We take part in this because A. it's a nice thing to do, but also, B. our own Earlybird has food sensitivities that keep him from savoring the spoils of his Halloween endeavors. And we're always on board for raising awareness and respecting differences. It's everyone's Halloween, after all! :)
Next came the "haunted cookie house," a gift from my brother who works for Trader Joe's ...
You can probably imagine how my inner Martha cringed a little as she allowed the boys to do ALL the decorating here, lol. (With Mom's hand steadying the icing tube.) Honestly though, it came out pretty well - ooey-gooey, spooky-ookie as EB called it!
And since I had a lot I wanted to accomplish before dark fell, I wrote up a quick Halloween honey-do list ...
Only two checks so far at this point - we had a bit of work ahead of us! (And for the record, we didn't make the popcorn balls nor did we roast the seeds. The popcorn balls will happen later this week - and the chickens got the seeds!)
As the day waned I headed outside to catch a sunset shot ...
I try to get this shot every year ... again, I love the symbolism here with the sun setting on the growing season. During this week of "fading light" we pull up all our garden debris and have a bonfire to mark the end of our harvest. (Such as it is - just some herbs, tomatoes and peppers.) Last night we could truly feel winter's approach ... a very chilly evening to be sure!
Inside again ... how I love to set a party table!
Orange and black is traditional of course, but I tried to pull off a bit of an elegant touch. Nothing too gothic, but I did have some silky crows and feathers about, black lace and crystal candy bowls, glowing lanterns and gorgeous orange roses ...
Oh, how I love those roses ... boo!🕷
And how about this cool bottle of wine?
I thought the colors and label looked very atmospheric, but didn't realize the word Bogle was a Scottish term for ghost or boggart! Thanks go to my friend Tanya for the heads up!
p.s. It was very good wine. :)
As I puttered about decorating, Bill and the boys got down to the serious business of pumpkin gutting and carving ...
This is NOT EVER a Mama job ... (ew).
Instead, Mama was organizing a basket of "safe" goodies for my boys!
The foyer table though ... now that was the place to find all the usual Halloween goodies!
The middle cloth bag held spider rings, plastic rats and lizards, crazy eyeballs, and glowsticks. The cauldron on the far left held organic (EB-friendly) candies. I kept those as back up in case we emptied the first bowl!
Had to catch this shot ... our little "real" pumpkins looking out the window at the giant inflatables!
And here's our front steps with all the pumpkins lined up, ready for their big night!
(Flashlights inside for safety's sake.)
Back inside, we remembered to take a few people pictures ...
Here I am with three of my four boys - our little homeschool Halloween! Really missed my Bookworm last night ...
And here are a couple of my best fellas, all decked out in their orange (they are so good to humor me, lol) ...
(Three of the four boys are now taller than Bill!)
And my folks came over for Halloween Supper, another family tradition ...
Unfortunately my brother was sick and couldn't join us. I know how much he loves taking his nephews trick-or-treating and we all really missed his presence! Feel better soon, Uncle Matt!
Now, supper - as you saw above in the "honey-do" shot - was a hearty and autumnal Halloween meal. Hot dogs and mac and cheese, chicken pie ... beans and biscuits (which should have been brown bread) and squash pie for dessert. I had plain donuts too, but saved them for this morning. :)
Oh, and in case you were wondering about that hat - the "good witch" hat I've had for years - I do complete the outfit with a black ensemble and stripey- socks!
Finally it was time for the younger boys to get into their costumes!
(As most parents understand, we wait until the very last minute for the costumes.)
So we had a dragon on the left (his second year in this costume) and a straight-up ghost on the right. (God bless EB - he can't really handle costumes but he's ok with this t-shirt. I'll have to find a bigger size for next year!) As you can see they were getting a bit antsy for tricks-or-treats ...
"Where are all the kids?"
And then time at last to head out ...
One thing I love about Halloween - and have since I was a kid - is how everything looks so different on this night, while we're walking about the neighborhood. The sky, the houses, the people, the sounds ... it really does feel spooky in a way, but it's an innocent kind of spooky. Knowing we're close to home and family and warmth and safety, makes heading out into that darkness just a little bit thrilling and a little unreal ... but wonderfully fun. :)
Of course, at the end of the night ...
Archie just wanted to know if it was safe to come out!
Well my friends, I know this went on very long, so I thank you sincerely for taking the time to read and share in our fun! I hope you enjoyed this peek into our Halloween celebration ... and I'd love to hear about your traditions if you have a moment. :)
For now though I wish you all well and will hope to see you here again very soon ... I've got some November crafting to talk about this week and those Advent planning sheets should be ready soon! (Not "this week soon" as I'd hoped but maybe "early next week soon.")
Take care of yourselves and your loved ones ... I'll see you here again very soon!
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!
Hello, my friends! Long time no see! I hope your summer's been going well ... 🌞
So before I launch into the whole chicken coop "meet-and-greet" I'd first like to say how happy I am to be back here at Typepad again after such a long break. My computer issues have been mostly resolved - laptop out, desktop in - and more on all that in a future "meet-my-new-desk" post - but hopefully I'll be here a little more consistently going forward!
Now, as some of you might remember, back in May we got a half-dozen baby chicks delivered and ever since then Bill has been busily (furiously) building a coop for them in the backyard. Because, despite how cozy they seemed in our basement mudroom, the need for more space and more FRESH air (for all involved) was DIRE by midsummer. Well, as it often happens, the project took longer than we anticipated but finally, just about a week ago, the coop was nearly done - still needs a bit more trim, a lick of paint and maybe some windowboxes ... but "done" enough to house our six pretty girls!
And so here's a little tour ... :)
The coop is situated in a rather shady area of our yard, close to our neighbors' pocket farm. (They keep chickens, too - as well as ducks, goats, horses and dogs!) Bill built our coop from his own design, but he perused a LOT of plans online to get ideas and information. The playset you can see beside the coop is getting moved to the other side of the yard (closer to the patio, kitchen window and the boys' dirt pile).
The front (back?) has a handy door for accessing the nesting boxes.
We only have three set up right now because that's all our hens need. (Two per box.) I love how the height is perfect for even my youngest to help with the gathering of eggs. :)
The door on the left side of the coop opens to a storage area ...
Inside this closet is where we're keeping shavings, food, treats, tools, etc.
And here's a look at the other side of the coop/pen ...
The pipe poking out of the siding is where we fill the "irrigation" system (the chicks' water). The doors open into the pen itself:
On the left - nesting boxes, straight ahead - roosting branches and to the right - the chicks' water.
A small door (which can be raised or lowered by a pully system Bill rigged up on the outside of the door) leads down into their pen ...
By the way, the coop and pen is protected with something called, "hardware wire." It encloses the whole thing (windows included and buried deep along the perimeter) and is (supposedly ... hopefully) predator-proof. We do have plenty of those in these parts, living in a deeply wooded area as we do - coyote, fisher cats, foxes, hawks, owls, etc. For the time being our chickens will "free range" within this pen only ... in the future we may try to build a portable pen that would allow them to roam the yard with protection .. and once we feel more comfortable handling them, we may let them roam while we are present ...
(As you can probably tell, we're completely new to this whole (ad)venture and learning as we go!)
Here we are inside the pen ... a ramp leads down from the coop, and the hanging tin bucket serves up their chick food. More water access is situated beneath the coop itself (where they like to roll around in the shade).
And here are more roosting branches!
Finally it was the big moving day! We moved the girls in - of all things! - my old file crate! That seemed rather fitting. :)
They just did NOT know what to make of all this.
Welcome home, girls!
(Have I named them? Yes: Hazel, Harriet, Fern, Violet, Rosemary and Dragonfly. But we can't tell them apart yet, lol)
I think this is going to be a lot of fun. :)
By the way, our chickens are a breed called, "Buff Orpingtons." When we finally decided to make the leap and order chicks, I googled, "chickens good with kids" and up popped these guys gals! Apparently they are the "golden retrievers" of the chicken world, lol. Love to be petted and held, friendly and sociable ... and so far, this seems to be somewhat true ... they are a little skittish still, but are settling in pretty well. They are definitely "people-chickens" - they know my voice and respond eagerly when I approach the coop, cooing for them. So endearing ...
In fact, I just came in from checking on them before we start supper ... only one girl was in the pen, cooling off in the shade under the coop, while the rest were inside the coop itself. But as I sweet-talked them, another three came out to see me - one flying from the ramp to land by my feet! (I'm still getting used to that!) I fed them from my hands and petted them a little ... and they strutted around pecking at the greenery and scratching at the sand. They really are very sweet. :)
Well my friends, that was a very long post! But I hope you enjoyed hearing about our new project and meeting our flock! I would LOVE to hear from others who keep chickens - any advice or suggestions? I'm all ears!
But that's all I have to share for now, but I will do my best to be back soon so we can chat again. I am moving into "back to school" mode so there will be MUCH to talk about in the weeks coming up! If you have school-age kids (at home or or otherwise) what grades are they entering this year? I have a senior (a SENIOR!) in college, a junior in high school, a 14 yo special needs boy and a 3 year old "preschooler." So I certainly have my work cut out for me! (But don't we all?)
Ed plans and reports are currently under way ...
As always, I thank you for joining me today and I wish you all a pleasant evening! (Or morning as the case might be ...)
See you here again very soon!
Hello my friends, and Happy Monday! This is my favorite picture of our cats - they were so little then!
It's hard to believe our kitties are five years old ... boy, has time flown! I hear it is also "National Pet Day" so this is a great time to talk about pets ...
Do you have any? Are you a cat or dog person? What kinds of pets did you have growing up?
I like to say I grew up with dogs, never realizing I was actually a cat person! But the truth is, I love all animals. I really do. When I was very young, like four or five maybe, we had a large tankful of fish and then I got a pretty green and yellow budgee at Grant's Department Store ("Gypsy" I named her). And as a pre-teen I had a couple of hamsters, "Cuddles" and "Pumpkin" ... fluffy little things who each lived a scant year or more.
But when I was seven my folks took my brother and I into Boston one Sunday afternoon, to a breeder of Cairn Terriers, and that was where we got our first dog, "Duncan" - or, Sir Duncan of Cork, as was his official name. ;) He was a sweet little dog, if a bit of a curmudgeon at times ... and boy, did he think he was about 20 sizes bigger than he actually was! My mother had grown up with Cairn Terriers (Penny and Pat were still alive when I was a baby) so it was kind of a nice family tradition. Several years later, when I was in 7th grade, we adopted another dog from a local rescue shelter. This was Natasha (or Tasha as we called her) and she was a small/medium-size, black-and-white terrier mix of some sort - a mutt, or so we thought. Years later we found out she was actually a Portuguese Water Dog! (Though perhaps not purebred.) What was funny was Tasha LOVED water. We would visit my aunt and uncle's Maine camp in the summer and Tasha would run into the water, leap onto the dock to shake and then jump right back into the lake. She was a dear little dog, a real "nana," always taking care of us. :)
Duncan passed away when I was in college and then Tasha several years later when Bookworm was a baby. Aside from a stray pit bull ("Annie") we took care of for a short time, they were the only dogs I ever owned, and I remember them both so fondly.
So cats didn't come into the picture until 1990! My folks found a newborn kitten left behind by a stray mother cat and decided to keep him. He was named "Timothy" and was a gorgeous cream-colored cat with taupe and brown markings and pretty blue eyes. Timmy definitely had a little Siamese in him! And he was very much my dad's cat. This happened while I was away at school and it all seemed a bit surreal to me! We were a dog-and-cat family now? Wow! A year or so later, my folks were throwing a graduation party for my brother and me (he from high school, me from college) when we came to discover the aforementioned stray mother cat had delivered yet another litter of kittens - this time, beneath our family room addition!
Fast forward a bit - we kept all the kittens and the mother cat because, A. it was hard to find them good homes and B. we kinda fell in love with them. And because Mama Kitty did NOT get along with Timmy (and vice versa), when Bill and I married, we took the small feline family with us to our tiny 1-bedroom house in the woods. I jokingly called them my "dowry!"
Early readers of my blog (going 10 years back) might remember our original cats - Mama, Midget, Smokey, Penny and Patty - because I blogged about them a lot. They were mostly black and white, though Penny was calico. They all lived good long lives and were wonderful pets. I enjoyed them so much and at some point though the years I came to realize, I was in fact, a cat person! When our last cat, Smokey, passed away at 20 years old in 2011, we thought we might take a little break from pet ownership ... but that idea didn't last long!
In August of 2011, we found ourselves ready - eager! - to adopt new cats, and this time I wanted orange cats or "marmalades" as they are sometimes called. Mostly because they would look quite different from our original cats. Well, after a brief search - keeping track of available rescue kittens online, orange cats are fairly rare - we found two gorgeous marmalades at a nearby feline rescue organization. They were four months old and had been part of a litter of nine abandoned kittens found in an alley. One visit was all it took - Archibald (nee "Jerry") and Oliver (nee "Josh") were absolutely endearing. Archie was all over us, a real little fireball ... whereas Ollie was quieter, laying happily in our arms. They've stayed pretty true to their original impressions these five years later!
Oliver (in the foreground) is still our "gentle giant" ... he's a marshmallow, just so sweet and quiet. A bit shy, he tends to stick to out-of-the-way corners during the day, but you can always find him somewhere near Crackerjack. He is very much CJ's cat. :) Archie, on the other hand, is what we call our "alpha" ... he definitely thinks he is in charge around here! And he is very much "Mama's cat." He can be found wherever I am through the day - right in the mix of things - and he sleeps at my feet every night.
They are such good cats - absolute loves - and we are looking forward to many more happy years with these fellas. So on this special day, I'd like to say:
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, ARCHIE & OLLIE!
Treats twice today and lots of belly rubs ear scratches!
Thanks so much for joining me today, friends and indulging me in this little bit of pet nostalgia! I know I've been very slow at blogging lately, but that's just how I need to roll at the moment. (Could I beg a few prayers if you have a moment? I'd appreciate it so much and please know I think of you all and pray for you, too!)
I am defintely not giving up on my space here - though I am fairly active over on Facebook and now Instagram, too. I do have lots of post ideas and drafts in queue and when I have time I will be sharing my thoughts and discoveries and queries with you all here. But for now, I will wish you all a lovely evening and hope to see you here again sometime soon!
Alleluia, my friends! Happy Easter! I hope you've all had a lovely start to this beautiful new season. :)
Today I'd like to share some of the pictures from our Easter weekend ... but first, I'd like to remind you all that today's the last day to enter my "Happy 10 Year Blogging" giveaway! I'll be drawing the winning names tomorrow morning! Here is the post with all the details ... :)
Now, onto the celebration pictures!
The Alleluia has returned! This little plaque (which we made several years ago), gets hidden away on Ash Wednesday - just as the word disappears from our Lenten liturgy - and then makes its triumphant reappearance on Easter Sunday, announcing to us all:
Alleluia! He is Risen!
This was a last minute run for Easter flowers from, where else but Trader Joe's - which has the best cut-flower prices! We entertain often and I always make a note to stop by TJ's for flowers. Today's "haul" included flowering branches, roses, tulips, carnations, and Gerbera daisies. (I also made a note in my gardening planner to grow more cutting flowers this year!)
(Another note: my friend (and longtime reader) Tanya had a great suggestion - that I do a post on family gatherings and entertaining! And I would LOVE to do that! It is certainly something we do often (host family gatherings and fairly large parties) and I really enjoy the whole process. So a post on that subject will be forthcoming!)
Back to this post, though ... a little Good Friday morning activity:
Keeping the younger boys busy with a word puzzle egg hunt. It was meant to be an outdoor event, but since the day was quite rainy we hid the eggs all over the first floor of the house. This was an activity I set up for Earlybird to do with his therapist but Little Bear, naturally, insisted on taking part!
On Easter eve, the boys' baskets were ready for the eggs ... no natural dyes this year, as much as I'd hoped to try them! Next year for sure ...
And here we have dining tables set up in the sunroom - we welcomed 20 for dinner!
A fun veggie basket I made up - Bill helped me with the cabbage dip dish!
We stashed desserts in the living room before it was time to serve. I love how our grapevine cross blooms with life once Easter Sunday has dawned. :)
Ok, funny story. So ... I made a lemon cake for my Bookworm (home from BC on Easter break) because he LOVES lemon cake. Only, I was running out of time ... so homemade became "Duncan Hines." And then, the frosting wouldn't cover the whole cake! So I decided to use Peeps ("borrowed" from the boys' baskets) to hide the skimpy frosting job!
And voila, c'est la Peep Cake! ;)
Tulips - not my favorite flowers, but boy do they "shine" at Easter!
A favorite Easter decoration, hung between the kitchen and dining room.
And here we have some (lots of) family photos, starting with Little Bear who, as you can probably tell, was a little shy at first, as his home filled up with people much larger than him! (Note how he's clutching the hem of his shirt ...)
He needed to spend a little time up on his mama before he was ready to mingle!
And here we have most of my family, in my kitchen, on Easter Sunday. I can't get much happier than this. :)
Earlybird did really well, even though large gatherings can be a challenge for his sensitivities. He was really looking forward to Easter Sunday! We allowed him to use the TV in our bedroom throughout the day so when he got a little overwhelmed (by noise, smells, expectations, whatever) he could retreat upstairs for a bit.
The spiced orange rum punch, served in my grandmother's punch bowl, was a hit - though our initial plan was to serve a really neat rhubarb cocktail. Rhubarb is so seasonal for early spring! Unfortunately our frozen (garden-grown) rhubarb defrosted in a rather sludgey way PLUS I realized I was out of sugar late on Holy Saturday. Eep! So this became our "signature cocktail" for the day. Thank goodness for Pinterest! It was pretty yummy I must say. :)
And now for some family photos ... how I love these people!
Little Bear needed a few breaks, too ...
Trains inside ...
Thumbs up for a good dinner, Mom!
Enjoying Easter dinner with three of my four boys. <3
Through the family room window ... I love how bright the day was, the sunroom is such a joy on days like this!
Mum and Matt catching up ... my brother had to work on Easter but was able to join us for dinner!
Little Bear, avidly watching the "volcano" egg my brother gave him for Easter. Have I mentioned how much LB loves volcanos? :)
Bill working on his Spring Blessings egg ...
In the tradition of sharing our thankfulness at Thanksgiving (on autumn leaf shapes) I made up manila paper eggs for a similar activity. After dinner we all wrote out what we love best about Spring and then I read them aloud as we savored coffee and dessert. My family is very kind about my crazy little ideas!
And here's the desserts table ...
That pineapple-upside down cake in the foreground was baked by my Uncle Karl and it was SO delicious. And I can tell you it was equally delicious the next morning with a cup of coffee ...
Coffee was served in my grandmother's Irish tea cups ...
A close-up of the pretty paper plates I picked up at Home Goods ... a little bigger than a cocktail size plate so it can hold more than just one dessert!
A sugar cookie Peep bunny!
I couldn't decide how to use the beautiful radishes I picked up at Whole Foods so I plopped them in a teapot - and I think they looked pretty cute! (They were placed back in the fridge at the end of the day.)
Well my friends, I think that's all I have to share today ... I hope you enjoyed this peek into our Easter and I thank you for taking the time to read through this rather long post! How was your Easter? And how is your March leaving you today ... like a lion or a lamb? Very mild here today (near 70) but then cold weather swoops in - perhaps flurries, I hear? - for the start of what T.S. Eliot called, "the cruelest month." The weather has been quite crazy lately so I guess we'll have to wait and see ...
Enjoy the rest of your Thursday, my friends ... see you here again very soon!
Hello my friends and Happy Monday! :)
So you know how I've been a bit MIA lately? And my posting has been a bit slow? Well, we've been very (happily) busy here over the past couple of weeks, working towards a special family project! There has been LOTS of spring cleaning - as in, my house has never been cleaner! - and crafting and preparing for a very special baby shower - my cousin Kate is due with her first baby in May! ❤
I had such fun helping my aunt and cousin and mum get everything ready - and yesterday was THE day! And oh, what a beautiful day it was! Bright and mild, with that hint of spring around the corner ... I would love to share some TONS of pictures with you if I may. This is a very long post (even by my standards) but I get a little carried away when it comes to entertaining ... and babies ... and books!
So the menu was all tied into children's books, as were the decorations and even the invitations and favors (library cards!), and I had such fun setting up little book corners around the house. This was a great shower theme, but would also make a nice birthday party for a child who loves reading and/or trips to the library! (And honestly, I could see this done on an adult level as well ... so many books feature food in some way.)
Here is the foyer table, set up with springy things and a basket of favors. I had fun arranging this little tableau! In addition to books "reading rubber duckies" figured into the decor ...
(My cousin and her husband are both librarians!)
And here are the lovely ladies of the day: hostesses Kara and Auntie Marcia, flanking mama-to-be, Kate!
The living room mantel featured a farm theme. My aunt and mum made the garland - pages from an old children's book about farm animals pinned to a twine "clothesline." I arranged our wooden farm animals and several board books on the mantelpiece above.
Here's a closer look ...
The front windowsill featured another fun book banner made by Mum and Marcia, as well as lots of favorite hardcovers ... beloved titles by Gyo Fujikawa, Elsa Beskow, Tasha Tudor, Will Moses, etc.
I also nestled our wooden elements in amongst the books to lend a pop of color.
A side window held more wooden animals (barely seen in this picture, tucked behind the forsythia) as well as favorite books about owls and foxes.
You can just see the corner of the notebook I used to write down Kate's gifts!
Yet another window, filled with more favorite books! (Can you imagine how excited I was when Marcia and Kara told me the theme of the shower?!)
I'm jumping ahead a bit, but desserts and coffee were set out in the dining room ...
Here are some of the goodies matched with their books ...
Sweet (delicious) cupcakes = If You Give a Cat a Cupcake.
Fresh, fruity salad = Each Peach, Pear, Plum (a book I read to Kate and Kara when they were little!).
Madeleines for Madeline ...
Coffee and tea on the sideboard in the background ...
Now, out to the sunroom ... :)
A table spread with delicious appetizers (my cousin, who works in catering is a fabulous cook!) and more books - a corn dip (Raccoons and Ripe Corn), tea sandwiches - cucumber-lemon and chicken salad (Miss Spider's Tea Party), a crudite platter (The Carrot Seed, The Secret Garden, Eating the Alphabet) and a cheese board (The Stinky Cheese Man).
And here's the bar ...
Plenty of wine, water, soda and a tasty punch ....
Aka, Lemonade for Sale. :)
It was such a bright day, I loved how everything sparkled in the sunlight!
Rubber duckies in a bowl full of marbles and water ... cute!
The rooms filled out nicely as guests arrived ...
My mum (Aunt Mo to Kate and Kara) and my Aunt Pat, catching up ...
The adjoining family room was a great place for cocktails and conversation (and cartoons, if you were so inclined).
Books here, too - more favorite hardcovers, standing up on desks and on the windowsill.
And what did Little Bear think about all this?
Well, his house was filled with women who were not Mama and there were a lot of things he couldn't touch ... but luckily his big brother Crackerjack had him playing outside for most of the day!
Now into the kitchen ...
Another buffet here ...
Mini quiches for Green Eggs and Ham ...
(Three Little) Pigs in Blankets ...
Sweet Chili Meatballs (Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs) and a pretty bowl of mixed nuts (Woody, Hazel and Little Pip).
(Also not shown - Honey Almond Baked Brie for Winnie the Pooh. Soooo yummy!)
And then it was time for presents! We all gathered in the living room to watch Kate open her gifts ...
A sweet stuffed elephant from the daddy-to-be's mom, with a photo of said daddy holding his own elephant many years ago!
Speaking of ...
The parents-to-be, Kate and Paul!
This was SUCH a fun day, and I was so thrilled to be part of it! And I thank you all for taking the time to read and let me share my pictures. I would love it if all of you would keep Kate and Paul and their little one in your prayers? ❤
And you know what? We got our house super clean and now it all feels so nice. I have resolved to keep things as close to this level as possible ... at least through Easter, lol! Another curious thing - a couple of days before the shower, I packed up all my planning materials and placed them in a closet. All I kept out was a clipboard with the to-do list. I needed to be laser-focused on shower prep! So now I'm eager to get my things back to the command center - though I'm loathe to add clutter to these nice clear surfaces. I do need my stuff ... only ... I'm really wondering exactly WHAT needs to come back out. What did I miss? What planning tools are essential and which are extraneous? How can I organize things as I bring them out of "hiding?" Clearly, this all bears some thought!
So stay tuned, and as always, I thank you so much for stopping by. I will see here again very soon!
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! :)
"Birthdays are good for you. The more you have, the longer you live."
❤ Afghans in lots of colors - this one knit by my grandmother many years ago.
❤ LL Bean tote bags - I adore them! This one is my favorite, though - for the color AND the monogram. :)
❤ 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. :)
❤ 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:
Look familiar? :)
"The best journeys take you home."
❤ And these guys ... well, you all know how I feel about these guys. :)
❤ 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
❤ My pretty penuche birthday cake - I think they tried to get all 47 candles on there! ;)
(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!)
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
And finally, one last "mug" shot ...
❤ 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 ...
Hello and good evening, friends! :)
Well, I have a whole BUNCH of photos from Christmas to share with you but first ... !
I'd like to wish you all a Very Happy New Year! I hope and pray 2016 will bless you in so many ways - with fond memories, and family happiness, good health and peace in your heart - the kind of peace you can pass on to those you love and the world around you. I thank everyone, sincerely, for being such gracious and kind readers ... I so love my little blog and hope to continue it for as many more years as I can! What fun I have here with you all!
Now, here are some shots from the past couple of days - or I guess, that was last week! How time flies when you're having FUN ... :)
So how early did your Christmas start? ;)
Our tree in the wee hours of Christmas morning ... I was up with Earlybird (who, as usual, lived up to his pseudonym), sipping coffee and absorbing the peace of these dark early hours. (While, admittedly, also, consulting my to-do list in my head!)
The rest of the clan was up by 7 a.m. and it was go-time! How special is a 2 year-old's Christmas ...
EB with a new train book, one of his favorite gifts.
Our 16 year old Crackerjack, who FINALLY got a phone! He's been very patient!
Our older boys, opening stocking stuff ... the tabletop soccer game was from Santa.
And here's Archie, who simply MUST be in the middle of everything.
A bit later in the morning, my folks and brother came over to open presents and enjoy a hearty breakfast.
Archie, again, in on the action. (Ollie was nowhere to be found).
I love how the cards look on our library door!
My mum's penuche fudge, my favorite Christmas treat! It is FABULOUS with coffee, fyi.
Speaking of coffee ... here are my pretty Christmas mugs. They hold a lot!
A felt banner stretching across the kitchen nook window ... one of my last-minute, 50% off, Michaels Store finds! And as you can see, it was such a bright and sunny day ... and startlingly warm - near 60°! Today, about a week later, we are in the 30s and there is snow on the ground ...
Our signature cocktail this Christmas: Jingle Juice Punch!
On Christmas afternoon we host a family gathering and here we have the appetizer spread ... and my dear cousin Kara sampling the punch!
Speaking of Kara, here are her absolutely delicious Swedish spice cookies ...
The desserts table in the family room ... to my mind, you can never have too many desserts at Christmas!
My beloved Mum and me. She does most of the work at the holidays - I mostly just pick up and set tables!
More family arriving ... our home filled up with our dear ones!
So good to gather together and spend time catching up ...
Sharing laughs and swapping stories!
Little Bear loved being (mostly) in the center of attention. :)
* Family Christmas, 2015! *
And then it was time for round two ... Bill's side of the family came up to visit on Boxing Day!
And Chinese cuisine is traditional on this holiday ... in our house, anyway!
Bill's Mom and Dad, merry-merry! :)
Little Bear and Bill with Aunt Ami and Uncle Greg (Bill's siblings!) ...
A new centerpiece: a gift from my brother - a little something for my garden. ;)
With some of my favorite ladies in the word ... my mum, Bill's mom, and my sister-in-law, Ami.
Crackerjack, Bill and Little Bear ... digging in!
Earlybird with his new planet shirt, showing Grandpa Bill a new present. :)
A little chaos at Christmas is natural!
And here we have Family Christmas 2015, part two!
I feel incredibly blessed to have such a wonderful family, and that we live close enough to gather together so often throughout the year. What a joyous Christmas this has been ... and here we are on the 7th day of Christmas, ready to welcome a brand new year. How are you spending your evening? We are here with the boys, enjoying our family's favorite dinner (meatloaf!) and a movie or two. We may or may not make it to midnight!
But I hope you all have a fantastic New Year's and I thank you, as always, for stopping by ...
I will see you here again very soon!
Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas, and thanking you all for your support, kindness and friendship!
I'm signing off until next week, but ... I'll see you here again very soon!
Happy Monday, my friends! I hope your weekend was a good one!
Ok, first up: some not-so-good news. I'm afraid my Advent Tea post will not be up later today, because "Mama time" (aka, blogging and teatime!) has been rather thin on the ground lately. My family has been hit with a nasty cold virus, and needless to say it has really "gummed up the works" around here! Thankfully though, the bug seems to move pretty quickly ... Little Bear is feeling much better this morning after a blessedly long night of sleep. Sleep is such a good thing, isn't it? It's probably the best thing we can do for our immune systems - get good sleep!
Anyhoo, I hope to have a fresh pot of Advent Tea ready to serve one day later this week - hopefully tomorrow! - at our usual time, just as the late autumn sun slips low in the sky. We'll be talking about Christmas tree traditions and I'd love to hear about yours!
But now for some really FUN news! Are you all ready for some more planner talk? :)
Well ... a week from tomorrow I will be participating in a "live chat workshop," hosted by Mystie Winckler at Simplified Planning! Mystie has invited me, along with Jen Mackintosh of Wildflowers & Marbles, to talk with her about one of our favorite subjects ...
I am so excited! (And a little nervous too, to be honest ...) But I think it will be a such fun!
We'll be talking about "planners, crates, apps, calendars, brain dumps, habits, goals, and more!" Such good stuff, right?! And there will even be a chat box where you can ask questions during the live workshop, too. I'm amazed by the whole process, honestly. I think Mystie and Jen are great ladies with fantastic blogs and I am just completely honored to have been asked to join them! Our workshop is scheduled for Tuesday, December 15th at 4 p.m. EST.
Now, here is a link to the page where you can find out more and sign up to access to the live chat. You will also receive a link for the replay and an e-mail reminder on the day of the workshop. And if you have things you know you'd like to hear me talk about - planning topics we've covered in the past, tools I use or have made, such as the file crate - please let me know in the comments below. I'm trying to organize my "stuff" and my thoughts beforehand so I'm ready to go!
Well, that's all for now, my friends ... I'm off to tend my family and work on getting everyone feeling better. Soup and grilled cheese for lunch, I think ... and lots of fruit juices! I hope to see you all tomorrow though, and I wish you all a very good day. :)