New England 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. 

*❤*

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!


Little Bear's First Autumn Hike 💛

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Happy Tuesday, my friends - and Happy St. Luke's Day! Are you having a "little summer" where you live? Despite a damp and gray start, it's going to be unseasonably warm here today - near 80°! Like yesterday was, and tomorrow promises to be ... and I'm just loving this opportunity to get out and enjoy the amazing Autumn all around us. :)

So I'd like to share some of my photos from yesterday, when Little Bear went on his very first Homeschool Hike! It's not his first hike of course - he's enjoyed a few family hikes in the past, with a vantage point from the back-carrier, peeking over his Daddy's shoulder! - but this time it was "feet on the ground" as we joined our homeschool group's "under-eight" crowd in the woods. This was LB's first "solo" homeschool adventure - something just for him and Mama!

I hope you enjoy these pics ... more thoughts about little guys and early learning at the end. :)

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What a glorious day this was! A real "autumn adventure" in the crunchy, muddy, light-filled woods!

I had a strong sense of deja vu, watching my Little Bear - who is SUCH a doppleganger for Bookworm at this age - jump right in and explore with "his kids" (as he calls them, lol). Homeschooling is all about working with multi-ages (and kids learning to befriend other kids no matter their differences - age-level or otherwise) but I'm grateful my support group has some activities just for the young ones. Little Bear does plenty with his older siblings - tagging along when he thinks he's leading the way - but I'm looking forward to more times like this that will be just ours to experience together. Mama and her littlest bear. <3

I've been homeschooling for nearly 17 years, but this time around, "preschool" feels new again. As much as he looks like his older brothers, Little Bear's very much his own unique person - an extrovert and quite strong-willed, endlessly curious, always chatty and VERY active! With experience (if not quite wisdom) behind me, this time around I feel much more relaxed. I'm remembering things that worked with my older boys and the many lessons learned - most of all by Mama! Relax, relish and understand that there is NO RUSH. Do not forfeit the freedom of these early years for unnecessary structure and too many expectations. All the things that need to happen will happen ... when they are meant to. In the meantime, I'm going to set up a rhythm of gentle learning experiences along with daily doses of fresh air, weekly outings, quiet times at home, crafty creating, cooking together, gardening and care-taking, singing and humming along to music, opportunities to practice kindness and develop good habits. As I said in an earlier post:

"If I've established an atmosphere that promotes learning, they will learn. If I've encouraged an attitude of curiosity they'll be curious. If I've shared my own joy and wonder at the world, then the world will be a source of joy and wonder for my children. If I can check boxes off in my planner I'll be thrilled, but there is room to see where my children might lead me, too."

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More on our early learning plans (themes, organization, creating a haven of love and learning) in a future post, but for now I'll let you all go. I know I promised last time that my next post would be my "desk tour" but I just had to share this day with you all. I hope you enjoyed our autumn adventure! Desk pics to come soon!

Enjoy this blessed Tuesday, my friends ... see you here again very soon!


Reds and Greens and Orange and Blue ...🍂

(And yellows and browns and black!)

Happy Friday, my friends! Here's a little bit of Autumn from my home & garden to yours ... ðŸ’›

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Autumn is truly settled in around here as you can see - inside and out! The weather has been just glorious, as it tends to be in New England at this time of year: brisk, bright and OH the colors! Although ... we are expecting a brief return of summery weather this week - 80s even! - but since St. Luke's Day is this Tuesday, I'm not one bit surprised. ;)

Why you might wonder? Well, have you ever heard of St. Luke's Little SummerAccording to The Old Farmer's Almanac ...

Lovely, summerlike days that occur around October 18 are called St. Luke’s Little Summer in honor of the saint’s feast day. In olden days, St. Luke’s Day did not receive as much attention in the secular world as St. John’s Day (June 24) and Michaelmas (September 29), so to keep from being forgotten, St. Luke presented us with some golden days to cherish before the coming of winter, or so the story goes. Some folks call this Indian Summer, but that officially occurs between November 11 and November 20.


This brief warmup may be unseasonable, but it will be nice ... because any day we can throw open our windows and spend time outside comfortably is a gift. Dark and gray days are coming, I am ever aware! I can feel my internal clock slowing down, taking its cue from the world around me. The crickets are still chirping but more slowly, and the breeze is a noisy rustle as crisp leaves shake from their branches and head for the ground. I don't mind this slowing down though - in fact, I relish it. It's all part of life's rhythm and, after all, we humans are part of that great cycle, even if we can ignore it with all our modern conveniences! I feel it's a good thing to embrace the season's changes ... I've been turning more of my attention to the inside of our home (and the inside of my head), concentrating on domestic comforts and inner lights - cooking, reading, writing, planning, nesting ... preparing my family for the long winter ahead.

Anyway, speaking of domestic appreciation, here's my dinner menu for the coming week. It's been way too long since I've shared this (and to be honest, it's been too long since I've been consistent with meal planning)!

S - (Full Hunter's Moon) Hunter's Stew (A chicken-sausage/sundried tomato dish served with rice - one of Bill's specialities!)

M - (Practice night) Baked ziti, meatballs, garlic bread, salad

T - (St. Luke's Day) - Burgers on the grill, corn-on-the-cob, farmstand salad, fries

W - (It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown on TV tonight!) - grilled cheese with tomatoes and ham, chicken soup, apple-pumpkin dump cake & steamed almond milk w/spiced pumpkin marshmallows

T - meatloaf, roasted multi-color carrots, stir-fried broccoli & whole grain rice

F - (Practice night & Bookworm home for the weekend!) - crescent dogs, baked beans & brown bread, tater tots

S - (Family Anniversary Lunch) - leftovers since we'll be eating a big lunch!

Well I guess I'd best wrap up now, as this post is getting rather long ... but as always I thank you for stopping by! I hope you enjoy the rest of your weekend and would love to hear how your autumn is unfolding if you have a chance. In an upcoming post (hopefully sometime this week) I will give you a tour of my new desk and chat a little about how I'm keeping organized these days. I am also working every moment I get on the next set of seasonal planning sheets. I'm hoping to have Late Autumn pages available to you well before the end of the month!

Take care of yourselves and your loved ones, my friends ... see you here again very soon!

p.s. Don't forget to watch that moon rise tonight! ðŸŒ


Food, Flowers, Friends ... and a Day at the Fair!

(But not in that particular order ...)

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Happy Sunday, my friends! I hope your weekend is going well, and to my Canadian friends ~ I wish you a very Happy Thanksgiving (tomorrow). :)

As I write this post it is raining steadily here ... and OH MY is it chilly! I had to run out for groceries a bit ago (not my favorite thing to do on a Sunday) and I am so glad to be back home again, sipping my tea and typing away at my desk. I hear the Pats game on in the kitchen where Bill, God bless him, is filling the dishwasher (with Little Bear's "help"). I'm thinking about so many things - things I need to do, forgot to do, want to do - and feeling grateful we have a holiday tomorrow (Columbus Day here in America). It's one of those weekends when I really need just one more day of weekend!

Anyhoo ... I thought I'd share some pictures from last week. We had some very nice days, including a trip to the Fair, and a Nature Club meeting held here at our house. Please read on and I hope you enjoy!

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Here we are Tuesday morning at the Fair ... it was a little damp to start, but things dried out nicely throughout the morning. I will admit, I was a little anxious about this trip, as it had been several years since Earlybird had been to the Fair. As you can probably imagine, a large and crowded fairground is a rather challenging place for a child with autism. There's just so much stimulation - so many sights, sounds, smells - and way more people than he's used to being around. Previous fair visits had not gone so well, but we planned this year's visit with EB's behavioral therapist (who joined us during this outing). We hoped EB - who was really excited to go - would be able to handle it ... and happily, he did handle it! It was overwhelming for him at times, so we found quiet corners and simple things for him to do ...

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First up, EB and Little Bear got to make apple cider the old-fashioned way ... 

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These guys were SO nice, letting EB turn the wheel over and over again and patiently explaining the process to him. People like this - who take a few extra minutes and show a little extra patience - well, they just have no idea how much that means to parents whose children have special needs. For us it meant a quiet 10 minutes where EB could calm down and focus on something interesting. He felt a part of the Fair instead of outside of it.

A bit later on we found ourselves in another quiet spot ... inside the poultry barn, where even the loudest roosters and hens barely ruffled our feathers. Plus, the boys got to hold baby chicks!

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The nice man in the cap pictured below noticed my boy needing a little distraction and said, "Hey, hang on a minute - let me get you a chick to hold." Well, Little Bear and Earlybird sat themselves right down on the bench and waited patiently (EB's beloved therapist right by his side) and true to his word, this kind gentleman placed a tiny chick right in their hands!

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Catching our breath we moved on to enjoy our snacks outside the arena ... whoopie pies from a favorite bakery!

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(EB's ate his too fast for me to get many pictures, lol, but here is LB enjoying his.)

A stop in "Kiddieville" on our way out, and a train ride for Little Bear ...

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Once with Daddy ...

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And once with Mama. :)

(Earlybird almost got on the train but changed his mind at the last minute. Maybe next year!)

***

Now, here are some pictures from our Nature Club meeting on Friday. Some of my longtime readers might remember years ago when I'd post about my homeschool group's Nature Club and what fun we had on those monthly adventures. Well, after a several-year break, I am happy to report the club is back up and running! This first meeting was just a gathering to get organized and so there were a few nature crafts set out for the kids and plenty of refreshments for all ...

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These next couple of pictures have nothing to do with Nature Club - I just want to show you some more of my autumn decorating. :)

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It was such a nice day so we were able to set up the activity tables on the  patio ...

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Activities included: making leaf fossils, autumn suncatchers and leaf-creature pictures as well as rock painting and a backyard scavenger hunt. I think the kids all had a good time! (I didn't share pictures of our friends in this post, but there were about 20 kids in all, I believe.)

And hey, here's an idea ... how about we form some kind of "online" Nature Club? I often have friends and readers comment that they wish they had something like this club for their kids and while we obviously couldn't get together and explore nature "in real life," we could share our ideas and experiences with each other here at my blog! I will have to think on this a bit, but let me know if you think you (and your kids) might be interested ... I'd run this something like I have other group projects in the past ... like Field Days, Book Party and Planner Party and the like. Maybe a monthly theme and then folks could "report in" and share pictures and observations, a little bit about the nature where they live? I think that could be fun ... :)

Have to share this one, too ...

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Our Earlybird is learning to ride a bike! :)

This an adult "trike" and so far he's taking to it pretty well! And just to note, he will wear a helmet once he starts really riding. This picture was taken in our driveway and he doesn't pedal further than a few feet at a time. The helmet will be a bit of a sensory challenge, but I know he'll wear it if it means he gets to ride around the neighborhood!

Last pic from Nature Club ...

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Beautiful zinnias and cosmos! How lovely to be brought flowers from a friend's garden? I am resolved to grow a cutting garden next year...

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New books on my desk ...

New books

The one of the far left is on loan from the library (it seems several friends are enjoying this story so I want to check it out!) while the other two are recent "splurges." The middle book will be my Advent reading and the book on the end is just FULL of wonderful information. Really nice layout, too. I am taking that one very slowly, reading a few pages every morning ... :)

And lastly ...

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I had to share this picture - taken on Main Street as I made my way home from the store. A horse and buggy making its way (slowly) down the road! Such is life in a small town ... :)

Well my friends, I'd best be off for now - I've kept you here quite long and so I thank you for your time and attention! I do hope you enjoy the rest of your weekend, whenever it might end, and I also hope and pray all my friends here are safe and sound. Especially those in the path of Hurricane Matthew!Take care of yourselves and your loved ones and I will see  you here again very soon ...


A Wintry Weekend ...

Happy Sunday, my friends!

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Well, we're in the early stages of another monster snowstorm in New England ... and boy, do I feel like I've said that before. ;) It started snowing here yesterday as I was running some errands and it will snow continuously today ... tonight ... and tomorrow ... and tomorrow night! Leaving us with about two feet of snow when all is said and done Tuesday morning ...

Yes, you read that right: we're getting TWO FEET of snow. Which will be added to the TWO FEET of snow we already have on the ground!

❄️❄️❄️❄️❤️❄️❄️❄️❄️

(I do love ALL the seasons so much - they all have their charms, after all - I just wish Winter might stop being quite so "charming" for a bit, lol.)

So I just have a few photos to share today, but I mostly just wanted to stop in and say hi. Thank you again for all your wonderful comments, suggestions and encouragement ... I am working on my next Q&A post and hope to have it up soon!

In the meantime ...

Around the year book

I was working on my Lenten plans last evening ... with some tea, natch, in the relative quiet of the dining room. Are you familiar with the above treasure of a book? I'm so happy our new library system has it "in stock!" Just picked it up yesterday and have already dug in. This might be my third or fourth reading, but it's been a couple of years. I think I can renew it enough to last me through Lent!

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 From my ME page-a-day calendar ... is this not so very true? â¤ï¸

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Thinks my bundled-up Little Bear: "It's snowing again?"

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Thinks my cozied-up kitty: "Wake me when it's Spring."

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And here's my own cozy spot this morning, as I sit by the kitchen window, watching the birds in a frenzy at the feeders. (Rest assured, there are breakfast dishes behind me but I'm not thinking about them at the moment ... ) I have a couple of lovely British mags that hint at the promise of spring ... my sweet squirrel mug with a new tea to try ... and my new African violet sitting in the safety of a glass cloche. The violet is February's flower. :)

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Well, my friends ~ from my house to yours, I'm wishing you all a wonderful Sunday. What's the weather like where you live today? Drop me a note if you have the time ... 

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


Happy, Happy February!

Snowdrops vintage artwork

And Happy Monday, everyone!

Well, it's quite a day here in New England - we're waking to another snowy morning (a foot or so expected by dark) and another Superbowl win for my beloved Patriots!! So as you might guess, we're just a WEE bit excited around here! :)

I'm so enjoying the magazine comments in my last post - I'll be in there shortly to catch up - but I'm running on fumes this morning after three late nights in a row (we had a night owl baby on Friday and a college reunion dinner on Saturday) so I'm behind on EVERYTHING. Feeling grateful for well, first of all - coffee! but also - my lists and my habit of planning ahead. It's keeping me a little bit focused as I gather my wits this morning.

Also, it's is Candlemas and Groundhog's Day - and as I understand it, Punxatawny Phil saw his shadow so we're in for six more weeks of winter. (Like we couldn't have guessed that, lol! I'm surprised he was able to dig his way out of his den!) And on Candlemas I like to have a new supply of tea lights blessed at church ... unfortunately I won't be getting out the driveway in time for morning Mass! I bought these wonderful beeswax tea lights that I plan to use in a seasonal/liturgical way this year ... I might stick them in my purse and see if Father can bless them next Sunday. :)

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Also, February 1st is the Feast of St. Brigid, patroness of Ireland and dairy farmers. We'll be reading the wonderful Brigid's Cloak at some point today, Irish tea, and there may be "shepherdess pie" for dinner. :)

Ok, I'd best be off as the house wakes up around me ... off to grab another cuppa and finish my marmalade toast! I hope you all have a great day, and once again before I go, I must say ...

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HOORAY FOR THE NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS!!!

:)


A Wednesday Winter Wonderland!

Good afternoon, my friends!

Blizzard 15

I'm stopping in to let you all know we are through the blizzard and doing fine - our power has held *knock on wood* and we woke this morning to a bright and glorious day! Many folks are still shoveling out so schools are closed across the region ... and though Boston is back up and running, Governor Baker has asked folks to stay off the roads if at all possible. So happily, Bill is working from home once again today!

I took some pictures on my walk down to get the paper this morning - it was super cold, and I had the little fella with me, so we hurried, but I managed to take a couple of pictures. Most of these photos are taken from inside my windows, however!

So without further ado ... welcome to my snow globe. :)

Blizzard 18

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There are a few more inches coming Friday and another storm in the forecast for Monday ... now this is Winter as I remember it! Little Bear however, had such wonder on his face this morning ... there was just so much white stuff around him! And it was so very cold on his fingers!

:)

My friends, I hope wherever you are, you are safe and warm and at peace today. Thanks so much for all your prayers and concern, and as always, for stopping by to read. I will be back again soon ... with a post that does not have to do with snow. ;)


Snow, snow, snow ... and more snow!

Good Tuesday morning, my friends ...

Blizzard 4

I know a lot of you have heard about the blizzard hitting New England today ... and yes, it is here! I thought I'd check in (while we still have power) to tell you that we are fine. We are having heavy snow and a lot of wind, but so far things are as expected. We have our devices charged and our blankets and flashlights at the ready ... and we got our coffee made very early - a second pot is brewing "just in case."

The top photo was taken out the sunroom doors about 6 a.m. The wind, as you can see, was raging! Those are picnic benches on the left and a picnic table on the right ... here's the same view (sort of) a couple of hours later:

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This is looking out the breakfast nook window. The deck is buried!

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 (I'm quite glad I got the birdfeeders filled yesterday ... it would not be an easy task today!)

***

My chief concern: we are surrounded here by very large trees which - in any storm, at any season - makes me nervous. As of now, the air is so cold (14° F at last check) the snow is not sticking on the branches, but I pray no trees or limbs come down. I am grateful to have my house and heat and supplies, but I know not everyone can count those things among their blessings today. My prayers go out to them most of all - for shelter, warmth and help where it's needed.

My friends, I'll check in later today ... thank you for stopping by!

:)


It's Apple-Picking Season!

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And what a season it is here in New England - with its crisp air and blue skies and colorful leaves - I can't get enough! Pumpkins might be all the rage, but my heart will always belong to the humble little apple - red, green, gold - I love them all.

 Well, last Friday we visited a local orchard - and spent a cool, gray afternoon picking apples (and having fun!) with our homeschool group. I took a crazy amount of photos, so I'd like to share them with you all here today ... but before I get too far, I'd love to know what YOU love about apples. As you can see above we came home with a LOT of apples and though a crisp is a must (there is, in fact, a crisp in the oven as I type) I'm trying to decide what to do with the rest. (The ones that don't get eaten right out of hand, I mean.)

So, do you prefer a crisp or a pie? Applesauce or apple butter?

Dried apples, fresh apples, heirloom, organic ...

Dear Readers, I'm dying to know:

How do you like them apples?

;)

Looking forward to your comments - now, here are my pictures!

Apples 31

Apples 26

Apples 1

Apples 6

Apples 4

Apples 39

(photo by Crackerjack)

Apples 42

Apples 28

Apples 19

Apples 34

Apples 43

Apples 45

 Well my friends, I hope you all had a nice weekend, and that your new week is off to a great start. Monday morning is starting off a bit nippy here - and busy as usual! Thanks so much for stopping by - I'll see you here again very soon!

❤


Maple Sugaring ~ Little Bear's 1st Field Trip!

My friends, what a nice day we had yesterday! It was bright and brisk as only March can be - perfect (if perhaps a bit chilly) for getting out of the house. So in the late morning we packed ourselves up (in multiple layers) and joined our homeschool group at a local state park to see how maple syrup is made. This was Little Bear's very first field trip, and I'm happy to say he enjoyed himself very much. :)

Maple sugaring 2

 All bundled up and ready to go!

Maple sugaring 5

 Very interesting demonstrations, the kids asked great questions and offered thoughtful answers.

Maple sugaring 6

Little Bear was absolutely fascinated by the bark on this tree. I think that's a good sign, don't you? ;) Another little nature nut just like his brothers (and Mama)!

Maple sugaring 7

The woodsman demonstration is always a hit with the kids - learning about how wood was handled through the years (and today). They especially like the part where they get to try out the two-man saw!

Maple sugaring 17

 This picture is actually from 2008, but it shows that two-man saw in action. That's our Crackerjack in green and Bookworm in red - how little they were back then!

Maple sugaring 8

I just liked this view. :)

Maple sugaring 9

 And this one ...

Maple sugaring 13

And this!

Maple sugaring 14

In March, there are maple sugaring tours all over New England, and we've been to a few different operations over the years. This one was run by a state park located just outside of Boston. A really beautiful place that offers a lot of family-oriented programs.

Maple sugaring 15

At the end of the tour, which brought us through the woods and into a working sugar shack (where the sap actually gets boiled down into syrup), visitors are given a pancake and/or popcorn soaked in pure maple syrup. I gave Little Bear a tiny taste ...

Maple sugaring 10

And it may not look like it here, but he really did enjoy that tiny bite!

Maple sugaring 43

It was so amazing to watch his little face take in all the different people and new sights ... the feel of the wind and the sway of the trees. There's nothing quite like experiencing the wonders of the world through the eyes of a child ...

Maple sugaring 16

Crackerjack had a great time, too! He got to catch up with friends he had not seen in some time. :)

Maple sugaring 18 

One last shot at the park - a selfie of Mama and her Little Bear. I'm going to tuck the memory of this lovely day in my heart for safe keeping - and future reference. :)

Back at home ...

Maple sugaring 11

I had our "maple-themed" books displayed in a bright window ...

Maple sugaring 1

And I also opened up a favorite book to these beautiful pages depicting an old fashioned maple sugaring scene ...

Maple sugaring 19

I bet you can tell who drew these charming pictures!

There is so much to see in these pages, so many lovely details in the borders - like red-winged blackbirds, chipmunks and pussy willows - all spring harbingers we ourselves "encountered" last week. :) If you love seasonal stories and illustrations, Springs of Joy is a book you will want to include in your family library!

*❤*

Well my friends, I hope you enjoyed hearing about our maple sugaring trip! I'd like to mention that many of these photos were taken by Crackerjack, since I had my hands full (of baby!) most of the time. I think he did a fine job. :)

Enjoy your Wednesday, everyone ... I'll see you here again very soon! 


Throwback Thursday ~ Thinking about March

(And maple syrup!)

Maple cupcakes 1

Well, I am just thrilled! This morning we signed up for our homeschool group's annual maple sugaring field trip - a sure sign that spring is not that far away. We haven't been on this tour in years, but it's always been a favorite event of ours. It will take place in mid-March which is a fickle month in our parts - some years we're walking though snow or ducking in and out of the freezing rain - but it's such a wonderful seasonal tradition. The sap starts to run in late winter, when the days (at least some of them) get above 50 degrees, and the nights remain below freezing, signaling those beautiful sugar maples to start doing their stuff! 

Anyhoo, for "Throwback Thursday" I thought I'd look up an old maple sugaring post - this one is from way back in 2007! If you're planning some maple-themed activities for your family next month, search my archives for "maple sugaring" and you'll find a lot of ideas and activities! (The search box is on the lefthand sidebar.) I also just put up a maple-month booklist over there on the right.

Oh! And those cupcakes shown above are featured in the aforementioned post. They are absolutely deeeelicious. :)

Enjoy the rest of your day, my friends!

*🍁*


A Slow, Snowy Sunday

Snowy sunday morning

Well, after that very brief taste of Spring, we're back in the clutches of old man Winter once again ... it's another snowy Sunday here in New England! I hope you're all having a nice weekend ...

It will be a quiet, homey day for us ... I'm doing my "mid-year review" of our curriculum and some lesson planning for the rest of the winter quarter (with an eye towards spring). I do this every year, looking back at the ed. plans I submitted for each child and then seeing where we're at/how things are going. I make adjustments and then plan out lessons and activities for the next several weeks. We tend to get off-track around the holidays so it's a good idea for me to take stock about now. The process always starts out a bit sobering, but usually I feel pretty energized by the time I'm done.

But speaking of feeling "energized" ... we're also anticipating a very BIG GAME here later today! GO PATS!!! Whatever the outcome, this should be an epic re-match between Brady and Manning, two amazing quarterbacks in the prime of their careers. And since a snowy "Patriots Sunday" always calls for a hearty supper, I'm making a rich beef stew, to be served over potatoes, and shhhh don't tell the boys but I'm also making some "Patriots" cupcakes for dessert.

:)

So, just popping in to say hi and share that snowy picture with you all ... I'm sure I need not remind you all that Downton is on tonight ... followed by the much anticipated return of the simply amazing Sherlock! I am going to try very hard to stay awake for DA but I can pretty much guarantee I'll be catching Sherlock tomorrow online ...

Either way I'll have a chat post up tomorrow morning so we can all share our thoughts on the latest Downton developments!

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


Advent: Moments of Peace & Joy

Some simple, joyful moments on St. Lucia Day ...

Advent joy saint lucia buns

Cinnamon rolls (the easy kind that come from a can that happen to also be the natural kind that Earlybird can have). One of these years I *will* make homemade Lucia bun. I mean it.

;)

Note the adorable "shooting star" beeswax birthday candle.

 Advent joy hook apron 1 

This brushed nickel hook - oh, how I've waited for it! Bill finally got the hook installed on the back of a kitchen door, so I can hang my beautiful winter apron here - a treasured "Vermont" gift from my parents last year ...

Advent joy hook apron 2 

I think it looks nice in this spot, close to the oven ... makes me want to bake!

Advent joy calendar 1

 And while we're in the kitchen ... my monthly wall calendar always makes me smile. I have it hanging on the fridge. The art of Susan Winget (Lang Co.) is just beautiful.

***

And now for a couple of moments today when I truly "took" peace ...

 Advent peace driveway

Walking back from getting the mail - cold air, icy ground, flurries in the midst - so still and quiet, as I made my way up our drive. I could feel Winter's approach ...

Advent peace tea

Back inside, a cup of tea for warmth and (soul) nourishment.

*❤*

And now we're at the weekend ... with a snowstorm pressing upon us here in New England. We have some quiet homey plans, a special boy's birthday to celebrate, a bit of a breather, I hope ... but I'll be back again soon to share the peace and joy I am stumbling upon ...

Blessings to you all! 


Friday Photos ~ November begins!

What a blustery start to the month! It's surprisingly mild here, but the wind is gusting like crazy! Can't help but think of that Clare poem: "I love the fitful gusts that shake The casement all the day ... "

Just a few photos from this week ... how I love the colors at this time of the year! Not fiery and vibrant like October, but more subdued and mellow. Earth's getting sleepy it seems ...

Owen blustery day 3

Autumn sunset with chickens

November begins 1

November begins 3

November begins 4

Farm 10

Farm 12

Farm 13

Farm 15

Farm 17

Farm 18

Farm 20

 Don't forget to "Fall Back" this Saturday night! How will you spend that extra hour Sunday morning?

Have a great weekend, my friends!


Friday Bits-n-Bobs

So yesterday may have been a day for apples but I made use of another autumnal orchard fruit instead ~  a couple of pounds of ripe and juicy Bartlett pears! I baked two dozen pear muffins with the pearsauce I'd made earlier in the week.

Pear muffins 1

And oh my goodness! I had one (maybe three) of these in the afternoon, with a cup of decaffeinated English Teatime, while sitting by an open window soaking in the fresh air and warm autumn sunshine ... just glorious!

(I've also got apples aplenty to use up - a whole bunch of Macs we bought at a favorite farm a couple of weeks ago ... I'll make them into a cobbler for Bookworm who'll be home from college this weekend.)

* And for supper last night I made a pan of ziti and a pan of baked chicken using up some spinach dip and whole grain bread crumbs ... along with a pan of roasted "early autumn" vegetables: squash, sweet peppers, onions, carrots, potatoes ...

  Potatoes 1

Now, a quick disclaimer - I don't want anyone to think I'm cooking like this every day. Hardly. I'm still trying to get into some routines here with a new(ish) baby and a new(ish) home. I'm just so tickled I did all that cooking yesterday I wanted to share it!

* Speaking of baking though, I must rave again about the King Arthur Flour Baking Sheet. If you enjoy baking - particularly seasonal baking - this newsletter is a must. Well, apparently I forgot to change my address when we moved so when I realized I missed the Autumn issue, I called to remedy the error ... and two days later I had my new copy! Wonderful customer service from KAF.

* Now, on Wednesday you know how I told you all about the little mouse we found (or rather the cats found) in our dining room? Well yesterday morning we had another interesting nature sighting ... this gorgeous Barred Owl!

Owl 3

I was upstairs in the bedroom with Little Bear when I first spotted the owl in the trees near the edge of our property. I promptly got myself outside (and the baby in a bouncy seat where Crackerjack could watch him) and took a few snaps. The owl immediately zeroed in on me so I only had the chance to take a couple of passable shots. He then turned his back on me ...

Owl 2

And just flew off into the woods. What a wingspan! He was enormous.

* Oh, and the Michaelmas daisies! Have you seen any where you live? Around here they are abundant along the roadsides. Apt timing of course, seeing as how Sunday is Michaelmas Day ...

Michaelmas daisies 1

Love that pale purple, so pretty against the goldenrod which is also all over the place. One thing I love about this time of year is how we have fall foliage starting - there are hints of red and gold in the treescape - but we still have the bright beauty of September's last roses and dahlias and hydrangeas and such. The best of both worlds ... nature's last lively dance!

:)

Well that's all that's new from me today ... thanks so much for joining me this week as I ease my way back into regular blogging ... have yourselves a GREAT weekend, and I will see you all again sometime soon!

*❤*


At Boston College ~ Admitted Eagles Day

I'm afraid there will be no MM this morning - I was out like a light very early last night! And that was because we spent most of our Sunday touring Boston College, taking part in "Admitted Eagles Day." It was an absolutely lovely spring day - typical of April in these parts. I thought you might like to see some of the pictures I took ...

Bc visit 1

(I didn't actually take this one - a BC student took it for us.)

This is me, Bookworm, Bill (holding my backpack, lol) and Crackerjack, standing in front of St. Inagtius of Loyola Catholic Church.

Bc 3

The B.C. Eagle.

Bc 4

Note Crackerjack's hood ~ the air was a might chilly early in the morning!

Bc 1

This is Fulton Hall, where Bill and Bookworm learned about B.C.'s math program (math is his intended major) and to which BW and I later returned for the computer science presentation (his potential minor).

Bc 8

(For what it's worth, CJ was advised to wear something warmer than a hoodie but he assured us he'd be "fine.")

Bc 9

This is a cool spot inside Fulton Hall - a glass cathedral ceiling and huge hanging tin lanterns.

Bc 6

The campus architecture is stunning - most of the buildings look quite medieval.

Bc 19

Bc 13

Bc 15

School motto engraved on this feature: Ever to Excel

Bc 14

 Bc 11

Bc 20

An impressive statue of St. Ignatius of Loyola, who founded the Jesuit order (Boston College is one of the country's oldest Jesuit universities).

***

So we have come down to two schools - Boston College and Gordon College - both wonderful opportunities for Bookworm, and both fit him well in different ways. We have much to talk about, think about and pray over this week, as a decision (and deposit) is expected very soon. May I ask for your prayers towards our discernment?

While I'm here I wanted to also let you know that my blogging will we be brief for the next several weeks. We have lots going on, and I'm really slowing down as I near my due date. (I'm at 35 weeks today.) I will still pop in now and again, but I didn't want anyone to worry if I'm quiet for days at a stretch. We will, of course, be announcing our big news here just as soon as we're able!

Blessings to you all on this beautiful spring Monday ~ see you here again sometime soon!

*❤*


A Day for Apples!

According to the Farmer's Almanac, it's Johnny Appleseed Day - the day the American legend died, not to be confused with his birthday which takes place in September. September may seem the more fitting month to celebrate apples - it being harvest time and all - but it's always a great time to enjoy an apple! And though I do enjoy a fresh apple now and then, there's something about cooked apples that really appeals to me ...

Baked apples

They go so well with those homey scents and flavors like cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and clove ... 

I know people can be quite partial to one variety or another, and I have always been fond of McIntosh apples since they were the kind my grandmother cooked with the most. (Her "pink" applesauce was the best!) I think of them as a traditional New England apple, but it is my understanding they originated in eastern Canada. There are several varieties that have been bred from the original Mac - the Macoun, the Spartan, Cortland and Paula Red to name a few ...

So of course, now I'm wondering: Is there an apple you like best of all?

Here's a recipe for the apples seen above, a delicious baked version filled with dried fruit and honey. Wouldn't these make a cozy, nourishing breakfast on a cold March morning? And if you're looking for some more appley ideas, here's a link to a post I did on Johnny Appleseed Day last year.

In the interest of keeping it simple with little ones - why not head to the library to pick up a book or two on apples (there are bound to be lots!) and perhaps stop at the market to buy a few apples? (See how many varieties there are!) Or if the weather is cooperating, visit your local orchard and see how the apple trees are faring. Are they showing signs of life yet?

By the way, this is one of my favorite apple books, a lovely Swedish story:

Our apple tree

Our Apple Tree

Beautiful illustrations, and a sweet imaginative story. It nicely describes the different seasons in an apple tree's life.

*❤*

So there's a few thoughts for this Tuesday, my friends ... but wherever your day takes you, I hope you enjoy it! Thanks so much for stopping by ... I'll see you here again sometime soon!


A Sparkling Sunday

Sparkling snow 1

Fresh snow + bright sun = magic!

Oh, the sun rising this morning was a sight to see! The whole neighborhood looked so pretty as the sun rose, its light making all that white sparkle. Lovely. :)

Sparkling snow

Sparkling sunday 1

Blizzard birdhouse 12

Life is getting back to normal here ... if it's one thing New England is good at, it's storm cleanup! Storms don't slow us down for too long - much to the schoolkids dismay. ;) So the boys are off to a birthday party, and I have that roast in my crockpot ... I'll serve it tonight with red potatoes, asparagus and some freshly baked bread. It's a quiet Sunday here and we're surrounded by snow - a good day for a nap - but I left that to the cats ...

Blizzard archie 8

Blizzard archie 6

Blizzard archie 5

:)

Tonight on the "telly," we'll be watching Once Upon a Time with the older boys, and then Downton Abbey at nine. Or at least half of it ... I understand it's a 2-hour episode tonight? That might be stretching it for me, but one way or another I'll have my "Masterpiece Monday" post up tomorrow morning and I'll chime in with my thoughts just as soon as I can.

Have a great night, my friends ... see you here again very soon!

*❤*