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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!


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!}

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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:

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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 ...

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

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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 ...

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(Using a kitchen mitt of course!)

I was pleased the wax filled all four jars! 

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

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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.

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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!

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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 ..


My Advent Tea Journal ~ O Christmas Tree!

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Good afternoon, my friends! I hope this post finds you well ...

We're all on the mend here, slowly but surely. It's a tough time of year to get sick - it really puts a crimp in your plans! But in a way, it's a good reminder ... Advent is all about mood and mindset, not as much about where we go or what we get done. We had planned to take the boys to a tree farm over the weekend, and I had hoped to get to the library and the craft store for some supplies. (This week's activities - and my tea post itself - all hinged on doing these things!) But alas, nobody felt up to doing any of that, so "plans and hopes" were readjusted and we just stayed home (except for an emergency run to Stop N Shop for tissues and cat food, etc.) ...

So the "forest nature walk" didn't happen, the "cut-our-own-tree experience" didn't happen, and we didn't return home from the farm with rosy cheeks and happy hearts to a pot of simmering wassail. The tree was not up and decorated in time for this post, and we missed out on parish pancake breakfast entirely ...

But you know what? Getting sick really simplifies things. I found myself re-evaluating my list and editing our schedule by asking: "What is it we actually need? What can be set aside? What is most important for the people I love?"

Here's what we need: safety, warmth, nourishment, attention ... a feeling of being cared for, and time spent together. Well, we had all that, and then some ... so it was all good. :)

(Except for the sore throats and fevers.)

At one point on Sunday, we sent the two healthiest among us to the closest tree-lot and they came home lickedy-split with a really magnificent tree. We gathered the bits of greenery that were trimmed off and set them on our nature shelf. I still made up that pot of hot wassail since I had the ingredients on hand and they were so very good for a late autumn cold ...

We played music on Dad's phone, and I lit a few candles placed high out of reach, including this pretty one, a lovely gift from my dear aunt ...

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And I reminded myself to just try to relax, reboot and follow where this Advent Sunday was taking us ...

I love seasonal homeschooling as you all know, and "evergreens" are this week's theme ... which also ties in nicely with our Advent-in-Nature plans for week two: exploring the beauty of Christmas greenery. So this was a great start - bringing a big, beautiful tree into our home!

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My tree is nowhere near ready to show you, so I will do a follow-up post with a look around our Christmas room, including the tree. (Perhaps even a short video?) But for now, I have some questions for YOU, and if you'd be so kind - please leave me a comment below answering them or send me an email (with tree pics perhaps?) ... OR, link me up at your own blog! I bet you have a photo or two of your Christmas tree there ... ;)

>> bysunandcandle AT gmail DOT com <<

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Do you prefer live or artificial trees? Cut-your-own or pre-cut?

I prefer live trees, harvested from a local sustainable tree farm if possible.

Are there any special tree-trimming traditions your family follows each year?

Not particularly - we tend to just layer on lights, garland and then ornaments. And lately - between cats and kids - the ornaments have been all soft and non-breakable. Bill is in charge of getting the tree up, stable and lit ... the boys and I handle the decorations.

What is your favorite ornament?

Hard to say! I love all the antique glass bulbs that belonged to my grandparents and a few of the boys' handmade treasures. When I do my Christmas room tour I will zoom in on my favorites. :)

When do you put it up and when do you take it down?

We typically get our tree the second weekend of Advent and leave it up till New Year's Day ... though I love the tradition of waiting till Epiphany, I'm usually itchy to get it out. By January the cats have thrown up dry needles one too many times ...

Colored lights or white lights?

White for the house tree ... but I love having one outdoor tree trimmed in big colorful bulbs.

And now, here are notes from my Advent Tea Journal ...

What refreshments are you enjoying this week?

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This week my "tea" is actually a yummy wassail ...  which, I just learned, means "to be in health." Something we can really use around here! It was a new recipe, prepared in the crockpot and full of good-for-you things ...

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Orange juice, apple juice, cranberry juice ... plus sliced lemons and oranges and fresh ginger root ... honey, cloves and cinnamon sticks, too ... The house smelled amazing, so being "trapped inside" was not such a bad thing, really! Also, the recipe makes A LOT and it can be reheated as leftovers.

I also had planned to make a special cake for the day, and I ended up doing that, too ...

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Another new recipe, this is a Spelt Orange Bundt Cake from Mother Earth Living, and ... Oh MY. So delicious and moist, bursting with spice and citrus flavor. I think it would be a great cake for the Winter Solstice or Christmas Day. Fyi, I used whole wheat flour instead of spelt ... and left the butter sauce on the side for those in my family who can't do dairy. (I myself slathered it on.)

What are you reading this week?

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Working through my basket of magazines (holiday issues are the BEST) plus a lovely old book about living a quieter, country Christmas ...

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Tasha Tudor's Forever Christmas ... my folks gave this to me back in 2001. I love re-reading this (and watching her video, Take Peace) at this time of year and refreshing my Advent attitude a bit. I've never visited her house in Vermont but it's on my "someday" list! :)

Then we have the basket of "this week" books for the younger boys ...

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Filled with lovely stories (and a field guide!) to go along with our nature theme (evergreens, Christmas greenery):

A Wish to Be a Christmas Tree

Night Tree

The Legend of the Poinsettia

The Family Christmas Tree Book

The Story of Holly & Ivy

(and not shown, on request at library):

 Christmas Farm

The Littlest Evergreen

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What are you listening to this week?

Ancient noels

Ancient Noels is on request from my library, and we'll mostly be listening to it in the van as we drive around town. We're studying the Middle Ages this year and this month it's all about how Christmas was celebrated in medieval times - food, music, decorations, and festivities! With a soundtrack that features hammered dulcimer, recorder, pennywhistle, Celtic harp, cittern, guitar and tambourine ... this music takes you right there ... or so I'd like to imagine. ;)

(At home we're also enjoying holiday selections from Pandora Radio on our phones. I particularly like Charlie Brown music, classical Christmas and old vintage tunes.)

What are you working on this week?

Well, it's mostly all about Christmas preparations, but I'm also organizing my materials for that Planning Workshop I'm attending next Tuesday! :) 

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Refreshing the file crate ...

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... and assembling another homemade planner for 2016!

Then, as soon as they arrive, I'll be devoted to assembling Christmas cards ... :)

What's happening in nature this week?

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Early sunsets ... surprisingly mild afternoons.

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Though the mornings are quite frosty!

Some of you have asked if our Advent apple candles are still intact. Well ...

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As you can see, I threw the critters off by offering a tasty pumpkin instead ... it's been fun to watch their antics. A couple of squirrels have been up on the table, sniffing at the apples and knocking over the center candle. They didn't cause too much harm though ...

Also this week we are searching our yard for any Christmas greenery we can find ... so far, plenty of evergreens, pinecones, English ivy and a few withering herbs ...

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This photo will feature in my "nest assignment" next week. It's a bit bleak looking isn't it? Well, I have some thoughts on that ...

Any projects with the children this week?

Of course there will be tree decorating! And we'll spread it out over the week. Meanwhile, we've added some greenery to our manger table: a few evergreen sprigs, a pinecone and a (silk) poinsettia blossom, too.

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That candle burns steadily all day and night.

Watching, waiting ...

Also, per my (admittedly, adventurous) Advent plans, we'll choose from the following craft ideas as time, (health) and supplies allow:

terrarium bulbs * nature ice molds * late autumn suncatchers * paperwhite bulb gifts * dried orange slice garlands * grinding whole spices with mortar and pestle * pine branch slice candleholders with Daddy * cinnamon stick-lined candles * gift jars of mulling spices * a local holiday greenhouse visit * water forest snow globes * twig ornaments * orange clove pomanders

(Now, in no way do I expect to do most of these crafts. Certainly not when we're all under the weather! And as I mentioned, I didn't get to the craft store as planned, so I'm short a few key supplies. But when I brainstorm a theme, I really go all out! I've pinned most of these ideas so we'll always have them if we need them. I'm hoping to get a few gifts made if nothing else, and I think the boys will really enjoy grinding spices. I have some oranges on hand to slice and dry and Bill is pretty eager to make some candleholders from our log pile.)

Any quotations to share, some words to inspire?

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"Never worry about the size of your Christmas tree. In the eyes of your children, they are all 30 feet tall."

~ Larry Wilde 

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Well my friends, it's time to wrap up our Tea! I hope you enjoyed hearing about our "doings" and a preliminary peek at our tree! I will share how it turns out once we get it all done up ... and as I mentioned, I would LOVE to hear about your tree and tea! Please share with me here in the comments or send me your thoughts at ...

>> bysunandcandle AT gmail DOT com <<

I look forward to hearing from you!

Wishing you all a lovely Tuesday, with my thanks as always for reading! 


My Advent Tea Journal ~ Gifts from the Heart

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

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

(How I'd like it to be - and not be.)

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

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

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

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

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

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

What refreshments am I enjoying this week?

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

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

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

(They still tasted great, though ...)

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

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

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

What am I reading this week?

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

 

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

What am I listening to this week?

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

 What am I working on this week?

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

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

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

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

What's happening in nature?

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

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 ...

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

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


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

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

Waiting, wondering ...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Words to inspire:

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

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

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

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

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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! :)


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!


Busy Birthday Bees

So the boys and I worked on some birthday crafts today and I thought you might like to see what we got up to! We made these crafts for Bill - the person whose birthday it is tomorrow and who was told NOT to read my blog tonight! (Right, honey?) I had a lot of fun putting these crafts together ... it's been a while since I've had a quiet, crafty day like this!

The first thing we decided to do was make Bill some barbecue sauce since he loves barbecue and hot sauce (especially really hot sauce) and I found this neat recipe on Martha Stewart's website. So here are the ingredients, all gathered and organized on the kitchen counter ...

Bday bees 1

I had everything on hand except the chipolte peppers - but they were easy enough to find. :) Once I got the sauce simmering on the stove, I dug out some supplies to make a neat little gift box...

Bday bees 2

I've always wanted to make one of these "sailor's valentines" for Bill - he grew up on the water and has a real affinity for all things nautical. To the best of my knowledge, these boxes were made as gifts for sailors' sweethearts back home - using shells they collected while at sea. There's probably a lot more to it than that, but this was the inspiration for my craft. :)

I had all the supplies already on hand - lidded box, paints, clear-drying glue (Mod Podge), seashells, beach sand, twine. I began by painting the box in acrylic paints. The boys chose soft green, blue and gray - the colors of the Atlantic. We then worked on an arrangement of shells - and once we had our design, I glued the shells (and a tiny starfish) in place.

Bday bees 3

And while the shells were drying, the sauce was just finishing up...

Bday bees 4

It doesn't look like much -  but it sure smelled pretty good! I really hope he likes it...

Back to the box while the sauce cooled  - it was time to glue on the "rope" trim and dust the top with sand.

Bday bees 5

For the rope, I just braided some kitchen twine and knotted it at the ends. I used a bulldog clip as a "clamp" to hold the trim to the edge while the glue dried.

By late afternoon, our gifts were ready!

Bday bees 13

I used stickers to decorate the glass quart jar holding the sauce...

Bday bees 8

And inside the "sailor" box, there are a bunch of curled up notes ... the boys brainstormed "Daddy Saturdays," which are basically things they'd like to do with Bill when he has a free day - aka, go hiking, have breakfast at the beach, make ice cream, visit the Apple store (lol). They wrote these ideas on slips of paper and tucked them inside the box.

Bday bees 12

And the very last thing we did was to sign cards and wrap the rest of the presents...

Bday bees 14

Bill LOVES popcorn and our old popcorn maker recently kicked the bucket - so we got him a new one. The other box contains something far less exciting - he's been after me to replace our tupperware with glass storage containers, so I picked up a box at Target and wrapped it up for his b.day. I think he'll get a laugh. :)

As a final touch, the boys embellished the plain brown kraft paper with smiley stickers and Sharpies.

Bday bees 17

Bday bees 16

Bday bees 15

And now we're all ready for tomorrow!

***

Well, I hope you enjoyed a peek at our birthday craftiness today! I think it feels nice to make something homemade for someone you love ... just as it feels nice to receive it! We don't always have (make) the time to be so creative and hands-on with our gifts, but I'm always so pleased when we do ... :)

I hope you all have a lovely night and a pleasant day tomorrow ... I'll see you here again very soon!



A Happy Mother's Day Brunch ❤

MD brunch 1

Well, this has been such a lovely day!

We had an early start (natch) ... I savored my first cup of coffee in bed ... then headed into the kitchen to bake something special for brunch. And just before leaving for Mass, I pulled this buttermilk-blueberry breakfast cake from the oven ...

Md brunch 3

Earlybird helped, especially with the lemon zest and the tossing of berries with flour. (He has a special love for lemons, lol.) I highly recommend this recipe ... it's very easy to make and super delicious to eat!

MD brunch 10

In my big red glass decanter, I mixed up a cold, fruity punch - it was just a strawberry juice blend mixed with seltzer - simple, but special. There were supposed to be floating strawberry slices too, but alas - I forgot to buy fresh strawberries! I served this over ice, in our pretty green glasses, and it was a very refreshing drink. The moms got a splash of Malibu rum just to give it a little zing.

MD brunch 5

EB and I scoured the yard for our "floral arrangements." You really can't beat azaleas for bright, punchy color, and as for dandelions ... well, if you're a mom, there's a special place in your heart for dandelions. :)

The rest of the meal consisted of two homemade quiches (one plain, one bacon) made by my mother, and a plate of apple-chicken sausages grilled up by Bill. There was also fresh fruit, a few pastries and freshly brewed coffee. And then of course there was the aforementioned blueberry cake ... I made up some whipped cream, just to put it over the top!

***

And here's a handmade card from my boys ...

MD brunch 4

"Mom, like the parable says, you are the tree and we are the branches. You support us and help us in everything we do."

      (And here is my heart --><-- swelling with love.)

Here I am with my Mum ...

MD brunch 6

I will always count my mum as one of my greatest blessings in life. She not only gave me life - which, hello, you can't beat that as gifts go! - but she showed me how to live in a sincere and honorable way. She taught me how to be a lady, and that family always comes first. Today she supports my life in any way she's able ... she never hesitates to help or encourage, and she's the kindest person I know.

Without a doubt, the mom I am today is thanks to the mom she's been to me ...

I love you, Mum!


And here we have two special gifts ...

MD brunch 7

The pen was a gift from our pastor this morning - there was a basket filled by the door, a pen for every mom - and how I love the bright pink! (The message is lovely, as well.) And we will always know who this belongs to, because anything pink in this house must be mine, lol! ;)

Now, the item sitting behind the pen takes some explaining ...

Crackerjack, as you all know, is taking an art class this year. He enjoys it so very much and we've been pleased to see him take such pleasure (and pride) in his artistic endeavors. Well, a few months ago, the class worked on clay projects ... I'd pick up CJ from class and he'd be covered in bits of clay, and his hands were so dry they'd drive him crazy! But he told me - very sincerely - that he couldn't tell me what he was making ... but that "someday," I'd know.

(Every mother knows what this means, but we never ever give away that we do.)

Well, come to find out - though not in the way CJ meant me to - he made a little teacup for me, knowing how much I truly love tea. He made some swirly rose shapes for the edge, and painted it all in my favorite shades of yellow, orange and red. And once it was dry and "set," he brought it home, just in time for Mother's Day ....

But then he left it in his bag.

The bag that sat in his bedroom.

Under his brother's bag, and, as the days went by, a multitude of other things such as shoes, jackets, toys and a couple of books.

>.<

While I was out shopping yesterday, Bill tried valiantly to glue it back together for CJ ... but as you can see, there was nothing he could do. The cup was crushed - and so was CJ - he rushed to tell me about it the moment I walked in the door.

And oh my gosh, my heart just broke ... because he tried so hard to make this such a big and special surprise. But I assured my 12 year old son - my sensitive one, who truly takes everything to heart - that I loved this unique cup first and foremost, because HE made it himself. It was made by his hands - with me in his mind and his heart. And that no matter its original purpose, I would love it and cherish it all the same.

So now ... I have a really awesome paperweight! Something that will hold down a stack of papers to grade, or receipts to look through or maybe some magazine clippings to peruse ...

Best of all, it's something that will always make me smile, and that's something I can truly use, every day.

:)

Well, my friends, I hope you've all had a nice Sunday, and if you're a mom (in any capacity) I wish you all a happy and relaxing evening. My night looks to be fairly simple - just as I like it - a little reading, a little supper, a little TV. Can't wait to catch our two favorite shows ... and can't wait to come back in the morning to chat with you all about it!

So thanks as always for stopping by and sharing in my day ... I will see you all again very soon!


The Sweetness of Summer: A Second Winner!

Summerpicks1

Well very early this morning I filled Crackerjack's bright yellow bucket hat with tiny slips of paper - each one baring the name of one of the Summer Fun commenters - there was probably an easier way to do this but at this early hour and on limited caffeine, it was all I came up with lol - we mixed them all up and then the boys chose a name, our second summer winner is ...

... Melissa R.!

Congratulations, Melissa! Please zip me a note at drhanigan AT comcast DOT net when you have a chance and we'll discuss the mailing details. :)

Now, what summer pastime does Melissa NOT want to miss this year?
Blueberry Picking!

Mmmm, blueberry picking is a must-not-miss in New England, especially if you can make it up to Maine ~ Maine blueberries are so sweet and tender! When I was a little girl I remember wild blueberries grew on the hill behind my grandparents' house. I remember sitting there on hot August days, nestled in and amongst the scrubby wild bushes, filling my tiny dixie cup with those teeny dusky blue berries - always hoping to pick enough for a pie, but never leaving many in the cup. (Most of them made their way into my mouth!)

My grandma made the BEST blueberry pies in the world. To this day I've never had better, and I now resolve to try making one this summer. Actually, a cup of coffee and a blueberry hand pie, eaten outside on a hot summer morning would be the epitome of summer sweetness ...

... or maybe a couple of these blueberry bonanza bars:

Blueberrybars

Making blueberry jam with the kids would be another wonderful August activity! If you can't pick them yourselves, a local farmer's market would be sure to have some for sale. 

Another blueberry activity - one I have saved in my August journal from last year - is to make blueberry fabric stamps.

Blueberrystamps

How cute are they?!

If you are working on Christmas gifts this summer, these homemade stamps could be used to make a set of pretty notecards or recipe cards. Buy blank cards at the craftstore, along with the cork and blue and green ink pads. Purchase a length of pretty blue or yellow gingham ribbon as well - what a lovely gift and an easy hot day summer project!

A jar of that blueberry jam mentioned above would make a perfect summer hostess gift. Decorate at plain gift bag (another craft store purchase - I always keep several sizes on hand) with your blueberry stamps, pop the jam inside and tie the bag up with some ribbon.

If you have little ones, here are two favorite blueberry books I can't help but mention: 


Blueberriesfor sal

and 


Peterinblueberryland2


Thank you, Melissa, for reminding me of the summer goodness of blueberries! I've made a note in my August calendar to try some of these projects and to request those books from the library. :)

Now, my very next post will be a compilation of all the wonderful summer thoughts you all shared. (I had planned to do it here but I got a little carried away with the blueberry theme, lol ...)

And yes, I am working on that File Crate post - still! I have it about halfway done, and will hopefully get it up early this week. 

Have a lovely Sunday, everyone! Thanks as always for stopping by! :)

A Craft Store Run~

I have tried to stay away from the craft store as much as possible this summer. For one thing, I don't really need any craft supplies right now - I'm not crafting much during these hot, busy months - and for another, I still have all kinds of supplies stocked in the bins I keep stashed downstairs. (Remember the bins?) Before I go craft shopping, I really must go through the bin contents first (now somewhat depleted and rather discombobulated) and take inventory before I buy even one more package of something like hot glue gun sticks. (I have more of those than I can shake a fist at, lol.)

But there's just something about this time of year - between all the autumn and holiday planning I'm doing these days, and the fall magazines appearing in my mailbox, I'm feeling a familiar itch. I can hear the siren song of the craft store (you know the one, don't you?), and I'm eager to heed that call.

A list would be a good thing to start with, but I don't have a list just yet. However. I did have a reason for running into my local AC Moore's this weekend: Bookworm and I needed neon-green t-shirts for VBS. But, of course, while I was there, I had to take a good look around and see what was what - and, of course, I came home with a few more things than were strictly necessary.

Would you like to see? :)

1. Scrapbooking paper:

Craftrun3_2

I love to have a steady supply of pretty scrapbooking paper on hand. I use it for my journal covers, card projects and the myriad binders I make up through the year. I especially love the first two patterns on the left. They are so sweet; they look as if they've been embroidered.

2. Ribbon:

Craftrun4_3

Darnitall, I had a third spool and it must have gotten left behind at the store. Oh well. I like to use ribbon to trim various crafts or handmade cards and also as page markers for my journals. The alphabet ribbon will be used in my September journal and the starry-red ribbon will be used in my holiday planbook.

Yarn:

Craftrun6_2

This blend is called "Crayon," and I love it! What I'd like to do with it is make "school scarves" for the boys. (You know, kind of like how the Hogwarts students all wear scarves representing their house colors, only not nearly so formally patterned?) I bought this particular yarn mainly because the colors appealed to me, but from what I understand, this yarn will yield stripes when I knit, or a pattern of some sort anyway. It will be fun to see how it knits! I don't know as I feel like knitting just now - the days are too hot - but it shouldn't take much time to knit three, possibly four (one for me), scarves once September rolls around. Generally speaking, there's no need for woolens here in New England till the first of November. (Hmmm ... scarves might make nice Martinmas gifts!)

3. Note Cards and Stamping Supplies:

Craftrun5_2

I saw this adorable craft in the August issue of Martha Stewart Living. Martha always has the best ideas! I was sorely tempted to try making the blueberry Keds, but I thought the note cards might be more practical. These would make a lovely gift set - tied up with a blue gingham ribbon ... or you could make a set of recipe cards ... or a gift tag for a homemade loaf of blueberry bread. The possibilities are endless! (And how about a dark red ink pad for cranberries in the fall?) I'll try this project out sometime next week, and let you know how it goes!

4. T-shirts and iron-on paper:

Craftrun7

The green shirts, as I mentioned, are for VBS. The yellow shirt and the transfer paper is for Crackerjack. He wants to try making a t-shirt with an image found online. His friends make shirts all the time with this method, and he loves how they come out. He'll probably go with a Star Wars or Pikman theme. (I'm not sure the image will work on yellow - maybe white would be better - but it was what he wanted. We'll see how it goes.)

5. Glue:

Craftrun8

In my opinion, one can never have too much glue - especially when it's Martha Stewart glue. ;) It just looks so much prettier than Elmer's! (More importantly, it works really well.) Here I have glue sticks, a bottle of plain craft glue and a ballpoint-tip glue pen - which will be really neat used with glitter. (I'm envisioning homemade holiday cards this year - which is so easy to do when it's not even August, lol.)

And speaking of glitter - oh, how I wanted the Martha glitter. There were so many beautiful glass jars of glitter in the most dazzling, sumptous shades. But at $4.99 a pop, I'd better know just what I'm going to do with said glitter before I buy it. (I have a few ideas - i.e. the holiday cards - and I'm working on more.)

6. Bake Sale magazine:

Craftrun9

I had to pop into a Michaels (yes, a second craft store) to return the t-shirts I originally bought for VBS (which were an all-wrong apple green, rather than the neon green required). I had a 50%-off one item coupon to use (burning a hole in my pocket) but by now my head was spinning and I could hardly concentrate. This particular Michaels was having a grand opening and the store was packed - with people and products. I spied this specialty baking magazine and had Bookworm (my baker's apprentice) take a look-through. Several oohs, aahs and oh-mama's! later I figured we should buy it. It only cost me $3 with the coupon. :)

Well, I think I've kept you here long enough, lol. Bill and the boys are just getting back in from an afternoon jaunt. It's time to rustle up some supper and get the boys into baths. Thanks for stopping by and letting me prattle on about my latest craft adventures. I hope you are enjoying your weekend and I'll see you all again sometime soon. :)


Making Herbal Oils and Cleaners

Herbal1

I've had the supplies for this project sitting on my craft shelf for some time now. With the school year at an end, and the bustle of the holiday weekend behind me, I figured it was finally time to try it out! I've always been intrigued by the idea of herbal oils and homemade cleaners ... I've read plenty about them, and taken copious notes. I've grown my own herbs, and dried them. I've envisioned container possibilities and labeling methods ... But I was surprised at how easy it was to do once I got down to doing it! (Isn't that true with most projects?)

Below you see my supplies ...

Herbal2

I found the little glass jars for .99 cents at the craft store; there were plenty of styles and sizes to choose from. The base oils (sweet almond) and essential oils I found at my local supermarket (in the health food section) for 50% off! A lot of mainstream grocers now carry oils, but you can be sure to find them at your local natural markets. Make sure to check expiration dates, or ask store staff about turnover time. You wouldn't want to purchase old oils. The little floral stickers I had on hand.

The project was as simple as this ~ I filled each glass bottle with the base oil and then added a few drops of essential oil for fragrance. Lastly, I added a color-coordinating sticker to denote the blend inside. As you can see in the top photo, I made up Orange-Geranium (brightening and comforting), Lavender (calming) and Lemon (renewing). Depending on my mood, or the time of day, I could pour a little oil in my bedtime bath or smooth some on my skin after a morning shower. Even just a few dabs on the pulse points would be a nice touch. I plan to store my oils in the fridge ... how refreshing would that feel on a hot summer's day?

Literally, this little project took me 15 minutes to complete, if that. These oils would make nice gifts - or party favors!

Next on my list, were some herbal homemade cleaners. These, too, were lickety split to whip up ...

Herbal3

In the foreground are my two favorite books for this subject area: Better Basics for the Home by Annie Berthold-Bond and Natural Beauty for All Seasons by Janice Cox. Lots of great recipes and advice in both of these books. Also pictured some ingredients (oils, tea and vinegar) and plastic spray bottles I picked up at the craft store for $1 each.

I made up the following blends, the first three from Better Basics:

Vinegar Deodorizer "Vinegar is an effective disinfectant."

  • 1/4 cup white distilled vinegar
  • 2 cups water

Combine the ingredients in a spray bottle, shake and spray along the inside rim of the toilet. Leave on for 15 minutes or so before scrubbing with a toilet brush.

Tea Tree Deodorizer "Tea tree oil kills bacteria, and the strong smell of the oil will dissipate in a few days."

  • 2 teaspoons tea tree oil (I used a bit less)
  • 2 cups water

Combine the ingredients in a spray bottle, shake and spray along inside rim of the toilet. Leave on for 30 minutes or so before scrubbing with a toilet brush.

Lightly Lavender "Use this spray in the bathroom as a final rinse on the vanity countertop or after cleaning the toilet. It has a lovely scent, and lavender is highly antiseptic."

  • 1 teaspoon essential oil of lavender
  • 2 cups water

Combine the ingredients in a spray bottle, shake to blend, then spray. There's no need to wipe off.

And this last recipe comes from Natural Beauty for All Seasons:

Fruit-Tea Freshener "The fruit teas make wonderful skin refreshers. For a quick pick-me-up on hot summer days, store the freshener in the refrigerator."

  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 2 fruit tea bags of your choice (I used Red Zinger)
  • 1 tablespoon witch hazel (optional)

Pour the boiling water over the tea bags in a ceramic, heat-resistant bowl. Allow the tea bags to steep for several hours, or until the mixture has cooled completely.

Add witch hazel to the infusion. You may want to strain the solution if you see bits of tea at the bottom of the container. Do this by pouring the liquid through a paper coffee filter.

Bottle the fruit-tea freshener and enjoy. Use a clean cotton ball to apply or use a spray bottle to splash on your skin.

(I didn't happen to have witch hazel on hand, so Bill is going to pick some up for me on his way home.)

This project was also ridiculously easy and quick. And now I have a fridge full of cool scented oils and a basket-ful of natural cleaners at my disposal ...

Herbal4

And on that note, I'm off to try them out! :)

Have a great week, everyone!


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!

Papa1

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:

Papa2

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.

Papa3

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 ...

Papa4

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! :)


For the Kids to Make: Merry Magnets!

Magnets4

I meant to post this a few days ago, and then completely forgot, lol! My dear friend and fellow homeschooling mum, Lisa, told me about this craft - a quick and easy project she made with the kids at her church. (It was Lisa behind last year's sequin ornaments, too!) These little magnets would make nice homemade gifts - perfect for helpful little hands and ready in a flash!

Basically, you are cutting images to fit behind the glass shape, gluing them on, and then attaching a magnet to the back. Sounds incredibly easy, doesn't it? (It is!) But the results are very nice and the variations are endless ... you could use images, simple hand-lettered words, monograms, etc.!

As with many crafts I plan for my boys, I like to do a trial run first - to judge the "fussiness level" and to get a feel for the time involved. Then I can see where we can fit it in. So last Saturday I swung into AC Moore and picked up the few materials required:

Magnets2

  • Glass marbles (found in the floral aisle)
  • Magnets of varying sizes and styles (so I could see what worked best)
  • Elmer's glue

I picked out all kinds of design sources ~ stickers, stamps, scrapbooking paper, beautiful Christmas cards. For stickers, I traced the underside of the marble onto a piece of cardstock (I chose off-white; you could use any color you wished) and cut it out, trimming it to fit the backside of the marble.

Magnets3

I cut scrapbooking paper in a similar way, making sure to center the image I liked before tracing/cutting. And with images I found on Christmas stamps and cards, I photocopied them first onto regular copy paper and then cut to fit:

Magnets10

Cut, fit, glue, done!

Magnets5

Magnets9

The boys, peeking over my shoulder as I worked, began envisioning a whole range of character magnets for their friends. For instance, this happy Pikachu:

Magnets11

Next, I added the magnetic backing. I experimented with various types before finding the adhesive magnetic tape held the marble best. 

Magnets8

A final touch: simple gift boxes make for a nice presentation:

Magnets7

I got these at Target, but I've seen a wide range of sizes and colors at the craft store. The smaller box easily held one or two magnets, while the larger box could hold a whole set of magnets in a simlilar theme (such as the "bird" theme shown at the top).

When the boys wrap up their gifts, I'll let them decorate their boxes as they wish - with stickers, crayons, decoupaged comics etc. But I think these simple brown boxes look nice with just a cheerful bow:

Magnets1

So, this craft is a go then, and it's been added to this week's docket!

Well, I hope your Sunday's a good one! Here in New England it's cold and gray, with a touch of snow in the air. (Actually a messy, messy storm is on the way for tonight.) Church was lovely this morning - the creche was set up on the altar, and the parish breakfast, as always, was yummy! So I'm logging off for now ~ there's a tree to decorate, lessons to plan and one or two football games to watch. ;)

See you all sometime tomorrow!


Over the River and through the Woods ...

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To Earlybird's therapy appointments we go ...

As you can see, we had more snow today! It fell at a good clip, too, beginning around 10 a.m. and lasting until just after lunchtime. It was so pretty, covering the last of the autumn leaves and the faded crunchy grass. Not the pavement, though; it was too wet for that. This morning's weather gave us just a taste of what's up the road ahead.

How I love this week, these days before Thanksgiving. I love the anticipation, the flurry of preparations, the happy greetings and the smells! And keeping in the holiday spirit, Earlybird and I made some yummy pumpkin breads to take to his therapists today. You might remember awhile back I mentioned those little ceramic loaf pans I bought at the craft store? Well, today was the day to make good on that promised project!

While the breads baked, I made up some little tags ...

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I just cut down a plain notecard into small squares (edged with the pinking shears). EB applied a turkey sticker to the front of each one, and I punched a hole in the upper left corner. We wrote our message inside and tied the tags to the cooling loaves all wrapped up in ribbon:

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Little gifts of thanksgiving for three special ladies in our lives ...

Later in the day, my mum came over to help with the holiday preparations. (Oh, let's be honest - she came over to help me clean, lol!) Actually, we ended up spending most of our time chatting over tea, but we needed that time to rest and revise our lists. By the way, the "Holiday" tea we drank today is made by Harney & Sons. (I picked up a tin at Barnes & Noble.) It is absolutely delicious! A black tea, gently spiced with cloves, almond and citrus ~ perfect for the season. I plan to serve it with Thanksgiving dessert. :)

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And as we enjoyed our tea, we got the boys started on an "acorn blessings craft." Using a shaped cookie cutter, we traced and cut out many autumn-hued acorns. (Bookworm did the tracing, Nana did the cutting.) The boys wrote things they were thankful for on each one ...

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I must say I was eager to read their acorns. ;) They listed, among other things:

  • Family
  • God
  • Earth
  • Homeschooling
  • A nice house
  • An early snow
  • The animals who come to our feeders

We hung them all in our windows, but left room for plenty more ...

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... because this Thursday we'll set out a basket-full of acorns and invite our guests to share in our blessings. :)

Next year, I think we'll make this an ongoing project for the month of November. We'll fill the basket with acorns at the start of the month and each night at supper we'll write out an acorn apiece. Slowly, but surely, our windows will fill up.

By the way, as I finish up this post (bedtime inching nearer by the second), Bookworm has taken it upon himself to add paper snowflakes to some of the empty panes, in celebration of our weather today.

You know, these apples - er, acorns - don't fall far from their tree! :)


A Pretty Paper Package ...

... all tied up with string ...

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How lovely is this handmade envelope? On its own, a present to treasure:

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This is what my friend Kim (last night's hostess) handed me just before our meeting adjourned - which was much later than intended, but we were having such fun - as a thank you for bringing my file system to the gathering last night. Well, you can just imagine my reaction to such a pretty paper package, one fastened with silver alphabet brads and tiny tinkling bells ...

Oh, my.

And the goodies inside were equally thrilling:

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The brand new Living Crafts magazine!!! (For which I've searched high and low the past two weeks to no avail.) And the sweetest little squirrel stickers, too! Such a thoughtful treat, inside and out. :)

(By the way I've grilled asked Kim for the instructions to the envelope, and I hope to try this handcraft sometime myself. And when I do, you can bet I'll post about it here - though I doubt my results will be nearly as pretty!)

Oh, yes, about the meeting! Well, before we even got started on our topic (organization, if you remember), we tucked into slabs of freshly baked gingerbread with dollops of homemade whipped cream. (Recipe forthcoming!)

Then we got gabbing about all kinds of things - food, health, curriculum, travel - but eventually we did come around to the topic of the night, and there were lots of organizational tips shared. I was able to explain the file crate in what I think (or hope) was a somewhat clear manner (though I'm considering writing up a little brochure to keep it all straight, lol). And best of all, I came home with a fresh eye for my clipboard, an element of the file system I've sort of ignored until now:

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No, it's not quite so pretty as practical - but what it holds are the papers and notes for the day at hand (pulled from the week's folder), along with a small sheet of paper for jotting down timely tasks. At the end of the day, I re-file (or perhaps toss) the papers and pull out the next day's materials. I also start a new list of to-do's. My goal is to prepare my clipboard (and therefore preview tomorrow) each night before bed.

Oh, there's more to say, but the late night is catching up with me, so I'm off! I hope you all have a great night, and as always, thanks for stopping by. :)


The Loveliness of Handmade Gifts

There's an old saying that goes, "It's not the gift, but the thought that counts." TheLoveliness_logo_4 true beauty of a handmade gift is, it's both. Because a gift that comes from your hands, comes by way of your heart ~ it's a little bit of your love all wrapped up in ribbons.

I am so pleased and honored to be your hostess for The Loveliness of Handmade Gifts. Before we begin, I'd like to thank everyone who contributed to today's Fair! Reading through your varied and valuable ideas, I have to say, your families are truly blessed to have you crafty and generous ladies! And we are blessed to have a peek into your holiday plans, for they are very inspiring!

So fire up your glue guns, everyone ~ Christmas is just 48 days away! Those seven weeks will fly by, but there's still plenty of time to crank out at least a few handmade gifts this year. I urge you to grab a pen and some paper (not to mention a hot cup of tea) before you begin perusing all the lovely links in this post. I know you will come away raring to craft and create!

But that's enough from me, let's get started with our first handmade gift idea, some heavenly soaps from Genevieve ...

"Last year my daughter Annie (then 7) and I experimented with making handmade gifts using melt-and-pour soap! We bough blocks of clear and blocks of white soap from www.sweetcakes.com and lots of different molds, colorings and scents. We checked books out of the library to inspire our designs. We ended up perfecting a guardian angel soap that was a huge hit with our family and friends. Using white soap, we made cherubs with wings, which we then embedded in oval bars of clear soap. We scented them with a soft fragrance and wrapped them in heavenly blue opalescent transparent papers. For the men, we used gold-colored soap and frankincense and myrrh fragrance and eagle molds. All the recipients expressed delight over the beauty and fragrances of their gifts. Hope this inspires some! This year we may try candles!"

Now let's stop by Rebeca's and admire her beautiful handsewn quilts. She has wisely learned that it's all about the found moments and fond memories.

Sarah and her family are also finding time for crafting, continuing a special Christmas tradition by knitting for the world.

Stop by and see Ann's handmade Christmas - family treasures abound, from homemade cards to a gorgeous nativity set, sunny window stars, and a Madonna and Child ornament I can't wait to try!

Over at Tracy's Pinewood Castle, she's pressing summer flowers into service - as glorious pressed flower bookmarks!

Maria shares a sneek peek at the special knitted surprises in store for her family this Christmas. (Shhh, don't tell!)

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A basket of homebaked cookies, presented in pretty wax bags ...

Therese's mom tells us about her favorite handmade Christmas gift ~ thread crochet snowflakes:

"I don't have a camera that allows me to scan photos of them, but they make a lovely, relatively easy-to-make gift. The simplest ones take only a few basic stitches, but as your skills advance, they can become very elaborate and even three-dimensional." They sound lovely!

Ooh, and wait till you see the prettiest little potpourri pies made by Cay and her girls! They're delicious and darling!

Mary Ellen's gifts will feed you body and soul ~ check out her beautiful jars filled with herbal goodies and coffee delights!

Jessica's children will have lots of fun making ornaments and the whole family will enjoy treats from the kitchen - all yummy, and all made with love!

Candace shares lots of ideas for clever and creative homemade cards, and in a second post, some scrumptious homemade treats!

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Gods-eye ornaments make nice gifts for a pastor or teacher ...

And Beth shares these ideas ...

"Both my sons requested their own oven mitts for Christmas. I have made a few pair in the past, and they want some for all their cooking adventures. My youngest also requested a chef's hat. Of course I love to make lots of handmade items including felt animals, pin cushions, coasters and mostly baby/lap quilts. I've done some mini quilts as well. They can be viewed throughout my blog."

Nori is following in her grandmother's footsteps by working on lots of crafty ideas this Christmas. I can't wait to try out that old fashioned punchneedle hobby!

These hand-sewn ballet bags by Megan are too-too adorable! What lucky little girls!

And speaking of lucky little girls, Cici's daughter will be so blessed by her own little homemade sewing kit!

Meredith reminds us that handmade is best, sharing fabulous foodie gifts and linking us to her (lovely!) new handcraft blog, Threads of Love.

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A plate of lemon snowballs with a stash of lemon tea tucked around.

Amy very kindly left me a comment with her exciting ideas for the season ...

"I'm making terrariums for my friends out of antique mason jars. They will have beautiful miniature red rose plants inside the jars. I will be baking up a storm, giving work/school acquaintances, neighbors and the mailman self-decorated sugar cookies and ginger snaps wrapped in cute little white paper lunchbags (purchased at the Dollar Tree store, of couse!). I am planning on making handmade photo books for the family with pictures from our annual beach trip. I've never done handmade book binding before so this will be an experiment. Oh, and I will be knitting mittens for my friends out of this gorgeous recycled silk yarn I got from eBay for next to nothing. We are also making homemade moonshine for our mutual friends and giving out honey from our hives (we're backyard beekeepers!)."

Jennifer's lovely daughter Marianna models a sheer and shimmery stole - just perfect for a day at sea (or otherwise!).

Stef's post is positively chock-full of handmade gift ideas - delicious foods and handmade rosaries, packaging tips and thoughts on theme baskets, too!

Colleen shares wonderful thoughts on why a handmade Christmas is in order for her family this year. Her plans sound lovely!

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Styrofoam + sequins = pretty ornaments for someone's tree ...

Terry has started a blog just for sharing her Posh Baskets and wonderful gift basket ideas (lucky for us!).

Cindy shares a beautiful array of handmade cards - in all kinds of styles! I am thrilled by her wreath instructions, too - I'm hankering to try that very craft!

Michelle got an early start on her handcrafted Christmas, but she still feels she has miles to go ... one thing's for sure, she has lots of family support!

Erin shares the tale of her son's gift to his mother ~ a special surprise, hand-built with love.

Laura has been busy crafting Christmas - with colorful soaps, candy bark, dipped spoons, etc. - but wait till you see the beaded rosary made by her husband!

Ann shares the (beautiful!) instructions for making a peace dove Christmas card, and tucked inside are words that describe the best gift of all.

I love Elena's idea this year to write more handwritten and heartfelt notes. What a beautiful tradition to begin - and at the best time of year!

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Easy-peasy no-sew puppet curtains, in prints reflecting the seasons.

And if I may quote from Elena in my own farewell note for the day ...

"Sharing one's self is always the best gift of all!"

So give it some thought ... what hobby comes from your heart? Why not make it a handmade holiday this year?

Thank you so much for joining me today! I hope you all, like me, are positively inspired by all the creative, loving ideas shared here! There are just two days till the weekend, my friends ~ shall we meet at the craft store bright and early Saturday morning? You bring the checklist, I'll bring the coffee!

Have a happy, crafty day! :) 


Little Crafts for November

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Before I begin, I want to thank you all for your concern, and assure you we are doing fine. The hurricane, such as it was, has come and gone. Technically it was only a Nor'easter by the time it got here, but we still got some heavy rain and wind yesterday. Folks that live down on the Cape bore the brunt of the storm; a dear friend of ours had a tree land on her house! (Thankfully, she is fine.)

It was all clear by morning ~ a bright November sun climbed the sky, and yet it was downright chilly! New England has been spoiled by a very warm autumn, but I think our time is up. We just got in from Crackerjack's last soccer game of the season ... and my teeth have only just stopped chattering!

Earlier today I worked on a couple of crafts I wanted to share with you. These are all tied to Thanksgiving, but can easily be adapted to the Christmas holidays. Since The Loveliness of Handmade Gifts is coming up in just a few days (!) I thought I'd roll up my sleeves and get a little crafty! :)

First I pulled out these cute mini loaf pans I bought at Michael's last month for all of 50 cents apiece:

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Filled with freshly baked pumpkin bread, these will make nice favors for our Thanksgiving guests. They would also make cheerful gifts for neighbors, friends, teachers, etc. (The craft stores now have plenty in winter holiday themes.) Once the breads have cooled, they can be wrapped up in colorful cellophane and ribbon. (And this reminds me I'm low on cellophane and ribbon! Hmmm ... I'd better start a list.)

Next I worked on our Thanksgiving invitations ... 

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I honestly had no real plan as I set into this project; I kind of just figured it out as I went. I had picked up the rubber stamp last year (it reads Come spend Thanksgiving with us). And just this fall I picked up the dark teal ink pad, russet-print ribbon, and fire-opal glitter (all Martha Stewart line at Michaels). I toodled around with it all, stamping the message on ivory card stock:

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and adding a little glitter:

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I hot-glued some ribbon to the borders of the card ...

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And then cobbled the rest of it together:

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Definitely homespun, but kind of festive and fun. :) I only got a few done, but hope to mail a batch out later this week.

Next it was a very quick craft for the month of November:

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How I love unfinished wood letters! You can do almost anything with them. I painted these in autumnal colors, and set them up in our classroom window:

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This craft took literally less than half an hour, and if I recall, each letter cost about $1. I was sorely tempted to glitter them, but I kept them plain and earthy for now. Come December 3rd, the first Sunday in Advent, the message will change and so will the colors, and most likely there will be liberal amounts of glitter. ;)

Well, I'd best be off ~ Sunday is rolling to a close here and I still have a chicken to roast and a week to plan! Actually, I spent Saturday sketching a lesson plan for the month of November - I'll share it here very soon.

Have a great night!


From the Heart of your Home ...

... come the loveliest of gifts, those that have been made with your very own hands ~ or perhaps the helpful little hands all around you. :)

Handmade gifts might come from the kitchen, the garden or the craft Loveliness_logo_3basket ... but whatever their source, they always come from the heart and they are always lovely ...

And so it is with great pleasure I announce that The Loveliness of Handmade Gifts will be right here next week on Thursday, November 8th! And I am cordially inviting everyone to join me!

Please share your thoughts and plans for making homemade gifts this year - or tell us about gifts you've made in years past. Bloggers and non-bloggers alike are welcome to participate (see below for my contact information).

Here are some ideas to jump-start your thoughts ...

~ What are your favorite homemade gifts to give and receive?

~ Do you plan to make some gifts this year?

~ Are you perhaps longing to do so but can't find the time? (A post about not making gifts is fine too!)

~ Do you have a signature gift for which you are "famous" within certain circles?

~ How about your thoughts on how handmade gifts can save a family money?

~ Or perhaps what great lessons they teach children who give and receive them - patience and creativity?

~ Do you set up a "Santa's Workshop" for yourself? What supplies do you lay in for gift making?

~ What are your favorite gift making resources - where do you get your ideas? (Some of my favorites will appear soon on the sidebar at right.)

~ How about handmade cards and gift-wrapping?

~ What about gifts of time, love and energy?

(And for more ideas, please see last year's Handmade Gifts Fair!)

Any ideas about homemade gifts are welcome and I would love to hear from you! If you are a blogger, please send me a link to your post or leave me a link in the comments box below. And if you're not a blogger, you are also more than welcome to join in the fun! Just send me an email with your ideas about handmade gifts (and a picture if you'd like) and I will plug you right into the Fair!

Please send all submissions for the Loveliness of Handmade Gifts to drhanigan AT comcast DOT net. I would like to have everything by next Wednesday night so I can get the post up bright and early Thursday morning!

And please feel free to help me spread the word! Grab the Loveliness button above, and invite your readers to join us!

So let's get our creative engines going, ladies ~ Christmas is just seven weeks away! November is here and it's the weekend! Let's get those thinking caps on ... and get out those needles and that glue and those cookie cutters and that rolling pin ... ;)

Thanks for stopping by, and I hope to hear from you soon! :)


Crafters Night!

I have no time to blog tonight, because I am on my way out to my very first Knitting Circle! Actually, luckily for me, all kinds of handcrafters are invited, not just knitters. Sure I've knitted before, but I'm sort of a random crafter - I dabble and dream more than I actually finish things. ;)

So, I have my bag all packed ...

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.. with autumn-hued yarn, felt, embroidery thread and oatmeal-colored linen. Hopefully I'll feel inspired to start something!

But just in case I draw a blank, I am also packing a bunch of craft magazines and idea books, as well as my two most recent journals, in which I have taped loads of clippings and pictures from all kinds of places. I would like to at least maybe write out a handmade gifts list for Christmas. (Oh, and speaking of handmade gifts, ahem, the Loveliness Fair on this very subject will be right here on November 5th! Stay tuned for more details soon!)

Well, so much for no time to blog, lol. You know I can always eke out a paragraph or two, even on my way out the door.

Have a great night, everyone. I'm off to craft!

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A Quick & Crafty Apple Tote

Apple picking is such a treasured American tradition; I look forward to it every autumn! Have you been yet this year? We're planning to go next week on Johnny Appleseed Day, and so over the next several days we'll have apple stories to tell, books to read, crafts to make, experiments to try and snacks to eat ... But first, we'll make tote bags to bring to the farm!

This is a fun, kid-friendly project, requiring some quick and easy parent set up. I did a trial run today, and took pictures of each step. Here's what you need:

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      • a plain canvas bag
      • red fabric paint
      • a new sponge
      • a laundry detergent cap (clean and dry)
      • hot glue gun
      • sharp scissors
      • a black marker
      • paper towels

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Now, there are plenty of apple-shaped stamps and stencils available at the store, and of course you could always just use an apple half itself! But in the September issue of Parents magazine, I saw a neat idea for making a homemade stamp by attaching a sponge to a laundry detergent cap. Well, I just happened to have an empty detergent container sitting in our recycle bin and a new package of sponges beneath the sink. :)

The first thing I did was to draw an apple on the sponge. Not having any apples on hand for an impromptu still life, I looked up stencils online. I found this one which turned out a bit bigger than I needed, so I eyeballed it:

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I used very sharp scissors to cut out the shape, trimming any rough edges.

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Next I attached the sponge shape to the top of the detergent cap, using my trusty glue gun (marker side down).

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After a few minutes the stamp was ready to go, so I poured myself a good size dab of apple-red fabric paint ...

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I dipped in my stamp, making sure to coat all the nooks and crannies, and ...voila:

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Sorry that's a bit blurry; it was taken at the very moment Earlybird discovered what I was up to! (Remember this was supposed to be a trial run, lol!) I did find I needed to blot the stamped images gently with paper towels to remove excess paint. Then I set the bag aside to dry.

Of course, then EB got into the act:

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And here are the two bags I (or we, as it turned out, lol) made today. We'll make a few more before our apple farm visit next week.

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These are smaller bags, just the right size for small hands - whether they get filled to the brim with rosy red globes, or tote home just one or two. :)

I also think these bags would make lovely gifts for someone special - perhaps an elderly relative or neighbor who can't get to the farm on their own. Fill them up to the top, and attach a pretty fall ribbon, bring along a jug of cider and plan an autumn afternoon visit.

Well, I'm off now for the night. Tomorrow's a busy one, so I'll catch up with you all again soon!