Handcrafts Feed

Advent Tea, Week 2: Plants & Peace

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Hello my friends, and Happy Friday!

And what a fine Friday this is - beautifully bright if perhaps a little colder than is seasonably acceptable in these parts. ***brrrrr*** Still, it's one of those days that make being cozy at home seem all the more wonderful. Well, whatever the weather, I'm so glad to be here and share a cup of something hot and happy with you all ... to slow down for just a moment and catch up. It's hard to believe, but we're making our way through our second week of Advent now, and I hope the season is unfolding in a way that feels right and good for you and your family. I also hope you've all been enjoying our daily "tea with friends" posts! I am very grateful to all who have shared their cups (and thoughts) with us so far this month ... and so pleased there are many more to come!

So this week in my own family's Advent journey we are finding peace in the natural world around us - in trees, plants, and the spices and herbs that are special to this sacred season. We began on Sunday, St. Barbara's Day, with an easy little craft, preparing a small vase to hold our feast day branches. (Legend says that branches snipped on December 4th will bloom come Christmas morning ... this has never failed us before!)

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The vase is an inexpensive terra cotta pot I purchased at the craft store. I spread glue on the sides and wrapped the bottom section with twine and then, using a hot glue gun, covered the upper rim with cloth floral stickers. (Bill sealed the little hole in the bottom of the pot with hot glue so it would hold water.) Next we added forsythia branches from the yard and a few pretty (craft) pine cones just to anchor those branches (and add visual interest). I think it came out very pretty! We'll be making a few more of these for teacher gifts this year ...

But now, about today's Tea ... :)

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Actually, today we're enjoying a hot winter wassail instead of my usual tea. It's easy enough to make your own, but this bottled blend from Trader Joe's is very yummy and quick to prepare. Just heat it up and - voila! - a hot cup of Christmas cheer at the ready! I floated an apple slice on top for an extra bit of fun ...

Would you care to join me in a cup? A little something sweet and spicy to warm us as we walk through my frosty gardens?

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The above photos were taken after an overnight snow, when everything was crunchy icy. Yes, I think we might be in for a white Christmas if this cold and active weather pattern holds over the next couple of weeks! We still have our "mild" days though, and so after yesterday's thaw, we harvested some moss from the stone wall ...

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... to add to our indoor Advent Garden. :)

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As I described in this post, we are rejoicing in God's glorious earth throughout Advent. One of our rituals is the tending of an indoor Advent Garden and we're reveling in the anticipation, slowly building up our tabletop terrarium with a new layer of life each week. Last week we added stones and soil, while this week we added some plants (the aforementioned moss) ...

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Oliver thought this was a GREAT idea.

And the boys found things in their Advent pockets this week that also reflected our theme ... a poinsettia, peppermint candy, fresh mint and evergreen sprigs. Each item symbolized a simple activity or treat or outing ... something to channel some of that wonderful Advent energy!

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Oh, also here in the kitchen - a new bottle of hand soap on the counter. This is such a little thing but I just love changing up the sink soap with the season. :)

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In New England, a touch of frost, a sprinkling of snow and the hint of spices in the air ... these are all hallmarks of the Advent season! Clove, allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg, mint, citrus, apple and cranberry ... these are the "inside plants" we're exploring this week. As you see below, I brought out the mortar and pestle so the kids could try grinding some whole spices ...

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I'll be perfectly honest, this activity lasted all of two minutes. Not that it didn't appeal wildly to the younger boys, but the whole "hitting things with a marble wand" was getting a little out of hand. (Straying from the bowl to the table, fingers, etc.) Still, it was a fun activity and the kitchen smelled really good. :)

Soon I'll be starting fruitcakes ...

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... and we'll be filling small muslin bags with a mulling spice blend I purchased. These will be given as gifts along with fresh apples and pretty mugs. And speaking of pretty mugs ...

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Isn't this cup lovely? It is a very generous size and the golden letters spell out PEACE ... with snowdrops and winter greenery all around. I can see myself using this all season ...

AND .... if you enter my Winter Comforts Basket giveaway ... you might be enjoying it too! This mug will be one of the goodies tucked inside that basket. :)

Before we go, let's talk books and planners for a moment ... two favorite subjects of mine! Here are some of the reads we're enjoying this week ... 

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The bottom two are for the boys (still waiting on a few library requests to come in) and the rest are for me! :)

I'm taking some time this week to revisit one of my favorite author/illustrators, Tasha Tudor. I find such comfort and inspiration in her work - her children's books are family favorites - but I especially admire the way she lived her life. Not that we could all live quite as "off grid" as she did, but there is a lot to be said for "unplugging and slowing down" ... not just at Advent, but in any season. Forever Christmas was a gift from my dad many years ago, who bought this book in Tasha's home state of Vermont. I also absolutely love losing myself in the video, Take Peace: A Corgi Cottage Christmas. In this pile there is also a book of Christmas poems (a wonderful rec from my friend, Gill), my daily Advent read, and a fascinating little book about the folklore and tradition of Christmas plants.

I keep this pile of books stacked in a hopeful fashion beside my favorite reading chair ... I've been determined to find a little reading (and resting) time every day. :)

Late in the afternoon, with the sun heading for bed quite early, I took my cup of wassail to the library, so I might sit at my writing desk and get to work on our Christmas cards ...

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Yes, I am just that selfish enough that I need not one, but two desks, lol! The one in the family room (where I am sitting at this very moment) is for my computer and file crate and bill basket, etc. The white window writing desk you see above I keep for ... well, writing! It feels just a little bit "Jane Austen" to sit down at this desk and pen a chatty bit of correspondence to a friend. In January I will share a more thorough post on this happy writing corner ... as I get my holiday thank-you notes in order!

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Now in this "aerial" photo I spy two more small items that will pop up in that Winter Comforts Basket! A small tin of Trader Joe's body butter - just lovely for dry winter skin - and a small monthly purse planner (though in a different print than the one shown here). Fun little things to bring a smile to your winter days ...

Speaking of planners - parked here is my Day Designer and as I mentioned on Instagram last night, I don't usually do much with stickers and whatnot, but I found some very pretty ones at Paper Source this past week and I had to indulge. That washi tape especially is just SO so pretty. 

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Well my friends, I will wrap up for now, but I hope you enjoyed our time together, sharing another cup of Advent Tea! I have several friends lined up to share tea with you all again next week (every day at 4:00!) and then I will return again on Friday with another longer post. Next week our family's Advent theme is "Joy in the Woodland."

Remember, if you'd like to join us for Advent Tea please send me a picture (or pictures) of your favorite cup by email: drhanigan AT gmail DOT com. I'd love to hear about your cup and any other Advent thoughts you'd like to share! Your pictures will be featured in a daily teatime post and you will be entered in my Winter Comforts Basket giveaway. I'll announce a winner on New Year's Eve and send the basket out shortly after the new year begins. :)

For now though, I will wish you all a wonderful weekend and as always, I thank you sincerely for stopping by. Take care of yourselves and your loved ones ...

See you here again very soon!


Advent Tea, Week 1: Stones, Stars & Shortbread

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Hello my friends and Happy Friday! Did this week go by REALLY fast or is it just me? Seriously - it feels like we were just finishing up Thanksgiving dinner and now here we are nearing the end of the first week of Advent! 

Well, at any rate - welcome! Thank you so much for stopping by and, goodness - please come on in out of the cold and let me offer you something warm to drink. Or maybe it's raining where you are ... or perhaps it's perfectly sunny and warm? But whatever the weather, please do come in! Let's pause together for some rest and refreshment ... time passes too quickly nowadays. We should sit down and savor the season while we can!

Now, my Tea theme this week, as you've probably gathered from the post title, is reflective of where we are in Advent this week. As described in yesterday's post, our family's Advent is a celebration of God's beautiful creation, because the whole world waits together for the miracle of life (and light) to return! Just as the earth goes quiet and dark at this time of year, we too slow down and turn inward, looking for ways to light the path before us ...

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2:43 p.m. and yes, the sun is going down ...

So this week we are focusing on the beauty of "earth and sky" - stars, stones, shells, sun and soil. We'll be making crafts that utilize and rejoice in these blessings of creation. Because when you take the time to really observe and think about these things - particularly if you look through the eyes of a child - you get such a sense for how wondrous our world truly is.

And for me personally, I really do relish crafting with natural materials ... these kinds of projects, most of which become gifts or tree ornaments, just seem especially meaningful to me. :)

Ok, so I have several things to tell you about, but let's start with my tea mug this week ...

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This mug is an oldie but goodie and some readers might recognize it since I've shared it a few times before! But it's my favorite and most comfortable mug. And though it feels wintry to me, I use it all year round. And today in this mug I'm enjoying another old Advent favorite - Harney & Sons' Holiday Tea. This is a black tea blended with subtle spices with a lovely vanilla-type of taste. (I don't believe there's any vanilla in the tea itself, but it just seems creamy and comforting to me.) It's GREAT with a wee bit of sugar and a healthy dose of whole milk. :)

The shortbread you see on the plate - one piece for me, one for Little Bear - was baked Wednesday in honor of St. Andrew (of Scotland). Maybe it's because I'm part Scottish (my maternal grandmother was born in Edinburgh), but shortbread is my hands-down favorite type of cookie! I just love the simplicity of shortbread - the flavor and texture is perfect to my mind (or I should say, palate). I'm always tempted to dip the ends of the bars in melted dark chocolate or thick caramel but then never do. Maybe I'll try that for Christmas this year.

In these pictures you can see I was sitting in a rather sunny spot ...

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The kitchen table gets such wonderful light all day. Usually I "take tea" in the library, but this is where I spread out yesterday - it was bit of a "working" tea. ;)

Here is a closer picture of our Advent Garden-in-progress ...

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Last year we set up an Advent Garden on the patio and while I enjoyed having it there very much, I decided to do something different this year. (Ok, truth be told I had a much larger scale project in mind originally - turning a small section of the yard into a grotto of sorts - but that was deemed a project better suited to spring!)

So instead, we're bringing our garden indoors. Throughout Advent, each week we will add a new layer of creation to this terrarium bowl. This week we've added stones (and soon to come soil), then next week will be plants (aka moss from the garden). In the third week of Advent, we'll add some small animal figures, and then finally, in the last week before Christmas, we will celebrate our own kingdom of creation, humankind - with tiny peg people and little wooden houses.

I'm really excited for this project and I love how it's being done in stages ... really highlighting the "waiting" aspect of Advent. It's certainly piqued the curiosity of my cats and kids ... and even guests to our home!

Now the candles around the bowl technically number 23 instead of 24 - but you didn't hear that from me. *wink* It's all I could scrape up! I had purchased glittery battery-lit tealights for this project but then they didn't really all fit ... size-wise nor sense-wise. (Glitter is lovely but not necessarily, natural.) Then I remembered my collection of beeswax tealights and thought how much more fitting they would be. Some have already been burned a little but that's ok. We'll light a candle each night throughout Advent (one will be lit twice) and that will be another nice way for us to pace ourselves a bit. To gather around the supper table and talk about the good things that happened that day ...

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Here are a couple of stories we're reading during this week of "stones and stars." Three Pebbles and a Song is actually one of our November books but I kept it aside just for this week. It is such a sweet little tale, perfect for this time of year - all about preparing for the long winter and appreciating that we all have gifts to offer. The illustrations - in grays, blues, browns and beige - perfectly suit these bleak days of early December. And another favorite book is this retelling of the fairy tale The Star Child - with its gorgeous illustrations and heartwarming tale of generosity and selflessness. I love how the little girl in the story is so selfless and never once hesitates to hand over something of her own to help another in need. Little ones might fret a bit over the girl's condition (as she slowly sheds her belongings) but her reward at the end of the story is simple and satisfying. 

Speaking of stories ....

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Another thing I'm doing this year is creating an Advent nature story to share with my younger boys - in particular my Little Bear who loves to snuggle and "hear stories."  I bought a couple of bags of "river" stones at the craft store (they're cleaner and more uniformly shaped than our yard stones!) and each stone is painted with a symbol from nature. The story is very simple (just a few lines a day) but it leads us towards Christmas in a way that meanders through creation ...

So ... we begin with a sleepy sun, a friendly starfish, a lonely rock, and a generous star ... and then next week we'll meet proud trees and humble plants ... later on there will be hungry birds, silly crows, clever bees ... and at last ... a humble home, a friendly barn and a very loving family. :)

I'm storing the stones in the 24 little drawers of that wooden Advent tree seen below, and each day we'll pull out a stone, tell its tale (Earlybird can read the card) and then nestle it in amongst the green branches.

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I'm having a lot of fun with it so far! And the boys seem intrigued. :) And since my artistic talents are somewhat limited, I have enlisted our resident 17 year-old artist, Crackerjack, to help me out with painting the stones ... 

Now I have one more thing to show you ... something that will be part of my "Winter Comforts Basket" giveaway!

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These pretty soaps are made by a company called Hand in Hand, and whether you buy them for yourself or a friend (online or at Target), they are a gift that truly gives back. Because for every purchase, HiH gives a month's worth of soap and clean water to a needy child.  These soaps are so well-crafted, softly-scented, earth-friendly AND gorgeously-wrapped. (I love the subtle colors and natural themes!) I'm giving several people on my gift list a bar of this beautiful soap, and ...

... whoever wins my "Winter Comforts Basket" will receive one as well!

(Remember - to enter my Winter Comforts Basket giveaway, all you have to do is send me a picture of your favorite mug or cup. It can be a special one you use at the holidays, throughout the winter, or any old day. You can send me your picture by attaching it to an email (send to drhanigan AT gmail DOT com). Feel free to tell me as much as you'd like about your mug - we love to talk tea here! (And cocoa, coffee, mulled cider, etc.!) I will share these pictures in my weekly Tea posts and then, on New Year's Eve, I will randomly pick a winner! 

So without further ado, here are this week's Tea Friends ... :)

From Elizabeth: "I'm sending you a picture of my favorite mug that I use all the time. I love to enjoy hot chocolate, herbal tea and spiced apple cider in the evenings. Especially with a good book or favorite episode of a beloved TV show or movie."

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From Lauren: "For your tea post, I wanted to share my favorite tea cup that I use during the winter season."

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From Heather: "I have to share more than one ... They are all perfect for the season! Happy Advent!"

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"My Pioneer Woman Christmas Tree Mug."

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"My 'Home is the Nicest Word There is' Mug."

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"My Mary and Martha "Lovely" Mugs."

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"And these little glass mugs in our hot chocolate bar!"

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And from Gill:

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"This is a photo of the corner of my kitchen, where I stand to make tea or coffee, cook and bake, or turn 90' to wash up! I spend many contented hours exactly here working or dreaming or gazing out of my window to the front yard, where the dog, cats, hens and wild birds all interact!

In the summer the troughs against the yard wall are overflowing with flowers, now they are stuffed full of daffodil, crocus and narcissus bulbs, covered over with pine branches. The tree is the one we went into the forest to cut down last weekend. The bird feeders are usually busy. It is the funniest thing that the wild birds throw down seed to the hens beneath, and the hens keep the cats away!

You can just see that I have hung my Christmas curtains and that they are swathed with fairy lights. I have my breakfast ready: Norwegian brown goats cheese on bread and a cafe latte in my favorite Emma Bridgewater JOY mug. The board I have my bread on says " A friendly word can work wonders" which is so very true. I had just poured my coffee when your post pinged in, so I snapped the photo and hope you won't mind an Advent breakfast instead of tea!

Wishing you a very peaceful Advent ..."

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Oh my goodness, wasn't that fun? I just love talking "tea" (etc.) with friends. I do so wish we could all sit down in person and chat, but I guess for now this is the next best thing. (Maybe someday I'll figure out that periscope trend, lol ... or maybe host a "seasonal tea" webinar??)

My sincere thanks to Elizabeth Mary, Lauren, Heather and Gill for sharing their beautiful cups! I loved seeing them and hearing their thoughts on this cozy, happy topic!

And thank you all for joining me today ... I hope you enjoyed our teatime and hearing a little more about my family's Advent rituals. I will share Tea again here next Friday, and all are welcome to partake. If you'd like to send me a picture for the post (and giveaway!) please do so at your earliest convenience, by attaching a photo to an email addressed to ...

drhanigan AT gmail DOT com

I hope to hear from you! Until then, have a happy and restful weekend and I will see you all here again very soon!


Summery Thoughts & Pics ... 🌞

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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:

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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!

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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.

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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!

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

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Doesn't that look pretty? 

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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 ...

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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:

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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 ...

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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 ...

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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 ...

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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 ...

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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 ...

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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 ...

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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? 

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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 ...

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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!

“Live 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!

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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.

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(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.

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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 200° 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 ...

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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!

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

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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 ...

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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 ...


HomeCrafts: Candles for Candlemas!

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Earlier this month, over at my Facebook page, I shared a picture of the candles we made for Candlemas, along with a promise to do a follow-up post at the blog with all the project information ... but it just occurred to me this morning, I never actually did that! Well, here I am now to share all the details - because I think many of you would enjoy this craft and also, I'd like to do it again myself. :)

Ok, here we go!

So ... I knew I wanted to make candles in early February (with the hope of having them blessed at Candlemas) and I knew I wanted to use natural beeswax, so I googled a little and found this post, written by Jill Winger at The Prairie Homestead. I added it to my Deep Winter Pinterest board and started gathering materials ...

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{Beeswax is so lovely, isn't it? We are so blessed by those industrious little bees!}

Candles 2

I already had the wicks and beeswax on hand, having planned this as an Advent craft (that never came to be). I also bought a few tiny glass jars at the craft store ($1 each) and found an old coffee tin in the pantry (previously used for steaming brown bread).

First step:

Candles 3

Add beeswax to the tin and set the tin in a simmering stockpot of water. The water should come about halfway up the can. (Too much water will tip the can.)

Slowly melt the wax ...

Candles 4

{Keep an eye on it, but it didn't take more than 20 minutes or so.}

Candles 5

Now, while the wax was melting, I hot glued the wicks to the bottom of the jars. Then, once the the wax was completely melted, I carefully poured it into the four ready jars ...

Candles 11

(Using a kitchen mitt of course!)

I was pleased the wax filled all four jars! 

Candles 6

I placed dowels on either side of the wicks to keep them straight as the wax cooled.

Candles 7

Love how the wax went pale as it solidified!

I placed the candles up in the window and once the wax had fully cooled I trimmed the wicks.

Candles 8

And that was that!

I must say, we were quite glad of these little candles when a few days later a storm knocked our power out!

Candles 10

Now, I did add a bit of essential oil to the jar as the wax was added, but I don't think it added much scent. As I understand it, essential oils don't do well with high temps. I might fiddle with that a bit because I'd love to make some more of these candles with seasonal scents ... 

Also, (and I don't have a picture of this but wanted to mention) you can easily screw the lids on the candles and give them as gifts. Add some ribbon or twine around the jar and a pretty label on the top of the lid with your wish for a Merry Christmas, Happy Mother's Day, or Blessed Birthday! Etc.

I love it when a craft you're very keen to make works out just as you'd hoped ... and, even better, when the end result is something quite useful and meaningful. I will definitely be making these again (for myself and as gifts) and would love to experiment with adding herbs from my garden. My friends, have you made candles before at home? I'd love to hear about it if you have! Please leave me a note in the comment box below. :)

In the meanwhile, and as always, thanks so much for stopping by today! I hope your Monday is a good one, and I will see you here again very soon ..


Happy St. Brigid's Day!

Brigid 6

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

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

Brigid 2

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

Brigid 3

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

Brigid 4

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

Brigid 5

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

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

Brigid 7

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

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

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

Brigid 1

We'll be making candles for Candlemas. :)

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


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 ...

Advent grotto 2

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

Advent grotto 3

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!

Advent grotto 19

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 ...

Advent grotto 4

Advent grotto 7

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

Advent grotto 6

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 ...

Advent grotto 8

Advent grotto 14

Advent grotto 9

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.

Advent grotto 10

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.

Advent grotto rocks

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 ...

  Advent grotto 12

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 ...

Advent grotto 13 (1)

Clean and dry rocks, frame and glue gun.

Advent grotto 15

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:

Advent grotto 16

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

Advent grotto 1

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!


My Advent Tea Journal ~ Gifts from the Heart

Advent One 8

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

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

(How I'd like it to be - and not be.)

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

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

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

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

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

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

What refreshments am I enjoying this week?

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

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

Advent One 23

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

(They still tasted great, though ...)

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

Advent One 27

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

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

What am I reading this week?

Advent One 22

Advent One 1

Advent One 6

Advent One 17

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

 

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

What am I listening to this week?

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

 What am I working on this week?

Advent One 2 (1)

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

Advent One 14

Advent One 5

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

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

Advent One 25

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

What's happening in nature?

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

November Woods

 

A project with the children this week:

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

Advent One 11 (1)

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

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


Advent One 20

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

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

Waiting, wondering ...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Words to inspire:

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

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

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

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

Advent One 13

Peace

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

> bysunandcandle AT gmail DOT com <

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

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

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

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


How about a Planner Post ... Party? (+ a giveaway)

But first, a word from our sponsor ...

O in hat 2

... whose generous afternoon nap brought you today's post.

:)

Well, I just had to start with that sweet little face in the adorable acorn hat - a lovely gift from my dear friend, Kelly. Some kids are just hat kids - and Little Bear is definitely one of them! All summer long it was baseball caps, or straw hats, or floppy-brimmed bucket hats ... every day he was outdoors - with a hat! But now that there's a chill in the air, we're all about warm, knitted things ... such as this gorgeous, handcrafted treasure.

How happy does he look? How very "fall" is this photo? How lucky am I to have such generous and talented knitter-friends?!

(Kelly has blessed our LB with a treasure, and I truly treasure her friendship!)

Ok, now, back to the topic at hand ... planners! (Or calendars, if you prefer that term.) I am in a real planner/calendar mood lately ... I've been scoping out Pinterest for ideas and tweaking my main planning binder and loving (still!) my new daybook, and now, I'm eager ready to chat. I have a draft-post in the works - and you all know I can talk at great length about planning - but I am curious to see/hear what you have going on planning-wise!

So, how about I host a "planner party" here next week?

I'm thinking near to the end of the week, so we all have time to get our planners together. All "dressed up and ready to party," so to speak. Here's what I'm thinking:

I want to know what you are using for a calendar/planner (or planners as the case may be) and how you like it (them) or not. I would also love to see your planner(s) if possible - so if you are able, you might send me a picture or two? (Or three, or four, I'm not picky.)

I will do a post about my own calendars and planners and then share what you all have sent me in my post. I will only publish your first name (or a pseudonym if you prefer), your words and your pic, if you sent one - or more. (I can't stress enough pics are welcome! I think we all love to see people's planners!)

So, please send me an email with your planner input here:

bysunandcandle AT gmail DOT com

I'll bug nag remind you about the post over the next several days. I'm thinking Friday for the actual posting, so I'd appreciate submissions by Thursday please.

Now, not to bribe you or anything ... ahem ... but I may just have a little "autumn bliss giveaway" as an incentive for those who participate. Just a little something fun I have in mind ... Join the party and you've entered your name!

(Note: If you'd rather not email,  you are also welcome to write your thoughts in the comments box below ... I will add these to the post next week.) 

Well my friends, the aforementioned nap looks to be nearing its end, so I'm going to wrap up for now. The autumn sun outside my window is nearing the tops of the trees, which means it's time to shift gears, stretch limbs and get back on track! First up - a diaper change and a couple of good books. Then we'll start in on supper. :)

But I thank you as always for reading, and I wish you all a pleasant evening ...

See you here again very soon!

ETA! Here is an exciting update to the Planner Party Post GIVEAWAY information!


A Citrus Craft for Candlemas

Candlemas 9

Blessed Candlemas, my friends! A Happy Groundhog's Day, too!


 I hope you are all enjoying a nice Sunday. Pleasant weather here in my corner of the world ... almost spring-like, dare I say it - the birds are singing and the light is just a skosh brighter. Nearly 50 degrees right now - way above normal - but we'll take it!

Yet according to Mr. Groundhog, we're in for another 6 weeks of winter?

Here are a few pictures from my morning ... first off, what a sunrise! One of the perks of rising so early is witnessing those beautiful first moments of the day ... as the sky changes its color and mood. I was so taken with the scene over this frozen marsh on our way to Mass, I had to pull over and snap a picture with my phone. The sun like a candle-flame peeking through those low-lying clouds ...

Candlemas 2 

And when we got home from church (with a fresh supply of blessed candles), I set to work on a little craft I'd seen in a magazine recently ...

Candlemas 7

So much easier than you might think! You start with a fresh orange ...

Candlemas 10

(And citrus is so lovely at this time of year ...)

Halve the orange and scoop out the flesh so you're left with just the white inner rind. Then take some candles (it's smart to use up old ones, but I had surplus tealights so I went with those) and melt them in a double boiler ...

Candlemas 3 

Once the wax was melted, I poured it into the orange shell, with a candle wick supsended in the middle. (I ordered these natural candle wicks through Amazon, but I'm sure they're available at local craft stores.) I just held the wick still for a couple of minutes until the wax had stabilized enough to grab the wick.

Candlemas 6

Then I pushed whole cloves into the rim of the orange, trimmed the wick, and waited for the wax to fully set.

Candlemas 12

 All done and smelling fantastic!

I think these would make really lovely Christmas gifts, don't you? Simple enough to do with the children (teacher's gifts perhaps?) - just add some pretty wrap, maybe a soft handkerchief and some ribbon. I'll be making a note about this in my seasonal planner! :)

Now, in honor of St. Brigid's Day (which was yesterday) I am planning to make shepherd(ess) pie for dinner ... just some scrambled hamburger topped with kernel corn and rich cheesey potatoes. Some crusty bread, too, and a mixed berry cobbler for dessert ...

That all sounds good of course, but I'll see what fits in! My day begins early so by necessity, it must end the same way ... and sometimes things that appear quite "do-able" at dawn, seem near impossible by dusk ... does that ever happen to you?

Well for now I'll sign off, with a wish that you enjoy a pleasant evening, and a hope to see you here again very soon ...

Blessings to you all!


Knitted with Love

Good afternoon, my friends ... I hope you are enjoying your Friday.

I had to share with you some pictures of the absolutely beautiful sweater set my dear friend Cherice hand-knitted for Owen ...

Baby knit set 1

How darling is this?

Baby knit set 2

Made from buttery-soft, organic cotton ...

Baby knit set 3

And the colors ...  so yummy.

Baby knit set 4

A soft cadet blue and a warm harvest gold ... just perfect for our little boy! Not to wish away summer (or any of these precious early weeks) but I can hardly wait for autumn to begin!

With many thanks again to Cherice - and her family, who all had a hand in making this very special gift. So much love in those stitches, we will treasure these knits well beyond the years our little boy can wear them.

**

Have a lovely weekend, my friends ... I will see you here again sometime soon!


Hot Cocoa, Handcrafts and a New Command Center!

Tuestea1:24:13

We enjoyed such mild weather today! It was so sunny, and the air felt soft (if that makes sense) and smelled almost like Spring. Even so, the boys and I thought it was a good day for cocoa! So my "Tuesday Tea" this week was hot chocolate with a dollop of whipped cream and a small shake of cinnamon sugar. This mug was a gift from another homeschooling mom years ago ... it was made locally and I just love its earthy colors and texture. :)

And speaking of gifts, I'd like to show you some lovely things made for me by two kind and thoughtful friends ...

The first is this pretty tea towel, hand-sewn by Elizabeth:

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Isn't it beautiful? The colors are just perfect with my kitchen! And the nostalgic pattern reminds me of my new set of mixing bowls:

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:)

And Theresa crocheted these sweet kitty toys for my Archie and Ollie:

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As you might expect, the kittens are simply smitten with them ...

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 I am so grateful to Elizabeth and Theresa for their lovely and thoughtful, gifts. I will treasure them always! ❤

Now, before I go I must give you all a peek at my new desk - aka "command center!"

Here's how it looks from my "tea corner" where I'm sitting at this very moment ... that's Bill figuring out the wiring underneath.

Tuestea1:24:10

I think it fits the corner very well!

Tuestea1:24:12

(My "corner office," lol.)

I will do a follow up desk post (more than one, most likely) once I have all my 'stuff' arranged. I love how clean and clutter-free it looks, and I'll try to keep that in mind as I arrange. ;)

Well, my friends, thank you so much for stopping by today! I hope you all had a nice Tuesday, and I hope your night brings you much comfort and rest. Tomorrow is a busy day for us ~ we're hosting Bookworm's Brit Lit group here in the morning, so I may not "check in" till after lunch. So if I don't make it on early - have a good Wednesday as well!


This was such a sweet surprise!

A pretty little package appeared in my mailbox yesterday ... and inside I found this pretty little tissue cozy, a heartfelt, handmade gift from Sarah H. of Vermont:

Tissuecozy2

It's just beautiful - as well as perfectly practical! First of all, cold and flu season is right around the corner - not to mention, those pesky autumn allergies! - but tissues are always handy to keep on hand. And for some reason I seem to always be without them! As I said to Sarah, I am forever forgetting to pack tissues in my purse - and invariably one boy or another needs a tissue at church!

Tissuecozy1

 The cozy is made with two kinds of material - a soft antique floral (all pale peach and robin's egg blue) and a wonderfully contrasting, wheat woven cloth. A tiny adorable button (featuring a tiny adorable mouse) adorns the pouch's opening ...

Tissuecozy3 

... and a soft ecru measuring "tape" ribbon forms a loop at its side.

Tissuecozy4

Sarah's a SAHM and she runs a lovely Etsy shop called Sweet Sparrow. I hope you'll stop by and take a peek at all her wares. I, for one, think this tissue cozy would make a special "first day of school" gift for a student or teacher in your life. I know I will treasure mine always - for it's simple beauty, certainly - but for Sarah's kindness as well.

:)


Little Lanterns for a Cool Spring Night ...

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... or for any time of the year!

So, I've wanted to make these little glass jar lanterns for some time now. The original craft was found in an issue of Family Fun magazine (a clipping that went in my journal at the time) but the base was a jam jar and there were some ribbons as well as beads involved. Possibly, I saw the baby food jar variation somewhere else - or possibly I thought this up myself, I can't be sure. 

I completely winged this craft (as I couldn't find the journal page I needed - see previous post for more on that) and gave it my best shot. I started with eight empty baby food jars - soaked in a sudsy sink and stripped of their labels. 

Lanterns1 

(I'm only showing you three prepped jars in this picture because it became clear pretty quickly I was only going to have the time/patience/energy to make one lantern for each of my three boys. I'll save the other five jars for a future project.)

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I also had purchased tiny beads - metallic stars, silver butterflies (a favorite subject of Earlybird's recently) and some multi-colored jewel-like beads. I picked up a spool of beading wire and Bill rustled up the wire cutters for me to use.*

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*Strangely enough, the wire cutters did not cut the beading wire. If you can believe it, I ended up using my fabric scissors - these tiny hot pink scissors were much stronger and sharper than the cutters!

(In case you can't tell, I have very little experience with beading. Like I said, I was totally winging this craft!)

So my first step was to lasso the rim of the jar with a length of the wire, tie it on one side in a knot ...

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... and then start stringing my beads on the long end (the end still attached to the spool) ...

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Here is a set of beads - I actually used double this amount.

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Half the beads rested on one end of the wire (where it attached to the jar rim) and the other half rested on the opposite side. My final step was to tie off the other side of the wire. I already had a small tea light tucked inside.

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I kept it pretty simple - like I said, I don't have much experience with beads and I was really just trying to lend a little color and sparkle to the lanterns. the boys of course could care less what beads I put on the lanterns - they were way more interested in the fire element!

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Done!

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We hung the lanterns in the garden and then waited for night to fall ...

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They came out pretty well, I think!

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And they were fun - to make and certainly to look at. :) (The boys also had fun walking their lanterns around the dark back yard.) These would be neat at the Fourth of July (I'm picturing red-white-and-blue beads and stars), Halloween (autumnal colors and shapes) and of course, Christmas (I'm envisioning a possible Advent project).

So there is my lantern craft! I hope you've enjoyed seeing the steps involved and the final product. I would do this again - but I would need to have a few hours of quiet (no distractions) and someone to keep the cat off the worktable! (Lol, Smokey was intent on batting those beads and chewing that wire!)

Enjoy your Sunday, everyone! :)


April Smiles ~ Craft Night

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In a little while I'll be off to my knitting circle at my friend Kim's. I so look forward to this night each month - there will be cool crafts, hot tea, good food and great conversation; what more could a mum ask for? :)

So I have my new spring bag all packed ~ with my scarf-in-progress, a yummy magazine, and a new book I can't wait to show my friends. All the regular stuff is in there, too: my wallet, calendar, journal, cell phone, lip balm etc.

And speaking of my new spring bag* ...

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... isnt it cute? :)

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It's not that big a bag, but right now, that's a good thing. I am trying to downsize all my "stuff," because, really, I carry around too much of it. It's not a shoulder-bag, but a tote, and that's ok too. It's light to carry and sits nicely in the front seat of a shopping cart. My coupons and lists etc. seem much more accessible in this kind of a bag. And it was perfect for church this past Sunday!

I'm sure I'll find fault with it somewhere down the road, but for now, my new spring bag really does make me smile. :)

*Now, I feel compelled to mention, I was able to buy this new bag because I had money to burn at Bean's thanks to some recent returns and accumulated coupon dollars. We also got the boys some essentials like pants and jackets. And fisherman vests. ;)

Well, have a lovely evening, my friends. See you all tomorrow!


April Smiles ~ Spring Knitting

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I bought this pretty skein of yarn this weekend, envisioning a light scarf for my new spring jacket. Even though spring is - without a doubt - here at last, we can still have cool days now and again.

I haven't knit in a looong time, and I must confess, I have never knit anything more than a scarf. (Though I think there might have been a washcloth once.)

Knitting must be in my blood, though, coming from generations of knitters as I do. I love the look and feel of yarn. I love the motion of the needles in my hands. I have fond memories of the knitting all around me as a child, and it seems Crackerjack does too ...

He was with me at the fabric store Saturday as I meandered through the aisles looking over all the varieties of yarn. He was full of questions (mostly, are we done yet?) and reminiscenses.

"I remember you knitting," he said, fingering a bright red wool skein. "I remember the sound the needles make. Click, click, click."

He handed me the yarn and said, "Will you knit something for me?"

And so, I'm knitting again. :)

What to knit after the scarf, well I have no idea. It's early days yet and I don't want to get ahead of myself ... but I bet I'll find some good ideas in here. (It's arriving today! I've tracked my package incessantly since it left Amazon, lol. I can't wait!)

I do plan to pick up some of that thick red yarn Crackerjack liked so much and set up a little workbasket for him. He likes to work - and learn - with his hands; knitting will be a nice activity for those rainy spring days or hot summer afternoons. I'll start him on fingerknitting, and maybe by the time he's ready for a small project, the needles will seem less like swords and more like the useful hand tools they are. ;)

Have a good Monday, everyone!


A Special Gift for Earlybird*

*From the heart and hands of his Nana ...

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I have been dying to tell you all about this project, a birthday gift for Earlybird from my mum (and to a much smaller degree me)! This is a mailbox, as you can see, but a very special mailbox ~ one that will bring Earlybird tiny notes and treasures from the woods ...

Let me back up a bit. A few months ago I came across an unfinished mailbox at AC Moore. Though it was quite inexpensive ($5), it was well made and sturdy. The door worked with a magnetic catch, the flag moved up and down smoothly. I immediately thought this could make a nice toy for Earlybird, so I purchased it on the spot.

Back at home, I started imagining how we could use it, and of course my mind wandered to nature study. You all know how much we love nature, well, what else could this mailbox bring but news from our woods?

So the next thing I did was to ask my mum (who paints beautifully) to help me with this project, and we hoped to have it done in time for EB's birthday. About a week ago, I gave her the mailbox and some vague indications of what I envisioned ("red squirrels, acorns, pine boughs and birds"), and from these sketchy ideas, she made this ...

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I am just overwhelmed. It's too lovely for words!

Bill is going to build a special corner shelf in the learning room for our mailbox. And every few days, EB will see that little flag sticking up and that will mean ... MAIL!

And that's where I come in! I bought some rubber stamps, ink pads and some natural colored paper and tiny envelopes. Using these supplies I will pen little notes "from the woods." They will be delivered to EB's mailbox, naturally, by Chickadee Post. :)

And some days EB might find a tiny treat or treasure inside too! A spruce cone, a leaf, a feather, a ripe berry, a rock ... those simple, yet magical, kinds of things. Everything will have a story to it, of course. :)

My mum gave Earlybird (and me!) this lovely gift today, at EB's birthday party. Before I go, I'd like to share just a few pictures from our day ~ and you can be sure you'll be hearing more about (and from) the Chickadee Post before long!

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EB helped me set the table. Everyone got at least one fork, and, possibly, a spoon. ;) Our theme was snowflakes, so Bookworm made lots for the windows, and I made a batch of snowy cupcakes for dessert ...

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EB and his family!

Well, thanks for stopping by this evening and letting me gush share! It's now getting late, and we're hunkering in, waiting for that Nor'easter to hit sometime before dawn ~ now wouldn't that make a good story? :)

Have a good night!


Papa, Don't Peek!

*Because what's to follow is a surprise!*

For his birthday (which, as I mentioned earlier, is shared with his Papa), Earlybird received a set of watercolor paints. I wish I could have captured his glee (there's no other word for it) on camera; painting is his most favorite thing to do. Ever. So it goes without saying, he was quite happy with his present and that watercolor painting became the morning's occupation.

We had just rolled up our sleeves when I reminded the older boys (who were researching sea creatures beside us) that we needed to make Papa his birthday card. They asked what his favorite color was and I replied that there were actually two colors: green and blue. Since EB had started in with those two very colors, we decided to use his work as a base for the card!

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I shared with the boys how it is I can always remember Papa's favorite colors; it is because when I was little, on the years that we had outdoor lights, they were always blue and green. Now, truth be told, I would have liked multicolor or maybe pink or even white, but blue and green it was (and mostly blue). They were my dad's favorite (and what he grew up with) so those colors always stayed vivid in my mind. We decided to work this bit of information into our card:

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Here is Earlybird's watercolored paper, dried and folded in half. It is set upon a stash of tissue paper in cool blues and greens.

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I drew (with a plain old pen) a strand of old fashioned lights. Using a pair of manicure scissors, I cut out the bulb shapes, and then we tucked small squares of tissue paper behind each opening ...

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Just a few stickers later and we had a card for Papa! (The paper clips are holding the card closed; the paper was warping a bit from being damp.) Final step - a piece of light blue cardstock attached inside upon which the boys can write their message. (That part of the project is still pending due to a much needed lunch break!)

This was a fun and easy craft to do with the boys, one I'll have to remember ~ I can visualize other themes down the road (birthday balloons, Easter eggs, pumpkins, etc.). At the rate EB cranks out those watercolors, I should have cards enough for the whole year before long! :)


As Far as I Got ...

... at my handcraft circle the other night:

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I'm working with a soft green shade of wool felt right now, as well as some basic embroidery thread. Can you see all the tiny orange leaf-stars I made? (I call them "leaf-stars" because I meant to make leaves, but could only manage little star shapes. ;) I kind of like the storytelling possibilities actually - whatever this project becomes, it will probably be something for the children.)

My stitches may not be so fine, but I find the colors and texture soothing:

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At one point, I attempted to make this into a maple leaf, as the outline seemed to suggest that shape. I abandoned that idea after it became too complicated, though. I may try to make some brown tree branches instead.

As you can probably guess, I talked far more than I crafted! But it was so much fun. My gracious hostess had music playing, brownies baking and candles burning throughout her lovely home. She even put out an array of her knitting books for her guests to peruse. I may not have come home with a lot of work done, but I certainly came home inspired and refreshed.

In my quest to find a crafting niche, I find I am gravitating towards hand embroidery. (I say hand embroidery, because I don't own a machine yet. Baby steps, right?) I'm not very good at it yet - notice I'm not showing you the back of my hoop, lol - but I do love the look and feel of it. I think I will concentrate my attention in this area.

To that end, I just ordered this kit (top set) from here. I am so excited! I have NO idea what I will do with these little designs, once (or, dare I say, if!) I make them, but I'm sure I'll think of something. Maybe I'll make a drawstring bag for our nature puppets? Those be-hatted squirrels would look right at home on such a thing! Hmmm ... this would be a nice birthday gift for my Earlybird who turns six in December. Two months should be enough time right? ;)