Out and About 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) ...

FullSizeRender-8

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

IMG_4431

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 ...

IMG_4435

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

IMG_4436

I love peppering my planners with seasonal poems and quotes!

IMG_4437

Next page has my October menu calendar ...

IMG_4441

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 ...

IMG_4442

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 ...

IMG_4443

And here is last week's spread!

IMG_4445

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!

FullSizeRender-2

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 ...

IMG_4449

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

IMG_4450

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." πŸ˜‰

FullSizeRender-10

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 ...

IMG_4329

  • 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!

IMG_4564

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 ... 

IMG_4693

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!

IMG_3903

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 ...

DSC00463 (3)

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 ...

DSC00480

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

DSC00489 (1)

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 ...

Apple collage

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 ...

IMG_4531

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 ...

IMG_5071

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 ...

Angel collage

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 ...

IMG_4838

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. :)

IMG_4990

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

IMG_4978

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! 

✨ πŸ‚ 🍎 🐿 🌻 🌞 🍁 πŸ„ 🌽 πŸŒ› ✨

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! βœ¨ πŸ‚ 🌞 🌻 🍁 🍎 🐿 πŸ„πŸŒ›πŸ‚βœ¨

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! :)

Autumn books 2

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! 

IMG_2018

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. :) 

IMG_2524-2

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!)

Autumn blessings library

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

Dining room

... dining room! :)

Autumn blessing family room

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

DSC00178

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!

IMG_2386

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. ;-)

IMG_2233

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. :)

Image-1

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!

IMG_1726

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. βœ¨πŸŒβœ¨

Oh, and before I go!

XGKV2254

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 ...

✨ πŸ‚ 🌞 🌻 🍁 🍎 🐿 πŸ„πŸŒ›πŸ‚βœ¨ 


A Sunny, Snowy Nature Club ... ❀

DSC02893

Hello and Happy Friday, friends! I have a quick post to share today, because oh my gosh, was it ever a beautiful day! Just perfect for our February Nature Club meeting. This month we met at a local farm to walk some wintry trails ... and were pleasantly surprised to find it was also the first day of their maple season! So before setting out on our walk, the kids got to visit the sugar shack and hear about how maple syrup is made ...

DSC02968

Now, if you're from New England you are probably familiar with the tale of how sap is turned into syrup, but honestly, it just never gets old! Earlybird especially was absolutely fascinated by the steam and the smell and the miracle that is maple sugaring. (Meanwhile I was furiously composing a maple syrup unit study in my head! Though come to think of it, I have plenty of prior experience with this topic ... I'll have to see which former lesson plan I can "tap" into!)

DSC02869

Maple sugaring is, for me, one of those happy, hopeful, early spring harbingers ... because the sap runs once daytime temps reach the 50s while the nights stay below freezing. We're just getting there as we round the month's bend - hitting 50 on Sunday! - and hopefully that will turn the tide a bit. Not that I'm complaining too much about our very "February" weather, mind you. The snow is awfully pretty (says she who doesn't have to shovel, ahem) but we have had A LOT of it lately. I mean, I'm romancing the heck out of Winter over here, but I'll admit, Spring will be a sight for sore eyes!

But back to Winter for a bit! I hope you enjoy a little glimpse of our day spent in the New England countryside ... :)

DSC02829

DSC02841

DSC02895

DSC02850

DSC02899

DSC02964

DSC02916 (1)

DSC02927

DSC02931

DSC02942

DSC02883

DSC02894

DSC02944

DSC02956

There is quite possibly nothing cuter than a little one with cheeks all rosy from time spent outside!

So, lessons to learn in February (aside from the history and science of maple sugaring!): learning patience, optimism and trust. Waiting for that which comes next, appreciating the good in the now ... all while knowing our faith will absolutely be rewarded. ❀ That's pretty much a New England winter in a nutshell!

(Fyi, Spring is precisely 31 days away!)

;)

Well my friends, I hope you enjoyed this glimpse of our day! As much as I love being home, it was so good to get out today, mingle with friends and soak up some of that glorious sunshine! I will be back soon with the second part of my planning routine post as well as a progress report for the "52 Weeks Organized Home Challenge"... but ... FIRST!

This weekend I will be posting a little giveaway ... I teased it over on my Facebook page earlier today if you want a sneak peek! I will wait to tell you more but will get that post up as soon as I can - hopefully tomorrow but possibly Sunday. I think you will be really excited about this giveaway - I know I am! 

So take care of yourselves and your loved ones, my friends ... I will see you here again very soon!


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

(But not in that particular order ...)

IMG_5215

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!

IMG_5106 (1)

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 ...

IMG_5091

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

IMG_5055

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!

IMG_5265

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!

IMG_5247

IMG_5220

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

IMG_4667 (1)

(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 ...

IMG_4698

Once with Daddy ...

IMG_4637 (1)

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 ...

IMG_5381

IMG_5382

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

IMG_5390

IMG_5392

IMG_5402

IMG_5404

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

IMG_5398

IMG_5399

IMG_5433

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 ...

IMG_5426

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 ...

IMG_5452

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...

***

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 ...

IMG_5579 (3)

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 ...


It's Apple-Picking Season!

Apple bounty 1

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!

❀


Late July Weekend

Purple coneflower

Happy Monday, my friends!

The Summer season is well underway, and things are really growing around here - both flora and fauna! I thought I'd share some of the photos I took this weekend. It was an atypically busy one for us - Crackerjack spent the weekend away at a sleepover, Bill and I enjoyed a dinner out with some of his work friends, and we visited a flea market on Sunday morning. What a fun place that was -  there was so much to see! Everything from antique furniture and vintage books to braided rugs, wrought-iron arbors, funny hats and sunglasses!

I hope you all had a nice weekend - and I hope you enjoy my pictures and notes. :)

Hydrangeas and raspberries

The hydrangeas are getting big! I love the deep pink shade. And the raspberries are starting to appear ...

O raspberries 1

O raspberries 2

He's getting so big! Fourteen months next weekend ...

Also growing like a weed - the wee bunny who calls our front yard home:

Baby bunny on walk 1

(He is just too precious, but I'm a bit of a wreck over him ... I fear for his safety! We live in a very wooded area filled with hawks, owls, fisher cats and weasels. I hope he keeps safe!)

More nature study with Little Bear who just loves it outside ...

O nature study leaf

 LB has such a fascination with leaves right now! And he's all about pointing. Like a little prince, he just sticks out that tiny finger and points, silently, at what he wants. Lol. And if he's outside he wants leaves. To smell them, touch them, pick them ... I think I might make a little Leaf Book for him, his very first nature journal!

And here's something the boys and I spied near the mailbox ...

Indian stovepipe

Have you ever seen this before? This is called "Indian Pipe," aka "Ghost Flower" or *shudder* "Corpse Plant" - which is just a bit eerie, but makes for a GREAT nature study lure! 

Oh, and here's a quick "selfie" taken at Earlybird's request - we were on our way to pick up pizza, a one-in-a-while treat for EB. Little Bear is in back with Bill but you can't see him in his rear-facing car seat!

Pizza selfie

And finally, how about a picture from the flea market?

O and daddy todd farm

Wearing Crackerjack's hat and Daddy's $1 sunglasses ... Little Bear was quite the hit!

:)

Well I'll wrap up now, but I hope this week treats you well ... any travel plans or special events coming up? We're mostly sticking close to home this summer, working on things around here, and getting ready for a family party in a few weeks. Trying to savor every last drop of summer's comforts and joys!

{Before I go ... a quick bit of planner talk. This week I am refreshing my file crate folders as well as my planning binder, and I find myself wondering if I need a daily agenda/planner of some kind. I'm a bit stuck on the idea ... trying to figure out how to work that aspect in. It's such a tricky balance - keeping things simple and straightforward, but still covering all the bases. Anytime I have a quiet moment these days - usually when nursing or rocking the baby - I find my mind juggling these kinds of things. And yet I must remind myself not to overthink it! I can easily think myself into circles!}

Be well, my friends - see you here again very soon!


Spring in our hearts - and our windows!

While running errands this morning, I stopped in at a local nursery for a birthday gift and - oh my goodness! The sun pouring in through the greenhouse roof, the earthy smell of the humid air and the riot of color all around me ...

Nursery trip 1 

What a balm for a winter-weary heart! Honestly, if you're in need of a shot of spring - seek out your nearest nursery stat. Ten minutes breathing in that warm, damp air - smelling that soil and greenery - it will do you wonders, I swear!

Nursery visit 2

In addition to that aforementioned birthday gift, I took home a few primroses along with some pussy willow branches and - of all things, lol - a venus fly trap.

(If you're thinking that last item is for the boys, well you'd be right. Next week's botany lesson!)

Nursery visit 7

Once home, I set the colorful plants in the kitchen windowsill (out of the cats' immediate reach).

Nursery visit 3

 And the pussy willows, nestled in a rustic brown vase, I placed in the library - in a bright window facing west.

Nursery visit 6

We may be still very much in Winter's firm grasp, but we're jump-starting Spring in our hearts ... and our windows!

❀

My friends, I hope you are all enjoying your weekend, and while I'm here I'd like to thank you again for all the wonderful laundry comments! I have some catching up to do - with your comments and my laundry! Also, I'm wondering - how's the weather where you are? Ours is just glorious - sunny and 50 degrees (plus!) here in New England ... however ... we must temper our excitement ... because next week looks to be frigid once again!

Ah, Winter. You are a wily one, that's for sure ...

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


When you take a kid to Whole Foods ...

Whole Foods Market is Earlybird's favorite place on earth (aside from his Nana and Papa's, of course), and he asks me constantly if we can go there, when can we go there, who can come with us and whose car we'll take. We usually have the whole trip discussed, imagined and planned out days - even weeks - before we even step foot in the store. ;)

Well, it occured to me that such an avid interest presents a wonderful learning opportunty for Earlybird! Building on what appeals to him - with simple, relatable activities - makes learning easier and more fun (for us both). So I started brainstorming some ideas for a little "Whole Foods Curriculum" and thought I'd share my list here in case it's helpful to somebody else with a child who just loves to food shop!

*Quick disclaimer: I'm a homeschooling mom, not a curriculum expert or special needs pro. I don't mean to present this as anything other than a humble and hopeful collection of home-grown ideas. I'm just going by what might work for my own son and his particular interests and learning/life needs.

:)

27 learning activities inspired by Whole Foods

β€’ Make a list of things we need to buy.

Practice spelling and penmanship, expand vocabulary. When we check our pantry and fridge/freezer before making our list we practice good food management and decision-making while taking responsibility for our family's needs (all important life skills).

β€’ Try to find items on a prepared scavenger list.

"Made from oats." "Came from the sea." "Smells good." etc. (reading practice, creative/logical thinking)

β€’ Look over store flyer and organize coupons.

Good reading practice, and discerning information (what's on sale, what's fresh?). Using coupons to save money - sorting, organizing, budgeting. Simple subtraction (item price minus coupon amount).

β€’ Use a calculator to add up a small order.

I wouldn't try this with a big shopping trip, but for a basket-ful of items - using a calculator to predict how much the cashier will ask for. Math - estimation, addition, calculator-use.

β€’ Make reusable shopping bags.

O and r at wf 4

Earlybird with his own reusable bag, a birthday gift.

  Using inexpensive cloth tote bags (from a craft store), decide on design/colors. Great creative/art experience. Discuss why reusing bags makes good sense (environmental science).

β€’ Draw a map to Whole Foods from our house.

Creative project using all kinds of skills - geography, measurement, memory, arts & crafts. Use a large sketch pad and colored pencils. Write out directions to go along with map.

β€’ Whole Foods A and Whole Foods B - which is closer?

We're lucky enough to live near(ish) not just one, but two Whole Foods stores - I know which one we prefer (size, selection, layout) but which one is closer? Observe odometer at start and finish for each trip, record travel times.

β€’ Practice clear and polite communication.

Think of potential questions and ask for help, make conversation with staff and other patrons (language skills, social skills).

β€’ Practice good cart management.

Earlybird loves to use the cart himself, but this takes a little skill sometimes! The store can be busy, aisles can be crowded (gross motor skills, social skills, patience).

O and r at wf 2

Little Bear is amazed by all the sights to see!

β€’ Learn: What does organic mean?

Look for the word "organic" on labels, store signs, flyers. Ask someone to explain what it means (call ahead of time) and/or research at home. Visit the library to research further - ask the librarian to help us look up information: How is organic healthier for us? For the earth? Make up a short "report" with Mama's help. (environmental science, research skills, clear communication, observation, composition/grammar/spelling/vocabulary)

β€’ Tour the store.

Ask for a tour with a store manager (or other store staff). Call ahead to ask. After tour, narrate experience (Mom types in) and add drawings, photos. Write thank you note afterwards. (patience, attention, social skills, penmanship/spelling/vocabulary)

β€’ Film a pretend commerical.

O and r at wf 1

Little Bear is all business when discussing yogurt.

Ask manager for permission to take video (on phone) while walking around the store. At home, make up a "script" and signs/props for commercial. Talk about what we like about Whole Foods. Record commercial to share with friends and family (language skills, reflection, creativity, oral presentation, diction).

β€’ Look for products from around the world.

Make a list of all the countries we find represented, and write down what products came from where. Use a world map to mark discovered countries. What country has the most products? Find out if there are available statistics for that information (ask manager). (geography, observation, communication/language, simple math, research skills)

β€’ Where are Whole Foods stores located across the US?

Research store chain locations - which state has the most stores? Look at US map as we research. (geography, observation, simple math)

β€’ How do receipts work?

How much money do we spend at Whole Foods? Look at receipt from recent visit, what does it show? Use cash to show the amount of money spent. (math skills, life skills, money management)

O and r at wf 3 

Earlybird and Little Bear on a recent trip to Whole Foods.

β€’ Visit a local farm that supplies food to Whole Foods.

Ask the store manager for a list of local suppliers. Visit one (or more) of the farms in the spring and ask about the farm-store connection. Calculate distance from farm to store - ask about how the food/items are transported. Take pictures and write up a "report." (social skills, communication, language, math, geography, community, environmental science)

β€’ Tour the individual store departments.

Visit the store and write down the name of each store department. Over following visits, investigate just one department at a time. What is the seafood counter all about? What can we find in the dairy? Talk to a staff member associated with that department - have some questions prepared. Make up a booklet at home describing the information and communication. Use photos, drawings and narration. (observation, list-making, language, organization, communication, social skills, creativity, memory/reflection)

β€’ Make up a Whole Foods cookbook.

As we visit the store through the year, keep note of what is in season when. Devise/collect recipes for seasonal foods (baked apples in winter, grilled corn in summer, etc.). Ask for a seasonal list of foods (if available) and use that as a guide. Keep all these recipes and information (along with pictures we take as we cook) in a binder. (observation, list making, language, creativity, communication, life skills, environmental science)

β€’ Make a well-balanced meal.

Plan out a healthy meal and write out a shopping list. Talk about how much we'll need, think about how many people will be eating the food. Make sure to include all food groups and talk about why that is important. Talk about the connection between good health and healthy food. Discuss how we feel after we eat a nutritious meal (energized? full?). (list-making, organization, language, decision making, science, healthy habits, self-awareness)

β€’ Practice time management.

Plan a very early trip to the store (like, 8 a.m.) and devise a plan for getting there on time. How early do we need to get up? What things have to happen before we can leave the house? What do we need to bring with us? Make a list and post it. On the day of the trip, time each activity that leads up to leaving the house. (life skills, time management, independence, responsibility)

O and r at wf

 EB can be a big help with his little brother. 

β€’ Rules are important.

Does Whole Foods have rules? Look at the entrance for any signs (no shirt/no shoes/etc.). Talk about why rules are important. What are some of our family/household's rules? (life skills, responsiblity, community living)

β€’ Write a poem about Whole Foods.

Brainstorm words about Whole Foods - nouns, adjectives, verbs, etc. Print out the words and cut out so that we have lots of single words on little pieces of paper. Play around with the words and make up rhymes. (language, creativity, grammar)

β€’ Conduct a taste test-survey.

Choose a sampling of foods (perhaps WF store brand vs. name brand or another store brand). Invite friends/family to try the foods (decide how best to do this - blindfolded?) and make a note of reactions. Tabulate "votes" and make up a graph to show survey results. (decision-making, organization, communication, math skills, creativity)

β€’ Host a Whole Foods party.

A nice late spring/early summer event - decide on date/time, plan out guest list, make invitations, devise menu, write out shopping list, create decorations, etc. (calendar skills, decision-making, communication, language, creativity, patience, social skills)

β€’ Have a meal at Whole Foods.

Our local Whole Foods has a cafe where patrons can buy drinks and snacks and enjoy them at a table. Plan an outing with Daddy for an early weekend morning (before it gets busy). What do we need (money)? How shoud we behave? After eating, give Daddy a tour of the store. (social skills, patience, money management, hygiene)

β€’ Plant a Whole Foods garden.

In the spring, notice the gardening items that Whole Foods offers: seeds, plants, tools. At home, plan out and create a small garden plan (pots, easy-to-grow items). Purchase seeds and small seedlings at Whole Foods. Peruse tools and other garden implements and decide if they are something we need or not. (list making, organization, environmental science, nature study, creativity, exercise/fresh air, decision making, money management)

β€’ Write a letter to Whole Foods.

Find out how to contact the "head' of Whole Foods (look online) and write a letter expressing our fondness for the store, as well as any suggestions or ideas. :) (language, creativity, research, social skills, life skills, US mail)

***

Well, I guess I'd better stop there, because this post is getting awfully long! Thanks for letting me share all of this ... I hope maybe someone else finds it useful! Lots of ideas, and some of them will work better than others ... we will try them out over the next several months as opportunity (and energy) presents itself! And of course, I'll let you all know how it goes ...

Thanks so much for stopping by today ... have a good one, my friends, and I will see you all here again very soon!


Lunch with the Guys

Yesterday, Bill and I took the younger boys out for lunch at Earlybird's favorite restaurant - Wendy's! He can eat some of the menu items there - most notably, "natural french fries with sea salt" (which is exactly how he orders them, lol). He was so happy to do this and to show his baby brother "the ropes." Naturally we took some pictures to mark the milestone - Baby's first "fast-food" experience. ;)

Owen at wendy's 1

(The paper napkin was a makeshift bib - not that he had anything, mind you! I brought a bottle but he didn't need to have it.)

Owen at wendy's 8

Earlybird loves people-watching almost as much as he loves the food! (And for the record, he gets a plain cheeseburger, small fries and his own pear juice.)

Owen at wendy's 3

This was a very sweet moment: "Thank you SO much, Daddy. I love you!"

Little Bear just took it all in ...

Owen at wendy's 6

:)

Now, while I'm thinking of it, Sarah recently asked me about posts I've done on food dyes and how they affect behavior. I know I wrote some posts directly addressing that issue, but for now I can link you, Sarah (and anyone else interested) to my "Feingold" archive (this post in particular is pretty detailed). Let me stress - I am by NO means an expert, but I know what works for my child. And without a doubt food dyes and some other substances really impact EB's behavior and abilities. This is why we follow the Feingold diet (not to the letter, but in our own way) as well as some other guidelines that we feel help keep EB (who is autistic as many of you know) balanced.

Well, that's all for now my friends. Thanks so much for all your lovely anniversary wishes! We are having *quite* the 20th year, aren't we?

*❀*

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!

*❀*


Ever Wonder about Wolves?

Good morning, everyone! Did you know it's National Dog Week?

I myself had no idea, but it very conveniently coincides with our current dogs/foxes/wolves study. :) Another happy happenstance, we were kindly invited on a field trip to Wolf Hollow this week! Long time reader and friend, Melissa R, arranged the visit for her homeschool group and invited the boys and I to attend. I am so glad we were able to make it - it was great to meet Melissa and it was nice to be reacquainted with the wonderful wolves of Wolf Hollow.

This morning, if I may, I'd like to share a few photos from our visit with you ...

Wolf hollow 11

(Bookworm and Crackerjack, standing beside the info board.)

Despite his current interest in wolves, Earlybird declared this field trip, "kinda too scary," lol. So he stayed home with Nana. He's been loving all the pictures, though, and has said he might want to go "next time." Baby steps ... :)

Shown below is the Alpha Male, Weeble.

Wolf hollow 2

Isn't he gorgeous? He is getting on in age, but quite obviously held a position of respect. At the same time he seemed quite gentle, and he was the only one to howl for us.

A few of the wolves were quite feisty ...

Wolf hollow 4

The black male on the right is Grendel, who will most likely be the next Alpha. (All these wolves are "gray wolves" despite the variation in fur color.)

In a confrontation such as this, the wolf with a higher pack position holds his tail higher ...

Wolf hollow 5

Below, on the right, is the Alpha Female, Nina - aka "Mom."

Wolf hollow 6

(You can meet all the Wolf Hollow wolves here.)

In a wolf pack, it is the Alpha Female who bears the puppies. One very interesting (and slightly shocking) thing we learned, was that a female wolf is able to sense the overall pack situation (food availability, etc.) and only birth a managable amount of pups. Apparently her body will reabsorb any extraneous pups. That's kind of incredible! o.O

Another interesting thing we learned was that wolves have evolved to have an inborn fear of humans. As our speaker pointed out, if we happened to be walking in a forest where wolves were living, we would never see them. They would steer clear of us - our smell, our sounds, our very existence.

They really are amazing animals, and they live very much like a family - looking after, and out for, each other ... It's disturbing how misunderstood they've been through the years and continue to be in this day and age. 

Wolf hollow 8

We truly enjoyed our visit to Wolf Hollow, and came away with a renewed sense of respect and responsibility. I look forward to exploring wolves (and their brethren, foxes and dogs) more at home with the boys. If you'd like to learn more about wolves, please check out the Wolf Hollow website.

***

Well my friends, thanks so much for stopping by! I hope you all have a nice Friday ... see you here again very soon!


A Summer's Day by the Sea

Halibut 1

Not at the shore, exactly, but rather, above it - in the woods that run alongside it. Today we spent some time exploring the rugged beauty of our coastline and learning about quarries and the New England granite industry. I'd like to share some pictures from our day, if I may - we had such a nice time and the weather was so beautiful.

Halibut 7

Crackerjack was signed up for a geology class run by the state DCR (department of conservation and recreation), which is the oldest regional park system in the country. They always offer amazing programs and their rangers are just wonderful. This class, organized by my friend Kristen, was a follow-up to a geology class we took last month with our homeschool group, at yet another state park in the area. The earlier class was set deep in the woods (unraveling the history of the rocks found in our area) while this one took place alongside the sea and above the remains of an old quarry.

Halibut 8

So while CJ and I took the class, Bill (who took the day off from work) and Earlybird explored the park, while Bookworm visited with friends.

More pics ...

Halibut 11

Halibut 12

Halibut 9

Halibut 14

Halibut 15

Halibut 4

Halibut 21

Halibut 16

Halibut 17

Halibut 18

Halibut 3

Halibut 19

Halibut 22

Halibut 20

In that last picture, our ranger, Megan, was demonstrating how to split granite. The kids were just enthralled ... you could hear a pin drop as she worked, because everyone was listening for the "crackle" that granite makes when it's stressed. But wouldn't you know it, just before she cracked that block open, my camera battery exhausted itself. (Quite literally - the message on the screen said, "battery exhausted." So unfortunately I didn't get a final picture of the split block!

(But I promise she did spit the block, and the block did crackle just before it gave way ... very exciting stuff, I must say!)

***

It was a real treat to have Bill with us today - he drove us in the RV, so we really arrived in style. ;) It made the longish drive (made even longer by that darn summer traffic) a little more comfortable ... and having Dad with us made today's experience all the more fun and memorable - because all five us got to enjoy the beautiful weather and breathtaking views.

So I hope you all had a nice day, too. Thanks so much for stopping by and allowing me to share our Monday with you ... have a good night, and take care ... I will see you again sometime soon!

❀


Our Afternoon Farm Stop

While Bookworm was at Art Class yesterday, Crackerjack and Earlybird and I took advantage of the gorgeous spring day, and paid a visit to a long-favorite farm. 

I say "long-favorite," because when Bill and I were first married we lived up in this area and this farm holds many fond memories for me. I would bring a baby Bookworm here once a week (at least!) to visit the animals and have a snack at the bakery.

Their main greenhouse is so lovely ...

Farm stop 1

And their bakery has many fresh and tempting selections. (Happily, the apple cider donuts are always in season.)

Farm stop 2

(Doesn't Crackerjack look so much older in this picture? It's hard to believe this kid will be 13 in August!)

At EB's request, I gave the boys pennies to throw into the farm wishing well bucket.

Farm stop 3

(I love that they still love to do this.)

And just look at all the vibrant dahlias!

Farm stop 4

I will definitely be returning to this farm over the next couple of weeks (before Memorial Day anyways, our traditonal planting time). There were so many wonderful annuals, perennials, herbs, vegetables, etc.

Farm stop 5

I was particularly thrilled to find out they will have morning glory plants for sale in a couple of weeks. I will definitely snatch up several of those!

Now, once EB spied the play area, we settled ourselves in at a picnic table, because we knew he'd be a while. And that was fine, because we had at least an hour to kill. EB absolutely LOVES playing in sand (or dirt) with trucks, STILL at 10 years old. (Because he's developmentally delayed, he still enjoys toys, tv shows and activities that appeal to younger children.) But I have to laugh at this picture, because look at the little fella just behind EB, all hands-on -hips and furrowed brow ...

Farm stop 6

You see, when EB appoached the wooden play structure there were several younger children already engrossed in play. He wanted to use a couple of the sand trucks (which had been piled up on the caboose) and his "intrusion" was not so warmly received. At least, not at first ... after a few tense moments, EB had won the crowd over.

Because this is my child, when he first walked up to the crowd (my homeschooled autistic child, mind you) ...

"Hi guys! How are you doin'?"

"I'm [Earlybird]! Who are you?"

"What are you playing? Can I help, too?"

"Hey, guys - let's work together!"

And so forth ... :)

("Socialization" is highly overrated, lol.)

Meanwhile, CJ and I sat and chatted at the table for a bit ... I have no idea what I said to him here that prompted that face, lol. 

Farm stop 7

I guess he's just reaching that age where he's not all that keen on having his picture taken.

While EB played on, CJ and I checked out the farm animals ...

The goats ...

Farm stop 8

The chickens (and turkeys and rooster) ...

Farm stop 9

The pigs ...

Farm stop 10

And the bunnies - though I didn't get a picture of them, because next thing I knew, EB had had enough of playtime and wanted something from the bakery. So back inside we went ...

Farm stop 11

My guys ... how I love spending my days with them.

Farm stop 12

EB had a cider donut and CJ picked out a muffin - one for his older brother, too. I myself had a tall, creamy iced coffee ... which SO hit the spot!

Before we left the farm, we weighed and purchased our rhubarb, which I used to make last night's souffle. I LOVE the experience of buying food from a farm and then serving it that night at our table. We are really enjoying our farm "studies" this year. 

***

Well, my friends ... it was a much quieter day for us today. Not so much in-and-out ... and as much as I love truckin' about with my boys, I do relish those days when we can just get our stuff done here (theirs, mine) with few interruptions. I myself got a lot of housework done, in anticipation of a busy weekend. I loathe wasting weekends on housework, so whenever possible Friday is a big "catch up" cleaning day for me.

I squeezed in some fun though - I worked on my newsletter and my clippings journal. Catching up with my creative side is a priority, too ... whenever I can manage it!

And as I finish this post, the day's wrapping up, and it's practically the weekend! So I'm going to sign off for now ... but you know I'll be back very soon ...

Have a good night, my friends!

❀ 


Spring Nature, Spring Books

Happy Wednesday, my friends! I hope your week's going well. :)

Earth day library corner 1

I put the learning room back together today - meaning, I moved out the "table for four" from Easter Sunday, and returned the loveseat to its rightful place. (Mama's reading chair, too.) It felt good to sweep up, sort out, and then settle things back where they belong. :)

The library corner needed to be set up again, so I retired the "March" books and set out the April nature-related books. Our theme this month is "our marvelous earth."

The books you see above are as follows:

Little Farm by the Sea

Grow It, Cook It

Wildlife Gardening

Recycle!

Compost!

Miss Rumphius

The Golden Guide to Endangered Animals

A Guide to Northeastern Butterflies

Respect the Earth Flashcards

Mother Earth's Children

The Nature Connection

First Nature Encylopedia

Whoever You Are

This Year's Garden

Wonders of Nature 

 Naturally Fun Parties for Kids (I just got this book the other day and Earlybird is enthralled! I can hardly get it back in "my" pile, lol.)

*

Now, yesterday we met up with some of our homeschooling friends and took our kids on an informal nature walk. ("Informal" in that, the parents walked and talked - the kids mostly ran ahead.) I provided a "scavenger" list of things for the kids to look for at this time of year, and I'd like to share it here with you all in case it might be something you can use. :)

Take a look around and see what you can find ... use all your senses to β€œSearch for Spring!”

*

signs of nest building

buds

a spring flower

three shades of green

a fresh smell

mud

tracks in mud

a new bird sound

an early spring insect

a fiddlehead (young fern)

a migrant bird

an amphibian or reptile

earthworms

running, dripping or trickling water

a cold spot

a warm spot

something red

something yellow

something blue

something purple

something that has more than 3 colors

*

Have fun, and remember to be gentle with Nature!

I hope this list might inspire you and your kids to go outside and "search for spring." We had a lot of fun finding it for ourselves!

BR nature walk 2

:)

Have a wonderful evening, my friends ... I will see you here again very soon!


Afternoon Outing: Lovely Latte, Pretty Papers

Pretty papers 6

My friends, I had such a nice afternoon! I was able to meet a very dear friend of mine for "tea" while I was out and about. We met at the most adorable cafe not far from where my boys take their art classes, and honestly I wish I had had my camera with me because I was so charmed by this sweet little shop! It was a small place, but airy and bright and there were all kinds of little treats and gifty things like local preserves, quirky wooden signs and herb-scented laundry detergent. There was even a little wine corner and some microbrews in a fridge!

(Needless to say, I'll be visiting again soon!)

Now, the menu featured all kinds of interesting brewed teas, but I actually skipped over the tea, and chose instead a quite potent and very tempting "raspberry mocha latte."

Oh my.

I may pay for indulging in such heady caffeine (especially so late in the day), but it was deliciously worth it!

Well, after catching up for a bit, Lynne and I went our separate ways (with a promise to do 'this' again soon). But as it happened, I had a few minutes to kill ... and as it also happened ... my favorite paper-craft store was right across the street!

So naturally I popped in to take a quick look around and as usual, I spied so many new and beautiful things! (This place is like a candy store, I tell you.) In under 10 minutes I had picked out some pretty pastel papers and coordinating embellishments, keeping my "new" planner and "Spring Newsletter" in mind.

Here's a peek at my purchases: 

Pretty papers 2

Pretty papers 3

Pretty papers 4

Pretty papers 5

Don't you just love all those soft, springy shades? They feel just right for this time of year ... plus I have such a weakness for "vintage" and "Victorian" things. :)

So I have some new supplies to work with, and while my planner is (once again) underway, my Newsletter is still just a bunch of notes in a notebook. ;) Speaking of the Newsletter - I'm hoping to have it ready to go sometime soon after Easter. (I'd like to say before, but I'm sure that's overestimating my time and energy, lol!) It will be loads of fun to work on it, though, and I must thank you all again for your enthusiastic response!

***

Well my friends, I must now sign off for the night ... the kitchen timer is due to ring in oh, about seven minutes. Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing in my day ... I hope yours was a good one!

Have a nice night ~ I will see you again soon!

❀


Humble Pretzels with EB

(And other Saturday stuff.)

Humble pretzels 1

Today was such a changeable day - bright and sunny one minute, dark and gray the next ... we even had snow flurries this morning! So very like March. :)

Well, early this "very March" morning Bill took the older boys into Cambridge, to attend a special program at M.I.T. So Earlybird and I had the whole day to ourselves. We spent part of our morning at Whole Foods (Nana came too) and then the rest of the day we just puttered around the house. It was a little too cold to spend much time outside, so after lunch I suggested we make pretzels with a bag of pizza dough I had in the fridge. Pretzels are a traditional Lenten food ... but it's always fun to work with bread/pizza dough! And as you can see above, our pretzels were very humble attempts, indeed ... but they were tasty!

I thought I'd share a couple more pictures with you before I sign off. It's been a while since I've done a "Friday Felines," so let's start with a sleepy Archie ...

Humble pretzels 2

... and an Ollie who insists he's not too big for this basket.

Humble pretzels 4

Here's some of my planner "puttering" laid out on the counter ...

Humble pretzels 3

And here are my older boys this afternoon, standing in front of M.I.T.

Boys at MIT

Bookworm has attended SPARK (and its fall counterpart, SPLASH) a few times before, but this was Crackerjack's first time. The classes - taught by M.I.T. students - are offered to kids in grades 7-12, and it's really quite a production! The classes my boys took included "Greek & Roman Mythology," "Introduction to Zombie Defense," "The Most Challenging Puzzles," "Environmentally Benign Design," "Peanut Butter & Jelly Robotics" and "Light Saber Dueling." It was a very full day and a really great experience!

Happily, Bill and the boys are home now ... so it's time for supper and the usual evening routine. Before I go though, I'd like to say I am absolutely LOVING reading all your Spring Thoughts. What joy this season brings to us all, in so many ways! I'll have to do a post about my own favorite things springs sometime soon.

And thank you, also, for the wonderful bake sale advice - I'm taking lots of notes this weekend!

Now, tomorrow night Bill and I will be watching part two of South Riding ... and I'm hoping it's a little better than last Sunday's showing. Monday morning I'll have a discussion post up where we can talk about SR and/or any other shows or movies we might have seen over the weekend.

So my friends, I hope your weekend's going well. As always, thanks so much for stopping by ... I will see you all again very soon!

:) 


Field Trip to the Farm!

Oh, what fun we had today!

Farmtrip20

This afternoon we attended a field trip to a local Audubon center. We hadn't been on a field trip in a while, so this was a nice treat for us all. What made it all the nicer ... Bill took the day off to join us, and drive us out to the farm in the RV!

And it was such a glorious day ... nearly 60 degrees and so bright and sunny. As usual, I took TONS of pictures, so I thought you all might like to see them. :)

Here's the entrance to the farm ...

Farmtrip2

And my guys heading down the path ...

Farmtrip4

First we hit "Bird Hill."

Farmtrip3

Where we saw ...

Farmtrip5

Crows, ravens, pheasants, hawks (as below) ...

Farmtrip6

... barred owls ...

Farmtrip7

(We called them, Sarah and Percy and Bill ... anyone know what book that's from? It's a favorite of ours.)

And finally, a great horned owl!

Farmtrip8

(I know it's hard to see through the grated fencing, but if you click on the photos they will open up and the birds should be easier to see.)

Next, we headed over to the sheep & goat barn ...

Farmtrip11

... where we met two little lambs who were born just today!

Farmtrip12

So precious ...

Farmtrip24

Farmtrip27

Farmtrip28

Inside this barn (all around the farm, actually), there was a lot of interesting info posted, like this lambing chart:

Farmtrip13

And this "Sheep to Sweater" display board:

Farmtrip14

Though the air was cool, the sun was quite warm. We were very glad we wore boots, because there was lots of mud ...

Farmtrip10

... and melting ...

Farmtrip16

And much dripping everywhere.

Farmtrip17

This is what 'early spring' looks like in New England!

Here are a few more farm animals we met ...

The rooster.

Farmtrip18

(Noisy fellow, he.)

The sow.

Farmtrip19

(Just two years old, and already a good mama.)

Some goats.

Farmtrip25

(These are the sun-loving youngins.)

Next we encountered a chicken on the path.

Farmtrip23

Quite free range, and almost friendly.

And here we have the Barn Cat.

Farmtrip29

Clearly, striking a pose.

And just look at these guys!

Farmtrip38

A flock of wild turkeys taking advantage of well-stocked feeders.

Earlybird was most fascinated by the farm equipment - the tractors, and harvesters and such - but we could just not get him to slow down for a photo! But I'm still going to post this one because it shows how tall Bookworm has gotten recently!

Farmtrip22

(If you remember, I'm 5'5." He's over 5'7" now.)

Next ... while Bill, Bookworm and Earlybird stayed with the larger group, Crackerjack and I headed up to the Audubon Shop with our friends ...

Farmtrip31

Such a delightful shop - a nature lover's absolute haven!

Farmtrip30

Well, I was weak of course, and bought a few things - with my member discount naturally! I bought a solar system place mat for EB, two new field guides (one for butterflies, another for dragonflies) and new nature journals for myself and the boys.

After saying goodbye to our friends, CJ and I headed back out. For a moment, we contemplated venturing down this intriguing path ...

Farmtrip32

But in the end, we stayed put and explored this neat solar-powered structure:

Farmtrip33

Farmtrip34

Farmtrip35

Farmtrip36

Very cool! 

More solar goodness:

Farmtrip42

And one more picture of me and my boys ...

Farmtrip37

It really was such a nice day. :)

And here's my "chauffeur," ready to escort his brood home ...

Farmtrip41 

Once safely home, we set about our evening routines, and then a call came in from my friend, Kim. Kim (of coupon binder fame), was the one to organize this field trip, and she called me from the road to alert me to the rising moon!

Farmtrip39

I was so glad she did because I was not even looking outside, so caught up was I in all the "catching up." And what a nice way to end a very nice day ... standing outside in the cool (but not cold) dusk, watching the Full Sap Moon emerge in all its March glory ...

I feel so recharged after this day spent outdoors, in the "country," getting fresh air and reconnecting with friends we have not seen in a while. It makes me want to plan all kinds of fun spring outings ... my "Nature Club" wheels are now turning!

*

Well, I hope you all had a nice Wednesday ... wherever it took you. Thanks so much for stopping by ... have a nice night and I will see you all again soon!


We took Nana to Neverland!

Neverland1

Our Advent Tree note this morning read:

Today we're taking Nana into Boston to see Peter Pan!

And oh my gosh, was it a wonderful play! 

(Sorry for the blurry pictures - for some reason my old camera just wouldn't cooperate!)

Now, many years ago, my mum took my brother and I to see Peter Pan - back when Sandy Duncan played the principal part. It was 1979, so I was 10 years old, and I still remember that experience ... it was magical. This new "three-sixty" production originated in London, back in 2009, and is currently traveling the world; Boston is hosting the show through New Year's Eve.

Now, unfortunately the weather today was just awful - we had chilly downpours all day. So instead of taking the T in, as we first planned, Bill volunteered to on drive us there and back. EB came along for the inbound journey - and we had a nice ride around downtown Boston admiring the architecture and Christmas decor (as well as the many construction sites and general midday chaos).

The show was held inside a newly constructed tent on City Hall Plaza.

Neverland2

Inside the tent was a lobby (with snacks and souvenirs) and a circular hallway that ringed the inner theater itself. Here we found a series of interesting posters exploring the history of the Peter Pan tale - its author, origins and many dramatic interpretations through the years.

Neverland3

Neverland4

Neverland5

Neverland6

Neverland7

Neverland8

We were not allowed to take pictures inside the theater itself, so I have nothing more to show you, but I can say it was a fabulous production and we all enjoyed it very much. My favorite parts of the play?

Bringing 'Tink' back to life with a theater-full of fervent whispers:

"I believe in fairies."

The adherence to original text.

The ramshackle crocodile - what a fantastic roar!

The Neverbird and the Mother song.

The singing scalliwag pirates.

And, this:

"To live would be an awfully big adventure."

 *

Leaving about 4:30 p.m. Bill waiting, van idling, on nearby Tremont Street - here's what we looked back at as we drove away:

Neverland9

Lovely!

And now we're home safe and sound, with another wonderful memory to tuck away.

I hope you all had a nice Wednesday - is it mid-week already?!

Thanks so much for stopping by ... I will see you all again very soon.

:)


Off to the Tree Farm!

Yesterday was a beautiful day here in New England! It was very mild for this time of year (nearly 70 degrees) and the sky was filled with both wintry clouds and shards of weak sunlight. As Bill had the day off from work, it was a perfect time to go find our Christmas tree!

So right after lunchtime, we all hopped into the van and headed to the farm ...

Treefarm5

There are lots of farms in our area, but this one is just so lovely ... In fact, our very first homeschooling field trip ever happened right here - an apple picking hay ride with our (then) new homeschool support group. :)

Treefarm1

After getting the 'skinny' from the farm hands, we drove out to the field to find our tree ...

Treefarm2

Treefarm3

Treefarm4

Apple trees in late autumn are so beautiful. So withered and wild looking ...

Treefarm7

Now, here's the thing ... we just couldn't find a tree we liked! They were either too short or too spindly. And we wanted a big tree this year!

So we headed back down to the farm to take a look at the pre-cut trees.

Treefarm8

EB can get a little funny about tree cutting - for some reason it unnerves him! So a few times he retreated to the van to watch something fun on his iPad. 

Treefarm9

But the sights and sounds of the farm proved too much to resist ...

Treefarm10

Cute little Santa workshop.

Treefarm11

Cute little guinea fowl!

Treefarm12

Cute - not so little - boys!

Treefarm13

Feeding the beautiful fallow deer.

Treefarm14

Aren't they gorgeous?

Treefarm15

(They kind of remind me of Archie and Ollie in their coloring, and sweet faces.)

Treefarm16

Though EB was certain this was one of Santa's team. ;)

Once we had a tree picked out (a 7 foot Fraser fir, just cut the day before), we headed inside the farm shop to pay ... and peruse.

Treefarm20

At last it was time to take our tree home!

Treefarm17

But first, Bill secured it to the van ...

Treefarm19

... and then we were off!

Continuing our "farm field trip," we stopped at Whole Foods to pick up a few things.

Treefarm21

I could spend gajillions of dollars at this store. It's so fun to shop here!

 Treefarm22

We were home by three, with the light fading fast and a cool wind picking up.

Bill and Bookworm brought the tree in ...

Treefarm23

It fits great in the sitting room corner!

Treefarm25

Needless to say, the cats were simply amazed.

Treefarm26

"For me?"

Treefarm27

Checking it out ...

Treefarm28

Ollie's intrigued. Archie's sampling.

Treefarm29

After a quick look around, Ollie - cool, calm and collected - returned to his open window, taking the high road, as usual.

Treefarm30

Archie, meanwhile ... well, he took the low road.

Treefarm31

He simply would not leave the tree alone! He ate some needles, climbed some branches and as you can see above, drunk some of the water. (No additives here - just plain old water.)

(We're hoping once the novelty's worn off, Archie will give it a rest. Lol.)

And now we have our tree, all set up in the sitting froom corner.

Treefarm32

We need to let the branches drop, and then the lights can be strung and the branches can be adorned with all kinds of things.

(Mostly, unbreakable things.)

~**❀**~

Now, I will certainly be posting more on our tree as we go through the week. Hopefully we'll have it all decorated by the weekend!

So I hope you all are having a nice week ... I can hardly believe December 1st is just two days away! Are your Advent calendars ready to go?

Our is not quite ... so I guess I'd best get to work!

Have a great Tuesday, my friends ... I'll be back here again very soon.

:)