Night Sky Feed

Autumn Tea and Tidbits!

Tea with lesson planning 2

Hello my friends, and Happy Weekend! Welcome to my first Autumn Tea  - of 2017! Something I hope to make a semi-regular recurrence at my blog going forward. Every so often I'll pop in with a cup of tea and a few bits and bobs from our homeschool ... a way to catch up and celebrate the season at hand. :) I'm hesitant to set a schedule however, as tempting as it is because you know I LOVE schedules - but it's been a little bit hectic so far this school year. Time at the computer (nevermind time for tea itself!) has been a little on the low side. But two things that make my heart so very happy are blogging and savoring tea, so I'm determined to make more time for both in my life!

So since it's been a while since we talked tea ... what are you drinking these days? I myself am enjoying Allegro Black Decaf during the afternoon (sweetened with raw sugar and a splash of whole milk) but after supper, now that the nights are cooler and darker, I am turning to a cup of decaf Constant Comment. There's something about that orange-spice flavor just makes me think AUTUMN! I still savor a cup or two of coffee in the mornings but after that I limit my caffeine intake as best I can ...

Well, I started in on my tea-taking early today as the above photo was taken just now (Saturday around 11 a.m.) because I was ready to get down to the lesson planning and for that, I absolutely MUST have tea! But before we talk about autumn homeschooling ...

Grab yourself a cup of your favorite brew and make yourself comfortable, please ... I have lots to share! :)

Let's begin with a peek into my October planning. Below you see the cover page for this month's section in my homemade planner (also seen in the top photo) ...

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And here is my planner stack on my kitchen counter - aka "mama's command center!"

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Sitting below my homemade planner is my Day Designer, and below that is a project clipboard. (I always put something underneath my planners in case there are spills or marks on the counter.)

So after the cover page (which is made from that cute vintage paper I love!) I have the two-page monthly calendar spread ...

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I added the stickers and a few quotations written with black ink and soft colored pencils ...

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I love peppering my planners with seasonal poems and quotes!

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Next page has my October menu calendar ...

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I described how I fill out these menu calendars in this post, but I want to stress that this is an ideal - we don't always keep up with the "new" and "varied" meals I've envisioned. Often - especially when we're busy or I'm tired (the state of affairs more often than not around here!) - I fall back on tried and true, easy meals. (Homemade pizzas, baked pasta, grilled cheese and soup, burgers, meatloaf and roasted veg, etc.) 

And next comes my monthly overview ...

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I added the highlighted notes at the top of the page this month, and of course there are post-its! The green apples reflect our October homeschooling themes and topics. I try to review this page every weekend to see where we're at and what tasks and activities can be scheduled in the week ahead. Note: "October Goals" became a place to write down upcoming movies, tv shows and books.

A closer peek ...

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And here is last week's spread!

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Next week I will do a WHOLE post on how I'm using this weekly spread, but in the interest of time and word count, let me move on and show you  ...

... next week's spread that I'm filling in now!

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You might wonder how long it takes me to fill in all those spaces, but honestly, it's not very long. A lot of the information is already available (Days of Note, Seasonal Theme, Dinners, Weekly Rhythm) so I just write those things in first. The to-do list is also pretty quick to fill in - I look at last week's list as well as our weekend planner to see what tasks still need doing. I take another look at the monthly calendar to see what new things have been written in for the week (a new event to prepare for, for example) and I also look back at that monthly overview to see what To-Dos can be fit into this coming week.

Beside my homemade planner I have parked my Day Designer ...

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Here's how it looked one day last week (when I first started working on this post!) ...

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Ok, moving on from planning (let me know if you have any questions or would like me to follow up on anything!) ... I thought I'd share some random photos from the past week or so ...

First, because it was the week of the Full Harvest Moon, I had planned to make "Harvest Moon Muffins," (a quick bread recipe baked in muffin tins) but due to the aforementioned busy schedule/tired mama syndrome, I stopped short at "Harvest Moon Applesauce." 😉

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I love using my grandmother's food press when making applesauce! 

This was actually part of a little "science" experiment this week, making applesauce together! The boys helped me with counting and measuring before I loaded the apples, sugar and spice into the crockpot, and good GOLLY did it smell wonderful in our house all day! The apples were done cooking just before bedtime so I placed them in the fridge for the next day. After milling the apples into sauce we set up a little taste-test - our homemade applesauce vs. Stop 'N Shop brand! Could people tell which was which? (The answer, happily, was yes!)

Then last weekend I combed through the autumn book basket and pulled out titles that matched October's weekly themes ...

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  • Changing Leaves (10/2-10/8)
  • Woodland Flora & Fauna (10/9-10/15)
  • Pumpkins (10/16-10/22)
  • Goodnight Garden/Halloween (10/23-10/29)

I also have two sweet board books for my younger boys for learning the Hail Mary and Our Father prayers, as part of Holy Rosary month. :)

Speaking of books though, look at these lovely new titles that arrived in my mail last week!

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A couple of picture books we usually get out of the library to celebrate the Full Harvest Moon, a new (and adorable) autumn board book for Little Bear (which might be my new favorite autumn book of all time!), a CD of scientific storytelling for Earlybird (which we once owned but now can't find!) and a new Waldorf-inspired crafting book for Mama. I'm positively swooning over that last one in particular - a bit of a splurge, but worth it!

Here's a gorgeous page from Hello, Harvest Moon ... 

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Did you happen to catch it last Thursday night?

Harvest moon rising

We are surrounded by trees here so we have to wait a while before the full moon is visible ... but honestly, I think the way it peeks through the branches and illuminates the tree-line is quite magical! We let Little Bear stay up a bit late so he could watch the full moon rising ...

LB and the full moon

Now, back to books for a moment ... just look and see what arrived in my mailbox early last week!

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A very thoughtful gift from my friend (and longtime reader), Penny! When Penny read that I was positively pining for this particular PW book, she offered me her own copy. (How nice is that?!) Naturally I said I would just LOVE to have it, so she popped in the mail and I received it a day later! Hooray for packages in the mail and hooray for the ever-speedy USPS ... but most of all, HOORAY for kind-hearted and generous friends!

Ok, now we all know the Pioneer Woman loves boots ... well, I'm no cowgirl, and I haven't been on a horse since I was 12, but how do you like my new "riding" boots?

Boots

I have lusted after these "Westport," Maine-made boots for years ... and finally (with Bill's blessing of course), I made the splurge! I ordered them online because I don't get over to LL Bean's that often, but was very happy that not only do they FIT just as well as I'd hoped, they are truly quite comfortable. I thought they paired rather nicely with a knee-length denim skirt. :)

(This was me on my way to Sunday brunch with my college girlfriends!)

Speaking of shoes though ...

Archie and sandals

That's my Archie, flopped all over my favorite pair of summer sandals ... the ones I can't bear to put away for the season just yet. (Though truly, we've had plenty of summer-like days recently.) But as you can see, Archie's looking rather relaxed here, smug you might even say ... because while Oliver had to be at the vet's annual exam last week, Archie got to skip it completely. And all because he's just SO naughty when we bring him! Nothing like the sweetie-pie he is at home - at the vet he's all hissing, spitting and growing ... frankly, it's a bit of a horror show. The next attempt was going to include some serious sedation ... which makes me very nervous ... but fortunately our vet is wonderful and fully understood our apprehension. We decided he can wait till next year when he is due for his rabies shot. (My cats are indoor cats, but are still kept up on all their vaccinations.)

In other wildlife news ...

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Howsabout this guy???

Isn't he magnificent? This is a Barred Owl, and we hear him (her?) very often in the woods behind our house - usually around dusk, but my older boys (night owls themselves) say they hear hooting late at night as well. Well, there I was at the sink starting supper last Friday night when Little Bear, looking out the kitchen nook window, exclaimed: "Mama, look! It's a snowy owl!!"

And this is what he saw ...

Barred owl on feeders

Isn't he GINORMOUS?? And clearly looking for his supper! I took this picture above with my cell phone, then went outside with my big camera to try for a better shot. The first owl picture was taken from beneath the tree just to the right of the feeders. The owl was staring at me - really peering at me with those gorgeous black eyes! - then his attention would be caught by something moving in the underbrush and he'd turn his head downward ...

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Finally he'd had enough of me, my snapping camera and restless Little Bear and took off ...

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He landed in the front yard where LB and I were joined by Bill and Earlybird and we watched the owl fly across the road and into the woods to the north. Absolutely amazing ...

(Crackerjack and Bookworm were out on a driving lesson and missed the whole thing!)

Ok, and now for some autumn homeschooling ... these pics are all from the past couple of weeks!

First came APPLES ...

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Apple Week included apple snacks, an apple star surprise, drying apples, applesauce and an apple-y harvest wreath on the front door. :)

Also, I finally made use of that peg dolls book I showed you a couple of posts back, and look who Little Bear found in his learning room mailbox one morning!

Autumn star fairy

I made this "autumn star fairy" from a wooden peg base, with a little sheep's wool for hair, an acorn cap for a hat and a silk leaf (plucked from a garland) as wings! I made the verse card with a blank postcard and watercolor paints. I just wrote the verse on the card once the paint had dried. I've been using these cards for little poems, prayers and verses this year and I love the effect of those pretty paints!

Next came SEEDS ...

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Seeds week included seed gathering, sorting and observation, seed crafts, seed treats, seed experiments ... and very happy chipmunks!

And then on Michaelmas Day we had our first Nature Club meeting of the year ...

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My younger boys all came along and we met with other homeschooling families to take a walk along a local trail. We found everything on our Nature Scavenger hunt checklist as well as garter snakes, spiderwebs, several types of leaves and some very cool fungus. Best of all, there were Michaelmas daisies growing all over the woods! :)

The next Monday we celebrated the Feast of the Guardian Angels ...

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I made another watercolor card for the Guardian Angel prayer and set up this small scene on our learning room table. I lit the beeswax tealight and read the prayer aloud to Little Bear ... who took great joy in blowing out that candle! :)

We also found time to celebrate the Feast of St. Francis, our family patron saint ...

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Little Bear especially enjoyed assembling "all of creation" as I crafted a simple grotto and read aloud our favorite child-friendly version of Francis's "Canticle of the Sun." I made a verse card for the first stanza and plan to make cards for the rest of this beautiful prayer. :)

Last week we also visited a local agricultural fair - along with Earlybird's therapist and Bill who took the day off so he could join us. :)

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And the day after that we joined our homeschool group on a field trip to a local corn maze!

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It was a beautiful day - as you can see, warm enough for short sleeves! - and what fun we had navigating our way through the rows of corn and listening to the raspy dry ears in the breeze and hearing great vees of geese honking overhead! 

✨ 🍂 🍎 🐿 🌻 🌞 🍁 🍄 🌽 🌛 ✨

Well this was quite a long post I'm afraid, but I hope you enjoyed it! I had meant to create posts around each of these collages - with more details - but time kept slipping by and then we'd be onto the next thing! I can certainly expand on any of these themes and projects (as well as my planners) in a future post and happily, though last week was particularly busy with two field trips, a fair trip, a vet appointment AND the SAT ... the coming week will be much quieter! Knock on wood!

So I will leave you now my friends, with my thanks for your visit and my wish that you all enjoy a lovely autumn weekend. I will be back again here just as soon as I can but in the meantime you can always find me on Facebook or Instagram. :)

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


A Bunch of Autumn Bits & Bobs!

Autumn equinox cookies

Hello, my friends and Happy Friday! And Blessed Equinox, too! ✨ 🍂 🌞 🌻 🍁 🍎 🐿 🍄🌛🍂✨

I'm popping in today to share some autumnal thoughts and photos with you all ... but first, thank you so much for all the incredibly kind comments left at my learning room post. I had such fun putting that post together and I'm so glad you all enjoyed it! There will, of course, be plenty more pics and posts to come as we wind our way through the new year ... but for today, let's talk a bit about AUTUMN, which just began here about 20 minutes ago! To celebrate I made up the plate of "equinox cookies" seen above ...

Now, this was not my idea mind you - I saw a few variations of these cookies on Pinterest. I just took some vanilla cookies we had in the pantry and dipped them in some melted chocolate chips (also from the pantry) and gave them a good sprinkling of autumnal jimmies. (A mom can never have too many jars of colored sprinkles on hand!) One pretty china plate and a bunch of silk leaves later and I had a festive treat for our Friday teatime! :)

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Oh, children's books ... how I love organizing children's books! Last weekend I had Bill bring up the Autumn book basket (actually, a rather heavy wooden crate!) and I spent some time reacquainting myself with old favorites. I have a post to come (hopefully this weekend) with a look at our September book lists and plans ... I've had some requests since I've been sharing lots of book shots here and on social media lately! 

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I ask you - what is sweeter than chubby toddler hands?? Especially when they're trying to grab more than they can hold? This is actually an older photo but it popped up in my Facebook "memories" today and I had to include it ... it's always been a favorite of mine. :) 

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And look how those little hands have grown! Here we are on the couch the other day enjoying one of Little Bear's new board books. The sweetest little forest-themed board book I ever did see!

Kitchen autumn blessing

Now, if you follow me on Facebook and/or Instagram you've probably seen some of the photos in this post, and you might have heard me talk about my "Autumn Blessing" week. Well, I decided since the first day of Fall fell on a Friday, I would use the week leading up to that special day to prepare my home with a little cleaning and "cozifying." Basically, I just cleared each room of any extraneous stuff (aka clutter) and then swept corners and wiped surfaces as best I could. (It wasn't a super deep cleaning, more of a freshening up.) Finally, I added some warm autumn touches here and there ... :)

Above you see the kitchen on Monday evening ... and let me tell you ... it took me ALL day to get it that neat! (Because no, my house is not normally super tidy ... we really LIVE here ALL WEEK, if you know what I mean!)

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On Tuesday I worked on the front rooms: foyer, library and ...

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... dining room! :)

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On Wednesday and Thursday, I worked in the family room ... and as you can see, Archie approves of the "autumnal" changes!

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Heading back outside, here's a shot of Little Bear at a local farm we visited recently ... it was a beautiful crisp day here in New England!

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We also swung by a gorgeous sunflower field ... aren't they breathtaking? And can the sky really possibly be that blue? Nothing like an Autumn blue sky ... though this technically was taken in Summer. ;-)

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Here's a picture collage from our first day of home learning this year ... and that's alphabet pasta up top in case you're wondering, lol! I made Crockpot Alphabet Soup for supper that night. :)

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And here are some pics from Little Bear's first "official" nature walk of the new year. Honestly, I can't think of anything I like better than spending a "school day" roaming our yard looking for curiosities and wonders!

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And finally, here's a book I borrowed from the library recently. Making Peg Dolls is a craft I've wanted to try for a long time now and as you can see, I've got the supplies well in hand! At least the wooden peg part ... I need to see about getting some more felt and thread - perhaps a few more bottles of paint - and then I'll be good to go.

Something else I like to do in early Autumn is to come up with a few hobbies to carry me through the winter ... and brainstorm homemade Christmas gift ideas ... because as we all know, the Autumn will absolutely FLY by and suddenly we'll find ourselves knee-deep in Advent. Plus, it will get dark and cold fast (at least here in New England it will) and it's nice to have some cozy handcrafts to work on during those short afternoons in between busy and bed. ✨🌝✨

Oh, and before I go!

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This is my lovely new Autumn "go-bag!" I bought this - a bit of splurge - at Barnes and Noble a couple of weeks ago. I just fell in love with the look and size of this tote! (And if you read my #fridayintroductions post at Instagram this morning, you know how I feel about tote bags!) It fits my handbag and a few notebooks and planners and I just find that sharp navy blue paired with the "Autumn Rose" print so striking. When I considered the price (not too bad as large bags go) and the fact that it not only fit all my stuff but it also matched my minivan ... AND my kitchen ... well, there was just no way I could pass it up! :)

Ok, I will be off now my friends as I've kept you here long enough! As always though, I thank you for stopping by and I wish you all a good evening (or day as the case may be). Take care of yourselves and your loved ones ...

I will see you here again very soon!

Summer sunset

The last sunset of Summer, 2017 ...

✨ 🍂 🌞 🌻 🍁 🍎 🐿 🍄🌛🍂✨ 


Seasonal Planning: Why the Moon?

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During the Planning Chat Workshop this morning, someone asked why I write the moon phases in my planner ... and it's a very good question! Because it got me thinking about why I enjoy seasonal planning so much ... and in the case of the moon's phases, while we may not be amateur astronomers or anything, I still find it useful information to have on hand ... and here's why. :)
 
For one thing, the full moons, as named by the Native Americans, are tied in with the season in which they fall (Sap Moon, Pink Moon, Flower Moon, Thunder Moon, etc.) and sometimes I include them in our nature study plans. So for example, we might schedule a maple sugaring field trip (a popular local tradition), during the week of the Full Sap Moon ... and that week might be assigned the theme, "melting/sap/thaw." Actually, there's a lot of science and history to be tied in with this topic! We could investigate what conditions are needed for the sap to start running (freezing nights, but day temps above 50) and what it signals to the trees (and the rest of us): Spring is truly on its way! Or maybe we'd learn how the early colonists "discovered" maple syrup (thanks to the Native Americans) and I might even plan a maple-based dinner one night. The younger boys have such fun with all of this, but I think the older boys enjoy these family activities as well.
 
It's also helpful to know when a new moon will occur (which means, no moonshine) because it's easier to see the stars on a "moonless" night. And perhaps that's something I would like to do with the boys as part of our home learning that week or as one of our family "adventures." There are also several meteor showers that occur throughout the year and some are easier to view than others - especially when they take place during the darker sky of a new moon! So it's handy to know whether the moon is waxing or waning when scheduling these kinds of seasonal activities in my planner.
 
Beyond all that though, I like the idea of my planner serving as an old-fashioned "almanac" of sorts, so I include weather notes and simple observations of the nature around us. (Two deer in the yard just now ... heard a raven in the woods ... spotted a fisher cat on Main Street this morning!) I even check the Weather Channel app on my iPhone when doing my weekly "look ahead" planning!
 
Another example of seasonal planning, and this one applies to both nature's seasons as well as those of the Church ... this week we'll be celebrating the Feast of St. Agnes, and our weekly theme is "snowflakes." For years now I've tied snowflakes with this saint's day (because of the tradition of St. Agnes's "flowers") and there are certain crafts and comforts I like to weave into our week. Snowflake science, baking and stories, so many options! Not must-dos, but may-dos. And as it appears we may be in for some snow here late next week, I'll make a point to get the boys outside to really experience the season, this depth of winter ... does it smell like snow? Feel like snow? Look like snow? What signs are telling us snow is on the way?
 
(Now, I was just writing these very notes in my planner for next week and that reminded me I have a half-written post in which I show you how I'm using my printable planning sheets. (In other words, with the spaces filled in!) I am also going to make the monthly calendars I showed you in my planner tour available as PDFs this week in case you'd like to use those as well ... so stay tuned!)
 
So anyhow, this question really made me smile and think for a bit about why I spend so much time finding out about nature and then working it into our family plans. It's something that brings me a lot of personal joy - tying my energy and inspiration to the season - but it's created a lot of fun traditions with my children as well! :)
 
So if your family, like mine, enjoys checking out the night sky from time to time, here's a great calendar for 2016 astronomical events, including full moons and shooting stars, etc. And as of today (or tonight) we are on the way towards the January full moon WHICH -  according to my planner - takes place next Saturday. It's the Full "Wolf" Moon this month and there is some very interesting history tied into that ... but I'll stop there because as usual, I'm getting carried away!
 
But speaking of the Planning Chat Workshop this morning - it was such fun! I hope you could join us, but there is still a way you can listen in - click HERE to sign up for the replay as well as the links Mystie, Jen and I shared from our blogs. I would love to follow up on some of the points and questions that came up during the talk, so please leave me a note or zip me an email (bysunandcandle AT gmail DOT come) if there's something you'd like to see in a future post!
 
For now though, I am going to sign off and enjoy the rest of this slow, snowy Saturday ... I hope you do the same! But thanks so much for stopping by! I will see you all here again very soon ...
 
🌛 🌝 🌜🌚

November Nightfall

It comes so early now ... the night. And some might say too early, but it's all just part of that rhythm. Outside there's a fading of color and a sharpness to the air ... while inside we have our lights burning and there are extra blankets on the beds. At this time of year the comforts of home seem all the more comforting, but the outside is still welcoming too, especially on evenings like these ...

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Sunset, 4:20 p.m. Sunday. Just before the Patriots Game.

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How wonderful for a little one to get all rosy-cheeked and leaf-littered on a cool autumn evening ... then to come inside for a warm bath and a good supper before bed. I love teaching my children to appreciate our days in ALL seasons and by "teaching" I mean, sharing my own joy right alongside them. That's the best lesson, I think - what we show them. Because those little eyes watch us so closely! Little Bear might not read his mama's blog yet, but I know he can read my moods ...

You know, I've been working on that book of mine, and trying to figure out just where I'm going with it ... getting distracted sometimes, or maybe even a little defeated ... but when I look back at this post, I can see it. This is what makes me tick, and this is where I zoom in: on the simple, little joys ... the easy, homey comforts. Every week brings something new to learn and share ...

As organic as it seems it should be to just follow the seasons and accept nature's rhythm, I find that Life As We Know It often gets in the way. So I create a little structure - weekly themes and file folders - and hope that by planning ahead we'll make more of the moment. The seasons pass so quickly - not to mention the years! So this week we're watching our world get sleepy and dark and we're feeling grateful for things like light and warmth (and peace) ... in nature we're observing a fallen log and exploring the tart curiosity of cranberries, while baking breads to bring to neighbors across town ... 

November days - are they dark? Yes, they can be. But dull? No, they don't have to be. There's much to be thankful for and so many ways to explore this big, blessed world. It is my hope to highlight these joys in each week of the year ... to work them into my "plans" so they become more than just ideas, but actions ... and then to share them all with my family, and you!

So anyhow ... that's where I'm at right now. I mostly just wanted to share all these happy photos and then I got carried away. (You all know how I get.) And now I'm watching another (early) sunset, lighting a candle on our seasons shelf, and conjuring some good smells in the kitchen ...

And putting the laptop down, for now. But I'll be back here again sometime soon ...

(Good Night!)


Halloween Ideas: A Paper Chain Countdown!

A bit of a long post ahead - I really had fun with this!

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Hello my friends, and Happy Tuesday!

Here is an overview of the Halloween Countdown Paper Chain I made for Earlybird to help him keep track of how many days he must wait for the holiday, which, in his opinion, should be here right NOW, as in today, no more waiting! I also wanted to shape his awareness of this holiday which to my mind is often overblown and over-commercialized (not to mention, downright inappropriate) when presented by the mainstream. As we happen to be studying the ancient Celts and our own Celtic ancestry this year, it is a perfect opportunity to learn where this holiday originated and how/why they celebrated it.

Ok ... here's how I put it together!

Halloween paper chain

I used regular construction paper, in Halloween shades, and cut out as many strips as there were days left till Halloween. (Ideally I would have started on October 1st, but this idea just came to me the other day as EB got itchy about the holiday's arrival.) Using coordinating Sharpies, I wrote the number of days left on the outside of the strip and on the inside (hidden from view) I wrote a simple activity or an interesting fact about the holiday ...

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It only took a few hours to pull together, and I think the daily "Halloween moment" will temper EB's impatience a bit. To keep it as easy as possible (because we all know fitting "extra" stuff into an already busy day is a challenge), I tried to consult my calendar as I worked out the ideas. For example, some things would work better on weekends (when Dad could come-with or help out), and some things could be woven smoothly into our weekly rhythm (e.g. nature walk on Monday, painting on Thursday, baking on Friday, etc.). It was fun coming up with these ideas! 

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(I think I said that already, but honestly, this stuff gets me so excited!)

So here is what each slip says - I hope you find some nuggets of fun for your family!

26 ... "Halloween began a long time ago in the country of Ireland. Find it on our map!"

25 ... "What sound does a ghost make? Write out your answer for me!"

24 ... "Halloween is sometimes called All Hallow's Eve. What is it the eve of?" (Check calendar if he can't recall what happens on November 1st - All Saint's Day.)

23 ... "Spiders are a symbol of Halloween. Let's do a fun worksheet about spiders for our science notebook!" (I've prepared a simple worksheet with labels, facts and shapes.)

22 ... "What do you think Halloween smells like?" (We'll make a collage of Halloween smells using pictures from old magazines of things like ... candy corn, pumpkins, apple cider, woodsmoke, autumn leaves, tree bark, mushrooms, chocolates, etc. I'm not sure how he'll answer so I'll try to have a wide array of foods and nature smells.)

21 ... "Did you know that a long time ago, the first Jack o'Lanterns were not made from pumpkins but turnips?!" (We'll find a turnip at the farmstand and try to carve it at home - and/or cook it for supper!)

20 ... "Today we will bake some special Halloween cupcakes for Bookworm to take back to college." (Earlybird LOVES to bake with me, and with Bookworm home for the weekend, this will be a good opportunity to use all the colorful sprinkles and gels we have collected.)

19 ... "Today we will listen to some fun Halloween music while driving around town." (Wee Sing for Halloween - a longtime favorite with my kids!)

18 ...  "What are the important rules for trick or treating safety?" (We'll talk about expectations for the night and write down important rules for having fun and staying safe.)

17 ... "Today we will read a special book about Halloween." (I have a very old book from when I was a little girl, Let's Find Out about Halloween. It even has my "notes" for a Halloween party I was hosting, roundabouts 3rd grade!)

16 ... "Today we will listen to The Legend of Sleepy Hollow." (I have requested the unabridged book on audio CD from the library but this might prove too intense for EB - in which case, I have the old Disney movie, The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad ready to play instead.)

15 ... "Let's make a Halloween pizza for supper tonight!" (Following this recipe from Taste of Home ... and as a special treat, I'll have picked this up at the library: Martha's Halloween Ideas - EB's a HUGE Martha fan, as his is mum!)

14 ... "Today we will design and make costumes for you and Little Bear!" (As of now, EB wants to be a ghost, and he has declared LB should be a dragon ... I figure starting two weeks ahead gives us time to get them ready ...)

13 ... "Today we will go on a family "Halloween Woods Walk!" (Our homeschool habitat for the month of October is "deciduous woods," so we'll use this activity as a means of observing this particular environment. Why do the woods seem spooky sometimes? What do we hear? Scuttling leaves, animal noises, the wind in the trees ... We will also notice signs of death and decay in nature ... fallen leaves or a rotting log, for example.)

12 ... "Let's write a Halloween poem!" (I will have holiday-related words cut out for him to put together as a "poem" and glue on a sheet he can decorate.)

11 ... "Today we will do some fun Halloween word puzzles!" (I've ordered Halloween Mad Libs Junior from Amazon - it will be a good way to reinforce parts of speech!)

10 ... "Let's make Halloween Ornaments!" (We'll use Halloween cookie cutters to cut out holiday shapes from a salt-dough, bake and decorate - perhaps with melted crayons, details here. I will bring a branch inside so we can hang the ornaments as a fun foyer decoration.)

9 ... "Today we'll paint a Halloween sky picture!" (We'll set up on the patio, late in the afternoon ... using natural plant-based watercolor paints. We'll hang them to dry in a tree.)

8 ... "Let's have a special Halloween tea with Nana!" (We'll serve autumnal goodies like apples and cheese, iced squash muffins, pear cider and orange-spice tea. I'll have EB help me prepare the goodies and serve to his Nana.)

7 ... "Today we'll mail Halloween cards to our friends!" (I have a pack of sweet, vintage Halloween postcards - we'll work together to sign and address them, add stamps, stickers, and bring them to the post office.)

6 ... "How about a visit to a pumpkin patch today?" (After church we'll head to a local farm to sit in a "real sincere" pumpkin patch ... back at home we'll watch It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!")

5 ... "Today we'll rake leaves and make a crow craft!" (Halloween, in its roots, is an agricultural festival, important to people who lived by the land. We'll read a book called Scarecrow and make a cute crow craft using Little Bear's hands and feet!)

4 ... "Tonight's the Full Hunter's Moon! Let's take a walk after dark, observe the night sky and listen to the night sounds." (Back inside we'll read Whoo's There? A Bedtime Shadow Book ... and make "spooky" shadows on the wall!)

3 ... "This morning we'll search for spiderwebs on the lawn and make a spiderweb craft!" (We'll make these cute Paper Plate Spider Webs - I have black plates and sparkly yarn on hand - and maybe some spiderweb cookies, too!)

2 ... "Today we'll make some Halloween lanterns!" (We're going to use this simple craft idea, with jars I've saved and tissue paper I have on hand. The jars will be placed on our front steps to light the way for trick-or-treaters.)

1 ... "Today we'll put our garden to bed and there will be a bonfire at sunset!" (I love the idea of raking, composting, and tidying up the yard before winter ... Samhain (as it was called by the Celts) in fact means, "Summer's End." Crops were brought in for the winter and livestock driven between fires to ensure their protection. Our Halloween bonfire will take place on our patio, around our fire pit as the sun sets. We will add some of the herbs from our patch to the flames and enjoy that last smell of summer! A hearty supper will follow ...)

~* Happy Halloween! *~

Halloween is on a Saturday which is really convenient - Daddy is home with us all day. :) We will start our day with a walk through a local graveyard ... to pay our respects, and observe the quiet beauty of the place, how the earth is settling in for its own rest. We may make a headstone rubbing before we go - there are some beautiful, Revolution-era graves in this particular cemetery. Our day will also include carving pumpkins, roasting seeds, baking our Halloween cake, having a special supper with friends, dressing up, trick-or-treating/passing out candy, and watching some Halloween specials on tv ...

All good fun!

We hung the paper chain in the family room, out of Little Bear's reach - unless he climbs the hearth which, while unlikely, is not out of the realm of possibility! And each morning Earlybird will take a link off the chain and read what is up for the day ... :)

Halloween paper chain 4

 Note: I kept a list of my "paper chain agenda" in my planner so I can refresh my memory - don't want to be caught unawares! - and prep for any activities that day. (I can also change things up if I really need to.) I plan to look ahead before each weekend so I can pick up any materials we might need.

Now, I already have a "blessings" project in mind for November - a new twist on a beloved tradition - and I will post about that soon! In the meantime, I am almost ready to get my Masterpiece Monday up (really have to change up that name), as we watched Home Fires last night (LOVED it) and tonight we will watch Indian Summers ... so tomorrow I should be able to get that reaction post up. I am very curious to know what you all think!

Good night for now, my friends - what a sunset outside my windows! I love how the light is so low and golden at this time of year, setting the foliage ablaze ... chilly now, though it was a mild day ... and tomorrow looks to be a bit warmer!

Take care of yourselves and your loved ones - see you here again very soon!


Summery Pics & Nature Notes

Golden party flowers 2

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

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

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

Golden party 10

Golden party 6

She has quite the green thumb as you can see!

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

Pagefinders 1

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

Indian stovepipe ghost plant

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

Snakeskin 1

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

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

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

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


Happy Saints' Day! (and Hello!)

Hello, my friends, hello! I hope you are all doing well!

It's been a very long time hasn't it? Weeks now ... my goodness. And I apologize for being away so long ... I do wish I could tell you all is well with my computer but sadly - frustratingly, maddeningly - it is not. Still a work-in-progress, I'm afraid ... so I am currently hijacking Crackerjack's computer so I can write up this post!

While I'm here, I thought I would share a few photos from our weekend, beginning with some Halloween pictures. What a fun evening it was - I hope yours too was happy and safe!

:)

Here is our Little Bear - aka Tom Brady of the New England Patriots - all of 17 months and looking like quite the little man on his 2nd Halloween!

O Tom Brady

And here's our pumpkin this year - designed by Crackerjack and carved by Yours Truly.

Halloween 2

The treats table all arranged in the foyer ...

Halloween 5

This is a bit blurry - Bill was trying to catch the pretty sunset in the background, as well as the boys and me in my (good) witch's hat. :)

Halloween 3

The evening was cool but not cold, and cloudy with just a hint of milky sun. As night descended, things got rather spooky!

Halloween 7

Little Bear was fascinated by the pumpkin lights lining our front walk ...

Halloween 8

***

So another All Hallows' Eve come and gone ... and this morning brought us a new month. And a day all dark, wet and dreary as November is known to be - Rabbit, rabbit! But as lousy as it gets outside, it is always cozy and warm inside. In honor of today's feast (All Saints') and tomorrow's feast (All Souls') I baked an autumn cake ...

All Saints Cake

The boys were rather pleased.

:)

Also, before I go, here's a quick peek at our gratitude project this year ...

Gratitude project 1

I will post more about that as soon as I can!

Hope this "note" finds you all well ... take care of yourselves and your loved ones ... and see you here again sometime soon!


Weekly Bits of Domestic Bliss

VH nest 1
Of Note

Mum's birthday (26th), Cyber Monday (26th), A Charlie Brown Christmas on ABC (28th), Full Beaver Moon (28th), Feast of St. Andrew, Patron of Scotland (30th), B&N Educator Discount Day (1st), First Sunday in Advent (2nd)

Nature:

Quite chilly, in the 40s - mostly sunny. Flurries on Tuesday.

Beautiful bittersweet vines growing alongside the river out back.

Make plans (themes/practical considertations) for winter nature walks.

Watch for the full moon Wednesday night.

Housekeeping:

Put up Christmas decorations.

Do outdoor lights/decorations.

Begin online Christmas orders.

Organize boys' holiday outfits, haircuts.

Dinner Menus:

M - pesto pasta, crescent rolls (boys' fave), leftover meatballs

T - meatball/tortellini soup, garlic rolls

W - pulled chicken salad wraps, leftover soup

T - taco potatoes (ground turkey), fiesta salads

F - homemade pizza night, raw veggies/dip

S - *takeout*

S - pork roast, potatoes & squash, apple-cheddar muffins

Desserts: Scottish shortbread, oatmeal-fruit cookies, peppermint-brownie sundaes (Sunday Sundaes)

Dear Baby ...

(14 Weeks)

I felt you move for the first time on Thanksgiving morning! Oh my, what a wonderful feeling!

Feeling much less nausea these days! Just a little when I take my prenatal vitamin and sometimes around suppertime.

Keeping to home as much as possible - a quiet schedule helps my energy level!

Earlybird has noticed Mama's belly, but when he asked "What's wrong with your belly?" and I answered, "Well, it's getting kind of big, isn't it?" he simply shrugged and said, "Yeah, wow!" Nothing else, lol.

Learning Themes:

Waiting for Winter

"Animals of Christmas"

Work on using nice language - how we speak matters.

Christmas "food shopping" lists with EB.

Excited About ~ Working On:

A simple, peaceful Advent ~ reducing noise and clutter, both visual and auditory.

Bill set up "Classical Christmas" music for me on my phone - I park it on the kitchen counter with little speakers ... soothing background music for this time of year.

Miscellaneous:

Bring home the tree this weekend!

Address/stamp Christmas cards.

Watch Take Peace: A Corgi Cottage Christmas (on loan from library).

Brainstorm "teacher gifts" with the boys.

 ***

Happy Tuesday, my friends! I hope your week is off to a great start! I apologize I am so behind on comment replies ... I will be catching up over the next few days. (I always seem to think I have much more time (and energy) than I actually do!) I truly appreciate the time and thought you put into your messages. :)

Well, have yourselves a good day ... I will see you here again very soon!


Friday Photos: Farm, Food & a Full Moon

Happy Friday, my friends!

Here in the States it's Labor Day weekend, also - and perhaps less fondly - known as the last summer weekend. (I'm actually thrilled - this is my favorite weekend all year!) Bill has some time off from work, so I was able to run out on my own this morning to get some pre-weekend errands done.

My first stop: our local farm, where this sunflower field caught my eye ...

Brooksby sunflowers

Isn't it lovely?

But my farm business today was all about these beauties ...

Green tomatoes 1

Fifteen pounds of green tomatoes, just the right amount for picalilli!

(I love to make picalilli at this time of year - my mum and grandma and I used to do this together and it holds many fond memories for me. And we all love picalilli served with our favorite fall suppers ... pot roast, meatloaf, sour cream chicken, etc.)

I'll blog about the process on Monday - I'm still gathering all my supplies. :)

Next up: a quick stop at the bookstore, where I treated myself to a quick bite to eat ...

Barnes & noble breakfast

A slice of quiche (delicious but very rich) and my first cup of pumpkin spice latte - they just started serving it yesterday! (And it was as yummy as I remembered.)

Now, this picture I took last evening ...

August blue moon

I'm awful at night photos, but I had to share this ... it's the waxing Blue Moon which will truly be full tonight. (It's not actually blue in color, but rather, it's rare because this makes two full moons in one month.) Be sure to watch for it rising this evening!

And August sure is going out in style ... the weather is quite hot today, 90 some-odd degrees, windy and dry. Tomorrow brings the first of September and, according to the forecast, some wonderful weather ... sunny and highs in the 70s! We are hosting Crackerjack's (rescheduled) birthday party tomorrow so that sounds just about perfect. :)

Well, my friends ... I'm off to get more things done on my list, but I wanted to stop in and share these thoughts and photos and wish you all a very happy weekend. Take care of yourselves and your loved ones ...

I'll see you here again very soon!



Midsummer Beauty

Midsummer 5
Midsummer 3

Midsummer 2

Midsummer 1

Midsummer 6

Midsummer 4

Yesterday was Midsummer's Day - also known as St. John's Day (the Birth of St. John). The weather was lovely and we spent a good bit of time outside ... I roamed the yard taking pictures of this and that. Above we have a tea rose blooming at sunset ... my pink and orange coneflower plants  ... an abandoned bird's nest ... the tiny bunny who calls our yard home ... and the Midsummer Eve moon - a milky crescent perched high in the western sky.

Today brings a gray and mild morning ... it feels nice, actually - the soft breeze coming through my window as I type up this post. Heavy rain will be arriving in a few hours - thunder and all - so we'll plan our day accordingly. How I enjoy having the freedom to do that. :)

Thanks so much for stopping by, my friends - I hope you have a wonderful day! Take care of yourselves and your loved ones ... I will see you again sometime soon!



Did you see that moon?!

Full strawberry moon

We did, albeit briefly ... the skies cleared just long enough last night for us to get a good goggle. And wow, did we goggle - it was so huge and bright! And the clouds were just whipping over and past it ... it was like something out of a movie, I tell you. 

(And this picture does it no justice at all. But I had to at least get a shot to remember it by.)

And there will be a partial eclipse of June's full "Strawberry" moon very early this morning, so check it out if you can. We're in for a few days of driving rain so I think we got our one and only shot to see this spectacular full moon last night.

***

Well, my friends, Happy Monday! Hope your week gets off to a great start!

See you here again very soon ...


The Full Flower Moon ~ It's Tonight!

Moon flowersGood evening, my friends, and Happy Weekend!

*

I am popping on very quickly to tell you all (in case you didn't know), that tonight's full moon, "The Full Flower Moon" is the largest we'll see all year. (Something to do with how close the moon is to the earth, I think? But I'm not 100% sure, I'll have to get back to you ...)

If you have a moment (and clear skies) take a peek - I bet it will be quite a sight!

See you all again very soon!


Tuesday Tea ... and Crafts with EB!

Good evening, my friends - and Happy Tuesday!

I meant to get this post up much earlier - and I did sit down at 4 (albeit briefly) - but then one thing led to another and I just had no time to work online. So here I am now, to share tea with you all ... as well as a few notes and photos from our day. :)

TT2:7:1

So my beverage of choice this week was Earl Grey, and as a snack I peeled myself a blood orange. Are you at all familiar with blood oranges? To be honest, I'm not all that fond of them - they are striking to look at, but I find them rather bland as citrus fruits go. And yet I get all kinds of excited when I see them at the market. They appear for a short time in the dead of winter (otherwise known as February) and for me, it's like a little ray of hope that we're moving closer to spring. So I always buy a few to bring home to my family. The boys' reactions are worth the money spent anyways - "Blood oranges? Why are they called that?!" Lol. (Note ~ I bet the segments would be good in a winter compote blended with other citrus fruits and spices.)

And my mug today is part of a set of mugs and bowls made by my cousin, Marty. She's actually my mum's cousin so I'm not sure exactly what that makes us, lol! But she's a very lovely lady, and one summer we bumped into her at a craft fair; we were on the spectator side, she was a vendor. She had some beautiful pottery for sale, and I snatched up these blue and white speckled mugs. They're all shaped a bit differently, but they are all well sized. Excellent for tea or coffee. :)

Now, the big news for tonight is the rising of the Full Snow Moon - and actually, it's already done just that! Take a look in your sky right this minute! Isn't it gorgeous? 

And since Crackerjack had to miss my Mum's Superbowl cupcakes Sunday night, I decided to splurge and make the boys a special cake for tonight's dessert. 

EB and I call it "The Full Snow Moon Cake."

Full snow moon cake

He was ALL excited to make this with me, and honestly, it was more about mixing the colored frosting than actually eating the final results!

TT2:6:16

I had already frosted the cake with plain buttercream frosting but we set some frosting aside for the colors. (And by the way, as most of my readers know, EB is on a special diet - we avoid most artificial things like colors, flavors and preservatives. So for tinting frosting I use India Tree Nature's Colors. He seems to tolerate them well.)

TT2:6:3

Crackerjack - who is still on the mend - came over to take a peek at the proceedings. (And I must point out - in consideration of my morning post - that my sink, as you can plainly see, was a REAL hot spot today! *blush*)

Here's EB sprinkling our February full moon with snowflakes ...

TT2:6:18

Now, this was not so much a craft, as it was an impromptu science/nature study lesson. Bookworm and Earlybird "investigated" the state of the water in our yard. :)

TT2:6:7

And while they did their outside stuff, CJ rested and I started in on some candlemaking. (I think it's becoming an addiction, this candlemaking, lol.)

Now, EB and I had discussed making a "night sky" candle, one that we could light when the moon is full or if something really neat is happening in the sky. (Such as meteor showers or a planet appearance.) 

Unsurprisingly, I got a little carried away, but here's what we did ...

TT2:6:14

This side is the sunset - see the red sun at the very bottom?

(And see the extra help I had while doing this project?)

TT2:6:15

While EB painted his own project, I worked on the glass - but we chose the tissue paper colors together. (Trying to decide in what order the colors appear as the sun sets.)

He then decided the candleholder needed stars, so I let him have at it.

TT2:6:12

And here's the finished result!

TT2:6:11

See how the stars float up from the sun and into the sky? That was EB's idea. :)

And here's the moon side:

TT2:6:10

EB was quite proud of our creation!

TT2:6:13

Now, since I was in a real crafty mood, I decided to continue on and I whipped up this nifty little candle:

TT2:6:9

I am working on setting up a liturgical corner for the learning/sitting room and I thought it would be nice to have a candle just for this spot. So I used another battery-lit candle (like the one I used on Candlemas) and just glued on bits of tissue paper in liturgical colors - white, green, purple, red, pink and even blue for Marian feasts. I also added a small wooden cross (purchased in the wood section of my craft store) and embellished it a little with a golden doiley.

TT2:6:19

And ... voila!

TT2:6:8

:)

Well, friends, that's all I have for now ... and I've certainly kept you here long enough! So I'm going to say goodbye ... But I do hope you all had a nice day ... and please let me know if you had a chance to "take tea" today.

Next week will be a "Valentine's Tea" theme, so keep that in mind! I'd love to have you all join me on that special day ...

In the meantime, please have a good night ~ Be well and God bless!

I'll see you again sometime soon ...


Friday Felines ...

 (Plus a few other things.)

Well, I couldn't let a Friday go by without posting a few pics of my fellas! They've been in mighty high sprits today (they must sense it's a Friday), and as I type up this post, Archie is furiously batting a pencil around the kitchen floor, while Ollie is staring down the dishwasher, which is currently operating in "heavy wash" mode - quite exciting. (You all know how he feels about the dishwasher.)

So here are a few recent photos of my kitties, in all their marmalade glory. :)

1:6FF2

Archie, asleep in the front window.

1:6FF3

Archie, the "school mascot."

1:6FF5

Ollie, helping me arrange flowers.

1:6FF7

Archie, striking a pose.

1:6FF10

Ollie, helping me make the bed.

(Why yes, I keep my camera with me when I make the bed ... don't you?)

Now, the next few photos are just a few random things from today, things that looked pretty and made me smile ...

First is an illustration from one of my favorite childhood books, Oh, What a Busy Day! by Gyo Fujikawa.

1:6FF6

Isn't that just the coziest snow scene?

(If you're not familiar with Gyo Fujikawa books, and you have little ones in your life ... you simply must check them out! Your library probably has plenty of copies - there are bajillions of them, and they've been around since the 60s or 70s. They are just the sweetest little storybooks, filled with happy, homey thoughts and cheerful illustrations.)

Next is my journal - I worked in it a little today. :)

1:6FF8

Random clippings from here and there ... some Downton Abbey news, a spiced orange cocoa recipe, a winter car checklist and kitchen inspiration.

And finally, a couple of bright little primroses.

1:6FF4

Buying primroses at the market is a January must-do!

*s-m-i-l-e*

So, it's late afternoon here now, just a few hours till the weekend ... any big plans on the horizon?

I hope to finalize my calendar designs, ink them up, and then start printing out pages. I'm anxious to get this project to the copy shop, but I'm really trying to take my time through the whole process.

And Sunday brings The Feast of the Epiphany so we'll write a blessing over our doorway, and have something special to eat after Mass. :)

Sunday also brings a new season of the aforementioned (and much discussed) Downton Abbey (!), a well as a new episode of Once Upon A Time, an ABC show we enjoy watching with the boys. We also got our Netflix movie in today's mail ... this time around it's Zookeeper. Not sure what it will be like, but the kids absolutely loved Mall Cop, another Kevin James film ... so we shall see!

So I guess I'd better wrap up, and get myself back to "work," lol ... I have pizza dough relaxing on the counter, and there are veggies to chop ... though I must admit, I'm finding my chair oh-so-comfortable right now! Maybe just a few more moments, then ... I have the new Williams-Sonoma catalog by my side, and there's a little more tea in my cup ... plus the sun is setting and the sky just looks so lovely. Truly, the top half is all mottled with fast-moving clouds and the space right above the treeline is streaked with purple and pink ...

1:6FF11

And so another Winter night wraps around us ... cold, dark and quiet ... windows glow with welcome, headlights turn down the road, and soon we're all together again. The comforts of home are never quite so comforting as they are on a Winter's night - would you agree?

So, my friends, I'll be off now, but I do wish you all a most pleasant evening and I thank you for spending a little of your time here with me ...

See you all again very soon!



Our 'Happy Winter Tree,' Part II

Suet11

Well first of all, this has been quite a Monday! It started off pretty quiet, but before we knew it there were huge trucks arriving next door and loud engines starting up and oh my - trees were being felled! Like - really tall evergreen trees, literally right outside our family room windows! Then next thing we knew, the doorbell was ringing and packages were arriving and Nana stopped by and snow started falling - and this was all before noontime! 

If ever there was a week for "bustle," this is it ~ I love it!

It was also a busy morning in our kitchen as we set about making our Solstice Tree treats. Now, before I launch into the how-to's I'd like to mention that last week at our Nature Club meeting my friend Ketylina demonstrated a similar suet making project. I paid rapt attention and brought home the recipe as well as some ideas for making more projects at home.

 So here are the ingredients laid out by my stovetop. (And I apologize for the poor lighting in the next several photos - my kitchen is not very bright, unfortunately.)

Suet1

In front is the package of beef suet* I bought at the market yesterday, and just behind, from left to right, we have: mixed bird seed, rolled oats, dried cranberries, currants, chunky peanut butter, hulled sunflower seeds, cornmeal, walnuts, hazelnuts and dried pineapple rings (the pineapple is actually for something else, lol).

(Notes: The recipe I followed came from this site, thanks again to Ketylina. *If you don't see suet at the meat counter, ask your butcher; he or she may be able to package some up for you. Alternatively, you can use lard in place of the suet.)

I first chopped the suet into small chunks and set them in a heavy saucepan over medium heat:

Suet2

(Kind of gross, yes, but I tried not to think too much about it, lol.)

While the suet was melting (or rendering), I divided the "mix-ins" into one cup measurements (easier for small - and impatient - hands to deal with):

Suet3

Here's how the suet looked once it was finished rendering (and lingering chunks were strained out with a sieve):

Suet4

One pound of suet yielded about 2 cups liquid. Next, the boys had fun adding in all the mix-ins as I stirred the mixture with a strong wooden spoon ...

Suet5

I poured the concoction into a glass measuring cup for easier handling ...

Suet6

... and on the island I had some molds prepared:

Suet7

Gingerbread men, donut rings ...

Suet8

(Bookworm took a break from his work to gather pinecones for us from the yard.)

After filling the available molds we still had more left, so I pulled out some heart shaped ramekins and a Tupperware container to catch the remaining mixture:

Suet9

(Note: I placed lengths of twine in the molds before pouring in the suet mix. Theoretically, this will make it possible to hang the shapes in the tree tomorrow.)

And here's our spread!

Suet10

Into the freezer it all went ...

Suet12 

Tomorrow, on the first day of Winter, we'll take the frozen treats and decorate our Solstice Tree (along with a few other goodies we'll prepare in the morning). I think the birds and squirrels will be especially grateful considering they made themselves pretty scarce during all the loud tree work today!

One more picture before I go ...

Suet14

Just in case the snow is gone by tomorrow, here's our Tree as it looked at 3 p.m. today. It sure looks and feels like Winter right about now!

And speaking of Winter, tomorrow brings not only December's Full "Cold" Moon - but a total lunar eclipse as well! (Details can be found here.) I may be up early enough to catch the tail end of it, but the trick will be remembering to look, lol!

Have a great night, everyone! See you sometime tomorrow. :)


Programming Note (& a Friday Photo)


Harvestmoon'10

The Full Harvest Moon rising last night, roundabouts 7 p.m.

I took this from inside my car as I waited to get on the highway, lol. (I always have my camera within reach!) I was on my way to meet friends at Barnes & Noble for a little "coffee talk" - running a bit late, and the traffic was fierce - but oh what a lovely evening. Warm, breezy and bathed in moonlight. 

(By the way, my new beverage of choice at Starbucks is a tall steamed milk with vanilla. It's absolutely delicious, and caffeine-free!)

So, I have but a scant few minutes to post this morning, but wanted to check in and let you all know I'm working on a post about the index cards I mentioned the other day. There was lots of interest in how those little cards work. :)

In the meantime, I hope you all have a wonderful Friday! We're expecting highs in the 80s here in New England ~ a little touch of Summer in late September!