Welcome, February! ❤

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Good Thursday morning, my friends! I hope your February is off to a great start! We've been busy here with homeschooling and home projects and some of us are nursing a head cold, while a couple of others are just getting over feeling unwell. (I'm happy to say, I'm in the latter group!) Currently I am working on a post about the February section of my planning binder but computer time is a wee bit scarce right now ... so it might be another day or two. Still, I thought I'd pop in and share a few photos from our week so far. This is one of my favorite weeks in the year because it's just rich with "deep winter" goodness - St. Brigid's Day, Candlemas, Groundhog's Day ... not to mention, the Superbowl! (Go Pats!)

Anyhoo ... as I type up this post (late on Thursday, nearing teatime) the snow is flying! It's been sunny all morning (though chilly), but just now the skies got very dark and then suddenly the flakes were falling fast! We're all home now - including Bill (the one with the head cold) - so I don't mind one bit. Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow ... seems the groundhog was right after all!

Speaking of groundhogs ...

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I made this for the boys today and they got such a kick out of it! (Not to mention they were thrilled for a cake out of the blue!) I saw a variation of this idea on Pinterest and had to add it to the week's "crafts and comforts." It's just an 8x8 vanilla snack cake (Trader Joe's) topped with homemade cocoa frosting - mounded in the middle to resemble a groundhog's den. Then I stuck a Teddy Graham in the middle (taking on the role of the groundhog here, popping up to look for his shadow) and sprinkled the "ground" with crushed chocolate cookies (dirt), green sugar (grass) and tiny white candies (snow). Cute to behold, but even more importantly ... really delicious with a cup of milk after lunch!

Also in the kitchen today ... I have several potatoes baking for tonight's shepherd(ess) pie. Don't potatoes in the oven just smell amazing? In a bit (meaning, once I finish this post) I will put the kettle on and get the younger boys to help me make a loaf of Irish soda bread to go with tonight's dinner. And do you know what we will have on that bread ... ?

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Yes, our very own homemade butter!

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We've been making butter on the feast of St. Brigid (patroness of Ireland, dairymaids, cattle and midwives) for many years, but this was Little Bear's first time with the project! And he was pretty impressed - if not much help with the actual shaking. He's only three, so I cut him some slack!

Also for St. Brigid's Day and Candlemas (yesterday and today, respectively) ... winter citrus candles!

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I like to melt beeswax and make candles on Candlemas, but this year I kept it a bit simpler. As crafts go, this was pretty quick and easy! The trickiest bit is getting the orange flesh away from the orange shell neatly. So I just hollowed out an orange and split it in half ... pressed a small star-shaped cookie cutter in one end and stuck whole cloves all around the opening. Then I placed a beeswax tealight inside ... smelled SO amazing. Even after the orange peel started smoking. Oops!

(Of course, it goes without saying, I keep burning candles well out of reach of the children and I never leave them unattended. It's nice to light them while you say a verse or prayer - then quickly snuff them out.)

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I thought the star shape was reminiscent of Brigid's cloak as described in this story - one of our favorite February books! There are so many wonderful picture books to enjoy all through the year ...

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I try to organize mine by seasonal flavor. I have huge baskets in our basement with books filed by season. Right now we have our "deep winter" books up in the schoolroom ... and I must admit - as much as I enjoy them, I'm itching to get to those "early spring" titles!

But there is joy and value in every season, and winter certainly has us in its grip ...

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Now that I have a "real" camera again (a birthday present from Bill and the boys) I am always hoping to get outside and snap photos. I particularly love the early morning ... although this (pre-sunrise) picture is dark, I like how it represents the harsh beauty of winter. I also just love rosehips, period. :)

Back out in the learning room (aka the sunroom), I have a nature corner set up and this is our verse for the month ...

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Lovely words from Be Blest: A Celebration of Seasons, one of my favorite poetry books. 

Another family tradition at Brigid's Day/Candlemas (nevermind what the groundhog says!) is to organize and bless our spring seeds ...

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I have all kinds of grand plans for the gardens this year! Last year it was all about building the coop and settling our hens, but this year I hope to expand our gardens - flowers, herbs and veggies. Maybe some fruit bushes. Clearly, there will be plenty of morning glories ... ;)

Another quick craft for February ...

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I cut out hearts from pretty scrapbooking paper and made up a garland for the library mantle ...

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I had the grapevine balls on hand (they came off a string of lights) and threaded them with the paper hearts on a length of twine, then hung the garland just beneath the lip of the mantle. Meanwhile, up above ...

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A boxwood wreath - the last of our "Christmas greenery," which was supposed to come down today  - is sporting several Victorian valentines. (Barnes & Noble has the loveliest, old-fashioned notecards for each holiday ... reasonably priced, too!) And just below the wreath is a message for the month (craft store letters painted robin's egg blue ... need a second coat!) and some red beeswax tea lights. I'll be making salt-dough candleholders with the boys for these tealights later this month. The jar candles on either end were made last Candlemas.

Oh, and finally!

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I saw an idea on Facebook - and I cannot remember its origin now! - but it was to use post-its as little love notes for your child(ren) ... one a day leading up to February 14th. I found these cute heart-shaped post-it notes on Amazon (actually, with Lent in mind but they work well here) and embellished a plain craft board wreath with a "Love" banner. (Glittery adhesive stickers against scrapbook paper cut into a banner shape.) Each day I will add a note, filling the whole wreath, with all the different ways we love. Maybe something to love about life, about the world around us ... or maybe something we love about each other. They're not personalized but something I hope each family member enjoys reading each day. Thinking about all the ways we are blessed by love in our life!

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Well my friends, I'd best wrap up now ... this post has gone on MUCH longer than I intended ... teatime has arrived and the sun is shining once again! So as always, I thank you for your time and attention and I wish you a pleasant evening (or day as the case may be). I hope all is well with you where you are ... and I hope to be back again in just a few days to talk more about my February planner ... and plans! :)

In the meantime, take care of yourselves and your loved ones ... I'll see you here again very soon!


#52 Weeks: My Fridge & Freezer!

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Hello my friends, and Happy Monday! I hope you all had a nice weekend. :)

Well it's time for another "52 Weeks to an Organized Home" progress report! And this past week we focused our decluttering muscles on the refrigerator and freezer, two spots in my kitchen that are almost never as clean and well managed as they should be. I can't fault the refrigerator anymore ... our appliance is relatively new, since the old one went kaput last October. The shelves and compartments are supposed to make sense and lead one into an easy and efficient (not to mention edible) state of organization. Even so, I still manage to have overcrowded, sticky shelves and somehow food still gets overlooked (and goes bad). Not all of it of course, but enough of it that I cringe when a visitor takes a peek in our fridge or if someone brings something to a party that - heaven forbid - needs refrigerating!

But no more! I spent a few mornings this week working on this very area and all its - er, my - faults. With my trusty helper by my side, natch!

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Well, in this picture he's just moved on to the ovens but honestly, do you see the sheen on that refrigerator? Little Bear's been such a wonderful cleaning assistant - just as he loves working outside with Daddy (gathering branches is a favorite task), he also enjoys "working" inside with Mama. As soon as he sees cleaning spray in my hand or a chair pushed up next to the cabinets, he's all: "I help, Mama?" So I give him a damp dishrag and set him to work! :)

Ok, so here's the before picture of my fridge/freezer ...

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So maybe it doesn't look too bad, but clearly it was pretty crowded ... and that's because there was a lot of old food that needed clearing out. Salad dressings for example. (For people who don't eat nearly enough salad we certainly have more than enough dressing on hand!)

Oh, and note the dead/dying flowers on top of the fridge. These were a lovely birthday gift from my husband ... but because we have naughty cats who like to eat plants - poisonous or otherwise - any type of floral arrangement must be kept well out of reach. Where it's usually forgotten and left to die.

Anyway, I cleared EVERYTHING out - the fridge kept beeping at me because the door was open too long! - and got rid of food that had spoiled. (For the record, we did clean out and recycle the containers.) Then I gave some thought to how I had items organized, tweaked the plan a bit, and then put it all back.

Oh yes - we wiped each shelf and drawer as we went!

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The after ...

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I don't think you need to hear about all the food, but there is a rhyme and reason to it. And look! SPACE! There's a whole shelf there that has next to nothing on it. (Save some lettuce put aside for "the girls.")

Interesting fact: This particular fridge came with an easy-access door which I almost never use but does seem terribly smart. It's hard to explain, but there is a latch on the fridge handle that allows you to open an outer door that reveals the things you see on the shelves inside the door itself. The milk and whatnot ... the things you'd need to grab most often. This is supposed to conserve energy since you don't need to open the fridge wide every time the kids want a glass of juice or a cheese stick. I didn't take a picture of that but if I think to do so I'll grab one tomorrow and plug it into this post. 

(Note: I don't usually have so much pudding on hand, lol - but I'm currently nursing a "dry socket," which - if you're not familiar with this affliction - is when a wisdom tooth extraction goes awry. Very painful! Soft foods have been the norm for me for the past 10 days. God bless my mum, she brought me all kinds of yogurt and pudding and protein drinks and applesauce AND made me egg salad to have on hand. I'm healing slowly but surely - but boy, am I getting tired of pudding!)

And here's the freezer ...

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... which we did a few days later. :)

The freezer was in better shape than the fridge, but there wasn't really a good system in place. After removing it all and weeding out old items, it's a little better now ... And yes, we have a lot of ice cream on those shelves, but no they don't have anything to do with my tooth! We host a lot of parties as you know, particularly birthday parties, so ice cream gets bought - half eaten - and then returned to the freezer. Bill can't eat ice cream (he's lactose-intolerant) and I try not to, if you know what I mean. ;) And the boys are allowed ice cream only on occasion ... so it really piles up!

Oh, and did I mention Bill's new hobby is making ice cream?

Ha-ha, go figure! Seriously though, his lemon sorbet and vanilla custard ice cream is to die for! (Especially since the latter is made with our hen's fresh eggs!) Those white containers are holding his recent concoctions and the white object in the bottom drawer is the ice cream maker bowl. (Kept frozen and ready to go!)

Now one of the things I just LOVE about this program is how Taylor assigns a challenge (or zone) for each week - case in point, "fridge/freezer" last week and "recipes" next week - but then instead of just sending you off on your own, she ALSO gives you daily missions that will help you on the way to conquering that challenge! So this past week, on one day we decluttered the fridge, and on another we cleaned the fridge thoroughly. Then we tackled the freezer another day, and the front and top of the fridge another day entirely. This challenge is so VERY doable!

Speaking of the front of the fridge, here is mine ...

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Love this sweet teapot wallie!

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On the left is a board for Earlybird's ABA weekend homework, and on the right is a pen cup, the teapot wallie (which is like chalkboard) and our week-at-a-glance. I love how they look against the black fridge! I am using the teapot to list a seasonal verse or idea each week - something that ties into our home/learning theme (which next week is "candles"). The calendar is pretty self-explanatory ... I have this here so the rest of the family can see what's going each day of the week. :)

(I bought the homework board at Staples (Martha Stewart Office) and the items on the right were found on Amazon.)

So there we have it! Another week behind us and several spots in my kitchen are much cleaner than they were on January 1st! This coming week we are targeting "recipes and cookbooks" and I am SO looking forward to digging into those things. I will be back with a report on how that challenge went and I hope to also return in a few days with a peek at my binder's February section ... how those planning sheets are working for me and some thoughts on the month ahead!

For now though I will leave you, but as always, it's with my thanks for your time and attention. I hope you all have a nice week ...

I'll see you here again very soon!


#52 Weeks: My Pantry & Bakeware ...

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Hello, my friends and Happy Tuesday! I hope your week is off to a great start! I have just finished up week three of the 52 Week Organized Home Challenge and I'm here to report in! (Please see my previous progress reports here and here.)

Above you see my kitchen pantry and if I may say so, I just adore my pantry. It's located in the kitchen proper, on the wall across from the kitchen "nook" and just before the passageway into the family room. When we were first shown this house (almost four years ago now) there were several things that really stood out to me as a prospective buyer (already half in love with the house from the first foot out of the car!) and one of them was this pantry. It was built by a local craftsman and apparently several homes in our town have the same feature. Short of a separate room with a utility sink and work table - and maybe rafters for drying herbs - I thought this was pretty perfect as pantries go! Certainly a "luxury" we had never enjoyed before in our previous homes. Food storage was always tricky especially as our family grew and I yearned to cook more at home.

Now, I grew up with a back hall pantry (the stairwell down to the back door) and my grandparents had a wonderful pantry in their basement (also in a back stairwell). My grandparents went through the Great Depression and lived by the old adage "use it up, wear it out, make do or do without" ... AND, always be prepared. I remember having such a feeling of comfort and security just knowing those shelves existed. Grama would often send me down to fetch a can of this or that ... but sometimes I looked it over all on my own ... just because. Full of jars and bottles and cans of all kinds, I found them fascinating and maybe even a little mysterious. :) Both my mother and grandmother were fabulous home cooks (my mum still is!) who loved caring for their families and so by extension, their pantries provided more than just physical nourishment. Nowadays of course we can just run to the grocery store and get what we need - almost at any time of day - but still, my Yankee roots urge me to secure for the future, stock up on goods, fill the larder, and never take any of it for granted. How blessed we are to know we can feed those we love when they are hungry ...

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Art by Tasha Tudor

Well, anyway ... back to the pantry in question! And if you can't tell, the photo at the top is the "before" shot. ;) I was told by a few folks that this looked pretty good as is (was), but honestly, things were really quite messy. There was so much out-of-date food (that moved with us from the old house!) and crumbs and stickiness of all kinds. And I really didn't have a good idea of just what all was in here. It's hard to "work" a pantry with which you're not completely familiar! And as I've mentioned before, one of my 2017 goals is to cook more at home - to make more of the food we eat rather than rely on packaged/prepared/processed kinds of foods. Better for us and our budget!

So the first thing I did was to empty the WHOLE thing out, shelf by shelf, and place things on the kitchen table.

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(I mean, how many bags of flour does one family really need?)

See, here's an example of one of my problems. I don't cook with flour as often as I should (or would if I had my A-game going) so I had no idea how many bags of flour we actually had. I'd buy flour if I saw it on sale, or if I was at the store thinking how I'd like to make pizza dough from scratch, then I'd buy flour just in case I didn't have the right kind on hand at home. Several of these bags were past their expiration date and honestly, that is just shameful.

(I'm baring my soul here friends ... just in case you thought I was some kind of super-organized, homemaking maven! Lol.)

I also had SO many supplies for cupcake baking ...

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But that makes sense because we do make cupcakes quite often (apparently not from scratch though) and sprinkles don't ever really go bad. (Do they?)

Ok, so once I had ALL the foodstuffs out (I worked cabinet by cabinet - my kitchen table's not that big) I stood on a chair and vacuumed and wiped all the shelves. (The boys were beside themselves ... Mama, come down from there! That's not safe! We'll tell Dad!) Next I combed through it all and got rid of expired items. (This was better done when my husband was at work ... he would have fainted to see me toss so much food!) Finally, I set things back in place, again going shelf by shelf - trying to come up with some efficient storage solutions as I went along.

And voila!

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A trimmed down, clean and organized pantry. With plenty of room for adding more! Generally speaking, the left cabinet holds savory things, the middle cabinet is for baking, fruits and sweet mixes and the last cabinet is for health, pets, baby and breakfast items.

How about a tour? :)

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Top shelf has beverages. We don't drink soda often, but keep it on hand for company and large-scale entertaining. The shelf just below that has snack-type foods - chips, taco shells, crackers and salad croutons.

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Next shelf down is for rice and soups ...

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There are two handy pull-out metal drawers for seasoning packets/sauce mixes, soup bouillon, and seafood cans/pouches.

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Ok, on to the middle cabinet ...

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Top shelf has flours, oats, cornmeal and pancake mix. (p.s. As I went along I worked on a pantry inventory - using handy printables from Taylor at Home Storage Solutions 101, noting any pre-made packaged foods I'd like to make from scratch - such as pancake mix.) The next shelf down has sugars (confectioner's sugar, brown sugar (hidden in an air-tight container just behind the Domino boxes), stevia, organic raw sugar and plain old granulated sugar. Also, a bin full of decorative sugars, colored sprinkles, icing gel, cupcake liners and toppers, etc.

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Moving down ... we have the spice shelf! The rack on the far left has pull out shelves and the two bins hold spices for cooking (left) and baking (right). (Generally speaking of course. Just how it made sense in my own head.) Then there is a mortar-pestle for grinding whole spices, an air-tight jar with cinnamon sticks, a pretty crock of Herbs de Provence (a gift from a friend), and a few other assorted spices ... vanilla beans, dry mustard, Bell's seasoning, cream of tartar, chili powder and seasoned salt.

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More pull-out drawers below  ... these hold gelatin, yeast, pudding mixes, and chocolate chips/baking chocolate of all kinds. Just below that are assorted baking ingredients: cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, coconut oil, corn syrup, molasses, honey, shortening, and cocoa.

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(Notice I'm spending more time on these shelves ... I'm much more a baker than a cook. Flour issues notwithstanding.)

Ok, next we have flavorings and seasonings ... salt, No-Salt (for my dad), assorted seasoning rubs and blends, cinnamon sugar and vanilla sugar (in the latched jar), packets of raw sugar, vanilla and assorted flavorings (peppermint, almond, lemon, orange, hazelnut, etc.), a large bag of mulling spices, a small bag of dried flower petals, cloth spice bags, and rosewater and orange blossom water. And a pack of flavored Italian honey. This is a fun shelf - it might be my favorite! :) Madagascar vanilla is my favorite thing in my kitchen. Well, after coffee ... and maybe tea.  

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Ok, on to the next shelf! Here we have dried fruits (dates, raisins, cherries and cranberries), a good ol' jar of Marshmallow Fluff (a New England staple), a jar of mincemeat (which actually contains no meat whatsoever) and many, many cans of squash and pumpkin. (One can never have too many cans of pumpkin, imho.)

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Allrighty, last cabinet!

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At the very top is a cabinet with medicinal things, matches, bandaids, sunscreen and, oddly enough, bubble solution. Bubbles bring high emotions in this household, so it's best to keep them somewhere out of sight when not in use.

The next shelf down holds my "master stash" of tea and a basket of assorted cocoa packets ...

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Then we have a shelf for larger containers of cocoa, marshmallows and leftover Halloween (and um, Thanksgiving and Christmas) candies. Nobody eats these really, but I can't bear to throw them out! (Actually, that's not entirely true - the Annie's Halloween bunny grahams are gone now.) And behind the tea tins on the left is a large container of protein powder we never remember to use. I love reusing those pretty Harney & Sons tea tins for storage!

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And here we have the pets and baby shelf, holding a basket of canned food, pouches of treats (one for cats, one for hens), a tupperware container of homegrown catnip, Little Bear's toddler snacks and bottle liners. (He's actually off bottles now - he really held onto that bedtime bubba! - but we're saving those liners in case my sister-in-law - who is due soon with her first baby - might need them.)

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Next shelf down holds cold cereal boxes - they don't fit standing up and we have yet to find another storage spot - and a bin of oatmeal packets, plus a jug of spring water.

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And then we have ... hey, wait a minute!

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Oh, do cats love it when you clean. :) But this is actually an empty shelf! (Which is fine ... sometimes, especially when Bookworm is home, we have lots of cold cereal boxes on hand.) And below that is a bottom shelf holding extra boxes of food wraps.

Ok, a couple more photos showing you how I tackled the "organize bakeware" mission ...

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Same procedure as the pantry, more or less - took everything out of these cabinets and weeded through it all. What do we need up here in the kitchen? What can go down to storage in the basement? Then cleaned out the cabinets themselves and finally, placed all of my bakeware back inside.

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Far left holds baking molds and and muffin pans, plus a large half-sheet cake pan. The middle cabinet holds bundt pans, springform pans, quiche/tart pans, and regular 9" round pans. Also, a couple of waffle makers. And the third cabinet holds a bin of random baking supplies - cookie cutters, candy molds and popsicle molds - as well as our Griddler and deep fryer.

You can probably see that these under-counter cabinets have a neat feature - a surprise cabinet on the backside of the jetty! (Do you see Little Bear's tiny face peeking in through the light in the back? :)

In this cabinet, which opens on the kitchen nook side, we store our crockpots, pressure cooker, juicer and salad spinner just behind.

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(The crockpot on the let was missing its inner pot - it was in the dishwasher!)

So that was last week's challenge in a nutshell. Pretty big nut there, Dawn - I bet you're thinking! Well, you know how I can talk. But thanks so much for sharing in my pantry joy - I hope you enjoyed hearing about the process! This week we're assigned missions that target the refrigerator and freezer and as you can see below ...

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I'm getting a lot of help from my little guy! :)

Well my friends, thanks again for stopping by and I'd love to hear about your pantry if you have the time to leave a comment. Or pantry memories? I'm very fond of those. :) I'll be back next weekend (or so) with another progress report ...

As I've said before, I am really enjoying this challenge! It feels so good to devote my time and attention on my home and really get things back in order. This is my workspace after all! I'm here all day (for the most part) really using these spaces with my family and it's my hope to become even more comfortable in the kitchen, cooking more often and with more purpose than I usually do. I think a tidy pantry is a good step in that direction, as will be a clean fridge and freezer!

So see you next time ... I hope to be back again this week, perhaps with a "home office" kind of post, but we shall see what the week brings!

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


My Day Designer: A Closer Look ❤

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Hello my friends, and welcome ... I hope your weekend's going well! Some time ago I promised a closer look at how I use my Day Designer to best organize the hours of my day ... and today I am here to do just that!

Throughout this post I will share many close-up pictures of this past Tuesday's planning page. It's probably TMI to be honest, but I think it's neat to see what kinds of things other people write down in their planners, don't you? I will admit I really filled it up with this post in mind - my pages (days) are not always so busy! Plus, I embellished the page a little more than I do normally. (I'm not usually one for a lot of stickers or too many colors.) I tried to use my page to its fullest advantage so I could show all the different ways it can and does work for me. I will walk you through each section as we go along ...

Before we get too far though, I would first like to say that I absolutely LOVE my Day Designer. There are multiple versions of the DD, but the one I am using this year is a Flagship academic version (June 2016-May 2017) in the Blue Floral design

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And as many of you know, I'm a very picky person when it comes to planners ... "picky" in that, I bounce around between a lot of them! So the fact that I've used my DD consistently since I received it last spring is, frankly, quite amazing!

I first became acquainted with the Day Designer (a system created by Whitney English) when I found a Blue Sky version of the DD at Target in July, 2015. Now, the stationary aisle at Target is a heady and happy distraction for me ... I am a weak, weak woman when I am in that aisle and sometimes I actively avoid it! Honestly, it's like I get trapped in some kind of office supply vortex ... surrounded by so many possibilities ... and before long I've convinced myself I absolutely NEED this (or that) new (seemingly perfect) planning tool ...

Well, that's what happened on that bright summer's day when I found what I was sure could be the planner of my dreams. (Spoiler alert: it was close!) You can read all about that planner here in this giddy post, but to sum up - I used this Blue Sky version of the DD off and on for a while, really liking the daily format but - as is typical for me - having trouble staying fully committed. In other words, I would stray sometimes and use other planners for a bit - always returning to the Day Designer because it just felt so comfortable and comprehensive.

By next spring (2016) I started hearing about the brand new designs for the Flagship Day Designer (the original DD, only available online) and I was completely intrigued. The cover reveal was exciting and I immediately fell in love with a couple of the designs. (Palm was my second choice!) I investigated this similar but more complex (and more expensive) planner - reading reviews, surfing forums and printing out free printables - and then I really gave it some hard thought. If you're a regular reader then you know I spend a lot of time and energy on creating my own planner systems. These creations address a large chunk of my family time - the year itself, natural and liturgical seasons, the months and the weeks - but I find it so helpful to have something specifically designed for tracking one's DAY. Targeting the hours we can control that are right in front of us, while keeping our bigger vision in mind. You can see more of my seasonal planning system here, but I've yet to create anything as beautiful and efficient as the Day Designer ...

So ... I made the splurge! I ordered my new Day Designer during the annual pre-sale, received it in mid-April, and boy was I eager for that June 1st start! And I can honestly say that I am really looking forward to ordering a new one this spring. I do waffle a bit between returning to the Blue Sky version or continuing with the Flagship, but with either choice I'm confident I'll be very happy.

Ok, enough of the "background" ... now for the nitty-gritty!

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First of all, look at that gorgeous, golden coil-binding! So tight, secure, and smooth. And the front and back covers are quite sturdy. (That was one of the qualities that sold me on the Flagship over the Blue Sky DD which is a "softer," more pliable planner. Just as big but not as solid.) These covers provide a wonderful support when writing in my planner - in other words, I don't have to grab one of the kids' big hardcover picture books to use as a lap desk when writing things down, lol. Anyone else do that? Also, the paper is awesome - smooth and soft white, and thick enough that it doesn't easily tear from the coils. (I've never had it tear at all.)

Confession: I shared this picture mostly because I love the little hand reaching forward to touch the coils! :)

Now, here's last Tuesday's page at a glance ...

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Another confession: I only just recently started using pen! Usually I write in pencil because I absolutely need to erase. I'm a little crazy particular about my printing and if something needs adjusting I like to erase rather than scratch it out. But then I bought a package of these pens ...

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... and I just love them! They write very smoothly and are comfortable to hold and - oh my GOSH - they erase! Not like, kind-of erase - but really-and-truly, the-ink-is-gone kind of erasing. They don't bleed through the pages either, which is a very good thing. I bought a small package of blue, black and red and so far I like the blue best because it's pretty and it matches the floral design on my planner... BUT. Just now as I went to grab a link for the pen on Amazon I realized that Frixion makes a whole bunch of colors! Naturally, I ordered up a package of eight ... :)

Also, as I stated above, I don't really use stickers and washi and other embellishments. I have TONS on hand but haven't really gotten the hang of it. I have seen many cool planners decked out in all kinds of colors and designs ... and they are very pretty ... but for me, I need to keep things a little more straight-forward. I do like to add "extras" now and again. (Like, pumpkin stickers in the fall, a big ole turkey at Thanksgiving, or maybe a flag for the 4th of July.)

Here's an example of a Christmassy page I set up in December ...

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As you can see, I also like to use post-it notes in my planner and I'm working on using highlighters ... but I'll expand upon that in a bit!

For now, lets start at the top ... 

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Across the top of every daily page is a quote, and they are always interesting and often inspiring! If I really like a quote I draw a little design around it with stars. On this day, because it was Ben Franklin's birthday I used this "Be Bright" sticker. He was certainly a very bright man but I also like the idea of shining our lights for those around us who might need it. A good message all in all.

On the left side of the top of the page is a spot to note the "top three things" for the day ...

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I use these lines for holidays, birthdays, liturgical feast days, natural phenomena, or any events of note (like the arrival of a new book!). I also scribble a little weather note just for future reference. (Though most of my nature/weather notes go in my domestic journal described in this post.)

Below that section is the daily agenda, all along the remainder of the left-hand side of the page. The time increments start at 5 a.m. and end at 9 p.m ... which is pretty much the span of my waking (working) hours! In the space directly above the agenda I hand-write tiny boxes for tracking water intake and fruits/vegetables. Then, in the lines between 5 and 6 a.m. (when I'm mostly nursing my coffee and getting my engine started) I write in everyday tasks to check off. I like using my agenda for scheduling routine tasks because I can see at a glance where I have space (time) to fit them in. (For example my current decluttering missions.) And these are things I do every.single.day but it's good for me to keep track of them. Especially for reminding myself to take my vitamins and give Earlybird his meds. And when the cats are staring me down mid-morning a quick glance at this task list confirms I haven't given them breakfast.

Just below that section, but before the time-scheduled activities begin, I have a few more items to check off and these are usually pretty similar depending on the day. If I'm grabbing a shower in the morning (as opposed to before bed), getting the baths and activity card prepped for ABA and of course, feeding my family their breakfast. I keep these tasks written over to the right because I do sometimes have scheduled activities for 7-8 a.m. and would need to write them next to the number. (Case in point - an 8:30 dentist appointment the other day.)

(Note, sometimes - when I'm being really efficient - I jot down what's for breakfast and lunch as well. I like looking back at the day to assess how balanced our diet was ... but I'm not always so on top of things.)

Moving a bit further down I list the usual agenda items ...

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... such as when we need to take Crackerjack to class, when Earlybird has therapy ... what I'm doing with Little Bear while Earlybird has therapy. Tiny notes re ~ things CJ must remember for class and things for me to discuss with EB's therapist. And then, at noontime, I have a midday round of routine tasks to check off. This is our lunchtime and I'm usually able to catch up with chores while the kids eat and we take a little break from lessons and outings.

I also try to schedule myself a "cozy nest" time around 3:00 and sometimes this is for me and sometimes this is for me and the boys. Sometimes it's inside, and sometimes it's out in the yard. It depends on the day! It might seem silly to write such an event in a planner but this is my philosophy: if something is important to you, it belongs in your planner. Teatime and reading breaks and nature walks sometimes happen spontaneously, but they're more likely to happen if they're given a space alongside the other to-dos of the day.

On this Tuesday I used a sweet little sticker to record my "tea" of choice!

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Four in the afternoon is another checkpoint ..."tidy time" I call it! It's the reset button when I do a general clutter sweep - school things put away, my "stuff" cleaned up, toys picked up off the floor - hopefully getting the kids to help me too! I also start dinner prep, quickly wipe up baths and take a few minutes to review my planner. After supper and another reminder for Earlybird's bedtime med, I jot down what I hope to watch or read that evening. :) (Or, obviously, if we have evening plans, these get listed in their time slot ... but ... we hardly ever have evening plans, lol!)

But now, moving over to the other side of the planner, starting at the top again ...

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I use these four boxes mostly as they're intended. "Dinner" and "Dollars" are self-explanatory ... but I use "Don't Forget" for making note of our weekly seasonal theme, and under "Due" I list current blog drafts. Just below this section, the remainder of the right-hand side is for To-Dos. At the very top I write "IG" and "FB" and note what I'm planning to share on social media that day.

Moving down the To-Do column, I first list what housekeeping tasks I am working on that day - the daily #52Weeks mission and then whatever is on tap for that weekday. (Tuesdays are for bathrooms. Everyday is for laundries.)

And then from there it's just anything that needs doing (or should be done) on THIS day. Not sometime this week, but preferably TODAY. And it's a really nice long column so there is plenty of room for listing all the things. (Harkening back to my Franklin-Covey days I use a dot if a task is in progress, an arrow for moving a task forward and a check for completion. I add a circled initial next to a task if someone else is in charge of a particular job.)

Now, because I homeschool my children, educational activities take up a good portion of our day. Or they do when we're really on point! So I've been keen to designate some of the space on my daily planning page for tracking these activities. (I have a weekly lessons overview in my planning binder, but I like to formulate a few concrete goals for each day.) The bulk of my hands-on homeschooling is with the younger boys since my 17yo is mostly doing independent studies at this point. I expect him to do daily math lessons, keep up with his class assignments and homework, and to help with the family nature almanac. (Environmental Studies this year.)

Something I've recently tried is using a bit of cute washi tape to set apart a section for lessons ...

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Washi tape is such fun - I love finding neat ways to use it!

I've also used different colored post-it notes (1 3/8" by 1 7/8" size) for tracking lessons. (Each of my boys assigned a color.) I love the way this size post-it fits at the bottom of the page. Currently I'm using these notes for ideas/actions to carry throughout the week. The theme from my Earth Psalms book, monthly and seasonal themes/missions and a reminder to monitor Earlybird whose med dosage was increased recently. I move these notes along each day ...

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Now, not seen beneath these notes, at the very bottom of the page, there is a large rectangle labeled, "Notes" and a smaller box in the bottom right-hand corner for "Gratitude." After taking these pictures I used the notes box to record the subscriptions I renewed that afternoon and I jotted down another Ben Franklin quote in the gratitude section. (I have a separate journal for recording gratitude and intentions.)

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I added the pretty blue flower sticker because the corners of the notes kept lifting and ... because it was just so darn pretty!

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Before I go, I just wanted to show you that I am also trying something new with my planner ... using highlighters to indicate different types of activities:

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Blue for Earlybird's therapy, yellow for activities that take me/us out of the house and pink for activities that are for mama's health and well-being. :)

Ok, one more photo! Since Day Designer combines Saturday and Sunday on one page, this layout is a bit different from the pages I've shown you so far ...

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As you can see, I still use it in the same way - with task lists and agenda items grouped by time slot. I use the "To Do" section at the top for events of note, and instead use sticky notes for my weekend to-dos. The smaller note has a few blog goals (I try to catch up on drafts over the weekend) and the larger note has our family "pow." (POW = Plan of the Weekend, or basically a list of the tasks we hope to accomplish.) I like that at the bottom of this weekend page there is a divided box for the days of next week. I always have my head halfway in the coming week on Saturdays (and particularly Sundays) and it helps to see at-a-glance what is coming up ... especially if there are things I need to prepare or purchase while running weekend errands.

Now I must confess, as I was talking about my Blue Sky Day Designer I felt the urge to look through my old planner ... so I pulled it out of my closet and perused it for a bit. It really is a lovely planner! A couple of things caught my eye. First, I remembered that something I preferred in the Blue Sky version was its monthly calendars. They are set up just like the Flagship (a monthly spread across two pages, gold tab, large grid), only the Blue Sky calendar has LINES. And I love a calendar with lines for organizing the information and keeping one's handwriting neat. I also kind of like the daily page set up - maybe not better but it certainly makes sense. Again, the two versions are similar but the Blue Sky has three vertical columns (schedule, to-do and notes) rather than two (schedule and to-do). I remember I liked using the notes column for extra information and sometimes for homeschool planning.

I don't have the time or light to take pictures of the rest of my DD right now (monthly calendars, goal management, vision page, etc.), but I can share more at a later date if anyone would like to see those other sections. But for now, I think I'd better wrap up ... because, although I know we all love to talk planners, this post is running quite long! I'd love to hear from you if you are using a daily planner, whether a Day Designer or something else ... please drop a note if you have time!

So I thank you for stopping by and wish you all a wonderful weekend. Take care of yourselves and your loved ones ...

I will see you here again very soon!


#52Weeks: My Kitchen Cabinets & Drawers ...

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Hello my friends, and Happy Sunday! I'm here with a report on my "Organized Home Challenge" progress! And I'm happy to say it's still going well ... :)

As I mentioned in last week's post, I am following a challenge called, "52 Weeks to an Organized Home" this year. It's run by Taylor Flanery of Household Storage Solutions 101 and each week we tackle a different section of the home, working our way through daily "decluttering missions." Along the way there are all kinds of supportive posts to encourage us (on Facebook and Instagram) and daily email reminders to keep us on track ...

Happily, I'm finding it easy to keep up and honestly, I'm having fun too!

You can find out more about the program through links provided in my earlier post, but here is a peek at the Challenge printables I have stashed in my planning binder for easy reference ...

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On the left is a breakdown of all 52 challenges - one for each week of the year - and on the right is January's daily decluttering missions calendar. I have been using a blank cleaning schedule I found online to keep track of my weekly tasks as seen here ...

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I just copy the daily missions into each daily block and use a red pen to mark off each completed task. This sheet shows tasks for the next two weeks - 1/16-1/22 "Pantry/Food Storage" and 1/23-1/29 "Refrigerator/Freezer." The underside of this sheet shows the last two weeks' tasks which I'm pleased to say is filled with red checks! :)

Anyhoo - today I am here to catch up and show you how last week went. I really hope to do this each week as a means of keeping myself motivated and dedicated! (And don't hesitate to nudge me or ask about my progress if I've gone quiet on the topic, lol!)

Well, our first week of the year focused on The Kitchen Sink, Table & Countertops, while this past week's challenge targeted "Kitchen Cabinets & Drawers." And I think I'll probably say this each week but, BOY did my cabinets and drawers need a lot of work! But by taking just one small challenge each day I found it to be definitely do-able. I even finished a day early - doubling up yesterday by tackling food storage containers AND pots and pans. :)

Ok ... here we go!

Here is my utensils container on the kitchen counter, parked next to the microwave ...

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I could probably fill three of these stands, but instead, I pared things down, including only the tools we use most often. The rest of our utensils were placed in a small pile tucked rather tidily in this bottom drawer filled with random things ...

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Which also now holds paper bags, wax paper sandwich bags, paper plates and a small amount of paper napkins. (We try to avoid using disposables, but sometimes they're handy to have on hand!)

I did remember to take before pictures of that above "junk" drawer ... hang on:

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Above as it first appeared, and then below, after removing a layer of debris ...

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(Is it just my kids or do yours also come out of the woodwork whenever you start "weeding out" some kind of stuff and so suddenly they MUST be involved in order to see whatall is going down and whatall might be of use to them. Heaven forbid you get rid of anything as essential as an oversized warped wire whisk!)

So yes, this was very much a JUNK drawer and had not been cleaned out ... well, ever. Things just got stashed here when we moved in (3 1/2 years ago!) and stuff kept getting thown in here. Extra utensils, party goods, plastic utensils, egg cartons ...

Once I removed EVERYTHING from this drawer and the one above it  ...

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... I got down to business. In each case I cleaned the space first (vacuuming and/or wiping out with a damp cloth) and then went through all the items, whittling down what was essential and what was not. Once I had those essential items in neat piles, I returned them to the clean spaces.

Here is the potholder/kitchen cloths drawer now:

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It might not look like a lot of towels, but these are very deep drawers. Under that basket (which holds smaller-sized dish rags and microfiber cloths) are more folded towels. And under the oven mitts (which are scorched and well used!) are even more pot holders. Under the scented bluebird mug mats are a few trivets.

I can't tell you how good it felt to get these drawers - long neglected and forever overcrowded - all tidy!

Ok, moving on ... here is my silverware drawer:

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This didn't need too much decluttering, but I did lift out the divider and vacuum all the crumbs! (Cute story about the dual sets of stainless steel measuring cups and spoons ... many moons ago, Bill and I each bought the other a set of these for our first Christmas as husband and wife. It's actually convenient to have two sets since we do cook and bake quite a bit.)

One of the more time-consuming challenges for me was this absolute mess ...

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So yeah, that happened. Lol, I can't believe I'm showing you this! As you can see from the scribbles somebody once made use of the Sharpies hidden in this drawer ... only he didn't bother to find paper. sigh Eventually we will paint the drawer to cover up all the scribbles ... but today was not that day!

So what's in this drawer? Well, what isn't, lol? Clearly a real hodgepodge of things - kitchen twine, garden twine, writing utensils, take out menus, notepads, batteries ... and um, a Christmas ornament???

Anyway, here's the after ...

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:)

Small glass jam jars for glue sticks, rubber bands, erasers, paper clips and thumb tacks (in the covered jar). Local menus, notepads, an assortment of pencils and pens, stapler, scissors, tape, rulers and a bin of index cards which I use for Earlybird's daily therapist. I'm also considering using the alphabetical tabs for a simple and easily accessible family address/phone book.

Next up I tackled foils, plastic wraps and plastic bags ...

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It's a bit of a tight fit but it's everything I need. Actually, I really don't need that second box of Press n' Seal. That could be kept in the pantry ...

And here is last Friday's challenge: Food Storage Containers.

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We use all glass containers made by Pyrex. It took a while to phase out the Tupperware but it was worth it! These take up one end of the cabinets where we keep our dishes.

And here we have our pots and pans ...

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This is a rather dark photo (this cabinet is under our island, facing the sink) but what we have here is a large wok on the top shelf, sitting on top of an oversized cookie sheet. The orange thing is a flexible cutting mat. (Or I'm pretty sure it is, anyway. It could be a silicone baking mat, but I've yet to test that theory.) The lower level has a pull-out rack with (not seen, tucked in back) a few fry pans, including our cast iron pans and our two main pots. (Above the fridge I have our oversized dutch oven and stockpot.) Stacked on the right hand side are cookie sheets, cookie racks, cutting boards and our pizza stone.

Last but not least, it was time to address the cabinet under the kitchen sink! A rather gloomy and cluttered cabinet if ever there was one! I had hoped to paint the inside of this dark cabinet as part of the challenge, but ... not enough time! (Added to our master household task list!)DSC00313

I basically cleaned everything out - tossed or recycled old stuff - and then set up some nice storage containers.

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The blue plastic bins I found at Target and the aqua wire bin I picked up at Michaels. I pared down the cleaning supplies to sponges, cleaning sprays, sink powder, dishwashing liquid, dishwasher tabs, hand soap and an all-purpose cleaner.

(Note: We have a child-proof lock on the outside of this cabinet!)

And now a sneak peek at next week's challenge ... the pantry!

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As you can see, I will DEFINITELY have my work cut out for me here!

Taylor has a great suggestion to go along with the challenges for the next couple of weeks. We're going to - as much as possible anyway - eat from the pantry, fridge and freezer in order to use up what we have on hand and make space where we can. I will have to tweak my menu plan a little but I think this makes sense and clearly, we have plenty of foodstuffs to choose from ...

I tend to over-buy food, but hey - we are a family of six including four growing boys - and because we homeschool we eat at home quite a bit. Plus, we hardly ever eat out and only order take out once or twice a month (if that). So it's good to have plenty of food on hand! Non-perishables are fine in that scenario, but I have a hard time keeping the fresh foods in balance. How many times do I buy produce only to have it spoil before it's been utilized? And UGH do I hate wasting food. It's a waste of money, yes, but it just makes me feel awful. Too many people go hungry and I honestly feel shameful when we let food go bad. A goal this year is to be less wasteful - all around.

So clearly my pantry shelves are not as organized as they once were and honestly, I've lost track of what we have here. Plus there are likely some things in here that are out of date and/or need replacing. (Especially baking supplies and such.) Another family goal for the year is to eat less prepared and processed foods so keeping basic ingredients on hand is important. If we're going to make our own pizza dough we need our yeast to be fresh!

But all this is something to tackle next week ... I am looking forward to it, though! :)

One more thing before I go and I know I've kept you here quite long!

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I have had this book on my shelf for a few years now, but have yet to really dig in. (I tend to over-buy when it comes to books, too!) Well, I found it the other day on my library floor - yes, just sitting right there on the floor as if it leapt off the shelf and then waited there for me to stumble over it! (Which I did, because I'm graceful like that.) So I perused the contents for a moment - and found my interest piqued because the program is divided by weeks AND they are starting in the kitchen. Which is of course right where I'm at! I am going to try reading along as I work on the #52Weeks Challenge and see what kind of extra tidbits of encouragement and information this book brings me! More on this later though ... I've only just begun reading! :)

Well my friends, I thank you for stopping by and I hope you enjoyed my weekly "progress report!" I'll return next weekend with another check-in ... but this week I will also be sharing pictures from my "Birthday Tea" and I hope, a close-up look at my Day Designer daily page. But for now I leave you with my gratitude and my wish that your evening is pleasant and peaceful. Take care of yourselves and your loved ones ...

I'll see you here again very soon!


My Planning Sheets & Planning Binder {A Tour!}

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Hello everyone and Happy Thursday! I hope you're all enjoying your week. :)

On New Year's Day I shared my 2017 printable planning sheets, with a promise to expand on how I'm storing and using them. So I'm here today to follow up and do just that! I'm keeping those seasonal planning sheets in the binder shown above, sandwiched in between my domestic journal and general household tabs ...

Now, I really went back and forth between having my planning sheets spiral-bound at the copy shop or storing them in a 3-ring binder. I decided to use a binder because I like combining multiple planning tools when I can and I appreciate the flexibility of a binder as well. Most importantly, I'm not going to be taking these sheets out of the house - they will be used at my desk or kitchen counter, so a binder just made more sense!

{Note: I'm still using my Day Designer for everyday, nitty-gritty planning ... and I'll share a post about that very soon!}

I really do love binders even if they can be a bit cumbersome. But if you work at a counter or desk (or as seen here, a kitchen table) they perform just swell. I chose a Martha Stewart binder because I just love how well made they are and how smoothly the rings work. I have yet to find a binder of similar quality ...

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I have several MS binders (black, red, aquamarine) but this is the first time I've bought this pretty dove gray. I liked how it sort of blends in with my kitchen. :) I added a soft brown label to the front that reads: "Hanigan Household Notebook."

Household notebook ... planning binder ... they're pretty much the same thing. I've called it different things through the years, tweaking it countless times to better suit my needs as a mom, a homemaker, a home teacher, and well ... plain old me! Since I'm adding a lot of "planning" to its contents this year, I've been referring to it as my planning binder ...

Ok, so now I'm going to walk you through the binder as I've set it up for this brand new year ...

(Hang on to your hats friends, maybe grab another cup of tea - this is a pretty big post!)

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Binder shown open - inner pocket holds this week's ABA cards. (Earlybird has daily home therapy and I write out activities for his therapist on index cards.) In the pictures below you can see I added my decluttering calendars and though not shown, I usually keep the current month's WGBH Guide here for handy reference.

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The title page is made from pretty scrapbook paper I've had for years (I love bright colors set against a dark background).

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A handy reference courtesy of The Day Designer: 2017 at a glance.

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To the back side of that calendar reference I (washi)-taped my own year at-a-glance, with each month's events listed out. At the top of the page is my word-of-the-year, followed by a favorite quote ...

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Now the first section of my binder is my domestic journal. I've blogged a lot about this journal in the past but basically this is a brain dump - a place where I write down all kinds of random things and add clippings of all sorts. I use plain loose-leaf paper for this journal and I only keep a month's worth of journaling here at a time. At the end of each month I review my notes and lift out the journal pages to store in a separate binder. Then I add fresh sheets for the new month ahead.

I keep this journal open on my kitchen counter through the day so I can easily jot down a note as it comes to me (a nature observation, a funny thing one of the boys said, a post idea) or add a clipping as I find it (a newspaper or magazine snippet, pretty wine label, movie stub). I've found by keeping it very informal AND extremely accessible I've been able to journal way more than I ever would have, had I made it a more formal affair. And journaling is really important to me. I've been doing it since I was very young ...

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Here is the pretty binder clip I use to easily flip between the current journal page and the current monthly planning section ...

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Now comes the January cover page, which is a piece of my favorite scrapbooking paper cut down to size ...

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And next comes the monthly calendar - though really I should say, calendars ... ahem. Let me explain. :)

In my planning sheet set you will find a month-at-a-glance calendar for each month of the year, but I still rely on my favorite two-page layout, large-grid calendars (made by DayTimer). They have tons of space and nicely-spaced lines for neat writing. I'm currently using both monthly calendars to see which one works better.

(Note: The DayTimer calendars you order online are ivory-hued rather than white. I buy mine at Staples and they are the traditional white ... not sure why they are different! But I must say they changed the accent colors to a brighter green and I'm not very fond of it!)

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Here is the January cover page I made. (There is one for each month with a similar graphic, a vintage floral calendar I found on Pinterest.)

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And now here we have my own month-at-a-glance calendar, and as you can see, I also have lined boxes, but they are much smaller than the DayTimer calendar. I happen to write pretty small so it seems to work all right ... still not sure I can manage with such a small calendar though! (Maybe next year I'll try to make a two-page style spread.)

On the far side is one of the extra planning pages I made for the month ("Looking Ahead: 2017"). I attached a photocopy of last year's New Year goals - the ones which never really transpired as I'd hoped. I decided to just ... try again! I've been working on a list that will address each goal in incremental steps. Because it's one thing to SAY you want to "eat better" and it's another thing entirely to actually EAT BETTER. This might be a topic for a future post ... making goals more achievable. :)

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Next flip ... on the left a page for birthday "blessings" ... just a little wish list and some notes on my gulp 48th birthday which happens this month (actually, today!). And on the right is a planning sheet for our winter term of homeschooling. I have four boxes here - general notes, and then a box for each of my boys.

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The backside of that sheet is a general "winter term" notes page, and then comes a January 2017 overview: To Do This Month, House & Garden, Themes & Ideas and Notes.

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And now we hit the weekly sections! Here is this week's planning sheet (each month's sheets correspond in color with the scrapbook paper divider).

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I added a homemade pagefinder here - just a piece of thick printed scrapbooking paper with a washi-tape covered sticky tab at the top. It makes it easier to find the current week when I need it.

(Sometimes I leave my binder open to the spot where I left off in my journal, and sometimes I have it open to the weekly planning section. Occasionally I have it open to the month at a glance!)

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And then we have some printables I found online thanks to Pinterest. They are made by Fab n' Free and are the prettiest planning sheets I've ever seen! I am using several of her printables in my planner - trying them out to see how they work for me. Above is her week at a glance sheet ... I am seeing how it works as an agenda. (As opposed to just the overview my own planning sheet provides.)

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I love the colors and the design ... just trying to decide how to use the checklist on the righthand side of the sheet. Housekeeping tasks? Breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks? Top four homeschooling goals for the day? Hmmm ...

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Another really cool printable ... a social media/blogging agenda! I've never actually used a blog planner or anything like that, but I can see the advantage to such an idea! I usually have little sticky notes with post ideas ... and recently I started jotting down IG and FB ideas on my DayDesigner page ... but this is a very pretty and sensible way to think about your week ahead as a blogger/pinner/poster. :)

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Another printable I'm finding very handy is this 2-week cleaning schedule. I'm using it as a checklist for my progress with the "52 Weeks to an Organized Home Challenge." I'm recording each day's decluttering mission on this chart and checking off tasks as I go along. 

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Broken down in this way, it all seems very doable. :) I made this a two-sided sheet and will flip it (punching the opposite side of the sheet) once I get beyond these first two weeks ...

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A couple more printables I really like but am not using just yet - a weekly meal plan with shopping list ...

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And a larger grid, forward planning meal plan ...

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Finally, I have my home learning worksheet. This sheet appears at the end of the weekly section only because I printed the start of the NEXT week's sheets on the backside of this one. I may juggle things around a bit because I might like having our lesson plans a little closer to the weekly overview and agenda.

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And with a turn of the page, here is next week's planning sheets all ready to go! (See how the home learning worksheet lines up right next to the overview? I have yet to add all the extra printables here.) And after the last week in January comes the January review page and then we begin February with a new scrapbook divider ...

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At the very back of the binder are my household tabs:

1. Personal (Blogging, projects, writing, etc.)

2. Routines & Schedules

3. Household Information

4. Budgeting/Financial

5. Meal Planning

6. Home Education

7. Family & Friends

 8. Journal Index

These are Martha Stewart tabs - I loved the soft shades! I used a Sharpie to write on the tabs but they started to smudge so I placed a small piece of scotch tape over each tab until the ink set. (Note: once I lifted the tape I lifted most of the ink with it! I'm going to need to write over the original pen with something more permanent!)

Now to go through each of these tabs would make this very long post even longer, so I'll stop here. I will say that - as I have blogged about in the past - I have separate binders for each of the above subjects, because I don't want to make this binder too bulky. That said, I do like having some information right at my fingertips - routines we follow, class schedules, passwords, a contacts list and master grocery list, etc. These are the kinds of things I look at often and prefer having in my master binder rather than in the additional binders I store in the library. 

***

Well my friends, I hope you have enjoyed this lengthy and leisurely tour of my 2017 Planning Binder! I had fun photographing all these pages and talking about them here with you. (Obviously this is one of my favorite topics!) I know we're barely two weeks into the new year but so far things are going pretty well with this system - the binder is fun and manageable and the Day Designer is still my go-to for everyday, where-am-I-at kind of planning. As I promised above I will have a Day Designer tour coming up very soon!

In the meantime, I wish you all a wonderful weekend! Mine starts tomorrow ... Bill and the boys have given me a "birthday weekend" in which I can do whatever I'd like and they'll hold down the fort. Needless to say most of my plans revolve around things I'll be doing right here at home! Reading, writing, planning, puttering ... maybe a quick jaunt to the craft store for supplies. :) 

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


A Tale of Two Desks ...

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Last autumn I blogged about my "new" desk in the family room, and since that is where my computer is, that's where I do most of my working/planning/blogging.

waves hello from computer desk *

Consequently, it is also the spot where most of my "desk mess" accumulates! Planners, papers, receipts, pens, rulers, cups, washi tape, notepads, coupons, catalogs ... etc.! But as I've mentioned before, I also have a "writing desk" in the library (shown above). I call it a writing desk because I envision time spent crafting my book here and penning letters to faraway friends - a la Jane Austen - but mostly I dash off quick thank you notes and/or get sidetracked by the view ...

So I don't sit here to write nearly as often as I'd like, but I still like having this space should I need it ...

Well, this morning I decided to celebrate "National Clean Off Your Desk Day" by cleaning off my desk - but I chose the easier desk! I mostly had to remove a few Christmas decorations, a large stack of magazines, Crackerjack's homework and an overflowing basket of received Christmas cards (with envelopes) that need to be sorted and stored. I tweaked the decor a bit for the winter season and wiped down the desktop ... and then enjoyed how the morning sun lit it up!

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Now, if I was really brave I'd post a picture of how my other desk - the computer desk - looks on this national holiday ...

* deep breath *

Ok, hang on ...

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Now, this was taken at 5 p.m. - there's no sun streaming in any windows to speak of right now - but it's not quite as dark a corner as it appears in this photo. And maybe you can see it for the mess that it is - or maybe not - but suffice it to say, it's definitely not "cleared off." And it's not very organized at the moment.

(Confession: The basket you see in the lower lefthand corner was added to the desk at the very last minute - to hold a whole bunch of debris scattered around and behind the monitor. Now THAT was a crazy mess. And I really must remember to look back through that basket before I lose sight of some potentially pertinent information!)

But ... I don't have time to tackle this hot spot today, so it's just going to have to wait a bit! Clearly I'm not letting the disarray slow me down, lol ... I'm finishing this post in this very spot with kids and chaos all around me. But sometimes you just have to let go of the vision and work with reality, right? Well, most times, I'd say.

So there you have it - a tale of two desks! My pretty writing table ... and my built-in workhorse. I'm grateful to have both of these cozy, sometimes-clean and sometimes cluttered, corners in my life. :)

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


My Kitchen Table, Countertops & Sink ...

In other words ... it's week one of the Organized Home Challenge! Who's with me? :)

Hello my friends and Happy Friday! 

As I've mentioned a couple of times on Facebook, this year I am following along with Home Storage Solutions 101's 52 Week Organized Home Challenge. (Boy that's a mouthful isn't it? Lol.) I was all ready to revamp my housekeeping calendar (since it didn't work as well as I'd hoped last year) when I came across this program (hosted and created by Taylor Flanery) and I thought, "You know, this sounds pretty do-able!"

I like that Taylor's really thought out where to start and how the tasks should flow. And I really I like that the challenge is broken down into 52 weeks - that means there's plenty of time to get around to all the THINGS. (Take a peek at the 52 Week breakdown here. It makes such sense!) And I need ample time like that. I would LOVE to have my house clean and organized as soon as yesterday, but realistically I need to go slow. I know I'm not alone when I say I have a lot on my plate and not a lot of extra time in my day! Another plus is the program is free, and there are printables, email reminders, a Facebook group and even Instagram sharing, too. There is also a coordinating Daily De-Clutter Calendar for each month of the year. I signed up for that, too!

Ok.

You can read more about the 52 Week challenge here.

You can sign up for the daily emails here.

You can get the monthly Decluttering Calendars here.

So this week, for example, the Weekly Challenge is "Kitchen Organization: Countertops & Sink." This is where our organizing focus will be aimed this week! And today's decluttering mission was the kitchen table. (Yesterday's was the sink.) I LOVE how this program is mapped out! It feels really "possible" and I love all the support and encouragement that comes with it! I especially love perusing her various "Halls of Fame" - which are collections of pictures that people share when they get their missions completed. All very inspiring!

Anyhoo, let me know if you are following this program too ... I'll be posting at Facebook and #hashtagging at Instagram and ... what I'm going to TRY to do each week is to blog about how things went for me in the assigned challenge area. Now, I say TRY because you know me - and I know me - and we both know I won't always find time to post. And if we're going to be brutally honest ... I won't alway keep up with the challenges!

But as best as I'm able, I'll try. I am resolved to make THIS the year we finally really move into this house and make it our own. And treat it with the respect it deserves. 

So we're off to a pretty good start so far, even though this week was pretty tricky because we were all sick (some of us still are) but fortunately, when you're sick, you stay home ... and then as you start to feel better you just want to get everything back to normal. So, because I had all week and could do a little here and there, I got most of it done!

(And now you're thinking, Dawn, enough of the rambling - let's see the pics! So here they are ... but um, conveniently I forgot to take "before" pictures ... 😳 )

Walking into the kitchen from the foyer, look at all that (visible) counter space!

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Don't look further into the family room though ... that zone has not been assigned yet! ;)

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I find keeping my sink neat (and the surrounding area) nearly impossible. For one thing, it's just so hard to get ahead - and keep ahead - with the dishes! We are a family of six (four of them boys, mind you) and we homeschool - so we're here a lot. We eat here a lot. The kitchen sink gets used ... A LOT. And dagnabit, my sink is porcelain and darn near impossible to keep white! I don't like to use Soft Scrub but it seems to be the only thing that does the trick ...

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But since I needed to declutter here, I pared down the sill to have just a few things. I will try to keep it that way but this is definitely - to use a bit of FlyLady speak - one of those hot spots in my house. I'm always putting out fires here!

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have to have my hand lotion here even if that bottle isn't the prettiest. I use it constantly throughout the day, especially after washing up - dishes, hands or eggs and such. Next is a small china dish where I place any eggs I've gathered that day - a kind of "holding zone" before they get sorted into cartons. Then we have my small cross and peace rock ... and a pretty snowflake-design candleholder, a gift from my cousin Kara.

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I like to keep a candle on my kitchen windowsill year round, changing it with the seasons. I do adore candles - but with young kids and curious cats around, they need to be lit somewhere well out of reach. I find it so deeply satisfying to light a candle at the end of the day as I putter about my kitchen ...

In the far corner there is a small golden pot in which I keep syringes for administering Earlybird's twice daily anti-seizure meds. And a sweet and colorful glass rooster that holds a small photo of my beloved grandmother ... whom I miss dearly and who, without a doubt was the best homemaker I've ever known. I try to be like her in so many ways and one of them is in the care and commitment I show to my home.

Now, along the top of the window is the garland of herbs I grew and dried this year as well as our "winter blessings" angel. And finally, on the back of the sink itself is our preferred liquid hand soap and the dish wand resting in its metal tray.

And that's as pared down as I could get it! It may still be considered a bit cluttered, but I'm ok with that. :)

Ok, the rest of the counters ...

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These countertops - also white - are no fun to keep clean either. One day we might replace them with something different. I'm just grateful there's a lot of them - because in our old kitchen we had very little workspace. Here above you see where I'm parking my homekeeping binder these days. I am trying very hard to whittle down what I leave out here because this is probably the worst hot spot we have in the house. I can get a little carried away with the "stuff" I feel I need to have in my line of vision ...

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At the end of this stretch of counter there is a simple basket where I'm now keeping the mail. I wanted to move it (the mail, not the basket) elsewhere but Bill said he likes to look at the mail in this spot so I let it go. He's the one that deals with the bills so I can't complain there! (I deal with other types of mail but he's the finances guy.)

Also seen in this photo is a book stand with Earth Psalms open to this week's passage. I had been keeping it in my personal reading basket, but because I want to make this a family devotional I decided to try keeping it open on the kitchen counter - where I might remember to share it with Bill and the boys each week. This week we're marveling at sunrises and sunsets and contemplating how they're like God's way of saying good morning and good night. It's really a very lovely book ...

The small red tea light lanterns were an Advent purchase at Michael's and I just like how they sit here - how there are four of them, one for each of my boys. :)

There is also a small tv here as you can see in this photo below ...

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It's not a fancy one - just antenna, no cable - but it allows me to catch the news as I can through the day. And ok, yes - turn on PBS Kids when we need the little guy otherwise occupied!

Also you can see this final counter (the "jetty" we call it, as opposed to the "island," lol) divides the kitchen proper with the kitchen nook. Today's decluttering mission was to clear the kitchen table ... another scorching hot spot in my home!

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I love this tablecloth - it belonged to my grandmother and it's soft as butter! (These are my favorite table linens ... made in Vermont and very "New England!") My mum and grandmother always had a few of these on hand for their kitchen tables, and now I'm collecting them. I "inherited" this soft blue and an olive green ... I'd love to purchase a deep blue someday and perhaps a butternut ... something to tie in with the braided rug underneath the table:

Braided rug

In the middle of the table is a lovely "led" lantern my parents gave us for our anniversary in October. I love having it lit after dinner as the household slows down and we button up for the night. We eat most of our meals here - unless we have company in which case we move to the dining room. (Which is a zone for October!)

From Taylor today at FB:

"The results from completing this mission are so beneficial, from encouraging family meals, allowing kids to get their homework done, and even letting you just sit and relax with a cup of coffee or tea at a nice clear table. It really just makes you say, ahhhh."

Very true. What a difference in your day when you have a nice table to sit at - especially at suppertime with the family. But in my house, any "horizontal surface" is vulnerable, and this particular surface attracts all kinds of things: dishes, schoolbooks, magazines, novels, newspapers, toys, coupons, cats ...

So there has to be some sort of strategy, doesn't there?

Ahhh ... so that will be a post for another day because I'm running long here - plus it's something I need to think on a bit anyway! How do we cultivate habits that support this decluttered lifestyle? I am going to have to come up with some routines for myself and my family ... and I'll be back to share my thoughts on that soon. And I'm all ears if you would like to share your own methods for keeping your kitchen areas clean and simplified! And please, if you decide to follow the 52 Weeks to an Organized Home Challenge, let me know! It would be fun to compare notes and share strategies! :)

But for now, I'll be off ... my kitchen is still pretty clean, but as the dinner hour draws near, I'd best strategize a little to make sure we stay on top of our game!

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


New Year's Tea: A Cup of Good Cheer!

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Hello my friends, and Happy New Year! I'm so glad you stopped by ... I hope your week is going well!

Well I may have missed last week's final Christmas Tea, but - since technically it's still Christmas - I guess this post fits the bill. I'm calling this a New Year's Tea though because I'm really talking about "new year" kinds of things today ...

Case in point ...

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We are in the midst of winter term planning!

Well, I am. And as you can see I like to amass a bit of stuff around me as I plan. ;) (Not shown are the tote bags underfoot with each of the boys' primary materials.) My boys however are still in vacation mode for a bit longer - although Crackerjack was to return to outside classes this week. I say "was" because each of my sons has been under the weather for the past several days. Just a garden-variety head cold but boy it's a doozy! My hope is that come next Monday we'll be ready (and eager?) to return to our lessons. (Happily we'll have Bookworm home with us on winter break through mid-month.)

Anyway, in the top picture I gave you a closer peek at my tea ... it was served in a new set of dishes from my mother-in-law!

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This is Pfatzgraff "Heritage Christmas," and I love that the cup is short and wide. It holds a nice amount of tea! (In this case, my favorite wintertime tea, a lovely orange-spice blend called "Constant Comment.") And on the lip of that sizeable saucer I was able to fit two of my cousin Kara's delicious pepparkakkor, leftover from Christmas. :)

As you see in the above pictures, my tea is another one of those "working teas," as its surrounded by books of all kinds. Most of them pertain to the boys' education goals, but a few are meant just for me. As we'll be studying Colonial America (in particular, the American Revolution) this term, I am going to re-read a couple of relevant books I enjoyed long ago - Jeff Shaara's Rise to Rebellion and The Glorious CauseI figured this was a good time to revisit them as my boys delve into this time period!

Slipped in between those two beefy novels however is a newer purchase - a bit of an impulse buy I'll admit, but I just couldn't resist! I was searching for a Mary Berry cookbook (a gift from my boys this Christmas - only they couldn't find any in the stores so they asked me to order one) and came across this curious bit of fiction not at all endorsed or really involving Mary Berry at all ... but it sounded cute and as a big fan of the Great British Baking Contest I thought I'd give What Would Mary Berry Do? a go. :)

Ok, now that we've talked about tea and cookies and books ... let's talk about nature! Did you see your "first bird" on New Year's Day? Here was mine ...

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Well it wasn't actually this one, but it was a Tufted Titmouse! We have a lot of those in our habitat - they're much like chickadees in temperament, only slighter bigger with a crested head and pretty black eyes ... "A noisy titmouse is Jack Frost's trumpeter," according to weather folklore. That sounds about right, though we do have them year-round. I'll have to pay attention this year and see if they are indeed louder in this season of frost and snow.

And isn't this a beautiful bit of nature ... ?

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And such a lovely thought. I found this picture on Facebook and saved it but completely forgot to note where it came from! I love this Emerson quote and this picture is just breathtaking. It is now in fact my cover photo - I so loved the saying and that brilliant sunrise.

Do you make any New Year's resolutions? Or do you choose a "word for the year?" I am saying no to the former and yes to the latter for 2017. Resolutions are great in theory but never seem to stick, really. Perhaps it's better to set workable goals throughout the year as seasons turn and needs change? But I do love the idea of choosing a word to represent one's hopes and vision for the coming year ... 

Mine is RADIANT. :) And by that I mean ... I want to look for the good in the world. That which radiates light against darkness. I want to shine my own light as brightly as I can, where I can ...

Radiant: "marked by or expressive of love, confidence, or happiness."

I would like more of this in my life ... I would love to give more of this to those around me!  <a radiant smile>

Back to books ...

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This is a page from a rather old book I've owned for well over 20 years. I bought it at a beloved book warehouse down the street from my very first job (working at a newspaper). The Wholefood Harvest Cookbook is vegetarian and British and very seasonal in design and content, as you can see above. I haven't read this book in some years but I'm going to have fun poking back through it this month. Making notes about the fruits and vegetables we might enjoy in season this year.

(If I were making resolutions, one of them might be to eat more produce, more regularly ... this is however, a January "meal planning" goal. Is there a difference between a resolution and goal? I'm not sure. Maybe it's all in how the word makes us feel. A goal is something we work towards ... a resolution is more restrictive and well, resolute. Less forgiving?)

So of course planners and planning are on my mind this week ...

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This is a stack of the personal planners I've made over the past several years. Each one a work of love, time and energy ... each one abandoned at some point through its year, unfortunately. I have not yet decided if I'm going to make another spiral-bound planner this year ... it is very tempting. I do love crafting with paper and pen! But right now between my homekeeping binder and Day Designer (and a few other things) I feel like I've got a good rhythm.

This is where all those planning sheets are going ...

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And even though I made month-at-a-glance calendars, I can't seem to let go of my longtime favorite, folio-size, DayTimer version ...

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I'm really loving how the pages came out! The changing colors and quotes make me smile ... :)

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And they fit in my homekeeping binder well - sandwiched in between my domestic journal and the household tabs - but I'm still working out just where these sheets "fit" in my overall planning repertoire. This is a great way for me to see the big picture of each week - the household, the lessons, the seasonal bits and bobs I'd like to include - but do I need a separate spot for a weekly agenda? For time-sensitive activities and appointments and such? I like looking at my week in a spread - when am I out and when am I home? - and that's the role the spiral-bound notebook would serve.

I like to use this particular notebook for planner-making - hint: you can find them cheaper at HomeGoods! - and I have one ready to go if I decide to try...

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I covered the front of the notebook with scraps from that vintage paper I like so much. It ties in nicely with the binder!

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So more on my planners and binders and all those important decisions later - wink - but here are some pretty things I found in my stocking Christmas morning:

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And speaking of Christmas, this was Little Bear's favorite ...

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Santa knew just what he wanted ... his very own backpack just like the ones his big brothers have! Only his is a little smaller and much cooler ... because it's a hedgehog. :)

Now while I'm here, I can't pass up the opportunity to share a picture of one of my cats ...

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If I'm working at my desk, then Archie is somewhere nearby ... usually near a heat source ... and almost always right on top of whatever I'm working on!

Ok, last picture ...

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My brother gave me an amaryllis bulb last month and I've kept it on my kitchen windowsill ... it is blooming beautifully right now! So pretty against all that snow ...

Well my friends, thank you so much for stopping by today and joining me for tea! I hope your New Year is going well so far and that you enjoy the rest of your week. I'll be back shortly with a tour of the binder shown above ... still getting things all assembled and organized! :)

See you here again very soon ...


My 2017 {Printable} Planner ... ❤

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Hello my friends and Happy New Year! I hope your 2017 is off to a great start! 

I hope to have my "New Year's Tea" up soon, but today - without a moment to spare! - I'm getting my planning sheets posted in case anyone is interested in using them. A bit of a caveat though - while I do have ALL the sheets finished, it's taking me a bit of time to upload them as PDF files here at the blog. So this post will have to be a work in progress! Today I will post all the January planning sheets and then, as I can - and as quickly as I can - I will upload the rest of the months. :)

(Design notes at the bottom of the post!)

January:

January Cover Page

January 2017 Month-at-a-Glance(liturgical version)

January Overview

1/2-1/8 2017

1/9-/15 2017

1/16-1/22 2017

1/23-1/29 2017

January Home Learning Worksheet

January Review

***

February:

February Cover Page

February 2017 Month-at-a-Glance; (liturgical version)

February Overview

1/30-2/5 2017

2/6-2/12 2017

2/13-2/19 2017

2/20-2/26 2017

February Home Learning Worksheet

February Review

***

March:

March Cover Page

March 2017 Month-at-a-Glance; (liturgical version)

March Overview

2/27-3/5 2017

3/6-3/12 2017

3/13-3/19 2017

3/20-3/26 2017

3/27-4/2 2017

March Home Learning Worksheet

March Review

***

April: 

April Cover Page

April 2017 Month-at-a-Glance; (liturgical version)

April Overview

4/3-4/9 2017

4/10-4/16 2017

4/17-4/23 2017

4/24-4/30 2017

April Home Learning Worksheet

April Review

***

May: 

May Cover Page

May 2017 Month-at-a-Glance; (liturgical version)

May Overview

5/1-5/7 2017

5/8-5/14 2017

5/15-5/21 2017

5/22-5/28 2017

May Home Learning Worksheet

May Review

***

June:

June Cover Page

June 2017 Month-at-a-Glance; (liturgical version)

June Overview

5/29-6/4 2017

6/5-6/11 2017

6/12-6/18 2017

6/19-6/25 2017

June Home Learning Worksheet

June Review

***

July:

July Cover Page

July 2017 Month-at-a-Glance; (liturgical version)

July Overview

6/26-7/2 2017

7/3-7/9 2017

7/10-7/16 2017

7/17-7/23 2017

7/24-7/30 2017

July Home Learning Worksheet

July Review

***

August:

August Cover Page

August 2017 Month-at-a-Glance; (liturgical version)

August Overview

7/31-8/6 2017

8/7-8/13 2017

8/14-8/20 2017

8/21-8/27 2017

August Home Learning Worksheet

August Review

***

September:

September Cover Page

September 2017 Month-at-a-Glance; (liturgical version)

September Overview

8/28-9/3 2017

9/4-9/10 2017

9/11-9/17 2017

9/18-9/24 2017

9/25-10/1 2017

September Home Learning Worksheet

September Review

***

October:

October Cover Page

October 2017 Month-at-a-Glance; (liturgical version)

October Overview

10/2-10/8 2017

10/9-10/15 2017

10/16-10/22 2017

10/23-10/29 2017

10/30-11/5 2017

October Home Learning Worksheet

October Review

***

November:

November Cover Page

November 2017 Month-at-a-Glance; (liturgical version)

November Overview

11/6-11/12 2017

11/13-11/19 2017

11/20-11/26 2017

11/27-12/3 2017

November Home Learning Worksheet

November Review

***

December:

December Cover Page

December 2017 Month-at-a-Glance; (liturgical version)

December Overview

12/4-12/10 2017

12/11-12/17 2017

12/18-12/24 2017

12/25-12/31 2017

December Home Learning Worksheet

December Review

***

A few notes about this year's planning sheets:

They're pretty much the same as last year's sheets (with corrected dates of course) but without any graphics. That vintage clipart was pretty, but it really bogged down the creative process - and printing time!

That said, I do have a Cover Page for each month with a bit of vintage calendar clipart found on Pinterest. (Which is, to the best of my knowledge, free for personal use.)

I've added soft lines to the planning sections! Woohoo - I LOVE writing on lined paper!

I increased the Meal Planning section - a friendly suggestion from a dear reader that made perfect sense!

I added a few new pages:

° a Monthly Overview page (To-Dos, House & Garden, Seasonal Ideas, Monthly Goals) ...

° a Monthly Review page (open, lined space) ...

° AND a one page Month-at-a-Glance Calendar, too! Now, in the version I'm sharing here, in order to keep it as user-friendly as possible, I took out my family birthdays (graduations, anniversaries, etc.) as well as notes related to my Catholic faith. (If there is interest, I could create an additional set of calendars that includes feast days. I used lavender for that particular text.)

Note: I'm adding a liturgical version of the monthly calendar but please understand, this is in no way a complete representation of the Catholic calendar! Just reflective of the events and feasts we note/observe/celebrate in our family - these are marked in purple text. (Natural phenomena are in green, holidays and other events are in blue.)

OH! And also, on three of the monthly calendars I had to double up on a block. For example, in April, a sixth row would have been needed for the last day of the month - Sunday, April 30th - so I just added the date to the block for the 23rd. I meant to divide that block in half with a diagonal line but couldn't figure out how to do it! Time ran out and I left it as is. I just used a ruler after printing to make the line myself! This issue crops up in July and December as well.

In my own Home Learning Worksheet, I have three separate boxes for my current students' goals. Three of my boys are homeschooling - one is a senior in college! For the sheet I shared, I kept it to one column since you all have various numbers of children! :) *Apologies - there is a second blank page attached to this PDF and I just realized it now! I will try to tweak the original and delete that extraneous sheet!)

Instead of the aforementioned clipart and "grace notes" I chose a seasonal quote to reflect each week's place in the year.

The colors are pretty subtle, but do change with each month. I coordinated them with my favorite scrapbooking paper which I use as dividers in my planner.

Now, in a separate post I will describe how I transform these sheets into an actual planner, and what my maintenance process looks like. But right now I'm trying to decide between keeping them in a three-ring binder or having them spiral-bound at the copy shop. I'm leaning toward the binder since I don't really plan to take this planner out of the house. But I'll get into those decisions and my planner "management" in a future post!

(Oh, and the spiral-bound notebook you see to the right in the photo above is a companion "agenda" to my weekly planning sheets. Something with time slots for appointments and such. That too is still very much a work in progress but will probably turn out something like the one I used last year. But with tweaks! Always with the tweaks ...)

Well, I hope everyone is enjoying their New Year's Day and I thank you all for stopping by. Please let me know if you have any questions about my planning sheets or if for some reason the links don't work for you. I'm really excited to share these sheets and hope they are helpful to some of you!

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


And the Giveaway Winner is ... ❤

LISA!

Congratulations, Lisa - you've won my "Winter Comforts Basket!" I hope you'll enjoy it! I will be in touch this week to organize all the mailing details. :)

And a heartfelt THANK YOU to all who participated in our Advent Teas and Christmas Teas this year! (Including those who left kind comments on all those posts, too!) I had such fun with this series, and I hope you all did as well!

More teas - and comforts and joys - and all kinds of homey happy stuff to come in the new year! I hope you will join me here in the months ahead for a little company and conversation. My word of the year is "Radiant" and I aim to look for the light in the world - and to shine my own light where it is needed! 🌞

Wishing everyone here a very Happy, Healthy and Peaceful New Year! Blessings to all ... 

See you in 2017!


Christmas Tea with Friends ... ❤

IMG_2144 (1) copyHappy New Year's Eve, my friends!

Our giveaway is just about at its end, but I have two more lovely tea moments to share! Below we have a submission from dear friend and longtime reader Gill - who was actually the very first person to send me a tea picture! But it somehow got lost in the shuffle of pictures and posts! Just came across it this morning as I was looking back over my emails. I apologize Gill, for my oversight - I remember how excited I was to receive my very first tea cup! And Mason was my very last entry - having heard from her just yesterday ... and she was hoping she was not too late to be part of our project. And Mason, you're not! :)

As I mentioned before I will include anyone in the giveaway who sends me their cup up until 6 p.m. tonight. Then I will be doing a drawing (randomly) to see who will win that "Winter Comforts Basket!" (Announcement to come shortly thereafter ...)

So let's pop in at Gill's and Mason's. Wishing you both a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Gill: This is a photo of the corner of my kitchen, where I stand to make tea or coffee, cook and bake, or turn 90' to wash up! I spend many contented hours exactly here working or dreaming or gazing out of my window to the front yard, where the dog, cats, hens and wild birds all interact!

In the summer the troughs against the yard wall are overflowing with flowers, now they are stuffed full of daffodil, crocus and narcissus bulbs, covered over with pine branches. The tree is the one we went into the forest to cut down last weekend. The bird feeders are usually busy. It is the funniest thing that the wild birds throw down seed to the hens beneath, and the hens keep the cats away!

You can just see that I have hung my Christmas curtains and that they are swathed with fairy lights. I have my breakfast ready: Norwegian brown goats cheese on bread and a cafe latte in my favorite Emma Bridgewater JOY mug. The board I have my bread on says " A friendly word can work wonders" which is so very true. I had just poured my coffee when your post pinged in, so I snapped the photo and hope you won't mind an Advent breakfast instead of tea!

Tea gill

Wishing you a very peaceful Advent...

(I remember when you sent this, Gill and thinking - that is just about the coziest Advent breakfast I can imagine! Tea is a special moment - whatever we might be drinking and wherever we might be drinking it!)

**

Mason: I love what you said below, Dawn . . . It's how I feel about tea! Any tea, all tea, hot or cold!

"It's much more than a beverage - it's a mindset!"

My favorite tea cup is one of a set of two that I purchased last Easter. I bought the tea pot, two cups, sugar bowl, creamer and a plate for tea cakes. I love that the cups are LARGE - lots of room for milk and tea.  
 
My favorite tea is Earl Grey, by Twinings. But I love everything else, too.
 
My favorite way to drink tea is with friends ...
 
Tea mason
 
Happy New Year!

**

Thank you, ladies! I'm happy to post this final "Tea with Friends" post today while I'm sipping my own mug on a cloudy and cool December afternoon. What I love about your pictures (and all the photos sent in throughout the series) is how we have each composed a moment of peace and enjoyment. Whether we're treating ourselves or sharing with friends. What a lovely way to move forward in the new year ...

Well, stay tuned my friends ... I'll be back tonight to announce that basket winner! Until then, enjoy the rest of your LAST day of the year. Stay safe and have fun!


Christmas Tea with Friends ... December 30th ❤

IMG_2144 (1) copyHello my friends, and Merry Christmas! Thank you so much for joining me for another teatime. :)

All throughout December I've been sharing readers' favorite cups and mugs, in my "Tea with Friends" series, returning on Fridays with my own special Tea post. Advent and Christmas Tea has been such fun! Thanks to all for joining me, whether you shared a peek at your cup or simply stopped by to check in and share your kind thoughts. It's been a lovely cozy project ... but I can hardly believe it's coming to a close!

But December IS at its end ... and so too is my giveaway contest! Tomorrow evening I will be announcing the winner of my "Winter Comforts Basket" (randomly drawn from all entries) and then I will follow up on Sunday with my own New Year's Tea post. :) (You might notice I'm skipping my last Friday Christmas Tea ... back issues are keeping me from working at the computer as much as I'd like today so I'm shooting for Sunday instead!)

Anyhoo ... today I am very happy to share with you three final readers' teatimes. Let's visit with Michelle, Darla and Raven ... Merry Christmas, ladies!

Michelle: Hi Dawn. I'm adding a photo of this morning's tea. We got hammered with the tail end of that nor'easter and I'm currently sitting on about 6" of fresh powder snow. My ducks, shown in the photo, are less than thrilled, but are out. My chooks, however, won't even leave the hen house. I enjoyed some Sleepy Time tea while I fed them this morning, in a funny mug I bought my husband last year. The chamomile and mint soothes my irritable stomach ...

Tea shell

Hope the holidays were good to you. 
Blessed be.
 
**

Darla: I'm just beginning my mug collection so I don't have many favorites, but this is one of them:

Tea darla
 
 
Best wishes ...

**

And now, let's pop over to Raven's Instagram page where she is sharing three of her favorite mugs - hooray for snowmen and kitty cats! Such cozy comforts and joys ... :)

**

Thanks so much, ladies! It was so fun sharing tea with you ... I loved seeing your mugs and hearing about the kinds of teas you prefer. I love that there are so many of us who share a love of tea! (Or cocoa or coffee or cider ... or whatever we prefer to drink in our own special cups. It's all about the mindset, I think. Creating a familiar ritual for connection, calm, creativity and coziness. Making a little space in our day for ourselves. 

Well, thanks to all for stopping by today! I hope you enjoyed our Teatimes! I've just loved hearing from you all and seeing your mugs ... imagining we're truly sitting down together, chatting over a cup of something warm and comforting. This has been such a nice time, and I'd love to do it again ... maybe we'll do a Winter Tea series later in the season? Or Lenten Teas in the spring? And I'm already making plans for a "Garden Tea" project this summer ...

But for now, please stay tuned for tomorrow's exciting announcement! (If I receive anymore submissions I will add the names to the drawing and perhaps share the cups after the holiday.) And I will have my own New Year's Tea post coming very soon ... I am ALMOST finished updating my weekly planning sheets for the new year and would love to make them available to you all. I will get them posted just as soon as I can ...
 
Enjoy your evening my friends, and Happy Friday!
 
See you here again very soon ...

Christmas Tea with Friends ... December 29th ❤

IMG_2144 (1) copyHello my friends, and Merry Christmas! Thank you so much for joining me for another teatime. :)

All throughout Advent I shared readers' favorite cups and mugs, every weekday at 4 p.m. ... and returned on Fridays with my own special Tea post. Advent has come to an end, but our teatimes will continue ... so now we are celebrating Christmas Tea together! Anyone who participates in our teatime - by sending me a picture of their favorite cup or mug - will be entered in my "Winter Comforts Basket" giveaway ...

And on New Year's Eve I will announce the basket winner!

p.s. Each Friday throughout Advent I gave a little peek at something that will be tucked inside that basket. There was soap, body butter, a pocket calendar and a pretty mug as well as a tin of cocoa and a small blue notebook ... and finally, a package of notecards and a favorite magazine! :)

If you'd like to join us, please read more giveaway details in this post - but today I am honored to have Grace and Lisa welcoming us into their homes! Merry Christmas, ladies! :)

Grace: Today I am term-planning. All four children are with their papa, so it is a good time for a (still) picture! My tea mug is a Mikasa from their French Countryside line. We received a pair of these 18 years ago, as a wedding gift. Today my cup is filled with strong chai tea and a bit of raw honey ...

Tea grace

Blessings to you and your family.

**

Lisa: Well, I'm running late as is usual for this year, (though I'm determined to get ahead in 2017 and make it shine!). But I have been enjoying your teatimes this Christmas season, and wanted to send you some pics of my favorite mugs, well - my favorites right now at least. ;)

This first one is a longtime favorite - one I take out at Christmastime, and (usually), put away for safekeeping till next year. Next to it are a couple of lovely and delicious cookies (store bought of course - I wish I could make such pretty pastries!). 

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I drink hot tea year round - all kinds. We have a large collection of teas (and cocoas) at our house, even more so in the last year as one of my sons worked at Starbucks over the summer where employees receive a free box of tea (or bag of coffee, which I don't care for though my older sons and husband enjoy it), every week. 

I can usually be found sipping black tea with just a bit of sugar, *or* black tea with a dollop of Italian Creamer, *or* peppermint tea (with perhaps a chunk of peppermint in it for extra kick and sweetness). I also love Earl Grey, Chai, English Breakfast Tea, & lemony, citrus teas. 

Next is a new mug - given to me by Son #3 (I have four), just this Christmas. It's a nice size for my hand, and is lovely and sparkly! (Goes right along with my plans for 2017 to Shine!) Here it's sitting on my 'family room desk' alongside my favorite saltrock lamp (also a gift), and my 'Christmas Tide Bird' who arrives to hang out with me each Christmas!

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Finally, (yes I know three's a lot - but I have literally 100's of mugs, many boxed awaiting the day when our basement may be finished and they're given their own place to live), here's the "trailer mug" - you may have seen this one at Target this year? Because that's where I bought it! Then wrapped it up, tagged it to myself, and added it to the Family Christmas Box, (though honestly it's more often been a basket these past years), a traditional present we gather to open each year on whichever evening we choose. There's always a little something in it for everyone, as well as something for all - such as some "food treat" (Japanese candy, baked goods from the local Indian restaurant, one year a coconut for my youngest who was intrigued with them for some reason!). Maybe a movie, and always a book!

I was so drawn to this mug. Due to its Christmas theme of course, and it's odd shape. Plus I think it'd be lovely to have a "Christmas Trailer" to travel around in all year long. 

Tea lisa 3

Wishing you and your family a bright, healthy 2017 ...

**

Well, ladies - thanks so much for welcoming us into your homes and sharing your teatime with us! What fun and pretty mugs! Everything looks so cozy and warm. I think that's part of the tea allure for me ... because like Lisa, I too drink hot tea all year long. It's much more than a beverage - it's a mindset! :)

And thanks to all for stopping by today. I hope you enjoyed our teatime - and I hope you are all enjoying your Christmas! I just love hearing from you all and seeing your mugs ... imagining we're truly sitting down together, chatting over a cup of something warm and comforting. And I'd love to have you join us! Please drop a note if you have a moment and send me your own favorite cup when you have a chance ...

 
(drhanigan AT gmail DOT com)
 
I'll look forward to hearing from you ... :)
 
We might have one more day of "Tea with Friends" this week - if I have more submissions I'll fit them in somehow! - but tomorrow (Friday) I will host my own Christmas Tea ... and then on Saturday (New Year's Eve) ... dun dun dun ... I will announce the winner of that basket!
 
So please stay tuned and enjoy your evening, my friends ... I will see you all here again very soon!

Christmas Tea with Friends ... December 28th ❤

IMG_2144 (1) copyHello my friends, and Merry Christmas! Thank you so much for joining me for another teatime. :)

All throughout Advent I shared readers' favorite cups and mugs, every weekday at 4 p.m. ... and returned on Fridays with my own special Tea post. Advent has come to an end, but our teatimes will continue ... so now we are celebrating Christmas Tea together! Anyone who participates in our teatime - by sending me a picture of their favorite cup or mug - will be entered in my "Winter Comforts Basket" giveaway ...

And on New Year's Eve I will announce the basket winner!

p.s. Each Friday throughout Advent I gave a little peek at something that will be tucked inside that basket. There was soap, body butter, a pocket calendar and a pretty mug as well as a tin of cocoa and a small blue notebook ... and finally, a package of notecards and a favorite magazine! :)

If you'd like to join us, please read more giveaway details in this post - but for today I am very pleased to welcome Libby Jane, Barbara and Sherrylynne to our teatime. Merry Christmas, ladies!

Libby Jane: This tea cup and saucer I was just given from my grandmother's house as she moved recently. I have a little collection of the loveliest teacups and saucers. Some gifts, some thrifted, all cherished. So if you stop by, I will lay a tablecloth and pull out the china!
 
Tea libby

I like oolongs, and a good English Breakfast, unsweetened. Even more, though, I love to make teas with lemon or bee balms, peppermint or rose petal, from the garden. I also love cedar and balsam fir tips. Bee balm cheers me up and balsam fir tea is the best winter tonic for all that ails!

I like yellow for cheer in these dark days of winter.
 
You can also see some of my favorite Christmas books, much loved - the Christmas Nutshell Library. Nearly loved to death, in fact!
 
"Winters come and winters go, summers come and summers go; soon the swallows will be here." (The Tomten, by Astrid Lindgren)

The merriest of Christmases to you!
**
Barbara: I have three favorite mugs and three favorite teas! The first mug is a recent purchase from Goodwill! I couldn't resist the old-fashioned winter scene from Currier & Ives. I use it every morning with my Yogi Green Tea Kombucha Decaf. 
 
Tea barbara 1
 
The next mug was a gift from a friend who knows my Dutch heritage. It's Delft and as you can see from the photos, it has the front of a Dutch girl on one side, and the back of her on the other!
 
Tea barbara 2
 
Tea barbara 3
 
The last mug is another favorite due to the lovely scene which looks like an Impressionist painting.
 
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The two other teas I regularly enjoy are Bigelow Constant Comment and Twinings Chai.
 
Happy New Year to you and your family!
** 
Sherrylynne (who shared her beautiful picture at her IG page): Here's a little shout out to Dawn at By Sun and Candlelight for helping the rest of us relish each season ...
 
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Happy Winter!

**

Oh, how fun and kind, Sherrylynne! I am not quite as IG savvy as I could be but I saw your post and boy did it make me smile! And I love so much about your tea spot - the cup, the candle, the books - and that jaunty British robin in the background! Barbara, I also love Constant Comment - especially at this time of year! And your Currier & Ives mug brings back memories of a lamp my grandparents had in their den - it had a lampshade featuring the four seasons by C&I. Boy do I wish we still had that lamp! And Libby, how lovely that you assemble your own teas! I might have to pick your brain on that a little bit ... I am a budding herb grower and would love to try my hand at tea crafting sometime. Maybe I'll host another tea series in the summer ... Garden Tea with Friends? :)

And I agree with you that yellow is perfectly cheerful, and especially so in the wintertime ... it's been my favorite color since I was a little girl and my birthday arrives in the cold, dark days of January!

p.s. I adore the Tomten books ... two of them are tucked in our winter book basket right this very moment! :)

Well, ladies - thanks so much for welcoming us into your homes and sharing your teatime with us! And thanks to all for stopping by today. I hope you enjoyed our teatime - and I hope you are all enjoying your Christmas! I just love hearing from you all and seeing your mugs ... imagining we're truly sitting down together, chatting over a cup of something warm and comforting. And I'd love to have you join us! Please drop a note if you have a moment and send me your own favorite cup when you have a chance ...
 
(drhanigan AT gmail DOT com)
 
I'll look forward to hearing from you ... :)
 
There will be more "Tea with Friends" posts this week - roundabouts 4 p.m. And this Friday I will host my own Christmas Tea ... and then the next day ... dun dun dun ... I will announce the winner of that basket!
 
So please stay tuned and enjoy your evening, my friends ... I will see you all here again very soon!

Christmas Tea with Friends ... December 27th ❤

IMG_2144 (1) copyHello my friends, and Merry Christmas! Thank you so much for joining me for another teatime. :)

All throughout Advent I shared readers' favorite cups and mugs, every weekday at 4 p.m. ... and returned on Fridays with my own special Tea post. Advent has come to an end, but our teatimes will continue ... so now we are celebrating Christmas Tea together! Anyone who participates in our teatime - by sending me a picture of their favorite cup or mug - will be entered in my "Winter Comforts Basket" giveaway ...

And on New Year's Eve I will announce the basket winner!

p.s. Each Friday throughout Advent I gave a little peek at something that will be tucked inside that basket. There was soap, body butter, a pocket calendar and a pretty mug as well as a tin of cocoa and a small blue notebook ... and finally, a package of notecards and a favorite magazine! :)

If you'd like to join us, please read more giveaway details in this post - but today we're visiting with Andrea and Greta! Welcome ladies, and Merry Christmas ... 

Andrea: Hi Dawn, I wanted to pop in with our tea time. My 8 year old daughter has her snoopy mug with her "honey tea" which is just honey and water. I am taking my tea in my little honey bee cup given to me by my sweet sister-in-law. The candles are an early Christmas present from my 14 year old son ...

Tea andrea

We love our tea time. It's daily for me and my daughter joins me often.

Merry Christmas to you all!

**
Greta: Hi Dawn - I'm not a tea or coffee drinker (even after living in Brazil for a year!), but I do love a good mug of hot chocolate. This glass Santa mug is one of my favorites. We inherited it from my mother-in-law, so I always remember her when I use it ...

Tea greta
 
Thanks for the opportunity to share. Merry Christmas! 
 
**
 
Thank you so much, Andrea and Greta! Your teatimes are lovely ... the marshmallow floating in that mug of cocoa looks so inviting and that honey "tea" sounds yummy! I will have to try that with my Little Bear sometime (though he does love a warm cup of tea!). Everything looks so cozy and warm ... I hope you both are enjoying this beautiful new season!
 
And thanks to all for stopping by today. I hope you enjoyed our teatime - and I hope you are all enjoying your Christmas! I just love hearing from you all and seeing your mugs ... imagining we're truly sitting down together, chatting over a cup of something warm and comforting. And I'd love to have you join us! Please drop a note if you have a moment and send me your own favorite cup when you have a chance ...
 
(drhanigan AT gmail DOT com)
 
I'll look forward to hearing from you ... :)
 
There will be more "Tea with Friends" posts this week - roundabouts 4 p.m. And this Friday I will host my own Christmas Tea ... and then the next day ... dun dun dun ... I will announce the winner of that basket!
 
So please stay tuned and enjoy your evening, my friends ... I will see you all here again very soon!

Christmas Tea with Friends ... December 26th ❤

IMG_2144 (1) copyHello my friends, Merry Christmas and Happy Boxing Day! Thank you so much for joining me for another teatime. :)

All throughout Advent I shared readers' favorite cups and mugs, every weekday at 4 p.m. ... and returned on Fridays with my own special Tea post. Advent has come to an end, but our teatimes will continue ... so now we are celebrating Christmas Tea together! Anyone who participates in our teatime - by sending me a picture of their favorite cup or mug - will be entered in my "Winter Comforts Basket" giveaway. On New Year's Eve I will announce the basket winner!

p.s. Each Friday throughout Advent I gave a little peek at something that will be tucked inside that basket. There was soap, body butter, a pocket calendar and a pretty mug as well as a tin of cocoa and a small blue notebook ... and finally, a package of notecards and a favorite magazine! :)

If you'd like to join us, please read more giveaway details in this post - but today we are popping in at Helena's and Tanya's. Merry Christmas, ladies! Thanks so much for having us in ... :)

Helena: 

I finally got around to snapping photos of my two favorite mugs - I couldn't decide. :) The Jane Austen mug was a Christmas gift from my husband last year, and I use it every morning to drink my only caffeinated tea of the day - 95% of the time it's Tasha Tudor's Welsh Breakfast Tea, with milk and sugar.
 
Tea helena 2
 
The turquoise "Mama" mug was a gift from my sister - she knew I'd love it because it's my favorite color and that's what my kids call me. :) I use it in the evenings because it holds heat longer than any of my other mugs, and my hands are often cold at night, so I tend to cuddle my tea a little. :) Tonight I'm drinking Harney and Sons Vanilla Comoro (the decaf version) with milk and a smidge of sugar - so delicious!
 
Tea helena 1
 
Thanks for sharing everyone's photos - I love seeing the variety of mugs and teacups (and reading about all the teas everyone's drinking!). Wishing you and your family a lovely Christmas and all the best in the new year!
 
**
 
Tanya: Here (at long last!) is my tea time picture ...

Tea tanya

This is my very favourite tea mug in my favourite tea time place. It's filled with strong Yorkshire Tea and this picture was from a few moments stolen to drink my tea, sit in quiet and read my Advent devotional. Our household is so busy and loud that finding a few minutes here and there to recharge my batteries is absolutely essential. I just absolutely love this tea mug. It is an *enormous* David's Tea mug and I love the beautiful Christmassy design on the outside! Being able to sit with a cuppa and watch the skies darken in the late afternoon is something that truly refreshes me for the busy evening ahead. Thank you so much for the inspiration to make tea time a part of my day!

Many blessings on you all ...
 
**
 
Thank you so much, Helena and Tanya! You are both long-time readers and friends, and it's just lovely to hear from you both ... and see your mugs! I love them all. Now, I've had Yorkshire Tea before, as well as Harney & Sons Vanilla Comoro - and both are delicious. But I've never had the Tasha Tudor Tea, Helena! I've always wondered about it though (since I love pretty much all things Tasha Tudor, lol) and now you've got me thinking I might order a tin for my birthday next month! (I also think these beeswax candles are lovely.)
 
Well thanks so much to all for stopping by today! I hope you enjoyed our teatime - and I hope you are all enjoying your Christmas! I just love hearing from you all and seeing your mugs ... imagining we're truly sitting down together, chatting over a cup of something warm and comforting. And I'd love to have you join us! Please drop a note if you have a moment and send me your own favorite cup when you have a chance ...
 
(drhanigan AT gmail DOT com)
 
I'll look forward to hearing from you ... :)
 
There will be more "Tea with Friends" posts this week - roundabouts 4 p.m. Sorry this one was a little late today ... I must admit, though our weekend was wonderful, we are a little behind on cleanup today! Ah well, it's a slow week ahead and there is time to "put things to rights" as they say. This Friday I will host my own Christmas Tea and then the next day ... dun dun dun ... I will announce the winner of that basket!
 
So please stay tuned and enjoy your evening, my friends ... I will see you all here again very soon!

Advent Tea, Week 4: Happy Hearts at Home

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Hello my friends and Happy Friday ~ Merry Christmas Eve! As I feared might happen this week, things just got too busy, and I didn't have time to finalize my post yesterday. But I'm here today - on this rainy and mild Christmas eve - to share with you one last cup of Advent Tea. For tonight we begin a most beautiful and blessed new season ...

"Blessed is the season that engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love." ~ Hamilton Wright Mabie

In our final week of Advent my family continued our celebration of God's amazing creation. We had previously explored the wonder of earth and sky, the peacefulness of plants, the joys of wild (and not so wild) creatures and now, we aim closer to home. This week it's all about God's greatest creation - humankind - and the love He has for us - that we have for each other! So this week we relished our family being together and rejoiced in our beloved home ... while remembering the holiest family, their humble first home, and the noble journey that started it all ...

Let's start with a look at our Advent Garden. This was a really fun project and I am sure we will do this again next year ... remember how it started?

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In week one (earth & sky) we added pebbles (and later soil) and surrounded our garden (a shallow glass terrarium) with beeswax tealights. Well here is how it looks now as Advent comes to a close ...

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Soil was topped with moss from which frosted tiny trees soon sprouted ... then a pretty spotted deer appeared. And this week, up rose a cozy little neighborhood. 

(Note: I bought the trees, deer and houses at my local Michael's craft store. They were fairly inexpensive. The houses were plain but I spread the rooftops with a little white paint and added a few shakes of white glitter. The moss and pebbles came from our yard and the earth was found in a bag of potting soil parked in the garage. The candles I ordered through Amazon.)

Today I moved the Garden off the kitchen table (which will soon be set up for a Christmas buffet!) and into a small nearby alcove ...

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Above it I hung a pretty wooden ornament also embellished this week ...

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This was a very inexpensive wooden craft, one of several I've picked up this season ...

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I actually really love the look of unfinished wood, but the addition of a little white paint and glitter lends a soft and simple touch ...

A few more nativity scenes around the house ...

Love tea 28

This is a new lawn decoration this year! Bill and the boys "gave" me this as a gift last Christmas - but it took me till this fall to find one I really liked. We have this nestled beneath - appropriately enough - our family room windows. :)

Let's pop on out to the library and take a peek at the tree for a moment ... 

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Isn't this ornament gorgeous? You'll probably tire of hearing me say this but this is another treasure I found at Michael's. This was discovered in one of the boys' Advent pockets this past week.

And how about this one? :)

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I found this picture frame ornament up by the registers for a couple of dollars. So very pretty and perfect for a small family photo. I think I'd like to make this a tradition - add a new family picture ornament each year.

Speaking of ornaments, one of our crafts this past week celebrated our family members and what Mama loves most about each of them.  

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I started with a plain plastic ornament ball ... wrote our family names on small heart stickers and placed them all over the ball's surface ... and then filled the ball with colorful strips of construction paper. Each slip of paper was curled up tight, with a hidden message inside.

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I think this might also become a new family tradition ... :)

One more peek at the tree, a few new ornaments were added this week ...

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I found these pretty red glass initial ornaments at Target, and bought one for each of my boys. (The "H" is actually made out of cardboard or some such material.)

And since we're talking about my boys, here's a peek at our Christmas card this year!

IMG_2142 

It's the first time we've done a collage and I rather like it! It was such fun to look back over all the photos from last year ... though it proved a shocking reminder just how quickly time has flown. We even added a couple of photos to the back - one of the chickens and one of the cats!

I absolutely adore Christmas cards, don't you? We display ours here on this door leading into the library ...

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Bill sets up the ribbons and then I attach the cards with tiny clothespins. I love to see this doorframe fill up! Visually, it's a wonderfully decorative spot - but also a lovely reminder of the friends and family we have been blessed with over the years.

And though we've been doing "photo cards" for years, I still love traditional Christmas cards. We always bought ours from a company called LANG, and when I spied some boxes of Lang cards at Joann's Arts & Crafts recently (marked down 60%!) I just could not help myself. I bought a few varieties for next year ...

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Switching gears now - because we haven't even talked about tea yet! Now, if you scroll way back up to the top of this post I showed you my teatime spread this week ... or, here it is again ... :)

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As you can see, I was in my glories at Tea this week, surrounded by all my boys. They were supposed to be helping me with neatening the tree - I bribed them with cookies! - while I sat down to look over my holiday notes. In my "Blessed" mug (a new favorite) I had a large serving of my preferred black tea with a lot of milk and a bit of sugar. The cookies are store bought, but were still gobbled up quickly! I had hoped to make Bill's grandmother's much-loved gingerbread recipe this week but that just did not pan out. (I'm going to try again at Epiphany.) So a box of "Gingerbread Family" cookies had to do. Thank you, Pepperidge Farms!

Yes, it is wonderful having our Bookworm home! I never sleep as well as I do when all my sons are home. The older boys do love to sleep in though if they are allowed ... but this morning we needed to get an early start so I made up a platter of cinnamon-sugar toast in hopes that the fond and familiar aroma would get them out of bed!

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Cinnamon-sugar is without a doubt, one of the best things in my kitchen. (Along with my fresh coffee beans and a large bottle of vanilla.) I grew up eating cinnamon-sugar toast made by my mum or grandma and its scent still says "cozy, home, comfort" to me. :)

It's little things like this that make a home feel warm and welcoming. Because a home is so much more than just walls and windows and a (hopefully) sturdy roof. Home is where our loves live ... it's where we come together to share our journey, our thoughts and our memories. We are nurtured and encouraged and accepted here. We are allowed to crave comforts and seek solace ... it's the place we can relax and rejuvenate and gather our strength when we once again face the world outside that front door ...

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Jane Austen had it right. Home is where it's at ... and that's that. :)

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Oh, and how could I forget? Here's another "Giveaway" sneak peek! January is a perfect month for letter writing - in fact, 1/23 is National Handwriting Day! So here are some pretty notecards to help you catch up on all those holiday thank-yous. :) And once the busy-ness of Christmas has past, time frees up again (in theory!) for leisurely pastimes like reading for pleasure ... how about a nice issue of Mary Jane's Farm? Both of these things will be tucked into that Winter Comforts Basket! :)

I am having such fun putting together this basket, and although only one reader will win it, I really wish I could send a little wintertime "comfort and joy" to each and every one of you. I am so grateful for you all - for all your support and kindness and encouragement over the years. I know most of us have never actually "met" in "real life" but I count each of you as my friends. I always look forward to hearing from you and I keep every one of you in my prayers. My wish for you on this beautiful Christmas eve morning is that your coming days are filled with the blessings of family and home, that you know friendship and love, good health and happiness, and that your new year will be an AMAZING one. I look forward to sharing 2017 with you all!

Now, before I go - I am still accepting teacup (mug) submissions! And I have several more friend posts stockpiled to share next week ... if you'd like to join the Giveaway contest, please send me a picture of your favorite mug - whatever you most enjoy drinking your tea (or coffee, cocoa, cider, etc.) from ... and you are entered. I will announce a winner on New Year's Eve - a week from today!

You can reach me at: drhanigan AT gmail DOT com.

Next Friday I'll have a Christmas Tea of my own, but in the meantime, I wish you all a wonderful weekend. Take care of yourselves and your loved ones and see you all here again very soon ...

MERRY CHRISTMAS!


Advent Tea with Friends ... December 22nd ❤

Advent tea with friendsHello my friends, and Happy Thursday! Thank you so much for joining me for another teatime. :)

All throughout Advent I am sharing readers' favorite cups and mugs, every weekday at 4 p.m. ... and returning on Fridays with my own special Tea post. Anyone who participates will be entered in my "Winter Comforts Basket" giveaway ... and on New Year's Eve I will announce the basket winner!

p.s. Each Friday I give a little peek at something that will be tucked inside that basket! So far there's been soap, body butter, a pocket calendar and a pretty mug as well as a tin of cocoa and a small blue notebook ... wonder what tomorrow's post will bring? :)

If you'd like to join us, please read more giveaway details in this post - but today we are popping in at Karen's and Adie's! Two friends who shared a few pictures each ... :)

Karen: My favorite mug? I have three! :)

Tea karen 1

Tea karen 2

Tea karen 3

Blessings to you and your beautiful family!

**

Adie: My daughter and I were way overdue for a tea party - so today was the day! We had a few hours without the boys.  =-) So that means we did not get interrupted! This is our tea party set - I know it is not very wintery - but we don't have a lot of room for extras here ... 

Tea adie 3

So we had very hot, strong black tea, with foamed milk and lots of sugar ...  

Tea adie 2
We were also hungry so we had a mini lunch to go with it! The teens made Christmas cookies - and we each had one of those too! I made gluten-free ones this year, and they were pretty good ...
 
Tea adie 1
 
Now that we are done with our tea party - we are on to our hour of planning. My daughter and I do this together each week with our planners!
 
**
 
Just lovely, ladies! Karen, I love all three of your mugs - they are each beautiful in their own way! (Introverts unite! No one ever believes me when I say I'm an introvert, but it's true!) And Adie, I just adore that pale yellow honeycomb china! And those cookies look scrumptious and festive. How special to enjoy a tea party with your daughter - followed by a weekly planning hour! Thanks so much to you both for sharing your favorite mugs ... I hope these final days of Advent are filled with much peace and contentment. :)
 
And thanks to all for stopping by today! I hope you enjoyed our teatime. I just love hearing from you all and seeing your mugs ... imagining we're truly sitting down together, chatting over a cup of something warm and comforting. And I'd love to have you join us! Please drop a note if you have a moment and send me your own favorite cup when you have a chance ...
 
(drhanigan AT gmail DOT com)
 
I'll look forward to hearing from you ... :)
 
There will be more "Tea with Friends" posts next week, each day at 4 p.m. - but tomorrow I will be back with my final Advent Tea Post ("Happy Hearts at Home"). I'll take a break over the weekend (natch) and then we'll continue our teas right up until the day before New Year's Eve ... just before I announce the winner of that basket!
 
Enjoy your evening, my friends, and I will see you all here again very soon!

Advent Tea with Friends ... December 21st

Advent tea with friendsHello my friends, I'm wishing you all a happy Wednesday ... AND a Happy Winter Solstice! Thank you so much for joining me for another teatime. :)

All throughout Advent I'll be sharing readers' favorite cups and mugs, every weekday at 4 p.m. ... and returning on Fridays with my own special Tea post. Anyone who participates will be entered in my "Winter Comforts Basket" giveaway ... and on New Year's Eve I will announce the basket winner!

p.s. Each Friday I give a little peek at something that will be tucked inside that basket! So far there's been soap, body butter, a pocket calendar and a pretty mug as well as a tin of cocoa and a small blue notebook ... wonder what this Friday's post will bring? :)

If you'd like to join us, please read more giveaway details in this post - but today we have the opportunity to join FOUR of my readers for tea. Let's pop in at Tammie's, Shelly's, Mary's and Andrea's, shall we? :)

 

Tammie: Here is a mug that is not particularly Christmas-y, but I wanted to share it with you anyway because of your affinity for all things British! My husband surprised me with this mug earlier this year and I just love everything about it! It is obviously a lovely mug to look at. The coat of arms is very formal and majestic. But the blue roses and sweeping ribbons gives it a friendly air. And the tiny little gold flowers are just so sweet!

Tea tammie 1
 
If you look closely, you will see that they are the flowers that represent the United Kingdom. But my favorite part of the mug are the words inscribed on the back.  These are from a speech that the Queen gave on her 21st birthday. They are particularly touching to read, now that she recently turned 90 years old and is still honorably serving the Commonwealth! And I find these words to be very inspirational ... although I'm not a queen (!), I am devoted to my family and want to serve them as best I can. As for the tea that is contained in the mug, it is Newman's Own Royal Tea, which is a nice strong black tea.
 
Tea tammie 2
 
Thanks again, Dawn, for inviting us to share tea with you! May God bless you and your family.
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Shelly: Here is a photo of my new favorite mug! I recently got it from a friend and I love it because it is much larger than a standard mug! More room for hot cocoa! I am not a coffee drinker, but I love cocoa and tea ... 
 
Tea shelly
 
Merry Christmas to you and your family!
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Mary: About my favorite mug: It is a Spode “Christmas Tree” design mug, made in England; one of a set of six given to my family and me by my parents. We get them out each year right after Thanksgiving, and they remain within easy reach on our kitchen island for a couple of months. So, they are very special mugs that we look forward to using seasonally. The children use them for hot cocoa or apple cider; mine is usually filled with blackberry cobbler flavored coffee or caramel cream flavored coffee.
 
Tea Mary V
Peace to you during this final week of Advent, and blessings to you and your family for a very merry Christmas! 
**
Andrea: I wanted to pop in with our tea time. My 8 year old daughter has her snoopy mug with her "honey tea" which is just honey and water. I am taking my tea in my little honey bee cup given to me by my sweet sister-in-law. The candles are an early Christmas present from my 14 year old son. We love our tea time. It's daily for me and my daughter joins me often ...

Tea andrea
 
Merry Christmas to you all!
 **
 
Oh ladies, thank you SO much for all your happy pictures and lovely thoughts! It was wonderful to visit with each of you and I hope the rest of your Advent unfolds with much peace and joy. :)
 
And thanks to all for stopping by today! I hope you enjoyed our teatime. I just love hearing from you all and seeing your mugs ... imagining we're truly sitting down together, chatting over a cup of something warm and comforting. And I'd love to have you join us! Please drop a note if you have a moment and send me your own favorite cup when you have a chance ...
 
(drhanigan AT gmail DOT com)
 
I'll look forward to hearing from you ... 
 
There will be more "Tea with Friends" posts this week, each day at 4 p.m. And then on Friday I will be back with my final Advent Tea Post ("Happy Hearts at Home") ... only to pick right up again the following week for a series of Christmas teas! We'll continue right up until the day before New Year's Eve ... just before I announce the winner of that basket!
 
Enjoy your evening, my friends, and I will see you all here again very soon!