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Michaelmas Merrymaking


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

First I must show you my pretty bouquet ...


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

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


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


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


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


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


That went about as well as expected ...


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

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


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


These were an even bigger hit than the dragon puppets!

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



I love the look of concentration on his face! 

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


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

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


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


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


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

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


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


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


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

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


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


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



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


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


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

And now here I am ...


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

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

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

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

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

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

Hello! Would you like to meet our chickens?

Coop 2

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).

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The front (back?) has a handy door for accessing the nesting boxes.

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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. :)

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The door on the left side of the coop opens to a storage area ...

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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 ...

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The pipe poking out of the siding is where we fill the "irrigation" system (the chicks' water). The doors open into the pen itself:

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On the left - nesting boxes, straight ahead - roosting branches and to the right - the chicks' water.

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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 ...

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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).

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And here are more roosting branches!

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Finally it was the big moving day! We moved the girls in - of all things! - my old file crate! That seemed rather fitting. :)

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They just did NOT know what to make of all this.

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Welcome home, girls!

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(Have I named them? Yes: Hazel, Harriet, Fern, Violet, Rosemary and Dragonfly. But we can't tell them apart yet, lol)

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Coop 20

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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!

Happy 5th Birthday, Archie & Ollie!

Archie and ollie in sink

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!

Archie and Ollie 5 Years Old

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:


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!

Our Happy Easter Sunday!

Sunny easter flowers

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

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

Now, onto the celebration pictures!

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

Alleluia! He is Risen!

Easter flower shopping

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

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

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

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

Easter baskets

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

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

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

Easter mantle

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

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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! ;)

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

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

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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 ...)

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

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

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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.

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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!

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Mum and dad easter 2016

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Little Bear needed a few breaks, too ...

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Trains inside ...

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Trucks outside!

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Thumbs up for a good dinner, Mom!

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

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

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

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

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Bill working on his Spring Blessings egg ...

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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 ...

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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 ...

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

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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!

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A sugar cookie Peep bunny!

Radishes in teapot

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

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

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

Happy Hosting: A Book-Themed Baby Shower!

Shower 38

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.) 

Shower (kara's) 2

 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 ...

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(My cousin and her husband are both librarians!)

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And here are the lovely ladies of the day: hostesses Kara and Auntie Marcia, flanking mama-to-be, Kate!

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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 ...

Shower 2


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. 

Shower windowsill

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.

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You can just see the corner of the notebook I used to write down Kate's gifts!

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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 ...

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Here are some of the goodies matched with their books ...

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Sweet (delicious) cupcakes = If You Give a Cat a Cupcake.

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Fresh, fruity salad = Each Peach, Pear, Plum (a book I read to Kate and Kara when they were little!).

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Madeleines for Madeline ... 

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Coffee and tea on the sideboard in the background ...

Now, out to the sunroom ... :)

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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 ...

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Plenty of wine, water, soda and a tasty punch ....

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Aka, Lemonade for Sale. :)

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It was such a bright day, I loved how everything sparkled in the sunlight!

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Rubber duckies in a bowl full of marbles and water ... cute!

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The rooms filled out nicely as guests arrived ...

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My mum (Aunt Mo to Kate and Kara) and my Aunt Pat, catching up ... 

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The adjoining family room was a great place for cocktails and conversation (and cartoons, if you were so inclined).

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Books here, too - more favorite hardcovers, standing up on desks and on the windowsill.

And what did Little Bear think about all this?

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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 ...

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Another buffet here ...

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Mini quiches for Green Eggs and Ham ...

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(Three Little) Pigs in Blankets ...

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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 ...

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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 ...

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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!

My Birthday Tea Journal ❤

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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! :)

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

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

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

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 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. :)

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 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:

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Look familiar? :)

"The best journeys take you home."

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

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 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

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

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(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!)

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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

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

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 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 ...

Our Family Christmas, 2015

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? ;)

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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!

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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!

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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. :)

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 * 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! 

Monday Memo: More Planner Chat!

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 ...

Planning talk graphic

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. :)

Advent Crafts: Pretty Pebbles, Sparkly Stars ...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Clean and dry rocks, frame and glue gun.

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

Here is the grotto, finished at last:

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

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

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

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

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

The Star Child

Three Pebbles and a Song

The Christmas Star

Star Mother's Youngest Child

Only a Star

The Tiny Star

This is the Star

Lucia and the Light

Winter is Coming

The Shortest Day


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

I will see you here again very soon!

Our Thanksgiving Day!

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Hello and Happy Friday, my friends! I hope you all had a nice week and for those who celebrate, a wonderful Thanksgiving, too. We had a really nice time with our family yesterday, and as usual, I took a whole lot of pictures that I'd like to share here at the blog!

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We worked on a thankful garland all month, Earlybird and I (and the rest of the family at times, too), but we carried this neat tradition with us into our family celebration. Every place setting had a leaf and a crayon. I was very happy to have the boys' help with cutting out all those leaves!

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And early Thanksgiving morning, EB assisted me in preparing an apple crisp ...

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Had to get it in the oven ahead of the turkey!

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My mother's birthday fell on Thanksgiving this year, so I made up some spice cupcakes too!

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Each year we have a "signature cocktail" at the holidays (Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter). This year it was an Apple Cider Margarita - with cinnamon-sugar rims and a tweak of orange inside ... absolutely delicious!

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Here's the table we set up in the living room, to seat six. I went with blue, gold and red to complement the colors of the room.

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A pretty turkey platter that's been in the family for generations ...

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As I arranged the flowers, I kept a few itty bitties in cordial glasses - something nice for my kitchen windowsill!

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I found these tiny turkey tealights in a bag of silk leaves - completely forgot we had them!

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A coffee station was set up in the living room ... my folks brought up their Keurig for the day. :)

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You all know how I feel about punch! There must be punch at all parties. This one was a simple mix of cranberry juice concentrate, Sprite and sparkling apple-cranberry cider. Apple slices floating on top made a nice touch!

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The bar was set up on the kitchen jetty, on the kitchen nook side so as to keep traffic out of the kitchen proper (where my Mum and I were busy getting stuff done!) ...

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But not so busy we couldn't pause for a picture - and a cocktail!

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Speaking of cocktails - aren't these the prettiest cocktail napkins you ever did see?

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Dinner was served!

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The dining table, in browns, golds and magenta ...

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I LOVE November mums! Especially mine ... :)

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Desserts were served in the living room as window candles came on all over the house ... we had an assortment of pies, the aforementioned cupcakes and apple crisp, sticky toffee pudding and even pumpkin ice cream!

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From my family to yours ... Happy Thanksgiving! Looking forward to celebrating Advent with you all starting next week!

Thanks so much for joining me here today and letting me share our holiday with you. I hope you all had a nice day, too, and that your weekend ahead will bring some peace and refreshment. I will have a follow-up "simplicity tea" post to share tomorrow and then on Monday ... our first Advent Tea! We'll be talking about "gifts from the heart" and I would love to hear from you on that subject ... and any other tea notes you'd like to share. 

See you all here again very soon ...

Happy Weekend!

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"Summer ends, and Autumn begins, and he that would have it otherwise, would have high tide always and a full moon every night; and thus would never know the rhythms that are the heart of life."

~ Hal Borland

Such a lovely, perfect quote - one for my planner!

One of my favorite things about Autumn? A little red wheelbarrow filled with brown, crispy leaves. A treasure to be sure when you're but two years old and working just as hard as your little legs will carry you - back and forth, and up and down, the large, leaf-littered yard. With your big brother by your side, of course. He's not working nearly as hard as you are, but it's good to have him with you just the same. :)

Well, I hope you all enjoy a restful and refreshing weekend! I have a wonderful guest planner post to share with you on Monday morning, but for now, I just wanted to pop in and say hello ... so, Hello!

I'll see you here again very soon!

Our Family's Halloween

Happy All Saints Day, my friends! I'm just popping in quickly to share some pictures from my family's "doings" yesterday. What a lovely day it was - perfect Halloween weather: clear and crisp, but not too cold for trick or treaters. Because it was a Saturday we were able to spread the fun throughout the day and then host a family supper before heading out with the younger boys to trick-or-treat ...

Here's a little peek at our day:

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 My mother painted this beautiful sign years ago for us - it's our favorite holiday decoration!

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Here we have pumpkins all drawn up for carving ...

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Bill was pressed into carving duty, a good job to do outside!

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All I could think of when I saw this pic was that line in the Charlie Brown special ...

"Aw, you didn't tell me you were gonna kill it!"

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Our jacks, all ready for All Hallow's Eve!

(The blue pumpkin - which was supposed to be more teal blue than sky blue, lol - is to show we also offer non-food treats for kids who have food allergies. You can read more about the teal pumpkin project here.)

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Beautiful Halloween daisies in the setting sun ...

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And here's our Halloween supper table!

As I prepared our table, I was thinking of that charming scene in Meet Me in St. Louis when the family gathers in the dining room on Halloween night (discussing Tootie's mishap and big family news) ... and everything looks so pretty and festive and there's this big, beautiful Halloween cake ...

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No, I didn't make it - but I wish I could bake like this! I spied it at my local grocery store and just thought it was PERFECT for the night's festivities. We were having my folks and my brother over, and Crackerjack had his good friend come for a sleepover.

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All kinds of goodies - apples and donuts are traditional Halloween fare, as is, of course, candy corn and pumpkin peeps!

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I was going to make some kind of crazy, colorful punch - but decided to keep it simple and traditional and just stick with fresh, local cider. There's nothing better in the Fall!

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Little Bear was enthralled with it all ... he pretty much just wanted ALL THE THINGS.

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Finally, the sun had set, the lights began to glow, and it was time for costumes!

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Earlybird (shown here between my brother Matt - aka Grumpy Cat - and myself) asked to be a "ghost" but he can be funny about costumes. Nothing uncomfortable or too elaborate. I ordered a "boo" face t-shirt on Amazon and it was just the ticket!

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 Meanwhile, our Little Bear was a Little Dragon! He looks concerned here, but that's only because he had spied the Halloween hay wagon was going down our street and he wanted out!

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 Love this picture of my dad walking with Little Bear. There's just something so enchanting about a nighttime walk, under the moon and stars, stopping at neighbors' homes and begging for treats ... ;)

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Earlybird, looking for any last trick-or-treaters ...

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Happy Halloween!

And as for this morning ... well, I spent the wee hours (before most of the household was up) cleaning up Halloween debris, setting up our blessings branch and our November books display and the remembrance altar and this lovely table ...

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 After Mass, we had a lovely pancake brunch!

And that's that for the Halloween recap! I hope you enjoyed ... and I hope you also had a wonderful weekend! I will be posting about my planner tomorrow and then I will also post about our gratitude project just as soon as I can. I can hardly believe it's November first already!

Thanks so much for stopping by my friends - see you here again very soon!

22 years ... and counting!

In a planner post comment, Barbara mentioned you all might like to see a wedding pic, and since I was just getting them organized on my laptop ... :)

Wedding pic

Here you go!

It's not staged or formal, but it's one of my favorites from that day ... we had just arrived at the reception hall and, as you can see from our faces, we were feeling pretty happy!

Gosh, it's hard to believe that was TWENTY TWO years ago!

And just for fun, here we are last night - in a very different car! - when Bill and I "snuck out" to celebrate our anniversary ... all on our own!

Anniversary dinner date

My mum is so good to us - she came over to watch the boys - cook them supper, see to meds and pajamas and bedtime and all - and Bill and I spent a nice few hours together, riding in his car, driving through old haunts, swinging by the church where we were married and ... oh my gosh, actually sharing complete thoughts!

We culminated the evening with a wonderful dinner at a local restaurant. There was also going to be coffee and window shopping afterwards, but we just decided to get home!

(We're such a couple of old fogies, lol ... )

You know, our day yesterday was so nice - but of course I couldn't help but think about how different things were from 22 years ago. For one thing, we woke up together! And then spent the bulk of our day doing things like washing dishes, and changing diapers, and cooking meals, and raking leaves, and feeding pets and paying bills and bagging up trash ...

Yes, quite different from how we spent that splendid day back in 1993!

But, how grateful we are to be here, together - even more in love if I may say so - and enjoying what we could only envision and hope for back then. God is SO GOOD and I pray He blesses us with another 22 years - PLUS. Because ... this whole "married to your best friend" thing?

Yeah, we kinda dig it.


Thanks so much friends, for always being so nice to stop by and check in - whatever it is I might be chatting about - and goodness knows, from day-to-day, you never know what it might be! (Lots of planner posts lately, and continuing on into next week! And a menu planning post is in the works, too ...) I know most of us have never met in real life, but I deeply appreciate your visits and kind words, and I always remember you all in my prayers ... 

But now I must be off as we are in the midst of a pressure-cooker experiment ... this is only our second time using this amazing contraption! Chicken and tomato rice soup! Nice for a Saturday night supper, I think. 

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

Monday pics ... and picadillo!

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

I am here this evening to share some pics with you - though unfortunately, not a "Masterpiece" re-cap. (Bill and I were exhausted yesterday and only made it through the British baking show before conking out! We recorded Home Fires and Indian Summers and hope to watch them tonight and/or tomorrow night.)

Anyhoo! Here are some photos from the past few days ...

Pumpkins from matt

How about these pumpkins? My brother, pretty much every year, brings us our Halloween pumpkins - one for each of us! You can probably guess which one is for Little Bear ... :)

Pumpkin goodies from matt

Matt also surprised us with some more autumn goodies - pumpkin spice coffee for me and a Halloween gingerbread house kit for the boys. How fun! My brother is SUCH a great uncle - and brother! We are very lucky he's such a big part of our lives ... 

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This is our Little Bear, walking the neighborhood with his Daddy, trusty wheelbarrow in tow - natch! He is rarely without his wheelbarrow. And this colorful, fleecy jacket is approximately 20 years old! Each of my boys has worn it, and it's my favorite piece of fall clothing EVER. As you can see, LB is just about to grow out of it ... and that fox hat is getting a bit tight, too! He's getting so big ....

Halloween paper chain

Today I started making a paper-chain countdown to Halloween for Earlybird, who is practically crawling out of his skin in excitement over the approaching holiday. I needed something visual/ tangible that would allow him to SEE how far/close we are to All Hallow's Eve. (Because every day is pretty much: "Let's do (such and such) to get ready for Halloween.") I will write a post about what I've written inside each link of the chain - every day we'll have something to know/learn about Halloween (history/traditions) and there will be plenty of simple activities to help us channel some of that Earlybird energy! It also helps me direct his perception of the holiday - which is preferable to the commercial/mainstream influence we'd rather avoid.

And finally, I made that picadillo recipe today and it has been declared a Family Hit!


Above you see how it looked as I turned the crockpot on low, and below is how I found it, seven hours later ...

Picadillo 2

Funnily enough, I didn't add garlic skin to the pot before I started cooking - but someone else *ahem* seemed to think it was a good idea. Also, said someone thought it prudent (fun? helpful?) to turn the crockpot down from low to warm when Mama wasn't looking ... about halfway through the cook time ...

Thankfully, the beef was already fully cooked (in a skillet) before I started the whole "mess" in the crockpot. And thankfully, it still came out great! Truly, it was a hit. At least with Bill and me. Bookworm, had he been home, also would have loved it. The younger boys, not so much. But we had it in wraps (Bill) and on wheat pizzas (me) for supper. And there is still PLENTY leftover.

And final note - 


I'm starting this soon, and it sounds really neat! It revolves around the downstairs staff serving the Bennett family (a la Pride and Prejudice) which is enormously intriguing, to me anyway. Our library Book Club is reading it this month and I'm really hoping to join in. I haven't done a book club in AGES. Of course, the night will arrive and I'll feel too tired to go out - but I'm still hoping to make it! I'm at least going to read it. So I just ordered it from Amazon. :)

Well friends, that's all for today ... but I thank you for stopping by, and hope to see you here again very soon! Enjoy your evening, and God Bless!

Crackerjack's Confirmation!

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Good Monday morning, my friends!

Well, it was quite a weekend here for our family - our Crackerjack made his Holy Confirmation! There was a beautiful Mass on Saturday morning, and afterwards there was much celebrating back home! I took loads of pictures and I'd love to share them here with you all. I have a few of the prep, and some of the party itself ...

Now, at the top of this post is the Confirmation cake my mum and I made - using a cross pan I had on hand, and basing the design on a project I saw on Pinterest. It probably looks a lot more complicated than it actually was to make ... it just took a lot of time! We used a "classic white" cake mix (1 box) in the aforementioned cross pan ...

Confirmation cake 1

The cooled cake was frosted with homemade buttercream ... my Mum made a ropey edging all around the bottom edge of the cake.

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I used a butter knife (flat edge) and a toothpick to trace the design first - we referenced the Pinterest pic as I went - then I filled in the outline with black decorating gel. By the way, we used Wilton Sparkle Decorating Gels - easy to use and the taste was just fine. (I'm not crazy about artifically-colored frosting for a variety of reasons, but this special cake called for an exception!)

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Next we filled in the "panes" with various bright colors, emulating the stained glass windows one might see in a church. We made the center symbol a sun because CJ brings so much warmth and light into our lives! You'll notice I had Bill take over once my hand got tired ...

Confirmation 3

As a final step, I added a clip-on dove to the corner of the serving board and, using red and gold gel, made flames to represent the Gifts of the Holy Spirit. Technically, there are only seven gifts ... but I got carried away with the gel, lol!

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We finished the cake on Friday night and as the weather was quite hot, we left it in the fridge to keep cool overnight. On Saturday, I set up the dining room table with a pretty white cloth, the cake and other decorations I'll describe below ...

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Crackerjack chose "George" for his Confirmation name - in honor of two of his great-grandfathers as well as his patron saint. We had St. George prayer cards for guests to take as favors from the day. The candle is one we use for liturgical celebrations and the wooden stand was ready to hold the Confirmation certificate.

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This is our much-loved, somewhat worn out, copy of Saint George and the Dragon ... open to Crackerjack's favorite (and most dramatic!) scene. We read this story every year on St. George's Day (April 23rd) and Michaelmas (Sept. 29th) ... CJ has loved this book, and had a fascination with knights, since he was a little boy.

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 In addition to the cross cake, my mum also made these cupcakes - another Michaelmas/St. George's Day tradition. These are chocolate cake topped with buttercream and red and gold sprinkles - with cocktail swords piercing the devil's food underneath ...

Get it? :)

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And you all know how I feel about punch ... it's just not a party without punch! This one, a new recipe, was very nice - it's called "Autumn Orchard Punch." And I forget where I found it - might have been Facebook or possibly Pinterest - but anyhow, it's pretty simple: apple juice, frozen cranberry juice concentrate, a bit of orange juice, ginger ale and floating apple slices. So refreshing on a warm autumn day! And I think it looks gorgeous in my grandmother's crystal punch bowl.

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One of my favorite things about hosting a party is it's the perfect excuse to buy pretty     flowers! The above photo was taken the day before our party - my mum arranged all the flowers for me and I hid them here in the living room from the cats (and little curious fingers). I bought bunches and bunches at Trader Joe's where I find the prices are quite reasonable and the blooms are fresh and interesting. I love all these autumn shades!

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 I really love how Mum did these Mason jar arrangements - the purple looks fabulous with those flowers! These went on the dining tables set up outside under the canopy. I meant to do something more with these tables - like a vine twisted along the center line between the vases or perhaps along the canopy - but I never got around to it. (Go figure ... )

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 And finally it was Confirmation Day morning! Here's CJ's robe, hanging by the front door to release some of the wrinkles.

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CJ needed a little help tying his tie. :)

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And here's our young man with his sponsor, his Papa (my dad). Papa's been pressed into sacramental service twice now - he was also Bookworm's sponsor three years ago.

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 We were not allowed to take photos during Mass, but I snapped this before things got rolling. Apologies for the odd lighting and purple splotches -  my phone does not take the very best pictures ... and my camera, as I explained a while back is out of service. But I could not miss capturing this moment ... :)

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Just moments after Mass with the freshly confirmed, his dad, and his little brother ... who had clearly had enough of his tie.

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I love this picture because I'm with my two "bookend boys" - my oldest (Bookworm, 20) and my youngest (Little Bear, just 2 years old!).

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Pictures outside church ... it was a bit hectic and the sun was in everyone's eyes, but we managed to get a few nice shots.

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Happy, happy day ... the Mass was held, not in our own parish church, but at a local Catholic college. Our church is too small to hold so many people.

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Group shot! With grandmothers, aunties and dear family friends ...

Then it was time to get back to the house and meet up with the rest of the party! I didn't get any pictures of the luncheon buffet but I can tell you there was a LOT of food. (I just can't cook small, lol.) The day was so nice we ate outside, but cake and coffee were served back inside ...

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Soon it was time to cut the cake!

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(Crackerjack could not WAIT to get out of his "spiffy" duds. But in a way, the Star Wars shirt works with the (jedi) knight theme ...)

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Just love that smile! When did he get so grown up?

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"May I have a cupcake, pretty please?"

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 It was a great day to spend outside, catching up with family and friends ... so grateful to have so many wonderful people in our family. 

Can't resist another flower shot - at the end of the day, guests gone home, sun going down - we gathered up all the arrangements and left them outside. So pretty in the soft light.

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 Crackerjack's special cards were placed along our living room mantle ... he also received a St. George medal to wear on a chain, a daily devotions book for teens, a St. George and the dragon figurine (he loves collecting figures) and just before Mass, Bill and I gave him this to wear. :)

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We are just so happy for our Crackerjack - this is such a big day in the life of a Catholic child - and for the family who's raising him! We are very proud of our CJ ... for who he is, his kind spirit and all that he holds in his heart. It's a dear and brave heart, one we've nurtured these past 16 years as best we could ....

Jacks confirmation 2

Dear friends, may I ask you to say a little prayer on our boy's behalf - that he continues to grow in his Faith and know God's love for him always? That he also knows just how much his family and friends cherish him?

Thank you so much, everyone - for those prayers, and, as always, for stopping by and sharing in our joy. I hope you are all doing well and that your new week is off to a nice start!

Take care of yourselves and your loved ones ... I'll be back here again very soon!

Homeschooling: Year 16!

Boys vintage 1

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

And so begins our 16th year ...

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

And how about ... when do I blog? 😉

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

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

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


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


We're Celebrating Crackerjack's 16th Birthday!

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

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

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

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The Birthday Boy himself!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

Summery Pics & Nature Notes

Golden party flowers 2

 Happy Monday, my friends! I hope you all had a lovely weekend. Ours was very nice - we spent Saturday at Bill's folks' golden anniversary party, and what a special day it was - perfect August weather and lots of family and friends, celebrating a happy, loving couple. I'm not sure if I've mentioned it here at the blog but Bill's dad had a stroke last fall and has been recuperating ever since. It's been a very hard road for him - for Bill's mom, too - but he's come such a long way and is doing very well. We're all so happy he's home now and that they were able to celebrate this beautiful day together - they even renewed their vows on the front lawn and it was just a lovely ceremony ...

Anyhoo, the flowers above are from a beautiful arrangement my sister-in-law had delivered on behalf of all the "kids." My mother-in-law sent me home with a small portion and I just love looking at the pretty blooms sitting my kitchen window. The sweet pansy was a Sunday morning gift from Little Bear, a treasure found "for Mama" on a walk with Daddy. :)

Speaking of pretty flowers, here are some from my mother-in-law's garden ...

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She has quite the green thumb as you can see!

Also this weekend, I found these neat plastic page finders at Staples. (Ah, the siren's call of Staples at this time of year ...) I usually make my own out of scrapbooking paper, but these are quite sturdy and fit a 3-ring binder perfectly. I have one in my home keeping binder for marking my place in my domestic journal (my daily notes/clippings log) and another marks where I have current project plans. I also stick post-it notes to the page finder for various things ... but more on all this when I do my binder tour!

Pagefinders 1

And here's a very cool - kinda weird! - plant that grows in our woodland garden. It's called Indian Stovepipe, or Ghost Plant (or Corpse Plant, ew!) and it pops up from beneath the leaf litter in late Summer. It feeds on fungus in the soil below and does not use chlorophyl as most plants due, hence its lack of color ...

Indian stovepipe ghost plant

And this might be a little more "ew," but I find it fascinating, and so do my boys ...

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A beautiful snakeskin found in one of our stone walls ... there's a garter nest in there apparently. I love how complete the skin impression is! Can you see the tiny eye marks?

(Note: I must publicly apologize to my mother who, I know, is shuddering to see that snakeskin, and who, to this day, wonders where this bug-snake-dirt-and-rocks loving girl came from, lol. I've always loved nature, but it was all flowers and fluffy animals when I was young ... but you know, I grew up to be a mom to four boys - I had to get right down there and explore with them, and flowers don't intrigue them nearly as much as an exoskeleton or snakeskin! And I find I do love all of nature, and find it so fascinating - miraculous! - even the less "pretty" parts!)

Speaking of nature, don't forget The Perseids are coming this week! (Actually, they're already here, but peaking around 8/12-13.) This annual meteor shower brings beautiful shooting stars to the dark night sky ... read more about them here.

Well my friends, that's all I have time for right now ... but thanks so much for stopping by, and have yourselves a great day! I will see you here again very soon ... :)

Friday Bits & Bobs ~ Summer Days

Happy-almost-Weekend, my friends!

I just have a few things to share with you today ... some pretty late summer images I thought you'd like to see. (Ack, did I say, "late" summer? Where has the time gone?)

Tickseed 1

This is tickseed (Coreopsis) that is growing abundantly in our front yard. I adore all that yellow, and boy, the bees love it too!

August paper 1

 More yellow - this is the August scrapbook page in my homemade weekly planner. Isn't it pretty? I think sunflowers are a perfect symbol of August ...

(And by the way, Tanya asked me recently how I am using/liking that planner and the honest answer is - to be expanded upon in a future post - I do love it, but I don't use it consistently. And that's partly my fault - and partly the fault of the planner's layout. Luckily I never filled all the pages out so I can re-work them from August forward. So I have been re-tooling the design because I need it to act more as a theme book and less of an agenda ... a place for sketching out ideas and activities (live-love-learn) but not necessarily appointments and household events. But more on all that soon!)

Archie and book 1

What could be cozier than a cat curled up in your lap as you read a good book while a storm rages outside? Archie times his visits well - when the toddler is sound asleep for a good hour or more!

Morning glory blossom

The first morning glory blossom on our lamppost vine ... pretty in purple. Not sure what's going on with the leaves there, but something is finding them very tasty!

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One of those gorgeous grasshoppers I mentioned in an earlier post. Thy are such interesting creatures ... you'd never guess what they look like sitting still after you've seen them in flight.

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And finally, this is a "selfie" from the other day - my younger boys and I, sitting in the sunroom, watching as storms pass over. Earlybird, who as many of you know, is autistic, used to have a strong aversion to picture-taking ... but lately he's not only been open to it, he's even requested it!

Well, my friends, I hope you all have a great weekend ... I will be hammering out those ed. reports with intention to finish and mail them bright and early Monday morning. (Taking a brief break for a haircut! Boy-oh-boy do I need one ...) And once I have the reports out of the way I will focus on my new day-book and sharing with you all how I'm using it ... and big-picture, school year planning ... as well as my binders! Must talk about binders ...

I get so geared up to get organized at this time of year, don't you?


See you here again very soon ...

p.s. Don't forget to look for the Full Blue Moon tonight!