Gardening Feed

Summery Thoughts & Pics ... 🌞

St. johns wort 1

Happy mid-July, my friends! I hope everyone is doing well and enjoying their Summer so far ...

I know my posting has been very slow lately, but all is well here - it's just a very busy, hands-on season in my life! Days begin early - end later than I'd like - and I'm afraid naps are just not a regular thing anymore, lol. I'm finding it a challenge to carve out blogging time these days ... but I am still here! And I appreciate all your thoughts and queries, both here and at my Facebook page. I do not have my blog email working yet, so if you need me, please contact me by leaving a comment here or at FB for the time being. :)

Well, I'm popping in today to say hi and share a few photos if I may. I'm working at the kitchen table right now, sipping some cold coffee and listening to my boys all around me. Little Bear is singing a Spiderman song with Crackerjack while they work on a puzzle on the family room floor ... Earlybird is working hard on math skills with his therapist in the sunroom ... and Bookworm is weaving in and out of the kitchen, getting his own day going ...

Free time might be hard to come by these days, but I'm awfully grateful to be here in this season of life. These full and blessed days go by all too fast ...

Ok. First up - here's a sun craft I made for the Summer Solstice:

Sun plaque 2

I have always loved those colorful sun and moon plaques you see hanging on the sides of sheds or garden gates ... but goodness, they are expensive! This one is handmade (and rather humbly so) with salt dough. We left it to finish drying outside under its namesake. I haven't had the courage to paint it yet, but once I do and it is sealed against the weather, I will hang it somewhere in our garden ...

Speaking of my garden, it's doing very well, too!

Bee balm

Above is the Bee Balm which started blooming just before Independence Day. I think it looks like little firework explosions! And boy, do the hummingbirds enjoy them ...

The herbs we planted last year are quite plentiful - I've been gathering them on dry days to hang over my kitchen window.

Herb basket

In my basket above is St. John's Wort (seen in top picture, too), Thyme, Lavender and Rose petals. The rose bushes out front really did well this season - in fact they are now mostly covered in hips!

Rose hips 1

I'll be researching what to do with rose hips, but in the meantime, I used the petals I collected to make some rosewater:

Rosewater 1

Doesn't that look pretty? 

Rose water 2

Very easy to do - I placed a cup of rose petals in a glass bowl, covered them with 2 cups boiling water and then allowed them to steep (with a dinner plate resting on top) until cool. Then I strained the water into a jar as seen above. I purchased some amber glass spray bottles which I plan to fill with a couple of different herbal concoctions, one of them being a "rosewater refresher" for hot summer days. :)

And here is the "pretty pink forest" growing in my front yard ...

Astilbe 1

These lovely blooms are Astilbe, and there is tons of it growing beneath the family room windows. And out back the Spirea is a veritable pink explosion:

Spirea 1

This whole area (which stands right beside the chicken coop) is a bumblebee haven!

A little more pink to be found along the front walkway ...

Dianthus

These are Cottage Pinks! I love their clove-like scent - and that they remind me of my grandparents' garden AND that they were a favorite of Tasha Tudor's. So much of gardening is creating and recreating fond memories, isn't it?

 Now, here's a very "interesting" visitor we had in our yard recently ...

Fox in yard 1

Yes, that is indeed a red fox - and we've never seen one before (even at our old house) but wouldn't you know, the year we finally get chickens ... this fella shows up?

One more garden pic ...

Faerie flower

This tiny plant popped up all on its own beside my herb patch, and I wasn't sure what it was, but after consulting google - and helpful friends on Facebook - we've identified it as "Straw Foxglove!" A tiny cousin to these beauties out front ...

Foxgloves 1

I love that it's a mystery how it got there ... :)

And here's a pretty picture from my living room, taken on Independence Day morning ...

4th of july morning

The summer weather has been wonderful here in New England - bright and hot for the most part. Maybe a bit too hot this week (mid 90s by Friday) ... so as much as I love open windows, I'm very grateful for air conditioning!

Speaking of gratitude ...

Magnetic letters

It's been many years since we've had magnetic letters on our fridge! I LOVE this age, don't you?

And how about a family pic? 

Happy birthday dad

We celebrated Bill's birthday last weekend, and I just love this shot of him surrounded by all his boys (and me)! In case you can't tell, he's lighting the candles on his cake - we couldn't fit all FIFTY on there! ;)

(Any longtime readers here astounded (as I am) at how big my boys are all getting? They were tiny when I started this blog!)

Parting shot, taken at my local Michaels craft store recently ...

Fall at michaels

Mind you, this was taken BEFORE the 4th of July! I am all for planning ahead - and you all know how much I love autumn - but even for me this is just a wee bit too early!

β€œLive in each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influence of the earth.” ~ Henry David Thoreau

(His birthday was yesterday - aka National Simplicity Day - and this is a topic for a whole 'nother post!)

Well my friends, I am going to wrap up now, because if I don't push "publish" soon there's a chance it will be another day or more before I get this post up! (Remember how I was sipping cold coffee back in that third paragraph? Yeah, it's taking me a while to get this post done!)

Plus, I have supper to make, and tonight it's sloppy-joe biscuits, corn on the cob and waffle fries - a real "boys' favorite." I've been a little lax in the meal planning department and really need to get back on track. I'm at the food store more than I'd like these days! 

(Another topic for another day!)

But as always, I thank you for stopping by and reading, and I hope this post finds you well ...

See you here again very soon!


A Craft to Celebrate the Summer Sun!

Solstice branch 2

Hello everyone, and Happy Wednesday! 

I wanted to share a project I worked on yesterday, in celebration of the Summer Solstice and all the plentiful sunshine we've been enjoying here in New England. But I can't take credit for this idea ... I found bits and pieces of it on Pinterest while filling up my Late Spring Planning Board. (Gosh, I love Pinterest. What did we ever do before Pinterest?!)

Now, as I've mentioned before, I like to assign seasonal themes to each week of the year. This gives me a chance to weave some seasonal awareness into our busy family life ... because otherwise time just flies by and I find myself thinking, where on earth did that season go? It's all too easy to miss out on the little joys that make each season so special! So this week we are taking note of the Summer Solstice and the brilliant Summer sun. Working off a brainstorm list and an established weekly rhythm, I have activities planned for nature, crafts, food, reading, learning and family togetherness. Some of the ideas will appeal to the younger boys and some will hopefully be enjoyed by us all ...

And some ideas are meant just for me! :)

For example, yesterday I made a decoration for our bright and shiny kitchen window where we all gather to eat and watch the wildlife in our yard. I could have involved the boys but they were busy and content to just observe and take comfort in watching mama work quietly while they went about their day. That said, it's really a very easy project and definitely doable with children of all ages. Materials include branches (one big and several smaller, similarly sized), colorful yarn and embroidery thread, a glue gun and oranges.

Solstice branch 1

(Not to say I didn't have some help ...)

On Monday (nature day), Little Bear helped me gather branches from the yard. We had some stormy weather the other night and it brought down a lot of twigs and branches. LB loves nothing better than driving that wheelbarrow around our yard, picking up leaves and sticks and rocks and whatnot. The ones we found came from our favorite oak tree that lines the drive, and some of the branches will be used in a "bonfire" (fire pit) later this week, while several were deemed perfect for my craft.

Solstice branch 6

On Tuesday morning, I sliced up an orange and placed those slices on a cookie sheet fitted with a cooling rack. The sheet went into a 200Β° oven for 2-3 hours. Once the orange slices (now dry) were cool, I threaded them onto golden embroidery floss and set them aside. Meanwhile, I took the largest branch we found and hung it in the window (by loops of yarn attached to the ends of the branch and small hooks hung just inside the window frame). I had the older (taller than me!) boys help me hang the orange slices from that branch ...

Solstice branch 4

I love how they catch the light and look like little suns themselves!

 Later in the afternoon, while the younger boys played nearby, I made up a few God's Eyes, a craft which has always reminded me of the sun, with its colorful center and radiating arms. From what I understand, a God's Eye (or, Ojo de Dios) is of Mexican origin and is made as a blessing, often for children. I like to make them for the Christmas tree, roundabouts the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, and though I've previously made them using popsicle sticks, this time out I chose to use natural twigs. I formed the twigs into cross shapes, attaching them at the center with my glue gun and then wove my designs in sunny-colored yarn. There are many directions to be found online for making this craft - and while I'm not skilled in fiber craft, this is so simple and satisfying!

Solstice branch 5

Finally, I attached the three God's Eyes to the branch and our Summer Window was set ...

Solstice branch 3

This window faces south so it gets plenty of light ... I love how this looks here!

Today, Wednesday (modeling day), we are making a salt-dough sun plaque for the garden. Or I should say we might ... if we have time! It's also Bookworm's (21st!) birthday so there's a lot going on, including a special dinner for the birthday boy! If we don't get to making our sun shape today, we'll try to work on it tomorrow ... 

{It's always good to make plans and follow a rhythm, but as in all things, flexibility is key!}

Before I go, here are some of the books we're reading this week:

Sun Bread by Elisa Kleven

The Sun Egg by Elsa Beskow

Summer by Gerda Muller

The Longest Day by Wendy Pfeffer

The Summer Solstice by Ellen Jackson

It's a lovely week - the Solstice, the Full Strawberry Moon, Bookworm's birthday and Midsummer Eve/Day - aka, the Nativity of St. John. So many things are blooming in our yard - I gathered a bunch of flowers to dry over my kitchen sink for future crafts ...

Summer flowers 1

🌞

Well my friends, thanks so much for stopping by! I hope you are all doing well and that your week is being kind to you. Happy Summer to all and see you here again very soon ...


Playing Catch Up!

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

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

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

THIS!

Chicks 1

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

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

Chicken pen

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

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

Flower cupcakes

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

Flowers 1

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

Here is a lovely pond in our neighborhood ...

Morning pond

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

Phlox

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

O party 17

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

Rugs 1

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

Rugs 3

Thankfully, Archie approved the purchase ... ;)

Kitchen table with peonies

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

O and l reading 1

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

But back to the garden ...

Yarrow 2

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

Peonies 3

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

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

Foxgloves sunshine

Foxgloves pink

Foxgloves 1

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

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

Flag day foxgloves

(Happy Flag Day!)

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

Woodchuck 1

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

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

Woochuck 2

I can't wait to watch them this Summer!

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

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

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

***

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

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

See you here again very soon! 


Themes & Plans for May (Updated!)

Violet in grass

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

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

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

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

~ Themes & Plans for May ~ 

Nature

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

Folklore

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

Food

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

Faith

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

Household (& Garden)

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

Life

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

Book Basket

Field Trips & Outings

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

Crafts & Activities

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

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

See you all again very soon ... :)

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


Spring Garden Plots & Plans ...

Happy Tuesday, my friends! :)

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

Spring yard 9

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

Spring yard 3

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

 Spring yard 7

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

Spring yard 2

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

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

Spring yard 4

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

Spring yard 5

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

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

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

Garden journals

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

🌱🌱🌱🌱

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

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

See you here again very soon!


On Meal Plans & Seasonal Eating

Menu planning 1

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

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

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

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

Saturday: takeout from our local pizza place

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

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

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

Wednesday: homemade calzones & pizzas, zucchini tots

Thursday: slow cooker cashew chicken over rice

Friday: lemon-roasted shrimp with asparagus and linguine 

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

Sunday: leftovers!

*❀*

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

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

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

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

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

Menu planning 5

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

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

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

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

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

Menu planning 2

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

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

Menu planning 3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Menu planning 4

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

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

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

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

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


On Michaelmas Day ...

Confirmation flowers

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

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

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

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

Michaelmas crumble

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

Michaelmas daisy page

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

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

Michaelmas 2

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

Michaelmas 12

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

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

Michaelmas 3

Michaelmas 4

Michaelmas 15

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

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

Here's how that crumble came out:

Michaelmas 5

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

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

Michaelmas 9

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

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

Micha 

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

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

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This morning's quiet work ...

Michaelmas 7

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

***

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

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

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

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


Thoughtful Thursday ~ Wonder

O and butterfly 1

"If a child is to keep his inborn sense of wonder, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement, and mystery of the world we live in."

(Rachel Carson)

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We released our last Monarch butterfly the other day, and this one, unlike the others, did not shoot off straight into the sky ... but rather lingered for a bit in our yard! Delighting us all - Little Bear most of all - as it flitted around us, stopping at this flower and that. 

O and butterfly 6

He seemed to enjoy the goldenrod very much!

Good Thursday morning, my friends! I was so excited to share that top photo with you all - isn't it sweet? I think it might be one of my all-time favorite pictures of Little Bear ... he really was quite enthralled with the whole butterfly business. He loves nature and is never happier than when he is trucking around the yard - usually with his little red wheelbarrow, and his yellow bucket hat on his head - and just stopping to look at stuff or add things to his 'barrow. We are so fortunate to live in a world filled with so many wonders ... and blessed are we who can share it with children. They remind us to stop, look ... and wonder. :)

Well, while we are on the subject of butterflies, I wanted to mention something important about Monarchs - brought to my attention recently by Michelle M. As many of you I'm sure realize, Monarchs are a threatened species; their numbers are rapidly dwindling. Climate change, pollution, loss of habitat and rampant (irresponsible) pesticide use all contribute to this calamity, but as Michelle has informed me, using butterfly "kits" to raise Monarchs might also be adding to the issue ...

If I may quote her here, as she stated this so well:

"But the problem is these kit butterflies don't have the genetic diversity that wild populations have and some scientists are very fearful that this may weaken the general population as more and more of these kit-raised monarchs are released. They may be less resistant to disease. Plus it takes many generations to complete the journey from Mexico to New England...who knows where these Monarchs' great grandchildren will think they are really from.

I truly truly don't want to rain on your parade, since raising Monarchs has been one of the top joys of my life. But if at all possible, I urge you to look for caterpillars in your own back yard or close by area and raise those on NATIVE milkweed local to your area, again, not just any milkweed from a nursery or seed packet. Perhaps you would consider amending your blog to not recommend kits?"

Michelle, I thank you, honestly, for bringing up this important information - you are certainly not raining on my parade, but only adding important depth and discernment! Learning about nature is vital as is increasing our respect for it. Admiring nature is a great first step ... but we also must seek to understand it, and foster it as best we can ... goodness knows it can use all the help it can get!

I will now be sure to look for caterpillars locally, hopefully in our own yard. (Our friend who supplied us with these beautiful butterflies lives in the next town over and she has plenty of native milkweed in her yard.) We do have milkweed growing naturally on our road, and I hope to help it spread its seed this fall. (This will work nicely with our "autumn seeds" theme this week!) And next year we will keep our eyes peeled for more milkweed, as well as eggs and caterpillars!

Here is a link to learn more: Rearing Monarchs Responsibly

 My friends, I must wrap up now but I hope you all are enjoying your week! Another quick note before I go - this one about email. I'm still having issues with "freeing space" on my laptop, so I'm "doing email" from my phone for the time being - which is nearly impossible, lol! (I hate typing on that tiny keyboard!) That said, I am also changing my email very soon ... from now on, please send any blog-related email to this address:

bysunandcandle AT gmail DOT com

(Friends and family, my personal email will stay the same - just substitute "gmail" for "comcast.")

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


Monarchs on the Move!

Buterfly hatching 2

Well, we had quite a weekend here at our house! I hope yours was nice, too. :)

On Friday morning we discovered that two of our butterflies had hatched! And a third would follow a few hours later ... 

Butterfly hatching 1

... leaving us with two last chrysalises still green. As it was a cloudy, wet day, we decided to wait for the following day to release them ...

After some googling, and a Facebook query or two, we learned we could "feed" the newly born butterflies by placing some sugar-water-soaked cotton pads in the bottom of their container. I also placed a small bit of watermelon in there. I couldn't really tell if they imbibed or not - one of them did stand on the watermelon wedge for a time, lol.

Happily, Saturday was bright and warm so we brought our four fluttering friends outside and sent them on their merry way ...

Butterfly 3

Butterfly 6

Three of the four flew directly off into the wide blue yonder ... but one lingered for a few moments on my hand. It was amazing ...

Butterfly 2

Butterfly 4

And then he was off, too!

Our last chryalis hatched Saturday night, but as Sunday was another cool, damp day - and today (Monday) is cool and windy - we're fostering our butterfly a bit longer. We're hoping to release him tomorrow morning when it promises to be sunny and warm again. I just placed a fresh orange slice in the bottom of the container ... which, by the way, now resides on the top of our fridge. All that fluttering in the learning room bookcase eventually caught the attention of one of my rather curious cats ... I bet you can all guess who!

If you have not tried raising butterflies before, I highly recommend it! The kids were enthralled - as were Bill and I! We were set up rather nicely by a friend with years of experience (and a monarch-friendly backyard) and though there are kits available online, for the sake of the Monarch's survival it is best to keep the local gene pool ... well, local. Introducing kit butterflies to your local habitat could mess up genetic diversity and weaken the Monarch's resistance to disease. And they already have enough to contend with - what with climate change and pesticide poisoning, loss of habitat, etc. So keep an eye out for caterpillars next spring and summer! Fall is approaching quickly ... check your local nursery for native (locally raised) milkweed. Learn about Monarchs and what they need ... Nature depends on us to be informed and respectful! :)

Now, something I'd like to note ... remember that seasonal theme schedule I set up for my family? Well last week was to be "apple" week but understandably, it made more sense to learn about butterflies! So we focused our homeschooling attention on "monarchs and migration" instead of apples ... so there's an example of a theme that will go a bit under-noticed this year. That's not to say we won't still explore apples this fall in one or more ways ... there will be an orchard visit and apple picking, apple baking and lots of nice apple books in the seasons basket. I don't sweat it when themes don't happen as planned ... life has its own rhythm and that's the most meaningful schedule of all! :)

Well, I'd best be off for now ... but I thank you for stopping by and wish you all good week. I will be back again soon with a nice long post about my homeschooling planner. I'm plugging along on that project as time (and family) allows!

See you all here again soon ...


Thoughtful Thursday: August Gardens

August garden 1

"There is no lack of produce in August gardens, the best of which is saved for the fairs and reunions. Jars of golden mustard pickles and crisp green cucumber slices wait in rows in the cool cellar. String beans and corn relish are counted by the dozens of jars. Jams and jellies in sparkling colors await such special occasions. Herbs are hanging from the rafters in the warm, dry shed, soon to be pulverized for winter's use, but green herbs are plentiful in the garden for fresh salads: lettuce, parsley, tarragon and chives, savory, thyme and chervil. There is no lack of garden stuff for family reunions, no indeed. Even the tomatoes are ripe, the better to flavor a casserole of summer vegetables."

From The New England Butt'ry Shelf Almanac by Mary Mason Campbell (illustrated by Tasha Tudor) - one of my FAVORITE resources for seasonal planning. I have all those pulled out right now, in a lovely stack in my workspace ... :)

Speaking of tomatoes and casseroles of summer vegetables - here's a recipe I pinned this morning and can't wait to try ... sounds delicious! :)

And here's a bit more from the August chapter, if I may share ...

"Summer falters. Mornings taste of autumn; evenings close in earlier, quietly, no longer filled with melodies of garden birds. Only the thrush may still be heard singing, or a robin calling. A cricket chirps at the door-rock and cicadas forecast first frost ("six weeks from the first song of the cicada"). Swallows gather on telephone wires and sweep through the late summer air to gather such feasts as they may. Elderberries and blueberries are dead ripe. Goldenrod lifts its fringed blossoms over the stone walls. Butterflies hover over the hollows and ditches where joe-pye weed blooms in soft purple drifts. In years gone by, to cure fevers tea was made from joe-pye weed and its sister plant, the white boneset. In the woods' damp shady places, Indian pipe rises in its ghostly white and we stoop to examine it in wonder and delight ... "

(Remember when I showed you our Indian Pipe growing by the mailbox?)

:)

Well my friends, I hope you are all having a nice week. It's flying by is it not? Thursday already ... I am taking pictures right this minute (or in just a few) of my daybook's Thursday-Friday page so I can share how I'm using it. Really having fun setting up my lesson planner for the new year, too ... there's so much promise at this time of year!

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

*image from Let's Grow a Garden by Gyo Fujikawa


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 ...

Golden party 10

Golden party 6

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 ...

Snakeskin 1

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 ... :)


Homeschool Thoughts, Lists & News, etc.

(A bit of a hodgepodge today!)

Happy august 1

Happy August, my friends! It sure is hot and hazy here, but I love how the flowers just glow in the summer sun these days. And everything is so green ... I just love this time of year!

Well, I wanted to pop in quickly this morning to tell you I am *thisclose* to finishing our school reports - I just need to finalize Earlybird's ed. plan for next year. His reports are always a bit tricky because, as a special needs child, my plans must be thorough, but flexible, and his progress is not always so readily apparent. I have to put a lot of thought into what we will learn and how I will teach him these things. And because of his learning style and challenges, my methods are not always as clear-cut as just say, ordering a "Grade X Curriculum." Thankfully he does make progress each year ... I just have to really look back through all we did in each subject to remind myself (reassure myself) how said progress was made and measured.

(For example, this year he listened to audiobooks - something he didn't couldn't do before - and in this way we "read" several classic books together. I couldn't ask him to fill out a quiz or write a report, but I could - when the time was right - ask him questions about what we'd heard that day and to re-tell parts of the story, which I would write down.)

So I'm always looking for ways to "think outside the box" when constructing Earlybird's education, and one resource I have found immensely helpful are these fantastic (and free!) Living Learning Lists from Ed Snapshots. There are some terrific ideas here for experiential learning in all the main subjects! I've pinned these lists and printed them out to keep in my homeschool planner for use all year long ... :)

And speaking of Ed Snapshots ... well, I am just SUPER excited to have been invited to do a podcast with Pam sometime in the near future! (You can read other podcasts here ... so much inspiration!) I will keep you all posted about when mine will be happening ... I'm not sure what-all I can bring to the "podcast table," but I am SO honored to have been asked! I haven't "talked shop" in a while ... :)

*❀*

Let's see, what else? I also wanted to mention that so far I am really enjoying my new Day Designer! I will do a post on how I'm using it as soon as I can - I want to get some more "days" under my belt first - but I wanted to mention that if you'd like a peek at how the planner looks, DD offers free downloadable planning pages to try out before purchasing. Mind you, this is an example of a page from a flagship planner - the original Day Designer - not the Blue Sky version I purchased from Target. I'm still working out how the versions differ ... and how to personalize my own planner. More about that soon!

Ok - and here's a final thought for today - over the weekend I had my hair cut, colored and styled and boy does it feel good! (Some of you might have seen my "after shot" on my Facebook page.) And it got me to thinking ... wouldn't it be fun to do a "hair care" post here at the blog? I would love to chat about how we wear our hair, and how we care for it ... on our own at home and at the salon. Especially when we're busy with other things (kids, work, life!) or being careful with our budget. We could even - if people were willing! - share pictures. I will keep that in mind for sometime in my posting future - let me know if you think that would be fun and any other post ideas you might have for me! I'm always open to suggestions. :)

*❀*

All righty then ... I will be off now since my kids are clamoring for lunch and I'm the point person when it comes to that situation. For now I will wish you all a good week and hope to see you here again very soon!

Teach quote

(Saw this just before hitting "post" and had to share!)


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!

Grasshopper in grass 1

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.

Riley takes pics 4

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!


Thoughtful Thursday ... Nature Study

Butterfly on coneflowers 1

Butterfly on coneflower 2

Butterfly on coneflower 3

 "But it's not enough to merely exist," said the butterfly, "one must have sunshine, freedom and a little flower."

(Hans Christian Anderson)

I love how easy nature study can be ... especially in midsummer, when life all around us is bursting with color, sound and smell!

Over the past few days we've been noticing a pretty orange butterfly visiting our herb patch. We can see this spot easily from our kitchen window, along with several bird feeders and the woodsy woods beyond. It's a view I never tire of - and I'm grateful for it each time we sit at the table. Well, while I was watering my pots yesterday, I saw this handsome fella again - perched on a coneflower without a care in the world - and hastily drew the phone from my pocket to snap some pictures. Back inside I showed the family my photos and we started to discuss what kind of butterfly it could be ... not a Monarch surely, but a familiar orange and brown/black ...

A quick google search later (our field guide of choice these days) and a match was found - or so we think:

A Great Spangled Fritillary

It's our best guess!

I made a note in my daily domestic journal - which sits open on the kitchen counter - re ~ the name of the butterfly and the flower it was enjoying. Also under yesterday's date, I had notes about the weather (beautiful summer day! 80s and low humidity at last! brief showers late afternoon ...).  Looking back over those notes I see I also wrote about the blueberry breads I made - and the rhubarb we harvested (tons, because that plant is going crazy) and the grasshoppers that are active along the stone wall ...

Doesn't that all sound so summery ... ? :)

So it wasn't any major project or investigation - in fact, the boys were only marginally aware of my "butterfly moment" ... but they were aware. Nature, as always, was happening around them. It does its thing all the time, whether we pay it attention or not. And, I think, (hope), they couldn't help but absorb some of my curiosity and delight over this simple event. They've watched me embrace life this way this since they were little ...

Another time perhaps I would have stretched this experience into a more involved project ... a big butterfly study or craft or report. A formal journal entry with a poem or quote (like the one above) ... or even a butterfly walk through a local Audubon locale. And all those things are fantastic activities - but they do come with some planning and effort. I love planning those types of things, but honestly, what makes up the the bulk of our family's nature study is simply just being aware - tuning into the elements, the seasons, even our own senses. Remembering where we are in the year, and how it shapes our day. Becoming familiar with the flora and fauna in our own little corner of the world - the trees and plants and birds and bugs and the small furry things that run across our yard. I think that kind of "accidental" learning is equally meaningful when compared to formal studies. The things we know in our bones don't have to come come from books or documentaries or craft kits. They come from an awareness and understanding of the very world around us ... a kind of knowledge we carry with us wherever we go ... and however old we may be.

So whether a nature "event" is planned out and hands-on or simply exists in the background of our busy lives, I feel it matters. I think my boys - my computer-loving, sci-fi/fantasy, gamer boys - are growing up with a real feel for the seasons and an instinctive awareness of the nature around them. Sometimes we take the time to delve deeper, as we will do this academic year with organized outings and scheduled topics - but there will also be plenty of everyday, effortless moments ...

I'll make sure of it. :)

Meanwhile, as I mentioned previously, I am drafting a formal nature study program for the academic year ahead. It will involve multiple ages and abilities (toddler, special needs and high schooler) and it will follow an outline of monthly topics/habitats. I will be very happy to share my initial outline with you all here ... and I hope to have that for you (and myself!) sometime next month.

Well my friends, you all know I can go on and on when I get talking nature, but I'd best wrap up for now. I have a tired baby who's covered in dirt and grass and lunch stains and very much in need of a bath and a nap. He met a dragonfly this morning and was enthralled ... 

O with dragonfly

And his mama, naturally, was thrilled to watch that moment unfold ...

See you here again very soon!


Bits & Bobs ~ Summer Pleasures

 Hello, my friends ~ and Happy Friday! I hope your week went well. :)

I have just a few "bits and bobs" to share tonight .... 

Farm pickup

Above you see the splendor of our weekly CSA share! Summer's garden bounty is amazing, isn't it? Our share this week included A LOT of green "leafiness," some sweet-smelling basil, a couple of summer squash, a bunch of red onions and leeks and an overflowing pint of blueberries ... a little bit of heaven on (from) earth! Now to use it all up ... :)

And this pic, well, it just melts my heart ...

O project 7-15 3

"Teaching children about nature should be treated as one of the most important events in their lives." ~ Fr. Thomas Berry

How I am enjoying drafting nature study plans for next year! It will be a multi-age (and grade) project, as Crackerjack is now done with lab sciences ... and there will be much to explore in each season, for us all!

Hydrangeas bloom 1 

And how about these hydrangeas? It's definitely their moment!! They are blooming like CRAZY and in the most wonderful array of pink, purple and blue ... the soil must be *perfect* in this spot. (Soil acidity affects color and vibrancy.)

(I consider hydrangeas as our wedding flower, because my florist used these blooms for my bridesmaids' bouquets ... they wore billowy, floral dresses ... but he had to work with whatever "shade" they had reached by our October wedding date! I was watching hydrangea bushes all fall, wondering - blue, green, pink, purple? - and happily it was a long, mild season that year. (The bouquets were mostly blush, auburn and green.)

Hydrangeas are a symbol of Summer, I think, as are ... "beach" reads!

Summer reading

I haven't been to the beach yet, but my reading basket is certainly overflowing with "summer reads"! I love catching up on my "fun" reading over the summer ... the library is such a blessing, is it not? My reading basket holds:

The House of Velvet and Glass

Lost Lake

The Witch of Belladonna Bay

Summer Secrets

The Signature of All Things

Enchanted August

Conversion

A Lady of Good Family

The Irresistible Blueberry Bake Shop & Cafe

What are you reading this Summer? :)

***

Well my friends, I hope you all have a great weekend! I'm so glad you enjoyed the pocketbook post! That was so much fun to put together. I would love to do another "share your stuff" kind of post ... any suggestions? Also, Michelle suggested a Q&A post which I have not done in some time ... that would be fun, too! Let me know if there are any "random" questions you'd like to answer, and I'll start a draft ...

Speaking of drafts ... I have in queue a post about my binders (yes, really! finally, lol) and another about a new and nifty "FCS" trick I've been using and can't wait to share! 

Ok, I'm off now to start supper for these hungry men all around me ... I wish you all a very pleasant weekend and thank you all, as always, for stopping by!

I will see you here again very soon ...


Posting Schedule - Update!

Rosa rugosa 1

Blessed Sunday, my friends!

I hope you are all enjoying this lovely weekend ... it's a hot one here, and a busy one for us, too! Bill's birthday was yesterday so we spent a happy day celebrating with family. And today we have a house project going - the boys are helping Bill clean the gutters! - and later on we have a baseball game to attend ...

All this to say - I'm going to delay the "pocketbook post" till Tuesday, and that will give me tomorrow to pull it together. So if you were hoping to send me something for the post - you have an extra day! :)

Before I go, here's a pic of the birthday boy himself - with all HIS boys!

Bills bday 17 (1)

:)

Thanks so much for stopping by, everyone! Enjoy the rest of your Sunday and I will see you here again very soon!

p.s. That's a rosa rugosa shrub in bloom at the top ... I'm hoping to get lots of hips in the fall!


New Email Address!

Well, not new exactly - just not wrong! Lol, I am sorry if you had trouble sending me your pocketbook photos ... It seems I mis-typed the email address in my previous post. You can reach me here at:

bysunandcandlelight AT comcast DOT net.

Many thank to Melissa for bringing this to my attention!

Enjoy your evening, my friends ...

Hydrangeas 3

Here's a peek at my lovely hydrangea bush for your trouble. It needs pruning, I know, but it's blooming like crazy this year! :)

See you all again very soon ...


Ripe & In Season: Rhubarb Crisp!

Rhubarb crisp 1

Happy Monday, my friends!

Are  you enjoying the fruits (and veggies, herbs, etc.) of the season? So much to look forward to, but right now our rhubarb plant is growing like mad! With our latest harvest I made a nice crisp and thought you all might like the recipe ... 

Rhubarb Crisp - Taste of Home Magazine

When I have rhubarb on hand, I usually make a "grunt," which is very much like a cobbler ... but as the recipe calls for whipped cream in the batter - and I had no cream in my fridge - I decided to try something else. Bill really loves "oat-y" fruit crisps (or "gluks" as his family calls them) and so I went with this one because it was chock-full of oats!

Rhubarb crisp 2

One thing I like especially about this crisp recipe is its versatility - it calls for 3 cups chopped rhubarb and 2 cups chopped strawberries (which we had on hand, thanks to our farm share) OR you can use 2 cups chopped apples in place of the berries. I was thinking if we freeze some of our rhubarb it might be nice to make this later in the year when apples are fresh and plentiful. :)

And OH BOY let me tell you, the house smelled incredible as it baked ...

Rhubarb crisp 3

The filling is nice and jammy and quite sweet - to be honest, I might cut back on the sugar next time I make this. I don't mind my rhubarb a bit tart! But it's definitely a keeper for sure ... it's now pinned to my "Seasonal Fruits and Veggies" board. :)

Summer's bounty is certainly upon us and I can't wait to see what our local farm brings us this year! I'm told our pickup this week will include three kinds of peas - English, Sugar Snap and Snow - so I'll be looking for ways to use them up! (Suggestions, anyone?)

Well my friends, thanks so much for stopping by - I hope you all had a nice weekend. And thank you again for your continued patience as my blogging rhythm stalls for a bit. I am trying to find time here and there to blog as I can ... for instance, I thought I might post about my summer pocketbook next. I would love to talk "bags" - style and organization - as it's been a while since we'd chatted about that. How 'bout you? Would you care to share with my what your summer purse (tote, satchel) looks like this year? And what's tucked inside?

If so, feel free to email me a picture and your thoughts on summer bags (bysunandcandlelight AT comcast DOT net). I'll have a post up, hopefully, by the week's end.

Enjoy your week, everyone - see you here again very soon!

🌞