A Fresh Start: Using a Brainstorm Board

Brainstorm board

Hello and Happy Thursday, my friends!

Today I'd like to talk a bit about one of my planning tools - the brainstorm board I showed you (very briefly!) during my planning chat with Jen Mackintosh and Mystie Winckler last winter. I made this board up last fall, a larger version of something I usually do on a piece of notebook paper or loose-leaf attached to a clipboard. I was inspired to create this one since an earlier version worked really well as I worked out my Housekeeping Calendar. (You can read about that project here: part one, part two.) A brainstorm board is obviously not a grand or original idea, but I thought I'd break down how I made mine and the way in which I use it. :)

1. For one thing, my board helps me "plan my planning!"

(Does that make any sense, lol?)

Now it's no secret that I enjoy making my own planners but unfortunately I have yet to make one that truly "sticks." I'm always happy to try again though (I really enjoy the handwork of it), but it can be a tricky business - trying to make a tool(s) that will cover all the bases I need to think about/work on/plan for. When I begin the process, I'm often unsure just what kind of planner I want as well as how many planners make sense for me. A binder with tabs and interchangeable sections? A spiral-bound planner that can easily be tossed in a bag? Something that everyone in the family can see and use regularly? Daily pages or weekly spreads?

There are so many possible variations and so many areas to cover, it kind of boggles the mind!

(But of course, I love this kind of boggling!)

So I use this tool to harness my scattered thoughts and make sure I'm covering all my bases. Once I can see my ideas in print, I can start organizing them - categorizing and connecting, grouping things together - and slowly I begin to see some reason in the randomness. There's a lot of thought that goes into "planning," especially for we mums - and one of the first things to consider is, just what exactly do I need to include in my planning? What are my responsibilities? What kinds of information do I need to store/manage for myself and my family?

And here's where the brainstorming comes in!

2. My board helps me recognize and prioritize my responsibilities.

The base of this board is a plain posterboard and the notes are formed using all kinds of sticky-backed "post-it" notes. Since I always have a HUGE stash of these on hand I was able to use colors and sizes to differentiate bigger and smaller ideas. So for instance, my BIG areas currently include: Blogging/Writing, Home & Family, Community, Home Education, Household Tasks, and Seasonskeeping. In the next "note" size down I have: Family Calendar, Friends, Parish, Town, Garden/Yard, Nature, Faith, College, Cleaning Schedules, Gratitude, Special Needs.

So, Homeschooling is one of my "BIG" areas to plan, and College is under that, as is Special Needs. Smaller ideas include field trips, resources, school contacts, organization, lesson planning, groups/support. I have since added more small stickies not shown here: weekly rhythm, writing curriculum, internships, outside classes, goals, motto/logo.

The next step is deciding on my materials and finding all of these "brainstorms" a home! Will it be binders, notebooks, file folders, index cards or a combination of all those things? As I look over the notes I think about the information that each one represents. How would I want to access that information? Would I need to see it daily or once in a while? Would I need a binder-type of storage where I can easily add things and take things out? (Field trip ideas and school contacts might warrant a folder or a binder pocket for copies of signed letters, brochures, etc.) Would this be information I'd want to share with others in the family? (For example, medical information or emergency contacts). Is this something I want to look "pretty" (journaling, seasonal ideas) or should it be strictly no-nonsense (automobile information, employment records)?

And how about the time component? How often do each these aspects of my life need my attention? When will I sit down and plan out blog posts? When will I work on lesson plans - by semester or week? How often must I look at our budget (yearly goals? monthly ledger? weekly spending log?)? When will I plan out special activities that enhance our experience in faith and nature? And when will we work said activities into our already busy family calendar?

As with my Housekeeping calendar - I take the "whats" and find them "whens." If I have a spot for something in my calendar, it's far more likely to happen. This is something I am still tweaking - finding space in my schedule for planning - but I do find that having a firm set of "office hours" is vital for my own sanity and sense of organization. During this set time I devote myself to whatever needs planning that week.

3. My board reminds me how full and blessed my life is!

Just looking at this board makes me feel happy, inspired and so full of gratitude. It's quite colorful and a bit chaotic, but that's life isn't it? My board reminds me of the commitments my husband and I have made together. We have a home and a family ... we have the privilege to educate our children at home ... we are supported by and invested in our communities ... we are raising our children Catholic ... I get to blog when I find time. We are stewards of so many blessings! And finding ways to keep up with, and provide for, those blessings is at the heart of my planning. Sure, I enjoy all the pretty papers and pens, all the schedules and routines - but my end goal is simply doing my best for my family, thereby honoring God's amazing generosity. I can make all this planning sound so complex, but really, it's as simple as that. 

And on that note, I will wrap up ... but I will be doing a few follow-up posts in the near future. I'd like to talk more about office hours and making space in the schedule for planning. (Planning to plan!) Also, it's time for a planner check-in - what's working, what's not? It's been several months since our Planner Party! And I have not forgotten about updating my Themes & Plans series, either ... May and June are up next and I will have them tweaked before April's end ... promise! :) 

Well my friends, thanks so much for stopping by today and checking in. I hope you are doing well! How is your April going so far? Has Spring sprung where you live? We're having lovely weather here at the moment - and you would know that if I took time to update our nature blog, lol! I'll do that soon, too ... now that winter has passed and we finally have things to talk about!

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


Happy 5th Birthday, Archie & Ollie!

Archie and ollie in sink

Hello my friends, and Happy Monday! This is my favorite picture of our cats - they were so little then!

It's hard to believe our kitties are five years old ... boy, has time flown! I hear it is also "National Pet Day" so this is a great time to talk about pets ...

Do you have any? Are you a cat or dog person? What kinds of pets did you have growing up?

I like to say I grew up with dogs, never realizing I was actually a cat person! But the truth is, I love all animals. I really do. When I was very young, like four or five maybe, we had a large tankful of fish and then I got a pretty green and yellow budgee at Grant's Department Store ("Gypsy" I named her). And as a pre-teen I had a couple of hamsters, "Cuddles" and "Pumpkin" ... fluffy little things who each lived a scant year or more.

But when I was seven my folks took my brother and I into Boston one Sunday afternoon, to a breeder of Cairn Terriers, and that was where we got our first dog, "Duncan" - or, Sir Duncan of Cork, as was his official name. ;) He was a sweet little dog, if a bit of a curmudgeon at times ... and boy, did he think he was about 20 sizes bigger than he actually was! My mother had grown up with Cairn Terriers (Penny and Pat were still alive when I was a baby) so it was kind of a nice family tradition. Several years later, when I was in 7th grade, we adopted another dog from a local rescue shelter. This was Natasha (or Tasha as we called her) and she was a small/medium-size, black-and-white terrier mix of some sort - a mutt, or so we thought. Years later we found out she was actually a Portuguese Water Dog! (Though perhaps not purebred.) What was funny was Tasha LOVED water. We would visit my aunt and uncle's Maine camp in the summer and Tasha would run into the water, leap onto the dock to shake and then jump right back into the lake. She was a dear little dog, a real "nana," always taking care of us. :)

Duncan passed away when I was in college and then Tasha several years later when Bookworm was a baby. Aside from a stray pit bull ("Annie") we took care of for a short time, they were the only dogs I ever owned, and I remember them both so fondly. 

So cats didn't come into the picture until 1990! My folks found a newborn kitten left behind by a stray mother cat and decided to keep him. He was named "Timothy" and was a gorgeous cream-colored cat with taupe and brown markings and pretty blue eyes. Timmy definitely had a little Siamese in him! And he was very much my dad's cat. This happened while I was away at school and it all seemed a bit surreal to me! We were a dog-and-cat family now? Wow! A year or so later, my folks were throwing a graduation party for my brother and me (he from high school, me from college) when we came to discover the aforementioned stray mother cat had delivered yet another litter of kittens - this time, beneath our family room addition!

Fast forward a bit - we kept all the kittens and the mother cat because, A. it was hard to find them good homes and B. we kinda fell in love with them. And because Mama Kitty did NOT get along with Timmy (and vice versa), when Bill and I married, we took the small feline family with us to our tiny 1-bedroom house in the woods. I jokingly called them my "dowry!" 

Early readers of my blog (going 10 years back) might remember our original cats - Mama, Midget, Smokey, Penny and Patty - because I blogged about them a lot. They were mostly black and white, though Penny was calico. They all lived good long lives and were wonderful pets. I enjoyed them so much and at some point though the years I came to realize, I was in fact, a cat person! When our last cat, Smokey, passed away at 20 years old in 2011, we thought we might take a little break from pet ownership ... but that idea didn't last long!

In August of 2011, we found ourselves ready - eager! - to adopt new cats, and this time I wanted orange cats or "marmalades" as they are sometimes called. Mostly because they would look quite different from our original cats. Well, after a brief search - keeping track of available rescue kittens online, orange cats are fairly rare - we found two gorgeous marmalades at a nearby feline rescue organization. They were four months old and had been part of a litter of nine abandoned kittens found in an alley. One visit was all it took - Archibald (nee "Jerry") and Oliver (nee "Josh") were absolutely endearing. Archie was all over us, a real little fireball ... whereas Ollie was quieter, laying happily in our arms. They've stayed pretty true to their original impressions these five years later!

Archie and Ollie 5 Years Old

Oliver (in the foreground) is still our "gentle giant" ... he's a marshmallow, just so sweet and quiet. A bit shy, he tends to stick to out-of-the-way corners during the day, but you can always find him somewhere near Crackerjack. He is very much CJ's cat. :) Archie, on the other hand, is what we call our "alpha" ... he definitely thinks he is in charge around here! And he is very much "Mama's cat." He can be found wherever I am through the day - right in the mix of things - and he sleeps at my feet every night.

They are such good cats - absolute loves - and we are looking forward to many more happy years with these fellas. So on this special day, I'd like to say:

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, ARCHIE & OLLIE!

Treats twice today and lots of belly rubs ear scratches!

Thanks so much for joining me today, friends and indulging me in this little bit of pet nostalgia! I know I've been very slow at blogging lately, but that's just how I need to roll at the moment. (Could I beg a few prayers if you have a moment? I'd appreciate it so much and please know I think of you all and pray for you, too!)

I am defintely not giving up on my space here - though I am fairly active over on Facebook and now Instagram, too. I do have lots of post ideas and drafts in queue and when I have time I will be sharing my thoughts and discoveries and queries with you all here. But for now, I will wish you all a lovely evening and hope to see you here again sometime soon!


Announcing the Giveaway Winners!

Happy Friday, my friends! Happy April, too!

Today I'd like to announce the winners of my "Happy 10 Years Blogging Giveaway!" I picked them randomly (using an online number generator) and below are the names of the 11 ladies who won a giveaway prize. I will be in touch with each of you soon to arrange mailing details. :)

I want to thank everyone who took the time to comment and tell me a little about how you found my blog and what kinds of posts you like to read best. I am so grateful to have such kind and supportive readers! My hope is always that this blog is a place of warm welcome and that my posts are of interest to some folks!

I though am pleased to be able to name so many winners in this giveaway, as always, I wish I could send something to everyone ... and, that said ... I will be contacting each of you who left me a comment in my Celebration post to ask for your mailing address ... I'd like to pop a little "spring note" in the mail if I may! :)

Ok, without further ado, here are the 11 giveaway winners ...

Baby's Morningtime book and CD - Kellylynn Vega

The Life Giving Home - Irina

Collection of children's books - Terri

Montessori & Oak Meadow books - Amanda

Break in at the Basilica and Lost in Peter's Tomb - Maria R

Seashore journal and sticker book - Jess McCarthy

Organic baby food books - Grace

Children's Books of Prayers & Blessings - Cassidy

Little Boys' Bible Book - Sarah Reed

Golden Children's Bible - Teresa in Ohio

Downton Abbey DVD - Sara R.

 ***

Well my friends, I thank you all for taking part in my blog's birthday celebration! This was so much fun! And to all who stop by, I thank you for spending a little of your time here with me. I will be back again before long with a new post, but for now I wish you all a wonderful weekend. Take care of yourselves and your loved ones and I will see you here again very soon!


Our Happy Easter Sunday!

Sunny easter flowers

Alleluia, my friends! Happy Easter! I hope you've all had a lovely start to this beautiful new season. :)

Today I'd like to share some of the pictures from our Easter weekend ... but first, I'd like to remind you all that today's the last day to enter my "Happy 10 Year Blogging" giveaway! I'll be drawing the winning names tomorrow morning! Here is the post with all the details ... :)

Now, onto the celebration pictures!

Easter 2016 41

The Alleluia has returned! This little plaque (which we made several years ago), gets hidden away on Ash Wednesday - just as the word disappears from our Lenten liturgy - and then makes its triumphant reappearance on Easter Sunday, announcing to us all:

Alleluia! He is Risen!

Easter flower shopping

This was a last minute run for Easter flowers from, where else but Trader Joe's - which has the best cut-flower prices! We entertain often and I always make a note to stop by TJ's for flowers. Today's "haul" included flowering branches, roses, tulips, carnations, and Gerbera daisies. (I also made a note in my gardening planner to grow more cutting flowers this year!)

(Another note: my friend (and longtime reader) Tanya had a great suggestion - that I do a post on family gatherings and entertaining! And I would LOVE to do that! It is certainly something we do often (host family gatherings and fairly large parties) and I really enjoy the whole process. So a post on that subject will be forthcoming!)

Back to this post, though ... a little Good Friday morning activity:

Egg hunt 3

Keeping the younger boys busy with a word puzzle egg hunt. It was meant to be an outdoor event, but since the day was quite rainy we hid the eggs all over the first floor of the house. This was an activity I set up for Earlybird to do with his therapist but Little Bear, naturally, insisted on taking part!

Easter baskets

On Easter eve, the boys' baskets were ready for the eggs ... no natural dyes this year, as much as I'd hoped to try them! Next year for sure ...

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And here we have dining tables set up in the sunroom - we welcomed 20 for dinner!

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A fun veggie basket I made up - Bill helped me with the cabbage dip dish!

Easter mantle

We stashed desserts in the living room before it was time to serve. I love how our grapevine cross blooms with life once Easter Sunday has dawned. :)

Easter 2016 4

Ok, funny story. So ... I made a lemon cake for my Bookworm (home from BC on Easter break) because he LOVES lemon cake. Only, I was running out of time ... so homemade became "Duncan Hines." And then, the frosting wouldn't cover the whole cake! So I decided to use Peeps ("borrowed" from the boys' baskets) to hide the skimpy frosting job!

And voila, c'est la Peep Cake! ;)

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Tulips - not my favorite flowers, but boy do they "shine" at Easter!

Easter 2016 39

A favorite Easter decoration, hung between the kitchen and dining room.

Easter 2016 9

And here we have some (lots of) family photos, starting with Little Bear who, as you can probably tell, was a little shy at first, as his home filled up with people much larger than him! (Note how he's clutching the hem of his shirt ...)

Easter 2016 2

He needed to spend a little time up on his mama before he was ready to mingle!

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And here we have most of my family, in my kitchen, on Easter Sunday. I can't get much happier than this. :)

Easter 2016 56

Earlybird did really well, even though large gatherings can be a challenge for his sensitivities. He was really looking forward to Easter Sunday! We allowed him to use the TV in our bedroom throughout the day so when he got a little overwhelmed (by noise, smells, expectations, whatever) he could retreat upstairs for a bit.

Easter 2016 21]

The spiced orange rum punch, served in my grandmother's punch bowl, was a hit - though our initial plan was to serve a really neat rhubarb cocktail. Rhubarb is so seasonal for early spring! Unfortunately our frozen (garden-grown) rhubarb defrosted in a rather sludgey way PLUS I realized I was out of sugar late on Holy Saturday. Eep! So this became our "signature cocktail" for the day. Thank goodness for Pinterest! It was pretty yummy I must say. :)

And now for some family photos ... how I love these people!

Easter 2016 18

Easter 2016 46

Mum and dad easter 2016

Easter 2016 20

Easter 2016 24

Easter 2016 16

Easter 2016 1

Little Bear needed a few breaks, too ...

Easter 2016 59

Trains inside ...

Easter 2016 50

Trucks outside!

Easter 2016 25

Thumbs up for a good dinner, Mom!

Easter 2016 57

Enjoying Easter dinner with three of my four boys. <3

Easter 2016 51

Through the family room window ... I love how bright the day was, the sunroom is such a joy on days like this!

Easter 2016 31

Mum and Matt catching up ... my brother had to work on Easter but was able to join us for dinner!

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Little Bear, avidly watching the "volcano" egg my brother gave him for Easter. Have I mentioned how much LB loves volcanos? :)

Easter 2016 32

Bill working on his Spring Blessings egg ...

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In the tradition of sharing our thankfulness at Thanksgiving (on autumn leaf shapes) I made up manila paper eggs for a similar activity. After dinner we all wrote out what we love best about Spring and then I read them aloud as we savored coffee and dessert. My family is very kind about my crazy little ideas!

And here's the desserts table ...

Easter 2016 33

That pineapple-upside down cake in the foreground was baked by my Uncle Karl and it was SO delicious. And I can tell you it was equally delicious the next morning with a cup of coffee ...

Easter 2016 60

Coffee was served in my grandmother's Irish tea cups ...

Easter 2016 34

A close-up of the pretty paper plates I picked up at Home Goods ... a little bigger than a cocktail size plate so it can hold more than just one dessert!

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A sugar cookie Peep bunny!

Radishes in teapot

I couldn't decide how to use the beautiful radishes I picked up at Whole Foods so I plopped them in a teapot - and I think they looked pretty cute! (They were placed back in the fridge at the end of the day.)

Well my friends, I think that's all I have to share today ... I hope you enjoyed this peek into our Easter and I thank you for taking the time to read through this rather long post! How was your Easter? And how is your March leaving you today ... like a lion or a lamb? Very mild here today (near 70) but then cold weather swoops in - perhaps flurries, I hear? - for the start of what T.S. Eliot called, "the cruelest month." The weather has been quite crazy lately so I guess we'll have to wait and see ...

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


Celebrating 10 Years of Blogging! (and 11 Giveaways!)

10 years blogging thank you!

Hello, and Happy Tuesday, my friends!

Well I can hardly believe this, but it was 10 years ago TODAY that I wrote my very first post here at By Sun and Candlelight! I remember being so nervous to make this leap, taking my private life and making parts of it public ...

Who would read this? Would I have time? Would I embarrass myself (or my family)? Was it even safe?

But boy am I glad I got up the nerve, because this has been such a wonderful adventure! I love chatting with you all here - always wishing we were really sitting in my living room with pots of tea and lots of books and goodies to show and tell about - like planners and journals and nature notes and cookbooks and favorite resources and of course, our precious kids! I've loved meeting new friends through this blog and hearing from readers who've been with me from the beginning (or thereabouts). As a blogger, I've enjoyed being a little more creative than I might otherwise would be - and being curious, testing out new ideas and exploring familiar passions. Reporting in, and hearing back. Sharing pictures and memories and goals and my various attempts at this project or that. Maybe a new way to celebrate a season or a different way of keeping track of those daily to-dos?

But perhaps most of all I LOVE that with this blog, I have a very thorough family scrapbook of the past 10 years! I love reading back over all the memories ...

When I started here, this is what my boys (only three of them then) looked like:

Boys 2006

(And now these little guys are 20, 16 and 14 years old ... while Little Bear will be 3 in May!)

So, today I'd like to bless my readers with a wee bit of the joy I myself have found through blogging. One of the ways blogging has blessed me is in finding and sharing wonderful resources - so here I have a set of 11 such resources, and I'm offering them all as giveaways! If you are interested, take a look at the picture below and then leave me a comment telling me which numbers (further described below) you are intrested in. I'll choose a winner for each giveaway from the names of those interested.

(So, say you like #s 1, 4 and 7 - I will enter your name when drawing for each of those "prizes.")

All I ask is that you let me know how you found me and what you've enjoyed seeing here at my blog - and what you'd like to see more of in the future! This will help me shape upcoming posts ... I have a crazy number of ideas but I love getting a little "direction" when I can. :)

Ok, so now, here are the giveaways ...

11 giveaways for 10th birthday!

⭐️ No. 1 The Baby's Good Morning Book & Baby's Morningtime CD  ... my all-time favorite baby's book, a collection of nursery rhymes and poems, beautifully illustrated in sunwashed shades by Kay Charao. The CD features all these poems set to music, sung by Judy Collins. These are second copies I came to own unexpectedly and would love to pass on ...

⭐️ No. 2 The Life Giving Home by Sally and Sarah Clarkson ... a new book I purchased recently, but have not had time to read, and really want to bless someone else with what I can see is a lovely and life-affirming (home-affirming) book. I'll borrow a copy at a later date ... when I have more time to read!

⭐️ No. 3 A collection of favorite children's books - some of our go-to reads of which we have extra copies to spare! I'd love for other children to enjoy them as much as we have/do. (Click on the picture to get a better look.)

⭐️ No. 4 Montessori Play-and-Learn Handbook and The Heart of Learning (K-3) which is an introduction to Oak Meadow in the youngest grades. I have extra copies of the latter and I no longer need the former, so I'd like for someone else to enjoy them!

⭐️ No. 5 Break-In at the Basilica and Lost in Peter's Tomb ... fun mystery novels for kids set at the Vatican! My older boys enjoyed reading these many years ago (there was a time when they were fascinated by Vatican architecture), and now we'd like to pass them on to another family.

⭐️ No. 6 This is a sweet little journal I picked up on clearance - a soft, beribboned, shell-print cover protecting a tidy notebook lined in blue and red. I think this might make a handy seaside diary! The Seashore Sticker Book was never used by my boys and I think it would make a nice companion to the journal ... a way to inspire some summer nature adventures, perhaps?

⭐️ No. 7 Organic Baby & Toddler Cookbook and La Leche League's Whole Foods for Babies and Toddlers ... two really great healthy-eating cookbooks for those precious early years. I'd love to pass them on to another organic-minded mama!

⭐️ No. 8 A Child's Book of Blessings and A Child's Book of Prayers ... I forgot we even had these! They turned up recently and I would love to share them with another family. They are very pretty little board books filled with sweet words of faith and grace and charming illustrations by Susan Wheeler of Holly Pond Hill fame. :)

⭐️ No. 9 A Little Boy's Bible Storybook (for Mothers and Sons) ... I read this many years ago with my older boys but have since moved on to other resources for my younger boys. This is a colorful and easy-to-use book of bible stories for little boys (with suggestions for follow-up talks with mom).

⭐️ No. 10 The Golden Press Children's Bible ... I'm sure many of you have copies of this beloved, old-fashioned children's bible - we have three or four copies, including both Bill's and mine from when we were young! I'd love to offer one of my extra copies to another family to enjoy with their children!

⭐️ No. 11 Downton Abbey, Season 1 DVD ... my dad just gifted us with a set of seasons 1-3 so this is an extra I'd love to pass along! Plus a pretty bound notebook which would make a neat little journal for all manner of things - daily gratitude, a running to-do list, a shopping notebook for your purse?

🌞

Whenever I do a giveaway, I always wish I could name more than one "winner" and now I can! But, why the number 11 you might wonder? Well, there's one giveaway for each year of blogging ... plus one "to grow on." :)

So, my friends - I hope you are excited about these giveaways! And I hope you'll comment and let me know which of the 11 you are interested in. (You can "vote" for all, or one, or however many you'd like! Just name the numbers in your comment.) You are also, of course, more than welcome to comment even if you have no interest whatsoever in these giveaways! I'm just hoping all of these items will find good homes, and I know there are many such homes to be found with my readers. Let me know what you think, when you can ... drop me a note, cast a vote ... I will be taking a break from blogging till after Easter, but will announce the winners on Friday, April 1st. So spread the word if you will and of course, best of luck!

And as always, THANK YOU, so much, for being my readers ... my listeners ... and such very kind friends. I wish each of you a wonderful Easter and am keeping every one of you in my prayers.

In Peace,

~ Dawn


Friday Bits and Bobs ~ Domestic Bliss

Tea puttering st. patrick's day

Good morning, my friends and Happy Friday! I hope your week is going well. We're still slogging through a cold (flu?) virus of some sort here. Thankfully, Little Bear is MUCH better and aside from a bit of a runny nose and occasional cough, seems fine. My mum is also feeling better, thank God. Earlybird, however, has started coughing ... and I have come down with it as well. Ugh. Its been a while since I've been sick but last night's fever was a real doozy! Very kindly Bill has told me to stay in bed today and he's working from home. So here I am. In bed, surrounded by tissues and cough drops and cats and my giant mug of tea. :)

Anyhoo, enough of that - I am here to share a few photos, just some little moments from yesterday. As you can see I'm having fun with text bubbles again! (Click on the image if you can't read the text!) Above is a glimpse of my workspace on the kitchen counter. I'm really trying to pare down what I have out at any one time, not that you could tell that from the picture! In an upcoming post I'd like to talk more about our home keeping binders and why I have the daybook back on my counter in place of my homemade planner ...

Tea roses with blurb

I love hanging herbs and flowers in my kitchen window, and I absolutely adore these tiny yellow tea roses, leftover from my cousin's baby shower. I thought I'd try drying them and using the petals in a homemade potpourri - perhaps blended with lavender and chamomile or other herbs from the garden. In the meantime, I think they look very pretty hanging over my kitchen sink!

Archie sampling tea with blurb

Now that the weather is warming up, I love sitting in the sunroom every chance I get. Here I was working out an Easter menu ... must check in with Mum to get her thoughts ... but meanwhile, Archie helped himself to my tea. The silly thing.

Tablecloth with blurb

A new tablecloth for the aforementioned sunroom. Aren't these colors gorgeous? :)

Tea break with blurb

Rest assured, this picture was taken before the Archie shot! This is an old mug from my grandparents' house and it seemed rather fitting for St. Patrick's Day. :)

Victorias on bureau with blurb

And here we have a whole bunch of April issues of Victoria magazine - dating back to the 90s! I set them on my bureau for inspiration, hoping to find some time to page through them ... I may get my wish later today. :)

Well my friends, I hope you enjoyed these snippets of my day ... it was a rather quiet day spent at home, nursing Little Bear's cold, enjoying the sunlight and open windows. Spring feels so close ... and yet, New England is expecting a snowstorm late Sunday (the Vernal Equinox, of all days!). Fingers crossed we don't get too much and that the mild weather coming next week takes care of any white stuff lickety-split! I'm hoping for nice weather, Easter Sunday ...

Thanks so much for stopping by, everyone, and I wish you all a wonderful weekend!

See you here again every soon ...


When Plans are Not Perfect (The Last Days of Lent ...)

Lenten cross project near done

I happened to notice our Lenten cross this morning and - not that I haven't been looking at it every day for over a month, but - today it caught me by surprise. Because, oh my - we're nearly there! There are only a few (nine in fact) purple post-its left to pull off! Easter Sunday is truly, right around the corner ...

And doesn't the cross look pretty, with its flowers, butterflies and golden letters slowly being revealed? I'm leaving the very center post-it for last as that will uncover the letter "E" and on Holy Saturday the whole happy message will be announced ... :)

Lenten cross nearly done 2

Now friends, I'd like to confess that the plans I made up to go along with each post-it were at times a bit ... erm ... ambitious. Some days were just more hectic than I anticipated, and not everything came to pass as I'd envisioned. But such is life, right? Plans can be great (awesome, in fact), but LIFE happens and we must remember that, ultimately, we're not in charge. And flexibilty is a virtue, I believe ... or if it isn't, it should be! ;)

All kidding aside, I do think it's vital to stay flexible and try not to get frustrated, when planning any and all areas of life. This is something I have to work at, constantly. I'm a planner, as you know. I make a lot of plans - I LOVE them - but I love my family even more. When things get off-track, it's important that I check my disappointment - to remember my intentions were good, to remember the end goal - and to adjust my thoughts (plans!) accordingly.

Lenten cross project nearly done

For example, I had something a bit more "hands on" sketched out for today but - with a very sick Little Bear who was up half the night - I knew my plan would have to be changed up a bit. A quiet read-aloud and a coloring page quickly printed off the internet would have to suffice. And tomorrow's "Irish Tea" may not happen as I originally thought either (my mum is also sick), so I'll simplify that day's plan, still keeping in mind the Feast and our family's intentions. Oh and Monday's sunrise prayer? The day after we hosted a large party AND lost an hour of sleep? Well, an early rising was simply NOT in the cards. (As you might imagine!) Instead, I thanked my loved ones for all their help and hard work and encouraged the children to do the same. (Who can you thank today for their help?) So the sunrise activity will be rescheduled on another day in the near future ... maybe even Easter Monday?

One good thing is I've kept that master outline to myself (tucked away on my clipboard) and I write each post-it out before bed ... so I've been able to tweak our plans daily. And if a day's proposed plan looks to be an ill-fit, I can simplify on the spot: Read a book from our liturgical bookshelf. Do something nice for somone else. Sit quietly for five minutes and think of what makes you grateful.

Admittedly, I put a lot of time and thought into those plans, and I tried to keep the activities simple and meaningful. But the point of our Lenten journey (and all of my "plans") was not to keep busy and pull off 40+ crafts and activities, but instead, to slow down and focus our energy on a purposeful Lent ... sharing mercy, developing generosity, accepting responsibility and increasing tolerance. Being mindful of how others live, recognizing their needs, and respecting our place in the world around us.

My hope - or end-goal, if you will - is that by lighting a spark of compassion, we're tending the fire of Christ in our hearts. And come Easter Sunday, we may shine all the brighter! Plan or no plan, that's what we're all aiming for, I believe.

Well, my friends, this post went on a bit longer than I planned, but I thank you, as always for reading. I'm grateful you spent a little of your day here at "my place!"

Enjoy the rest of your Wednesday, and I will see you here again very soon!


Happy Hosting: A Book-Themed Baby Shower!

Shower 38

Hello my friends and Happy Monday! :)

So you know how I've been a bit MIA lately? And my posting has been a bit slow? Well, we've been very (happily) busy here over the past couple of weeks, working towards a special family project! There has been LOTS of spring cleaning - as in, my house has never been cleaner! - and crafting and preparing for a very special baby shower - my cousin Kate is due with her first baby in May! 

I had such fun helping my aunt and cousin and mum get everything ready - and yesterday was THE day! And oh, what a beautiful day it was! Bright and mild, with that hint of spring around the corner ... I would love to share some TONS of pictures with you if I may. This is a very long post (even by my standards) but I get a little carried away when it comes to entertaining ... and babies ... and books!

So the menu was all tied into children's books, as were the decorations and even the invitations and favors (library cards!), and I had such fun setting up little book corners around the house. This was a great shower theme, but would also make a nice birthday party for a child who loves reading and/or trips to the library! (And honestly, I could see this done on an adult level as well ... so many books feature food in some way.) 

Shower (kara's) 2

 Here is the foyer table, set up with springy things and a basket of favors. I had fun arranging this little tableau! In addition to books "reading rubber duckies" figured into the decor ...

Shower 37

(My cousin and her husband are both librarians!)

Shower 19

And here are the lovely ladies of the day: hostesses Kara and Auntie Marcia, flanking mama-to-be, Kate!

Shower (Kara's) 3

The living room mantel featured a farm theme. My aunt and mum made the garland - pages from an old children's book about farm animals pinned to a twine "clothesline." I arranged our wooden farm animals and several board books on the mantelpiece above.

Here's a closer look ...

Shower 2

:)

The front windowsill featured another fun book banner made by Mum and Marcia, as well as lots of favorite hardcovers ... beloved titles by Gyo Fujikawa, Elsa Beskow, Tasha Tudor, Will Moses, etc. 

Shower windowsill

I also nestled our wooden elements in amongst the books to lend a pop of color.

A side window held more wooden animals (barely seen in this picture, tucked behind the forsythia) as well as favorite books about owls and foxes.

Shower 3

You can just see the corner of the notebook I used to write down Kate's gifts!

Shower 45

Yet another window, filled with more favorite books! (Can you imagine how excited I was when Marcia and Kara told me the theme of the shower?!)

I'm jumping ahead a bit, but desserts and coffee were set out in the dining room ...

Shower (kara's) 1

Here are some of the goodies matched with their books ...

Shower 31

Sweet (delicious) cupcakes = If You Give a Cat a Cupcake.

Shower 32

Fresh, fruity salad = Each Peach, Pear, Plum (a book I read to Kate and Kara when they were little!).

Shower 33

Madeleines for Madeline ... 

Shower 30

Coffee and tea on the sideboard in the background ...

Now, out to the sunroom ... :)

Shower (kara's) 7

A table spread with delicious appetizers (my cousin, who works in catering is a fabulous cook!) and more books - a corn dip (Raccoons and Ripe Corn),  tea sandwiches - cucumber-lemon and chicken salad (Miss Spider's Tea Party), a crudite platter (The Carrot Seed, The Secret Garden, Eating the Alphabet) and a cheese board (The Stinky Cheese Man).

And here's the bar ...

Shower 17

Plenty of wine, water, soda and a tasty punch ....

Shower 40

Aka, Lemonade for Sale. :)

Shower 4

It was such a bright day, I loved how everything sparkled in the sunlight!

Shower 18

Rubber duckies in a bowl full of marbles and water ... cute!

Shower 51

The rooms filled out nicely as guests arrived ...

Shower 35

My mum (Aunt Mo to Kate and Kara) and my Aunt Pat, catching up ... 

Shower 42

The adjoining family room was a great place for cocktails and conversation (and cartoons, if you were so inclined).

Shower 5

Books here, too - more favorite hardcovers, standing up on desks and on the windowsill.

And what did Little Bear think about all this?

Shower 8

Well, his house was filled with women who were not Mama and there were a lot of things he couldn't touch ... but luckily his big brother Crackerjack had him playing outside for most of the day!

Now into the kitchen ...

Shower (kara's) 5

Another buffet here ...

Shower 16

Mini quiches for Green Eggs and Ham ...

Shower 15

(Three Little) Pigs in Blankets ...

Shower 12

Sweet Chili Meatballs (Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs) and a pretty bowl of mixed nuts (Woody, Hazel and Little Pip).

(Also not shown - Honey Almond Baked Brie for Winnie the Pooh. Soooo yummy!)

And then it was time for presents! We all gathered in the living room to watch Kate open her gifts ...

Shower 20

Shower 25

Shower 21

Shower 23

Shower 28

Shower 29

A sweet stuffed elephant from the daddy-to-be's mom, with a photo of said daddy holding his own elephant many years ago! 

Speaking of ...

Shower 36

The parents-to-be, Kate and Paul!

This was SUCH a fun day, and I was so thrilled to be part of it! And I thank you all for taking the time to read and let me share my pictures. I would love it if all of you would keep Kate and Paul and their little one in your prayers? 

And you know what? We got our house super clean and now it all feels so nice. I have resolved to keep things as close to this level as possible ... at least through Easter, lol! Another curious thing - a couple of days before the shower, I packed up all my planning materials and placed them in a closet. All I kept out was a clipboard with the to-do list. I needed to be laser-focused on shower prep! So now I'm eager to get my things back to the command center - though I'm loathe to add clutter to these nice clear surfaces. I do need my stuff ... only ... I'm really wondering exactly WHAT needs to come back out. What did I miss? What planning tools are essential and which are extraneous? How can I organize things as I bring them out of "hiding?" Clearly, this all bears some thought!

So stay tuned, and as always, I thank you so much for stopping by. I will see here again very soon!


Seasonal Food: Special for Rose Sunday!

Rose pie 1

Happy Monday, my friends! I hope your week is off to a great start!

As some of you saw me "tease" on Facebook, I made a special dessert for Laetare (or Rose) Sunday yesterday ... and I'd like to tell you all about it! Because not only was it yummy, but it was also fairly easy to make and came out rather pretty. :)

Now, I've made custards before on Rose Sunday (the fourth Sunday in Lent, also known as Mothering Sunday in Europe) but this is the first time I've made a custard "tart." I first saw the clever apple "roses" on Pinterest a while back and thought - how pretty - but when I came across the recipe for an Apple Custard Tart of Roses I knew it would be perfect for this particular Sunday!

The crust was made from a blend of almond meal and AP flour, as well as confectioner's sugar, vanilla, orange peel, an egg and unsalted butter. I pressed it into a deep dish pie plate, but I think I'd use a shallower pan next time. )The custard didn't fill this pan to the top.)

Rose pie 3

I placed it in the fridge while I set about making the custard ...

Rose pie 2

More goodness in here - egg yolks (I use organic ingredients whenever possible), vanilla, sugar, orange peel, whole milk, cornstarch and Moscato wine. I find custard can be tricky but this cooked up very quickly - once it was thickened a bit I set it aside to cool and turned my attention to the apples.

Rose pie 5

This seemed like it was going to be so much harder than it actually was! Basically, you use apple peels to form rosebuds. The recipe called for Pink Lady apples which I was able to find at my market and they were very pretty indeed.

Rose pie 6

I had to have Bill help me though, as I had trouble wielding our peeler. He was a great sport and added all these roses to the custard tart for me!

Rose pie 7

Rose pie 8

Once the pie was full of "roses" (note the two that came from McIntosh apples, lol - we ran out of Pink Ladies!), we brushed them with warm apricot jam. 

Rose pie 9

(If you're thinking that's a kiddie paint brush, you'd be right. It was new, I promise! I am in dire need of a few kitchen tools, one being a pastry brush!)

The tart was popped into the oven to bake for 40 minutes ... and BOY did the house smell amazing! I had boys coming out of the woodwork to wonder what on earth was in the oven. (It even got the college boy home on break out of bed!)

Rose pie 11

And here it is all done!

Rose pie 12

I think they look like antique roses ... a very pretty effect!

The best part of course was its taste - which was wonderful! The custard was sweet and creamy, with the tang of the wine and freshness of the orange. And the crust was thick and tender, really lovely. As for the apple roses, I think next time I will use strips with more flesh than peel - they'll be easier to shape and softer looking like those in the original recipe. All in all though, this is a keeper - a really nice recipe to add to our seasonal menus! I love this for Rose Sunday for its symbolism, but as I mentioned above, it would also be nice for Easter or Mother's Day, or even a summer garden party.

This recipe is a great example of seasonal eating - not necessarily in its ingredients (though apples can be stored year 'round), but in the real spirit of the meal. I am so pleased to add this to our Early Spring repertoire. Another favorite alongside Good Friday's hot cross buns and St. Patrick's brown bread and St. Joseph's homemade donuts and the Vernal Equinox's pasta primavera ... etc.!

Well my friends, I hope you all enjoy the rest of your day ... I am mostly staying off social media until I see last night's episode of Downton Abbey - hopefully I'll catch up tonight, though I must admit there's a big part of me that DOESN'T want to watch ... because if I don't watch, then it can never be over ... right? ;)

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


On Meal Plans & Seasonal Eating

Menu planning 1

Hello my friends and Happy Friday! I hope this post finds you well ...

Today I'd like to talk a little about menu planning. I'm wondering when you all do it ... once a month? Once a week? On the fly? And where do you make note of your meal plans ... in a planner? On a white board? On your phone?

I've been posting our dinner menus on my sidebar for a couple of months now, but you may have noticed I fell behind recently. For one thing - well, I got lazy, lol - but also, I'm trying to keep our meals rather simple throughout Lent, so it's kind of the same menus over and over again. That said, tonight our Bookworm comes home for his spring break! #happymotherdance! So I'm putting aside "simple" for savory and satisfying over the next week. I have planned a few of his favorite meals as well as a couple of new recipes I've been waiting to try when he's home.

Friday: spinach-cheese ravioli, tossed salad, artichoke bruschetta

Saturday: takeout from our local pizza place

Sunday: beef & ale stew with cheddar-mustard dumplings, rose-vanilla custard

Monday: American Chop Suey, roasted winter veg, garlic bread

Tuesday: cookout (cheeseburgers), pasta salad, green salad, rhubarb grunt

Wednesday: homemade calzones & pizzas, zucchini tots

Thursday: slow cooker cashew chicken over rice

Friday: lemon-roasted shrimp with asparagus and linguine 

Saturday: beef pot pie from local farm, roasted potatoes & carrots, biscuits, lemon cake

Sunday: leftovers!

**

Now, while we're talking about menus .. a few people have asked me to write about seasonal meal planning and I would love to investigate this further in a future post. (Three of my favorite things - food, seasons and planning!) But since Little Bear's nap is stretching on, I'll share a few thoughts on the topic today ... :)

Eating with the seasons - that is to say, using produce that is at its peak and available locally - is always a goal of ours, because it makes solid economic and environmental sense. But to my mind, it's also the kind of food that truly nourishes both body and soul. And this goes beyond fruits and vegetables - special seasonal meals figure into this, too! But we'll get into that in bit ...

Obviously it's much easier to eat seasonally at certain times of the year than others, especially if you live in colder climates. There are strategies one can employ, of course; with careful planning and preserving and such, there are ways to stick to a seasonal schedule. I'm certainly no expert in this area, but I'm always eager to learn and do better!

First up would be understanding what fruits and vegetables are available in your area and when ... and where you can get them! Visiting local farms with year-round markets is a great place to start. You can keep tabs on what's available and strike up conversations with the folks who run the market. They may have a schedule they can share with you so you'll have a rough idea of availability and can make notes on your home calendar. (Even if the farm is closed, check their website - many post seasonal calendars online.) Lots of farms these days also offer shares for the growing season - you pay a subscription for a preferred portion (family, single, etc.) and each week you take home your "share" of the farm's bounty. We've done this several times and it is SUCH a fun experience plus it's great to support local farmers.

Also easy - especially if you're on Pinterest - is to just type in the search term, "seasonal eating" and up will pop many charts and references for you to work with when making your plans. Speaking of, here's a neat graphic I found in one of my old journals - aka old-school "pinning." ;) It's a handy kind of list to keep in the meal planning section of my home keeping binder.

Menu planning 5

(Of course it goes without saying - home gardening is a fantastic way to eat seasonally! Eating something you've grown, picked fresh from the garden is perhaps the best form of seasonal eating - in every sense! Not everyone has the space or desire to do so, but I think growing your own food is a wonderful learning experience for old and young alike.)

 In addition to using peak produce, I like to plan meals that are in keeping with the "spirit" of the season. This is easy enough for anyone to do really - just start by asking yourself (and your family): what are meals that appeal to you in each season? Jot things down as they come to you - in a loose seasonal outline. Maybe "applesauce" in autumn, "clambakes" in summer, "strawberry-rhubarb pie" in spring and "pot roast" for a cold winter's day. That kind of thing.

Now, your food lists might not resemble mine at all, because A. we may live in different parts of the world, so our growing seasons are slightly (or perhaps vastly) different, and B. seasonal eating is often tied to memory, preference and emotions, which makes it all quite personal! So there are certain foods and meals that really MAKE a season for me and my family - but they may not appeal as much - or at all - to you and yours.

After you exhaust your memories, take a look around for more inspiration. There's the internet of course, but how about good old-fashioned cookbooks? And I mean that quite literally - I find older books tend to focus more on seasonal foods (fresh and preserved) because they were cheaper and plentiful and people were making things on their own more back then. (Ketchup and jam and bread and the like.) Not to mention grocers of long ago were not as diverse as ours are today. Not to say our food system is better today - it's probably not - but it is more convenient.

So unsurprisingly, I tend to collect cookbooks - old and new - that organize their contents in a seasonal way and/or highlight natural foods at their peak. Here are a few ...

Menu planning 2

For fun seasonal menus, my favorite of all time is The Silver Palate Cookbook. There's a bit of nostalgia tied to this particular book - I received it before I was even married, from my high school best friend who knew I was enamored of homekeeping and home cooking. I have read it many times over  - before I had my own kitchen! - simply for the seasonal inspiration. Also, a little story - before I was married I worked as a journalist for a Boston-area newspaper and my kind editors let me try my hand at food writing. Oh, the fun I had with those assignments! Well, I once got to meet the Silver Palate authors, Sheila Lukins and Julie Rosso! And they were really fun and lovely ... though I only stood nearby and smiled when they looked my way, lol. Still, that's a fun memory for me. :)

Anyhoo - here's a look at the book's contents to give you an idea:

Menu planning 3

And I know I don't have to tell you that the library is THE place to turn for cookbooks of all kinds. I do love the books I own but of course, they can be expensive! And they take up precious shelf space. I love to search my library system for cookbooks I've made note of at Barnes & Noble or books that are no longer in print ... then I can photocopy recipes I'd like to try someday.

Magazines, too, are a great place to find seasonal recipes - by their very nature they are seasonal, usually on a monthly or bi-monthly basis. And don't forget your local paper's food pages! We no longer get the daily Boston Globe but when we did I was always finding wonderful regional and seasonal recipes in the Wednesday food pages! (The Sunday Globe has a lovely magazine though, with a regular food column.)

Now, I don't want you to think that every meal I prepare is completely in sync with the season! Hardly, lol. What works for us - not that it's perfect but it gets us by - is a repertoire of our usual meals (things we all like that fit our budget) and then I work in seasonal items as I can. Usually as side dishes or baked goods - banana bread in January, strawberry bread in June ... acorn squash in November, asparagus in May. And there is always an occasional "seasonal" meal, and Sunday dinners are a wonderful time to do this. Holidays and liturgical feast days are also perfect opportunities to embrace seasonal foods! 

I store my recipes mostly on Pinterest these days, but the ones I've clipped from a magazine or newspaper I file in seasonal folders, while precious recipe cards written by my mother or grandmother are kept in a very special box. (I'd like to do a separate post about recipe organization in the future.) When I do my weekly menu plan, I like to look at the calendar as well as my Pinterest boards. I have a board called Feeding the Family, as well as one for Seasonal Fruits & Veggies and yet another for Baking. Recently I started boards for each season and I store links for things particular to those two months. So for example, in my March & April board I have seasonal recipes for St. Patrick's Day and Lent.

 (Another time I'd love to address the topic of preserving foods in season to enjoy later. I'd like to do more of it myself and would love to hear about other folks' experiences.)

What I love about seasonal eating is how it reinforces that connection to the natural rhythm of the year: to everything a season ... and all that. :) Fresh peaches don't taste, smell or feel right in January ... but in July? Oh, what heaven! A beef stew on a blustery Sunday makes me so happy it's winter ... and the same thing goes for a tomato sandwich in summer. It's all about nurturing that awareness of where we are in the year. Such a simple way to increase our family's overall comfort and joy! (All while respecting the earth ... and our household budgets!)

There's so much more to say on this subject, but for right now, here is a lovely passage from a book I'm reading this week. It's called A Sense of Seasons, and it was written in 1964 by Jean Hersey of Connecticut.

Menu planning 4

"Every month has its satisfactions." YES! And on the previous page not shown, "Each month has its passions and plans, its idle dreams and ruminations, even its colors." 

There are so many blessings in every year - and they are all the more beautiful when savored in season. :)

I'm grateful to my friend Kimberly for recommending these books to me - I am just loving them! (They are much like One Woman's Year which I raved about recently.) Mrs. Hersey writes just as I'd like to someday ... narrating her joy in the seasons and sharing her observations of the world around her. 

 Ok, I will wrap up now, I promise ... I've kept you here so very long today. Clearly this is a fun topic for me to discuss! If you have any questions or something I said needs clarification please let me know. I tend to go on (and on) and then run out of time to tighten things up! And of course, I'd love to hear your thoughts on meal planning - seasonal and otherwise!

Enjoy your weekend, my friends and I will see you here again very soon ...


Spring Planning on a Windy March Day ...

Spring planning 1

I'm having such a nice moment here today, I just had to snap a picture and share ... :)

It's been rainy all morning but the skies are starting to brighten and the wind is really picking up ... my boys are all close by, keeping themselves busy with one thing or another. I'm tempted to open that window and let in some fresh air; though it may be brisk, it would be lovely to hear the skittering of leaves and the clear birdsong ringing in the woods ...

So with a little time "to myself," I decided it was a good chance to sit down and do some work in my planner. Today I'm focusing on the pages devoted to Early Spring goals - personal and household. On the lefthand side (not shown, folded under) I've attached a copy of my Early Spring overview, and on the right, I have a listing of the aforementioned goals. To prompt my thoughts I like to look over my calendar and seasonal notes and then decide what things need doing ... and what things I'd like to see done. These often become two separate lists!

Now you all know how much I love planning - seasonal planning in particular! - and lately we've been talking a lot about SPRING planning. (A timely topic indeed, with the Vernal Equinox but 18 days away!) Well, today I want to mention a new resource I've added to my "favorites" shelf - one written by a dear friend and kindred spirit - one I know you will love as much as I do! It is a new publication from Cay Gibson, The Spring Beehive Planner, and it is the second in a series of planners Cay is publishing through her Etsy shop (found here). You can see its lovely cover pictured above in my reading basket. 

(And you might remember back in November, Cay generously donated her Winter Beehive Planner as a prize in our Planner Party giveaway!)

Well I was tickled to receive Cay's package last week and I'm having such fun paging through it! I adore her style, the format and size of the book, and all of Cay's charming suggestions. There are many ideas to consider for ourselves with reminders of what happens when, and pages for personal notes throughout March, April and May. There's also room for meal planning, nature sketches, monthly goals and "prayerful pondering." Reading Cay's planner makes me so excited for Spring, and reminds me that there is time for it all of that seasonal pleasure, if we only make time for it! Thoughtfully, and with balance ... weaving the seasons right into the very fabric of our home and family life. And that's just what seasonal planning should do - remind us of all the comforts and joys a season may offer, and lead us (and our families) gently towards them. 

If you'd like to read more about Cay's planner I hope you'll pop over to her Etsy shop and take a look! March has only just begun and Spring is right around the corner! So the time is right for planning ...

(Well, the time is always right for planning in my mind!)

My friends, thanks so much for stopping by today. Coming up, we'll be talking a lot about Spring things here because you can be sure some of the notes I've made in my planner will end up as posts!

Spring bags, Spring stories, natural Spring cleaning, Spring correspondence, etc. ...

But for now I will leave you all with my thanks for reading and my very best wishes for your evening ahead. I hope your week's going well ... and I hope to see you here again very soon! 

**


Themes & Plans for April (Updated!)

Daffodil 1

(Note: This is an updated version of a post I wrote back in 2008 - I added a bit of content, fixed broken links and revised event dates for the current year, 2016. I hope you enjoy - I've had such fun with this series!)

April brings the primrose sweet, scatters daisies at our feet ...

April also brings us (at long, long last), the first true Spring days: mild, soft, fresh and alive with sound and color. Nature is finally shrugging off its Winter shawl, and showering us with a warm and friendly welcome.

It feels so good to open the windows again, and to leave the house with just a sweater - or none at all! There are so many joys to expore with our children this month, and what follows is but a sampling, just my own thoughts for the season. As always, I'd love to hear yours! But for now, please join me as I consider ...

~ Themes and Plans for April (PDF) ~

Nature

  • Crocus are now in full bloom.
  • Skunk cabbage grows in marshy areas.
  • Bears are waking in the (deep) woods.
  • Daffodils are in their full glory.
  • The skies are gray one minute, blue the next ...
  • ... and so rainbows are quite possible.
  • Forsythia is bursting all over.
  • At night we hear the spring peepers.
  • Mourning cloaks are the first butterflies we'll see.
  • Returning ~ thrush, phoebe, mockingbird and catbird.
  • The smell of wild onions is in the air.
  • There could be a light flurry or two.
  • We'll have rainy days; the rivers will swell.
  • Warm days are more frequent now.
  • Juncos leave; chipmunks re-appear.
  • Humpbacks are migrating back north.
  • Time to check for ticks again.
  • Dandelions are plentiful underfoot.
  • The Full Pink Moon rises on April 22nd.
  • There are buds on the cherry tree ...
  • ... which the sparrows love to nibble.
  • Bluebells appear along the wood's edge.
  • The grass is greening.
  • The goldfinches are brightening.

Folklore

  • Gem: diamond
  • Flower: sweet pea
  • Saying: April showers bring May flowers.

Food

  • chives
  • new potatoes
  • asparagus
  • fiddlehead ferns
  • dandelions
  • radishes
  • spring lamb
  • pasta primavera
  • snap peas
  • artichokes
  • spinach
  • sorrel
  • goat cheese tart
  • rhubarb grunt

Faith

  • April Devotion ~ The Blessed Sacrament
  • Liturgical Season: Easter (Paschaltide)
  • Divine Mercy Sunday (3)
  • The Annunciation (4)
  • St. George, Patron of England (23)
  • St. Mark (25)
  • St. Catherine of Siena (29)
  • Walpurgisnacht (30)

Household (& Garden)

  • Take outdoor furniture out of storage.
  • Rent de-thatcher; aerate lawn.
  • Harden tender seedlings.
  • Plant trees and/or shrubs.
  • Clean out potting shed.
  • Establish new garden beds.
  • Prepare containers; purchase new ones.
  • Purchase summer blooming bulbs.
  • Organize garden tools.
  • Prune flowering bushes after blooming.
  • Visit the nursery for spring plants, garden structures.
  • Rake and compost leaf litter/debris.
  • Spread fresh mulch.
  • Spring cleaning (if not done before Easter).
  • Have lawnmower serviced if necessary.
  • Family meeting re ~ summer plans.
  • Turn off fireplace.
  • Turn on outside faucet.
  • File taxes by 4/15.
  • Organize financial files.
  • Clean dryer vents and hoses.
  • Spiff up the bikes.

Life

Book Basket 

Field Trips & Outings

Crafts & Activities

  • Make wilding sticks and nature bracelets.
  • Clean up litter in a local park.
  • Prepare field bags for spring.
  • Begin new nature journals.
  • Hang a hummingbird feeder.
  • Paint a butterfly house.
  • Catch tadpoles at the pond.
  • Conduct a rainbow experiment.
  • Paint rocks for garden markers.
  • Dig in the dirt.
  • Set up a nature table at home.
  • Make tissue paper butterflies.
  • Color a butterfly guide.
  • Befriend a tree; start a notebook.
  • Re-enact St. George & The Dragon.
  • Build a bluebird house.
  • Look for nests before leaves come in.
  • Update our Bird List.
  • Prepare May baskets.

Well, I think I'd better stop there, as my lists are getting rather lengthy! I do hope this post gives you some ideas for the month of April, though. I keep this outline in my home keeping binder, (alongside the other months) and hope that I remember to notice, savor or do some of these things - but I never expect to get to them all!

April is fleeting - so let's make the most of it, my friends! Happy Spring!

"The sun was warm but the wind was chill.
You know how it is with an April day.
When the sun is out and the wind is still,
You're one month on in the middle of May.
But if you so much as dare to speak,
a cloud come over the sunlit arch,
And wind comes off a frozen peak,
And you're two months back in the middle of March."
-  Robert Frost


And the Book Party Giveaway Winner is ...

Vintage books

Happy Tuesday, my friends! And Happy March! Rabbit-rabbit and all that! :)

Today (as you probably guessed from the post title) I am here to announce the winner of my Book Party giveaway, and I'm very happy to report that the winner is ...

DENISE!

Congratulations, Denise! I have a little "pre-spring" package to send you and I will be in touch soon to arrange mailing details. :)

And thank you to everyone who participated in the Book Party - it was such a fun project made all the more interesting and enjoyable thanks to your thoughts and pictures. I am grateful for your support!

I have so much to post about this week, but it's a busy one, so I hope to be back again soon! But for now, thanks for stopping by and enjoy your Tuesday, my friends!


Themes & Plans for March (updated!)

Crocus

{Happy Monday, my friends - and Happy Leap Year, too! I have started the process of updating my old Themes & Plans series (eight years old and in need of some pruning!) and I thought I would start with March since that month begins TOMORROW! So I'm fixing broken links, adding new ones, and correcting dates to correspond to 2016 ... I hope you find these posts useful or at the very least provide something happy to read. 😊} 

March brings breezes loud and shrill, stirs the dancing daffodil ...

So tell me friends, how will March greet you this year? As a LION or a LAMB? Or perhaps somewhere in between? Pansyegg_2

Here in New England we've enjoyed a relatively mild Winter and this week looks to follow a similar pattern. Tomorrow (March 1st) is forecast to be sunny and 50° - not too lion-ish I'd say!

Though Old March can be fickle - chilly and gray one day, mild and bright the next - he brings with him Spring's first tender tidings - a soft breeze, a few bits of green, and the stirring of hope in our hearts. And so, with faith in Spring's return, I offer you some ...

~ Themes and Plans for March (PDF) ~ 

Nature

  • a quiet gray landscape, awaiting its green garb
  • the old March wind arrives to blow winter away
  • blackbirds returning (that squeaky gate sound)
  • drip, drip, drip - melting underway
  • pussywillows along the riverbank
  • mud, mud and more mud!
  • potholes that will eat your car in one gulp
  • forsythia blushing yellow
  • little pots of shamrocks at the grocer's
  • The Full Sap (or Worm) Moon (23)
  • migrating salamanders on mild, wet nights
  • robins hopping in the yard
  • maple sugaring in the woods
  • the first colorful crocus, tiny jonquils, too ...
  • the sun gains warmth; the days lengthen
  • skunk cabbage in wetland areas
  • fox sparrows passing through
  • lambing time at the farm
  • a surprise snowstorm is not out of the question ... ?

Folklore

  • March gem: aquamarine
  • March flower: jonquil
  • March comes in like a lion, goes out like a lamb.

Food

  • potatoes
  • carrots
  • turnip
  • radishes
  • spring onions
  • early rhubarb
  • leeks
  • meatless Lenten Fridays
  • egg custards
  • maple syrup
  • shamrock shakes
  • Girl Scout cookies
  • corned beef and cabbage
  • Irish soda bread
  • Irish coffee
  • oatmeal scones
  • sloppy joes
  • donuts for St. Joseph
  • fig tarts on Palm Sunday
  • Hot Cross Buns on Good Friday
  • cheesecake
  • ricotta pie
  • lamb cake
  • baked ham

Faith

  • Month of St. Joseph
  • Liturgical seasons:
    • Lent
    • Eastertide
  • St. David (1)
  • Laetare Sunday (6)
  • St. Patrick (17)
  • St. Joseph (19) 
  • Holy Week:
    • Palm Sunday (20)
    • Holy Monday (21)
    • Holy Tuesday (22)
    • Spy Wednesday (23)
    • Holy Thursday (24)
    • Good Friday (25)
    • Holy Saturday/Easter Vigil (26)
    • Easter Sunday (27)

Household

  • Rake winter debris from yard.
  • Sweep porches, doorsteps, decks and driveways.
  • Inspect yard and home exterior for winter damage.
  • Clean birdfeeders thoroughly.
  • Plan garden plots.
  • Start seeds indoors.
  • Arrange for mulch delivery.
  • Purchase fresh sandbox sand.
  • Put windowboxes up; fill with hardy pansies!
  • Launder spring bedding.
  • Plan Easter dinner.
  • Order ham.
  • Order basket goodies.
  • Buy Easter lilies at the nursery.
  • Organize Easter clothes.
  • Shampoo rugs.
  • Take down storms; hang screens.
  • Wash windows
  • Polish woodwork with beeswax.
  • Re-stock craft supplies for the spring.
  • Organize rainy day play gear.
  • Start planning summer vacation time.

Life

  • National Craft Month
  • National Hobby Month
  • American Red Cross Month
  • National Nutrition Month
  • Irish-American Heritage Month
  • National Umbrella Month
  • March Madness
  • Peanut Butter Lovers Day (1)
  • Dr. Seuss's birthday (2)
  • Alexander Graham Bell's birthday (3)
  • Antonio Vivaldi's birthday (4)
  • Elizabeth Barrett Browning's birthday (6)
  • National Mario Day (10)
  • Daylight Savings Time begins (13)
  • Uranus discovered (13)
  • National Pi Day (14)
  • Albert Einstein's birthday (14)
  • The Ides of March (15)
  • Return of the Swallows to San Juan Capistrano (19)
  • National Agriculture Day (20)
  • First Day of Spring (20)
  • National Waffle Day (25)
  • Make up Your Own Holiday Day (26)

Book Basket

Field Trips & Outings

  • Maple sugaring demonstration
  • Visit new lambs & fresh eggs at farm
  • Children's Passion Play at church
  • Museum of Science: Planetarium

Crafts & Activities

Crocus clipart

Now, I'd like to clarify that my family will not be observing each and every one of these March ideas! (Who ever could?!) But having them in mind - and even better, on paper - is a big help when I'm trying to weave a little seasonal awareness, organization and fun into our family life! I like to sit down once a month (usually the second to last weekend) to do a little planning ahead on the seasonal front. I make it part of my weekend "office hours." :) It might seem silly to work "seasonal planning" into an already busy family schedule, but honestly - if I didn't, it's unlikely I'd remember or even try to fit it in!

Well my friends, I've rambled long enough ... thanks so much for stopping by and I hope your March is just lovely, whether wild or mild!

P.S. I wasn't on Pinterest back when I first wrote this post in 2008 - maybe it didn't even exist yet? - but I now have boards for "storing" seasonal ideas such as the ones linked above. I will go through these links to be sure the are still valid and then add them to my March & April board.)


A Fresh Start: Early Spring Planning (Printables!)

Fresh start button smallMy friends, I am very sorry it has taken me so long to get these planning sheets posted! I've had them in "draft" mode for so long, and I thought I'd be able to just whip them up quickly during one good sit-down session - but that's not how it played out! So here we are on the very doorstep of Early Spring - four days left! - and I have only just finished them up. Once I post this, I will print out a fresh set for my binder. :)

So I hope the PDF links work for you, and please let me know if they don't. Here's a quick glance at the shades I chose for this season: buttery yellow, robin's egg blue and spring green. :)

A quick note on the format of the sheets ... I have provided "clean copies" so you may use them for yourself, but naturally my own sheets are personalized to match my own seasonal plans! If you look at "Dawn's Overview" you'll notice that in each weekly box I've listed several "ideas" as well as days of note. These are little writing assignments for myself - things I've blogged about before or hope to write more about this year - but I'm sharing them in case they might be of interest to you. 

Well, without further ado, here are the links - there's a planning sheet for each week of March and April as well as an Early Spring Overview and a color-coordinated sheet for "Home Learning this Week." I hope you enjoy them, and I'd love to hear what you think!

*Note: As I mentioned in my first planning printables post, the vintage images I used were found on Pinterest and to the best of my knowledge, are free for any personal use. So please keep it personal ... :)

Early Spring Overview (Dawn's)

Early Spring Overview (clean copy)

Home Learning this Week (Early Spring)

Early Spring Planning Sheet: Week 10 (2/29-3/6)

Early Spring Planning Sheet: Week 11 (3/7-3/13)

Early Spring Planning Sheet: Week 12 (3/14-3/20)

Early Spring Planning Sheet: Week 13 (3/21-3/27)

Early Spring Planning Sheet: Week 14 (3/28-4/3)

Early Spring Planning Sheet: Week 15 (4/4-4/10)

Early Spring Planning Sheet: Week 16 (4/11-4/17)

Early Spring Planning Sheet: Week 17 (4/18-4/25)

Early Spring Planning Sheet: Week 18 (4/26-5/1)

**

Also, here's a link to my first set of printable planning sheets: Deep Winter, 2016. I will be happy to share my Late Spring sheets (for May and June) once they're ready and hopefully that won't be quite as last minute! :)

Well my friends, that's all for now, but as always I thank you for stopping by and I hope you all enjoy the rest of your day. I appreciate that you spent a bit of it here!

See you again very soon ...


Masterpiece Monday: Downton Abbey, 6.8

DA season 6 poster

Hello my friends, and Happy Tuesday! Time for our second-to-last Downton recap!

I'm going to try a different format this time since I don't have a lot of time for condensing this morning, so here are my notes, as is, from last night's viewing - kind of a live tweeting thing, lol! I hope it makes a little BIT of sense, but I understand if it's not your cup of tea. :)

**

Boy, I'm going to miss these opening credits ... that soft music, the bell ringing, the dog's sweet behind. :)

Opening conversation between a strolling Cora and Edith. First thought - is this the two sisters together? But then - no way is this Mary and Edith walking together, they'd never do such a thing ... and isn't that kind of sad? I almost feel like the director started with this far away shot so we'd have this very thought. And then I paused the scene so I could stare at their parasols and dresses. (So pretty.) I can hardly believe Edith is grappling with this issue - how is there any question in her mind? Telling Bertie the truth about Marigold? There's no way she can allow such "a lie at the heart of her marriage."

Ok, here's the Sargent come to see Mrs. Patmore - and didn't I CALL IT? That was an adulterous couple staying at her inn! Oh the poor woman - her B&B labeled a house of "ill-repute" and it's been hardly open a month!

Wait a minute - who died of malaria now? Edith's beau Bertie Pelham is out of a job? Lord Hexham (the dead marquess) was his employer. Wait, he was his cousin ... ? WOW - so Bertie's the new Marquess! "Golly gumdrops, Edith would outrank us all!" crows Robert. And Mary is ... speechless. (Fuming, more like.)

Anna and Bates laughing at Mrs. P's situation (everyone's laughing) and Molesley needs time off for his classes.

Lord Merton comes to see Isobel to talk about the family issue - he thinks his daughter-in-law (to be) is a "kind and gentle soul?" Hahahaha ... he's not a very good judge of character is he? (Anyone else think of Hermione Grangier's cat when they say, "Cruikshanks?")

Anna and Mrs. Hughes still laughing over Mrs. P. ... and now Mary, too. Ok people, you've had your fun. Let's be a little sensitive to Mrs. Patmore's distress!

But Daisy got high marks! Good for her. I'm still sore over her recent poor treatment of, well, everyone, but this is a nice thing for her.

Carson was kind of ugly to Mr. Molesely abut his needing time off to teach. "What makes you think he would be good at it?" What an ass he can be! (Sorry.)

The sisters and their beaus ...  now it's going to be even harder for her (Mary) to accept marrying "down" when her younger sister will be marrying up ... way, way up.

I kind of feel like Edith should know her potential betrothed well enough to trust that he will be accepting of Marigold. How well do they know each other anyway? She doesn't know his family. She's so concerned that any outcome will be "regrettable" and I think we all can see the writing on the wall. Mary will confirm her suspicions of Marigold's parentage and use the "secret" to ruin her sister's chance at such happiness.

Best line of the night goes to Robert: "Poor old Edith who couldn't get her dolls to do as she wanted."

(OH, I laughed so hard over this!)

Mary and Tom out "agenting" and she seems distracted - is she mulling over Henry or Edith? Or both? In conversation with Tom, and ... ACK she finds out. Yep, now she's getting ugly. Turning on Tom. Come on now, Mary - your friendship with Tom is about all that's redeeming you these days!

(Robert and Rosamund again at each others throats. It's a sibling thing.)

We have "reason" coming back into it - Tom speaking with Mary and Rosamund speaking with Robert. But in each case "reasonable thinking" is pushed away for "the way things were done." Mary's clinging fast to the old ways.

Bertie shows up and wants Edith to accompany him to the funeral. I still don't see the rationale here ... will Edith then lie to Marigold her whole life? Allow her to think she's an orphan with no natural mother or blood relations? Won't this affect her ability to "marry well" someday? Worse than lying to Bertie is lying to Marigold, I think.

Thomas, the poor man - still no luck in his job search.  And Mr. Molesley having a harsh time of it at the school. To be fair, this is a tough age group.

Edith and Bertie are having a nice talk - she wants him to know she understands if he needs to look "higher" than her. His mother sounds like a tough biscuit. A cock-a-hoop? I think I'll refrain from googling that term.

(Note: Have the Downton grounds ever looked prettier? And again with the parasol! Must have been a mid-20s thing.)

Ooh and here comes Henry! Woo hoo! Go get her, Mr. Talbot!

Carson and Mrs. Hughes speaking with Mrs. P. - and oh come ON Carson. Making Mrs. Patmore feel worse and insinuating she wasn't being careful? He's so full of hot air - like he couldn't have made that mistake. He can be so awfully pompous. It's no wonder Mary's his favorite.

Puppet show for the children ... too funny. I'm going to sound rather Victorian and say how lovely it was that this simple kind of entertainment was all that was needed to keep children happy, once upon a time ... (And now I'm drawing up plans for a puppet theater in the library.)

Back to school now, and oh no, Mr. Molesley! He has lost complete control of the classroom! (Like we don't all see that coming.)

Oh my gosh, this is an awful scene with Mary and Tom and Henry. I don't know if he's doing the right thing with this sudden appearance or not. He's fighting for them, insisting on it ... and boy is she resisting. Ugh. I STILL like him for Mary because she needs someone like this in her life. She needs someone who doesn't give a FIG where they stand socially - he loves her, end of story. But she just hates being told what to do and feel ... and now I think she'll get nasty. Yup - the scene in her parent's dressing room? Nasty. I think we'll all hate her a bit before she redeems herself somehow ... Shame on you coming from Tom - yes! Oh boy, Tom is ticked! In the stairwell now with Henry ... oh he's being honest. "Aren't you better than that? Rather small not to marry a man for his lack of riches?" Ooh, he's hitting her where it counts - the truth! But Mary's still smarting from Tom's comments, feeling cornered ... and slash! Out come the claws!

Later, Anna nails it:

"She loves him but she can't control him. That's what frightens her. He's stronger than she is, really." 

And Bates in response:

"She's a bit of a bully, your Lady Mary."

(But there's another side to Mary and Henry sees that. That's what love does.)

Next couple. We have Edith and Bertie now, in the hallway. She: "My life is not that simple" which begs clarification, but still - the answer is yes. YES, she'll marry him ... but no mention of Marigold ...

Next morning Henry's gone. Good for him. Mary seems stunned. And now we have a very injured and downcast Mary, sensing the air of happiness about Bertie and Edith ... she's about to strike you can see it coming ...

And yes, it came ... ooh. She can be so awful. The proverbial cat's out of the bag.

Well done Mary. Now, who else can you make miserable?

Later now, and what a nice idea from Rosamunde and Cora. Great thinking, ladies! They'll do a family lunch at Mrs. Patmore's establishment thereby lending their good name and approval. Another example of how they all do truly care for each other. The upstairs and downstairs. Despite stations and class, they root for each other. (Except perhaps for the outcast, Thomas.) 

Edith and Bertie having the dreaded conversation before he gets on that train. Well we all knew what would bother him was that she wasn't honest with him - not their difference in station or her past. She didn't trust him as she should have done. And so it comes to this: he can't marry her because he can't trust her. Goodbye, we shan't meet again and Edith's off to London.

    •  
       
      (Please excuse the weird formatting here - I attempted to insert a vocabulary definition and the copy-paste went awry.)
       
      Ok, and here's Mary and now Tom is going to have it out with her. Go Tom!
      "Don't lie - not to me!" and then, "You just can't stop ruining thing for Edith and yourself!" but best of all, "You're a coward. Like all bullies you're a coward."
       
      (Yes - unfortunately, yes - to all this.)
       
      (Wait, what's going on with Thomas ... he doesn't look so well.)
       
      And here we have Mary and Edith's confrontation. Right! They have to have it out and BOY do they have at it! And there it is -  the B word! OH MY the b-word again! Go Edith! So much wisdom in her parting shot. Gah. That blow-up was a long time coming ...
       
      Mrs Patmore is summoned to the library. Whenever she or Daisy are called up in this way I'm always struck by the stark plainness of their uniforms (hair and makeup etc.) in contrast to the fancy decor and family dress.
       
      But I loved Cora calling out Carson ... and this, another "best line of the night" from Robert:

"Mrs. Patmore has been loyal to this house and now we must be loyal to her."

BRAVA, Robert! And God bless her, Mrs. P. is crying!

But here come more tears I fear (mine) as something bad is definitely happening with Thomas.

Baxter notices Mr. Barrow's in a funny mood. (Thank goodness someone worries for him.) Go Baxter! Get to him!

But, oh no ...

Oh my gosh, SAVE him please - Andy get help! Go get the doctor. Oh dear ... oh no. Thomas has slashed his wrists and is unconscious in the tub. I am sobbing. Thankfully it appears he will survive ... surely this will wake them all up to his despair?

Over to the school now - and Daisy is listening in to Mr. Molesley's teaching. Talking with the students - confessing his roots - clicking with them. Good stuff.  Loved Daisy's words to Mr. M. "You're a kind man Mr. Molesley. It's about time you were rewarded for you kindness."

Now Carson informs the family of Thomas's predicament, and they are all suitably affected. How very sad. Mary WAKE UP ... but nope. She's still lashing out ... at her father. Throwing about guilt because she's needing to hurt others right now.

A bit later on Mary has a kind of breakdown with Anna as she readies for bed. She looks terrible and feels worse, clearly. I think she's realizing how awful she's been and how wrong she's been. She's miserable. But apologizes to Anna who clearly, means so much to her. 

Now we have Edith with her editor, and this "Cassandra Jones" is coming for tea. But who is this secret personality? Was anyone expecting Spratt?? Lol, what a surprise! I guess looking back now we can see he was always looking at the paper and definitely had a secret to hide. But what a laugh this was. Bananas, indeed!

Mary bringing little George to visit Thomas was very sweet. And how similar these two characters have been! Lonely, angry, sad. Isn't this often the root of outwardly ugly behavior? What he said should ring very true with Mary. (Master George is so adorable.)

Now this next scene with Carson (bemoaning the adulterous situation at the B&B) and Mrs. Hughes (pointing out there have been "adulterers" upstairs) was sweet. Because Carson's crusty behavior has been tiresome, but when he asks his wife if she's gone "off" him she responds with a kiss. Because he may be a curmudgeon, but he's "her curmudgeon." This was sweet and honest. Don't we all have moments like this with our loved one? They can drive us crazy sometimes but they're ours, and true love means loving through faults. :)

(This will be an important lesson later on I think. Hello Henry and Mary and Edith and Bertie!)

And hooray, the Dowager is home! And thank goodness Grandmama is here! The conversation with Mary was so necessary. Mary breaks down and we knew this was coming - all her fears and grief over Matthew. Their love (and his loss) was enormous and left its impact. I love the respect Mary has for her grandmother, and that she (Violet) helped her (Mary) figure out her truth. She knew it - she just needed to hear it from the right person. Another "best" line from Lady Violet:

"First make peace with your sister, and then make peace with yourself."

And yay, Mr Barrow can stay! I'm glad Carson and Robert acknowledged they'd been unfair. "I didn't credit him with any feelings." Well duh, Carson. He IS human. How often we don't look past someone's outward behavior to see what is lacking inside.

So Mary has sent for Henry ... but will he come? I'm half expecting him to refuse her at this point! Honestly I think she has a bit of a nerve sending for him - she should go to him!

But first, a visit to Matthew's grave ... what a sign this series is nearing its end. What a touching scene, as Mary talks with Matthew and then Isobel. Blessings are given and the path seems open now ... we just have to hope Henry has not gone off this whole thing!

Cute scene with the Granthams at Mrs. Patmore's establishment ... right down to the paparazzi outside!

Ok, and now here's Henry. Good man. Tom excuses himself, "I've been part of this courtship for long enough." But I fear this is too easy. Will this go as Mary is hoping? Ok maybe it will .... his heart is pounding! That's a good sign, right?

And they KISS!! Yes!! And woohoo they can get married - like, tomorrow! So oh MY GOSH there's going to be a wedding! But where they heck is Edith? Oh - here she comes!

And now the sisters have the moment we've been waiting for ... apologies and confessions, and this:

"Because in the end you're my sister. And one day only we will remember Sybill or Mama or Papa or any of the people of our youth. Our shared memories will mean more than our mutual dislike."

Amen!

And that's being practical and honest. I think Edith made this easier on Mary than she could have ... but to forgive is divine and so the truce has been called and it's on with the wedding!

Pretty setting (must go aback and absorb details) and Mary looks lovely. Camera panning all the pews ... and all these dear faces .. how I'll miss them!

But now we must wait to see how Edith's story turns out ...

The previews gave away nothing but there are lots of smiles, so that seems hopeful. And I was thinking - if there is a marriage for her and Bertie it's kind of nice they left it till the end ... Mary had her big wedding with Matthew, now this will be Edith's turn in the spotlight ...

We must wait two weeks (sigh) till that two hour finale (sob), but in the meantime, the "manners" show look interesting next week! :)

***

Well my friends, I know this was awfully long and probably quite tedious to read. I apologize I was not able to summarize things better - but time is just not mine today! (Both younger boys were up earlier than usual and there was a bit of a peanut butter incident in the kitchen ... and the hall ... and the family room ... that commanded mama's energy first thing this morning.)

I would love to hear your thoughts if you have time ... and as always, I thank you for stopping by!

See you here again very soon ...


Book Party: More Books & Nooks!

Vintage books

Happy Monday, my friends! I'm a bit behind on things, so here is the post that was meant for the weekend and tomorrow I'll report in on Downton. I will be studiously avoiding Facebook today lest I be spoiled! ;)

Now, today we will visit two friends and their own lovely book nooks ... please welcome Denise and Valerie to our party! Many thanks to both ladies for joining in the fun! Remember friends, all are welcome to share their pictures and thoughts here (via drhanigan AT gmail DOT com) and you have another week to do it! Next Monday is the Book Party deadline, and on Tuesday (March 1st) I'll announce a winner of my giveaway, a pretty little package filled with some pre-spring goodies. :)

But, without further ado, here are more books and nooks for you to peruse!

**

First we hear from Denise!

Dawn, What a wonderful party to host! I have enjoyed seeing the posts thus far! I wish I could just visit each one personally & peruse, visit, read, sip tea!! This is a great way to share though, and is most enjoyable!

I have always enjoyed reading, since I was a young girl. It is a favorite pastime of mine. You could say I'm addicted. My husband would definitely say I'm addicted. I suppose my favorite series as a child was The Boxcar Children series. :-) I have tried to share my love with my children, grands, nieces, nephews, great-nieces, nephews, etc! Curling up in our big chair, with a read aloud, and some of my grands around - one of my favorite things. Much harder to do now that I don't see them on a daily basis. My standard baby shower gift is: books. :-) (And baby nightgowns, boy or girl, makes night time changes so much easier!)

I have a homeschool bookshelf, it is tall and has a 'ledge' about 24" from the ground. This set up is actually a shelf that sits on a cupboard. (Homemade by a friend of my brother-in-law.) I usually have several kids' books laid out on that ledge! I put seasonal books on our table in the sitting area. I didn't take a picture of that because it is *full* of the
winter village (that will be taken down soon) that a certain, dear grandtwin girl (10) loves to play with! It is a disaster right now because I am not homeschooling this year and so I didn't do the summer clean & clear of the shelf unit!  I am procrastinating on addressing it, it seems, probably because I don't want to admit that season is over. :-)

Book party denise 1

Above is a picture of books at my bedside, this changes. The Bible remains, but other books change. :-) (The cute little snowman is supposed to be a hanging but the dowel I hang it on broke, so ...) These sit on a sewing machine (my first, at age 17) cabinet Dad built me! I love that piece!

I have a short bookshelf that is dedicated to fiction books. It is also in my bedroom, in a little nook. I have a rocking chair (my Mom's chair she used to rock her babies, and I used to rock my grands!). I pretty much stash books wherever I can. I didn't take pictures of my many stashes, the ones by my "nest" (as we shared a while ago) which changes with my current reads. I'm actually looking at flea markets (one of Mom's favorite things to do, about the only thing I get her to do these days ~smile~) for an old magazine rack, which is wooden & has a handle. Then I can put all my current reads (books, magazines, articles people give me) in it & tote it with me to wherever I want!

The shelf in my office, I have sent a picture before, I'm sure. It holds my current journals. Some favorite books, books I keep on hand to give away. As I look over at it right now it has numerous titles relating to prayer, which happens to be my Lenten focus! I need to select a couple to move out to my current stash, I see!!

Thank you for opening your blog for this wonderful party! Happy reading, friends!
~ Denise

Wonderful post, Denise! I love hearing about your book traditions and how you share your love of reading with your family. Those dear children are certainly blessed (in many ways) to have you in their lives! I smiled when I read of your flea market hunts - Bill and I adore combing through "antiques" found at flea markets. An excellent source of book displays (and books!) of all kinds. We have a great big rambling market up here in the next town over that runs from April through December ... I have quite a wish list tucked in my purse - things to "look for" when we're there. :)

Thanks so much for joining us, Denise and sharing your books and nooks with us!

**

And now, we'll hear from Valerie!

Hi Dawn!
You inspired me to go snap some pics with my phone. I may even tidy up!

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A favorite sight - a boy reading on the couch. These shelves were built for us by my father in law and were originally more for display, but as our book collection grew, well, you know! Among the books and photos are my dad's baby shoes and my great grandmother's Bible.

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In the same room, a rather messy book shelf - but well used! The corner cupboard was originally home to a collection of Victorian mustache cups but I'd rather let my kids play nerf basketball in that room now.

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Oh my! I can't believe I didn't tidy this one up before taking the picture. 😀 This is directly behind my desk and houses a lot of our homeschool books. (Believe me, we have more!)

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My older son's school work area on the other side of my desk. Books they use every day stay in the red baskets. 

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And lastly, a closer view of the living room shelves. Our wedding picture and me with each of my boys on the first day I was able to go out after breast cancer surgery. Reminders of God's great blessings!!
~ Valerie

Oh, Valerie, this was a fantastic post! I love all your book nooks ... and I know exactly what you mean about shelves meant for display being filled up with books! I am always thinking, "Well, I could arrange a few pretty/meaningful items here on this (or that) shelf ... " but then I find I rather prefer using the space for more books! I think you've created a nice blend of both here, between the beautiful photos and beloved objects. I really like those red baskets, too - the ones holding the resources your children need everyday. I use a similar approach, with large tote bags. :) Thank you so much for taking the time to photograph these lovely corners of your home ... it was so fun to "visit!"

**

Well friends, I hope you'll drop a note below for Denise and Valerie - how nice to see how they encourage an atmosphere of reading in their homes! I hope you enjoyed our post today and I also hope you might consider adding a post of your own too! You send me your pics and thoughts and I'll do the rest ... :)

I will be off for now, but as always, thanks to all for stopping by! Enjoy the rest of your Monday - hope your week gets off to a great start!

See you here again very soon ...

 


Friday Bits and Bobs

Flowers in vases

Happy Friday, my friends! Popping in early to share a few links with you all ... :)

Now, are you looking for some meatless menu planning inspiration today? Here are a couple of older posts of mine with lots of great reader suggestions in the comments:

Meatless Menus? (2011)

Lenten Meal Planning (2015)

And here is a wonderful post from my friend Meredith, "Meatless Meals for Lent." Lots of links and ideas there! And also not to be missed is this post - "Five Meatless Dinners" from my friend, Chris! There's a Lenten link-up at the end of that post with even more meatless ideas!

Here's another spot for Lenten meal inspiration, Leaflet Missal's post, "8 Delicious Lenten Recipes for Meatless Fridays." I can't wait to try the hot cross buns on Good Friday, and the Passion Fruit Cheesecake on Passion Sunday!

Speaking of Leaflet Missal, here are "7 Ideas for Celebrating Lent Your Way" - filled with simple Lenten suggestions - and one of them was mine! I was so honored to be asked to participate in that article. :)

And here's a wonderful, witty and thoughtful post from my friend Karen called, "Five Reasons Lent is Hard on INFJs"- I read this with much interest, as I happen to be an INFJ too! (What is an INFJ you might wonder? Click over to Karen's and find out!) So much of her post had me chuckling and nodding my head ... 

And leaping away from Lent for a minute, there's another post I've been meaning to share with you all for some time, especially because recently someone asked me about my "mid-year review" and how I go about it. And to be perfectly honest, I am quite behind this year! I am hoping to work on this important project this weekend - a wee bit past the mid-year mark, ahem - but here's an old post of mine describing my process ... BUT! Even better, here's a fantastic post from my friend Mary Ellen about her mid-year review AND there are printables!

Ok, final link! (I think!) My friend Shirley Ann has updated her blog, Under an English Sky, and you must pop over and take a look. It is just lovely and always filled with great ideas, pretty crafts and lovely tours of England. She has a new series called "The Crockpot Chronicles" and her first recipe is perfect for Lent! I will be avidly following this series as I LOVE using my crockpot at this time of year.

(Speaking of crockpots ... I made this yesterday and it was so delicious. Next time we'll have some some crusty bread to sop up the soupiness, but it paired very nicely with rice pilaf. I just adore artichokes!)

Well I lied, lol - this will be my final link! Have you noticed my new nest button over on the lefthand sidebar? I have started a separate blog called Our Family Field Guide where I am storing nature notes and pictures. I won't be posting quite every day, but hopefully often enough to capture that "rhythm of the year" I find so fascinating and nurturing. I recently found this quote and it struck such a chord with me ...

"There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature." ~ Rachel Carson

Yes. :)

So I hope you'll stop by once in a while and see what we're up to, what we're discovering in this beautiful world all around us. 

Well my friends I will let you go at last - but I hope you all enjoy this day and I thank you for spending a bit of it here. This weekend I have a couple of Book Party posts in queue - and I can't wait to share them! (Would love to hear from you, too!)

See you here again very soon ...


Book Party: Dawn's Books & Nooks

Vintage books

Hello again, my friends! It's time for another Book Party post! I've had such fun reading all the posts so far, and today I'm excited to share a few of my own book-filled nooks ... :)

**

Like many of you, I have books all over my house - beside my bed, in the kids' rooms, on the family room shelves, stored away in basement bins - but the best reading spots can be found in the library. Now, one might call this a living room, or even a parlor, but we are optimistically coining it "the library" because we hope to have lots and lots books stored in here one day! And by "stored" I mean - arranged in a way that is well organized and inviting. I want this to be a room that celebrates books and encourages hours spent in joyful reading, whatever the season or time of day. This room is on the west side of the house so it gets fair natural light (as well as a nice view of the sun setting behind the woods), but good lamps and overhead lighting are important! As, of course, is comfortable seating ...

SO here we go!

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These are the two larger bookcases in the room and they are situated to the left of my writing desk. They belonged to my husband's dear grandmother and we have beautiful glass doors for the front of each - something for the future when our littlest is no longer little! The one on the left holds books we use for homeschooling: history/geography, science/nature study, myths/legends, picture books and classic literature, poetry/fingerplays and some of my general homeschooling resources (Charlotte Mason and Waldorf, for the most part).

A closer look at the shelves (which, it should be noted, were neatened specifically for the purposes of this post):

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The bookcase on the right is known as "Mama's," and holds books about homekeeping, seasons, crafts, nature, New England, Tasha Tudor, gardens, vintage style and, well ... many of my favorite things! My novels, however, live elsewhere: (most) in storage and (some) in a basket at the foot of our bed.

A closer look at these shelves:

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The bottom shelf holds my most current issues of Martha Stewart Living (I have all of them actually, going back to her premiere in 1990!) as well as an assortment of favorite magazines I'm keeping (rather than clipping).

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I have to share a couple of pictures of the "nest I built" under the south-facing window. The foundation is a rather large beanbag type of chair that is actually meant for the family room (where the tv is) but for various reasons we moved it out here. The gray suede-like cover was not a good fit for this room so I covered it with a beloved afghan in the coziest of colors. To make it even more enticing, I placed a pillow and a couple of Little Bear's soft toys here as well. Crawling into this nest - which easily fits two of us - is a joy! All the books are at our disposal, and there is such nice light ...

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This is not the most flattering of pictures, lol - but I had to share it. It was snapped this morning by my Crackerjack, as I read to Little Bear in our nest. It's such a snuggly space ... 

Now, in the center of the room, on the coffee table, I have my personal reading basket:

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I've always had a reading basket for current magazines and books I'm trying to spend time with ... if not everyday, then at least a few times a week when I find a little downtime. On Sundays I clean it out a bit and refresh the selections if necessary. Not shown is the book I'm reading in bite-size pieces each night before falling asleep - the one I wrote all about in this post. That book I keep on my bedside table.

Now here is our Catholic bookcase on the other wall ...

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The bottom shelf is for display, set behind these lovely sheers which I change up according to season (purple for Lent at present). The two bookshelves above contain my liturgical resources - the very top shelf contains books for grown up use, while the next shelf down holds books for the younger children. To the right of the tiny tote bag are the story books that we use throughout the year (after year) - for feast days and such. I try to keep them organized by date.

Now, below you see Little Bear's main book basket - which is now at the perfect height that he may peruse and decide which book he'd like read. Most often these days it's a book about trucks. :)

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There are even more books on the other side of the chair!

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In the smaller basket in front of the curtain I have our various field guides. The larger basket under the table holds oversized picture books. And the very small basket near my mug has LB's most requested reads. :)

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(Different day, different mug!)

On the opposite wall from "my" chair is the fireplace, and in front of it we have our nature puppet collection, our peace basket (slowly filling up) and the seasonal board books basket. 

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Tucked behind the loveseat is the larger seasonal book basket ... these are titles for January through March. I use these books with our weekly seasonal themes, pulling out what I need when I do my weekly planning ...

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Fyi this week's theme is "windowsill gardens" and the books I'm using, Linnea's Windowsill Garden and Linnea's Almanac, are actually not in our basket - but on request from the library! :)

We've collected a lot of wonderful books through the years and I find it very helpful to organize them, as much as possible, by season. Off-season baskets are kept downstairs in the basement. Books are often set up on display in the front windowsill, or perhaps on the top of a table ... 

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Oh, and before I go, here are my cookbooks - kept in the kitchen!

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I keep my favorites here, and I will confess, I often read them more for pleasure than practice! (I use Pinterest for recipes nowadays.) There are more cookbooks in storage downstairs ... in fact, there are quite a lot of books still in storage downstairs! It will be three years since we moved here this June and it really is getting ridiculous that we still have boxes to unpack!

**

Well, my friends, as usual I've gone on longer than I intended, but I hope you enjoyed seeing all (or most) of my books in their special nooks today! I would love to see yours - to hear about where you keep your books, how you encourage your family to read and make time for reading yourself! If you'd like to join our Book Party, please send me your thoughts/pics at ...

bysunandcandle AT gmail DOT com

I'll pick one of the party guests to win a little Pre-Spring Giveaway (just a package of goodies I'm putting together). I'll draw a name randomly and announce a winner on Tuesday, March 1st ... So there is plenty of time left to join in our Book Party. I do hope to hear from you!

But for now, thanks so much for stopping by and enjoy the rest of your day ...

I will see you here again very soon!


Masterpiece Monday: Downton Abbey, 6.7

DA season 6 poster

Happy Tuesday, my friends! I hope you are all doing well ...

I am in need of one more viewing to fully discuss this week's Downton Abbey, but I wanted to get the chat post up in case anyone was itching to talk about it! :) I did watch it Sunday night but I confess it was with a half-asleep toddler on me so the sound was turned down and I didn't catch much dialogue! I am going to re-watch it tonight and compose my thoughts in better form for tomorrrow ...

But please feel free to start the conversation in the comments below, if you'd like. You won't spoil me - as I said, I think I got the gist of most of what happened. It looked like a good episode with lots of developments - some better than others!

**

And here is where I try to make sense of my notes! :)

Lady Violet - I love how she ferreted out the truth about Miss Cruikshanks’ true motivation! I loved watching her “at work” and I loved how this showed what a truly good friend she is to Isobel. Nobody messes with her own! Also, I have to give her credit for realizing she was angry and that she needs a little breathing space. Isobel admires this too: "Your self-knowledge is an example to us all.” What a GREAT quote! But even better was this: 

Isobel (on Miss Cruikshanks): "I suspect she's quite a tough nut.”

Lady Violet in return: "And I'm quite a nutcracker.”

Haha! Isn’t that the truth!

And that scene with Miss Cruikshanks was absolutely delicious. Lady Violet was just not having it: "You’re a cool little miss aren’t you? I should feel sorry for Larry if I didn’t dislike him so much.” Oh my! And when the tart little Miss C. acknowledges things might be awkward in future meetings (since they shall meet again - inferring herself in the Grantham's circles) Lady V. returns:

"Not if I see you first.”

Ooooh … BURN!

I also loved that the Dowager Countess told Isobel she will write only to Tom, as "He’s the most sensible.”

Note: I’m getting tired of the snippiness between Edith and Mary - aren’t you? Enough already, from both of them! Act like grownups for goodness sakes. I don’t have a sister, nor do I have daughters, so I guess I can’t really speak to this type of relationship but honestly, I find it quite tiresome. 

Now, most importantly perhaps, we have the Mary and Henry situation. I can’t help it - I like him. I really do, and I think he IS right for Lady Mary, despite all the opinions to the contrary. He’s wearing his heart on his sleeve - inviting her family to the race, showing up at dinner, calling her in distress because he MUST know where he stands - and it breaks my heart that she broke his. I think she is holding onto her deep-rooted snobbishness - thinking they couldn’t possibly match up - but more than that, I think she’s just plain afraid. I think she does truly love him (or is getting there quickly) and the idea of losing a loved one again is too much for her. I didn’t like it that Anna nixed him - I think that impressed Mary a lot. (Solidified her apprehension.) But so what if their lifestyles don’t mesh? Times were changing then! (This has been the theme all season.) And there's much attraction and care for each other. Her very conflict over his racing (and worry) suggests she does, in fact, care for him very much. The crash was awful - so sad for his jolly friend, Charlie Rogers - and I think a big part of why she broke up with him was her fear. But I guess we can’t blame her - after everything with Matthew. Had Henry not pressed her as he did, given her a day or two, maybe her decision would have been different?

Tom (who I suspect, has a bit of a man crush on Henry!) was so disappointed. Acknowledging her fear (aligning it with his own) but insisting it's ”... no reason to give up the man that’s right for you.”
 
{Ok, remember what Lady Violet said about who she would write to ... and why?}
 
Speaking of Tom - are we to suspect they’re lining him up with Edith's editor? She seems to be his type, I guess, but I hope we get to know her a bit better if this is in fact, her role. She reminded me a little of that Miss whateverhernamewas, that awful teacher from the village who enraged ... well, everyone. Only with less edge of course.

And so Edith’s beau (finally caught his name, Bertie Pelham!) proposed. But, though clearly thrilled, Edith didn’t say yes and she also didn’t tell him the truth about Marigold. Will that be a problem for him? (If it is, I say good riddance - but I don’t think he’s like that.) However, will he accept that Edith wasn’t truthful with him? That might pose more of a problem ...

And now, Mrs. Patmore's opens her inn - and it seems to be going so well! I’m so happy for her! But you know, there has to be some kind of complication ... so who was that man lurking outside with the notepad? A roving restaurant reviewer? Or maybe a private investigator spying on the couple staying at the inn - are they having an affair perhaps? Will whatever he’s up to mean trouble for Mrs. Patmore? (Next week's previews suggest it does ...)

Note: Can I just say how much I love the friendship between Mrs. Hughes and Mrs. Patmore? Well, I do … I just love it. It’s been such a nice example of true camaraderie and caring … remember when Elsie went through the cancer scare? 

As for Mrs. Hughes and Mr. Carson - I’m finding their situation a little tedious. He’s been something of a jerk to be sure, but the whole injured hand thing was a bit contrived. And a bit underhanded. I don’t know … I guess it was meant for laughs but I wish it had been something else that made him realize (if it worked) he’d been unfair to Elsie, and that domestic duties are not as effortless as he must have thought them.

Unfortunately, Daisy is still a pill. I didn’t forgive her for her snottiness even though she confessed she’s anxious over losing Mr. Mason’s love. Because she hasn't had much of it before. I thought she was intelligent? 

As for the kind hearted Mr. Molesley - well he OWNED that exam! And he’s now been offered a teaching position - how fabulous! I saw this coming I will admit, and I’m so glad. “I never think I deserve anything! Perhaps I’ve been wrong all along.” Aw. I’ve always like him!

(And might this situation open a job up at Downton which would allow Thomas to stay on?)

Finally - a new puppy for Robert? How wonderful is that? I never even wondered when or if they might get a new dog, but how nice that his Mama was the one to think of it.

Final note: I really wish hats would come back into fashion. I'm in LOVE with these hats on these women. Hats are long due a return. I remember my grandfather always wore hats and a dress coat when we went out … and my grandmother had a fascinating closet full of hat boxes … so stylish. :)

Now, before I go - how many episodes are left? I think I might be off on my episode numbers. I have this recap as the seventh installment in the sixth (and final) season, but PBS has it listed as episode six. And I believe there are nine in all? Hmm. My main concern is, when do we have to say goodbye??
 
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Well my friends, I  must be off - I hope this made a little bit of sense and I'd love to hear from you if you have a moment or two. But as always, thanks so much for stopping by!
I'll see you here again very soon ...