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Our Happy Easter Sunday!

Sunny easter flowers

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

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

Now, onto the celebration pictures!

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

Alleluia! He is Risen!

Easter flower shopping

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

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

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

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

Easter baskets

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Mum and dad easter 2016

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Little Bear needed a few breaks, too ...

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Trains inside ...

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Trucks outside!

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Thumbs up for a good dinner, Mom!

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

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

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

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

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Bill working on his Spring Blessings egg ...

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

And here's the desserts table ...

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

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

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

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A sugar cookie Peep bunny!

Radishes in teapot

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

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

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

Happy Hosting: A Book-Themed Baby Shower!

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Hello my friends and Happy Monday! :)

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

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

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

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

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(My cousin and her husband are both librarians!)

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

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

Here's a closer look ...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Madeleines for Madeline ... 

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

Now, out to the sunroom ... :)

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

And here's the bar ...

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

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Aka, Lemonade for Sale. :)

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

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

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The rooms filled out nicely as guests arrived ...

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

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

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

And what did Little Bear think about all this?

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

Now into the kitchen ...

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Another buffet here ...

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Mini quiches for Green Eggs and Ham ...

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(Three Little) Pigs in Blankets ...

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

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

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

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

Speaking of ...

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The parents-to-be, Kate and Paul!

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

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

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

Our Family Christmas, 2015

Hello and good evening, friends! :)

Well, I have a whole BUNCH of photos from Christmas to share with you but first ... !

I'd like to wish you all a Very Happy New Year! I hope and pray 2016 will bless you in so many ways - with fond memories, and family happiness, good health and peace in your heart - the kind of peace you can pass on to those you love and the world around you. I thank everyone, sincerely, for being such gracious and kind readers ... I so love my little blog and hope to continue it for as many more years as I can! What fun I have here with you all!

Now, here are some shots from the past couple of days - or I guess, that was last week! How time flies when you're having FUN ... :)


So how early did your Christmas start? ;)

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Our tree in the wee hours of Christmas morning ... I was up with Earlybird (who, as usual, lived up to his pseudonym), sipping coffee and absorbing the peace of these dark early hours. (While, admittedly, also, consulting my to-do list in my head!)


The rest of the clan was up by 7 a.m. and it was go-time! How special is a 2 year-old's Christmas ...


EB with a new train book, one of his favorite gifts. 


Our 16 year old Crackerjack, who FINALLY got a phone! He's been very patient!


Our older boys, opening stocking stuff ... the tabletop soccer game was from Santa.


And here's Archie, who simply MUST be in the middle of everything.


A bit later in the morning, my folks and brother came over to open presents and enjoy a hearty breakfast.


Archie, again, in on the action. (Ollie was nowhere to be found).


I love how the cards look on our library door!


My mum's penuche fudge, my favorite Christmas treat! It is FABULOUS with coffee, fyi.


Speaking of coffee ... here are my pretty Christmas mugs. They hold a lot!


A felt banner stretching across the kitchen nook window ... one of my last-minute, 50% off, Michaels Store finds! And as you can see, it was such a bright and sunny day ... and startlingly warm - near 60°! Today, about a week later, we are in the 30s and there is snow on the ground ...


Our signature cocktail this Christmas: Jingle Juice Punch!


On Christmas afternoon we host a family gathering and here we have the appetizer spread  ... and my dear cousin Kara sampling the punch!

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Speaking of Kara, here are her absolutely delicious Swedish spice cookies ...


The desserts table in the family room ... to my mind, you can never have too many desserts at Christmas!

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My beloved Mum and me. She does most of the work at the holidays - I mostly just pick up and set tables!


More family arriving ... our home filled up with our dear ones!


So good to gather together and spend time catching up ...


Sharing laughs and swapping stories!


Little Bear loved being (mostly) in the center of attention. :)

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 * Family Christmas, 2015! *

And then it was time for round two ... Bill's side of the family came up to visit on Boxing Day!


And Chinese cuisine is traditional on this holiday ... in our house, anyway!


Bill's Mom and Dad, merry-merry! :)


Little Bear and Bill with Aunt Ami and Uncle Greg (Bill's siblings!) ...


A new centerpiece: a gift from my brother - a little something for my garden. ;)


With some of my favorite ladies in the word ... my mum, Bill's mom, and my sister-in-law, Ami.


 Crackerjack, Bill and Little Bear ... digging in!


 Earlybird with his new planet shirt, showing Grandpa Bill a new present. :)


A little chaos at Christmas is natural!


And here we have Family Christmas 2015, part two!

I feel incredibly blessed to have such a wonderful family, and that we live close enough to gather together so often throughout the year. What a joyous Christmas this has been ... and here we are on the 7th day of Christmas, ready to welcome a brand new year. How are you spending your evening? We are here with the boys, enjoying our family's favorite dinner (meatloaf!) and a movie or two. We may or may not make it to midnight!

But I hope you all have a fantastic New Year's and I thank you, as always, for stopping by ...

I will see you here again very soon! 

Our Thanksgiving Day!

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Hello and Happy Friday, my friends! I hope you all had a nice week and for those who celebrate, a wonderful Thanksgiving, too. We had a really nice time with our family yesterday, and as usual, I took a whole lot of pictures that I'd like to share here at the blog!

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We worked on a thankful garland all month, Earlybird and I (and the rest of the family at times, too), but we carried this neat tradition with us into our family celebration. Every place setting had a leaf and a crayon. I was very happy to have the boys' help with cutting out all those leaves!

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And early Thanksgiving morning, EB assisted me in preparing an apple crisp ...

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Had to get it in the oven ahead of the turkey!

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My mother's birthday fell on Thanksgiving this year, so I made up some spice cupcakes too!

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Each year we have a "signature cocktail" at the holidays (Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter). This year it was an Apple Cider Margarita - with cinnamon-sugar rims and a tweak of orange inside ... absolutely delicious!

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Here's the table we set up in the living room, to seat six. I went with blue, gold and red to complement the colors of the room.

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A pretty turkey platter that's been in the family for generations ...

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As I arranged the flowers, I kept a few itty bitties in cordial glasses - something nice for my kitchen windowsill!

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I found these tiny turkey tealights in a bag of silk leaves - completely forgot we had them!

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A coffee station was set up in the living room ... my folks brought up their Keurig for the day. :)

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You all know how I feel about punch! There must be punch at all parties. This one was a simple mix of cranberry juice concentrate, Sprite and sparkling apple-cranberry cider. Apple slices floating on top made a nice touch!

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The bar was set up on the kitchen jetty, on the kitchen nook side so as to keep traffic out of the kitchen proper (where my Mum and I were busy getting stuff done!) ...

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But not so busy we couldn't pause for a picture - and a cocktail!

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Speaking of cocktails - aren't these the prettiest cocktail napkins you ever did see?

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Dinner was served!

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The dining table, in browns, golds and magenta ...

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I LOVE November mums! Especially mine ... :)

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Desserts were served in the living room as window candles came on all over the house ... we had an assortment of pies, the aforementioned cupcakes and apple crisp, sticky toffee pudding and even pumpkin ice cream!

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From my family to yours ... Happy Thanksgiving! Looking forward to celebrating Advent with you all starting next week!

Thanks so much for joining me here today and letting me share our holiday with you. I hope you all had a nice day, too, and that your weekend ahead will bring some peace and refreshment. I will have a follow-up "simplicity tea" post to share tomorrow and then on Monday ... our first Advent Tea! We'll be talking about "gifts from the heart" and I would love to hear from you on that subject ... and any other tea notes you'd like to share. 

See you all here again very soon ...

My Thanksgiving Tea Journal, 2015

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Happy Monday, my friends! It's Thanksgiving week here in America, quite possibly my favorite week all year! All over the country, folks are traveling home to their families, looking forward to a day of togetherness, thankfulness ... and feasting! I love spending this week spiffing up my home and setting tables and baking stuff and listening to music ... but most of all, I love that deep sense of just HOW blessed we are to be doing all of this in the first place. To have loved ones to gather with, and a warm, safe home to gather in ... food to put on the table, with some extra to share.

So today I am kicking off my Advent Tea Journal, with a post that is - ok, yes - several days ahead of Advent. But I wanted to start our journey before we get swept up in the season! Does a weekly teatime sound good to you? A brief time each week to sit down (in our cozy nests) and share how we're living the season? 

Well here's what I'm dong on my end! On this Monday and those to come in December, I will share my tea journal notes along with some photos of my home and holiday preparations ... and then I will touch upon our weekly discussion theme. (This week: Simplifying the Season.) And I would LOVE to have you join me! You can leave me a comment here, or send me an email with your own notes and pics, or perhaps link me up with a post at your own blog! (Feel free to grab the tea button here or in this post.) We'll continue our conversation throughout the week, and I'll add you in as the days go by - no rush to get me something by Monday!

> bysunandcandle AT gmail DOT com <

Now onward with our Thanksgiving Tea ... are you settled in and ready to chat? :)

What refreshments am I enjoying this week?

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My Thanksgiving Tea shown above is a bit "rustic and random" - not quite the "Victoria" moment I had originally envisioned, lol - but all that color and clutter is who I am these days! A sturdy (inexpensive) acorn mug and some ginger cookies to share with my little guy ...

And here's my cute little tea box, a gift from my sister-in-law:

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I keep a LOT of tea on hand - some of you might remember my tea drawer from years back? Well nowadays my main tea stash is kept in my pantry, but I like to use this nifty box for holding the teas I'm drinking currently. It holds plenty of packets and fits nicely in a kitchen cabinet. (You could do something similar with a basket or divided tin.)

As for the cookies, well, you all know I love to bake ... but sometimes baking a batch of scratch cookies just doesn't mesh with the overall busy-ness of the household. (And this would be one of those weeks!) But these break-apart cookies are made from natural ingredients so Earlybird can enjoy them along with the rest of us. They could be frosted but honestly, they're even better on their own - they're quite yummy and the seasonal spices really come through!

What am I reading this week?

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Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, and More Secure Kids

I've had this book on my shelf for a while now - almost two years! - and I've read bits and pieces, but I'd like to go through it chapter by chapter, slowly but surely. This premise resonates with me, yet I'm a great one for making things more complicated than they need to be. With an eye toward the New Year (as I think about general goals and plans for the months to come as well as our home environment) I'm trying to create a slower world for myself and my kids. More on that as we move forward through the season!

What am I listening to this week?

Do you enjoy listening to music in your nest? I find my normal "household soundtrack" provides plenty of erm, stimulation so to say, so any added sound can be a bit much ... but I do love some music at the holidays!

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This traditional song is pretty much is all I need, and belted out with gusto by small voices is best. This is a page from a beautiful little book of poems, a thoughtful and generous gift from a reader last year. But I also love listening to music from A Charlie Brown Thankgiving and George Winston's Autumn as well as this gorgeous song. Do you have any favorite Thanksgiving music?

What am I working on this week?

We have the honor of hosting our family's Thanksgiving so that's my focus this week! There's a lot that goes into planning a season or holiday, and trying to keep things simple is a challenge! But I have found by starting early, I have a much better chance of maintaining a less frenetic atmosphere - for myself and those around me! And this "peace" contributes greatly to a simplified season. So here are some of the things I've been working on ahead of Thanksgiving ...

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Once we know how many guests to expect, we can decide which tables to use and where to arrange them as well as what tablecloths and napkins to prepare. About a week ahead of the holiday I find a day when I will be home for several hours - then I can wash and dry and fold the linens without any lag time in-between. We all know what happens when we only finish part of the laundering cycle - smelly, wrinkled linens! Then out comes the iron or we have to start all over again ...

The other thing is, if I leave this task too close to Thanksgiving, it feels like a chore ... I feel rushed and even (in my less generous moments) a bit put-upon. By doing things like this well ahead of time, at a time of my choosing, I focus instead on the beauty of it. I think about the people coming to dine with us, at our table, and how nice the setting will look for them. In this way, I focus on the pleasure of the chore, not the pressure of it.

How about tablescapes then? This is another thing I like to think about early, so I can be a little thoughtful and creative with it ... as well as economical!

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There will be flowers for sure - I can never resist fresh blooms at the holidays - but I also like to tap into the treasures to be found in our very own yard. Acorns, pinecones, dried flowers and weeds, interesting rocks, colorful leaves - the possibilities are endless! A lovely activity would be to take the children on a "gathering walk" early in the month of November. (Earlier the better if you want a small share of the acorn crop!) Here we have some glass bowls filled with our acorn stash and a small beeswax tea light candle. I may even tuck some autumn leaves under the globes. Now, you could use any bowls you have on hand ... and if you can't find acorns, cranberries from the market would also be beautiful! Once Thanksgiving is over, we will scatter these seeds on the deck ... and watch them disappear!

Here are some of my pretty baking pans - easy to collect, hard to give away!

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 But when we're blessed, we want to bless others back. It's a great theme to work on at this time of year, especially with children! Because the simplest way to celebrate this season (and the next) is to just give. Give to others, give of ourselves ... it's a sure path to joy! That's a message I want my children to learn and practice in their own life as they grow. There will be more on this particular theme next week, but for now, how about setting aside time to bake together and make some extra for those people who have helped us or befriended us in some way?

Here's a little bit of a story, but I hope you'll indulge me. So this is a big deal for my 13-year-old Earlybird: making friends and learning to be a friend. He's autistic and we're working with a wonderful therapist on getting him out in the community, learning how to conduct his affairs in a polite and practical manner. Well, those folks who take the time to help him - even just a friendly greeting each time we see them - are blessing our son in ways they don't even realize. So this year we're baking breads (something EB loves to do) and bringing them to those special people in our life ...

Like the librarian who patiently helps him check out his planet books and train DVDs, the pizza place owner who greets him heartily and lets him visit the kitchen (and asks after EB when he's not with us), the grocery store clerk who gives him a high-five and tells him he's doing a great job (and then quietly tells me the same), the neighbor who lets him visit her henhouse and take home an egg, the therapist who works with him every single day and tells him over and over how awesome he is ...

These people can't know just how deeply they are blessing us, and a bread is a pretty small gesture, but one I hope will bless them back, even a little. No, it won't make my week simpler to bake with my son and deliver breads around town, but it will make us feel good ... and maybe a few others, too. :)

What's happening in nature?

Now this was the part where I was going to attempt sharing a short video ... but alas, I did not get very far! (In other words, Bill left for work before I got his help with it!) I would very much like to try this sometime soon, and as it happens Bill is home all week after today ... so we shall see! I can tell you it is bright and brisk here today, very "Thanksgiving in New England." :) A beautiful buck crossed our road on the way to Mass early yesterday morning ... he stopped and looked back at us from a frosty field. Gorgeous. And birds are furiously flocking to the feeders (squirrels, too) but no wild turkeys to report ...

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Well, except for these guys who I found at CVS for $2 each. I buy these foil-wrapped candies every year "for the kids" but they lend a little color and whimsy to our buffet. :)

A project with the children this week ...

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Here's our living room mantle, adorned with a garland of family blessings. We're in the home stretch now - there are only a few blank leaves left in the basket! This was a very simple project, but the message I'm hoping it imparts to my children is that we are grateful for all of God's blessings, and that every good thing comes from Him. Some blessings are BIG, but lots of them are little. In fact, if you were to read through our leaves they would not impress you with meaningful remarks on the Big, Important Things ... but they might make you smile with their simple, sweet, smallness:

"the cats "

"pears and hot dogs"

"packages in the mail"

"dirty boots"


Sometimes I think by focusing on the simple joys in life, we train ourselves in a kind of habit - a mindfulness that prepares us to see the big things for how great they really are. I think this is something really important to share with our children, but equally important to remember ourselves.

Words to inspire:

 "Life holds so many simple blessings, each day bringing its own individual wonder."

~ John McLeod

What a lovely quote for my season's journal ... it says perfectly what I'm always rambling on about in a very roundabout way. ;)

Oak leaves branch
Well, my friends, I'd best let you go ... I've kept you here long enough! But 
I hope you enjoyed my Thanksgiving tea Journal ... and I would love to hear from you, too!

What refreshments are you enjoying this week?

What are you reading this week?

What are you listening to this week?

What are you working on this week?

What's happening in nature this week?

Any projects with the children this week?

(and finally)

Any quotations to share, some words to inspire?

I'd love to see your tea, hear about your tea, your week and/or your thoughts on keeping it simple. This will be a good topic to discuss as we head into the "most wonderful time of the year." Is there ever a time when "keeping things simple" is harder to manage than in the weeks leading up to Christmas?

Comments, email, links - ooh, and nest pics! - all are welcome! More on Advent and simplifying our seasons in my following posts. We have many weeks of tea to come and lots of areas to discuss! I am hoping to use this weekly "refreshment" as a chance to sit back and take stock. Am I keeping it real? Am I staying true to the season?

For a look ahead, please click over to this post for my full tea schedule. And remember, all are welcome - brief comments or lengthy posts. I appreciate each and every contribution.

Thanks so much for stopping by, my friends! Enjoy your tea, and the evening to follow, and I will see you here again very soon!

Thinking out loud: Thanksgiving plans

Thanksgiving folder 6

Good Wednesday morning, my friends! It's quite early here ... as in, really, really early. Our aptly pseudonym-ed third son, Earlybird, has been rising well before 6 a.m. lately so our days have been getting a real "efficiency" boost. I know most people don't see the appeal in getting out of bed while it's still dark and cold - and, quite frankly, it really isn't all that appealing in the moment because that bed is just so darn cozy - but by mid-morning, when I've gotten a nice head start on my daily tasks and I'm on my second third cup of coffee - well by golly, I am just HUMMING right along.

So here I am at 7 a.m. and I've gone over my agenda and I've made a few checks on my task list and I've read through my daily devotions - both spiritual and practical - and I thought, you know, I should really get a start on my Thanksgiving folder. We're only 15 days away from the big day, after all!

So what does a Thanksgiving folder do, you might wonder? Well, I make one up every year, and it's really not slick or snazzy or even a particular unique idea, but it works for me.

You know, of all the holidays, Thanksgiving is my favorite. For one thing, I love all it celebrates (gratitude, family, harvest, home) and for another, it often falls on my dear mother's birthday (11/26)! So it's a double celebration for our family, and some years we have close to (or more than) 20 people! Hosting a gathering of this size is a blessing and privilege, but it can be a little overwhelming - we want the day to be special and relaxing for everyone! - so my aim is always to start early and be organized! Then, come Thanksgiving, I'll be less consumed with the dinner details and more focused on the deeper meaning of the day. 

(Now, that might be the third cup of coffee talking, but I hope you know what I mean. Anyhoo, back to that folder!)

So inside this folder I place any recipes or crafts or other information I might like to use this year - these are mostly clippings from magazines or print-outs or photocopies. Sometimes there are a few paper-clipped recipe cards. Along the folder tab I place a strip of washi tape on which I have written something clever like, "Thanksgiving, 2015." I also add a pretty turkey sticker because it makes me smile. :)

To the front cover of the folder I staple a sheet (sometimes two) of loose-leaf paper. Here is where I start making my lists: guests • menu (dinner, apps/cocktails, dessert) • table arrangements • serving notes • decorating notes • cleaning • errands • grace

Thanksgiving folder 3

I even have a tiny calendar in the corner which represents the days left before the holiday and which ones are available for errands or house cleaning or cooking, etc. 

Thanksgiving folder 4

Now this folder is mainly for "hostess" notes - lists pertaining directly to the family gathering and dinner itself. But there are many other things I plan out ahead of Thanksgiving: crafts/activities with the kids (ex. a gratitude project, table decorations) • parish/community events (ex. a food or clothing drive) • weaving nature in (ex. autumn walks and material gathering) • atmosphere/decoration (ex. garlands and lights) • extras (ex. When will A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving air?) • our Thanksgiving cornucopia of books

Now, all these notes find their collective home in different places at different times. I go back and forth about where it makes the most sense to keep seasonal plans such as these. The main homekeeping binder? The Late Autumn (Nov-Dec) binder? My homemade planner, if I can find the room? In my file crate, perhaps?

Because when a holiday, feast or season is upon us, I like to have my planning pages close at hand - not in some storage spot in the next room. I need to refer to those notes to keep on top of our plans but most of all - whatever does or doesn't get done - all that seasonal inspiration is good for my soul! :)


Well, I could add more about my Thanksgiving prep and I probably will in another post, but as it is now mid-day and I still don't have this post up, I will wrap up  and press "publish." 

But before I go, here's the "help" I had while getting this post done ...

Thanksgiving folder 5

Good help really is hard to find - especially when it's this cute!


Enjoy the rest of your Wednesday, my friends! I will see you here again sometime soon!

p.s. Oh, I forgot to mention! I have a new "post party" in mind ... with the days growing dark and cold, and the urge to settle in taking hold ... I'm thinking it might be a good time for tea? A weekly gathering to chat about holiday plans? Details to come!

Halloween Ideas: A Paper Chain Countdown!

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

Halloween paper chain 5

Hello my friends, and Happy Tuesday!

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

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

Halloween paper chain

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

Halloween paper chain 2

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

Halloween paper chain 3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~* Happy Halloween! *~

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

All good fun!

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

Halloween paper chain 4

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

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

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

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

Crackerjack's Confirmation!

 Confirmation 2

Good Monday morning, my friends!

Well, it was quite a weekend here for our family - our Crackerjack made his Holy Confirmation! There was a beautiful Mass on Saturday morning, and afterwards there was much celebrating back home! I took loads of pictures and I'd love to share them here with you all. I have a few of the prep, and some of the party itself ...

Now, at the top of this post is the Confirmation cake my mum and I made - using a cross pan I had on hand, and basing the design on a project I saw on Pinterest. It probably looks a lot more complicated than it actually was to make ... it just took a lot of time! We used a "classic white" cake mix (1 box) in the aforementioned cross pan ...

Confirmation cake 1

The cooled cake was frosted with homemade buttercream ... my Mum made a ropey edging all around the bottom edge of the cake.

Confirmation cake 2

I used a butter knife (flat edge) and a toothpick to trace the design first - we referenced the Pinterest pic as I went - then I filled in the outline with black decorating gel. By the way, we used Wilton Sparkle Decorating Gels - easy to use and the taste was just fine. (I'm not crazy about artifically-colored frosting for a variety of reasons, but this special cake called for an exception!)

Confirmation cake 3

Next we filled in the "panes" with various bright colors, emulating the stained glass windows one might see in a church. We made the center symbol a sun because CJ brings so much warmth and light into our lives! You'll notice I had Bill take over once my hand got tired ...

Confirmation 3

As a final step, I added a clip-on dove to the corner of the serving board and, using red and gold gel, made flames to represent the Gifts of the Holy Spirit. Technically, there are only seven gifts ... but I got carried away with the gel, lol!

Jacks confirmation 29

We finished the cake on Friday night and as the weather was quite hot, we left it in the fridge to keep cool overnight. On Saturday, I set up the dining room table with a pretty white cloth, the cake and other decorations I'll describe below ...

 Jacks confirmation 26

Crackerjack chose "George" for his Confirmation name - in honor of two of his great-grandfathers as well as his patron saint. We had St. George prayer cards for guests to take as favors from the day. The candle is one we use for liturgical celebrations and the wooden stand was ready to hold the Confirmation certificate.

Jacks confirmation 27

This is our much-loved, somewhat worn out, copy of Saint George and the Dragon ... open to Crackerjack's favorite (and most dramatic!) scene. We read this story every year on St. George's Day (April 23rd) and Michaelmas (Sept. 29th) ... CJ has loved this book, and had a fascination with knights, since he was a little boy.

Jacks confirmation 18 (1)

 In addition to the cross cake, my mum also made these cupcakes - another Michaelmas/St. George's Day tradition. These are chocolate cake topped with buttercream and red and gold sprinkles - with cocktail swords piercing the devil's food underneath ...

Get it? :)

Jacks confirmation 9 

And you all know how I feel about punch ... it's just not a party without punch! This one, a new recipe, was very nice - it's called "Autumn Orchard Punch." And I forget where I found it - might have been Facebook or possibly Pinterest - but anyhow, it's pretty simple: apple juice, frozen cranberry juice concentrate, a bit of orange juice, ginger ale and floating apple slices. So refreshing on a warm autumn day! And I think it looks gorgeous in my grandmother's crystal punch bowl.

Confirmation 20

One of my favorite things about hosting a party is it's the perfect excuse to buy pretty     flowers! The above photo was taken the day before our party - my mum arranged all the flowers for me and I hid them here in the living room from the cats (and little curious fingers). I bought bunches and bunches at Trader Joe's where I find the prices are quite reasonable and the blooms are fresh and interesting. I love all these autumn shades!

Jacks confirmation 28

 I really love how Mum did these Mason jar arrangements - the purple looks fabulous with those flowers! These went on the dining tables set up outside under the canopy. I meant to do something more with these tables - like a vine twisted along the center line between the vases or perhaps along the canopy - but I never got around to it. (Go figure ... )

Confirmation 21

 And finally it was Confirmation Day morning! Here's CJ's robe, hanging by the front door to release some of the wrinkles.

Confirmation 5

CJ needed a little help tying his tie. :)

Jacks confirmation 1

And here's our young man with his sponsor, his Papa (my dad). Papa's been pressed into sacramental service twice now - he was also Bookworm's sponsor three years ago.

Confirmation 22

 We were not allowed to take photos during Mass, but I snapped this before things got rolling. Apologies for the odd lighting and purple splotches -  my phone does not take the very best pictures ... and my camera, as I explained a while back is out of service. But I could not miss capturing this moment ... :)

Jacks confirmation 8 (1)

Just moments after Mass with the freshly confirmed, his dad, and his little brother ... who had clearly had enough of his tie.

Jacks confirmation 3

I love this picture because I'm with my two "bookend boys" - my oldest (Bookworm, 20) and my youngest (Little Bear, just 2 years old!).

Jacks confirmation 14

Pictures outside church ... it was a bit hectic and the sun was in everyone's eyes, but we managed to get a few nice shots.

Jacks confirmation 15

Happy, happy day ... the Mass was held, not in our own parish church, but at a local Catholic college. Our church is too small to hold so many people.

Jacks confirmation 16

Group shot! With grandmothers, aunties and dear family friends ...

Then it was time to get back to the house and meet up with the rest of the party! I didn't get any pictures of the luncheon buffet but I can tell you there was a LOT of food. (I just can't cook small, lol.) The day was so nice we ate outside, but cake and coffee were served back inside ...

Jacks confirmation 18

Soon it was time to cut the cake!

Confirmation 11

(Crackerjack could not WAIT to get out of his "spiffy" duds. But in a way, the Star Wars shirt works with the (jedi) knight theme ...)

Jacks confirmation 20 

Just love that smile! When did he get so grown up?

Confirmation 7

"May I have a cupcake, pretty please?"

Jacks confirmation 17

 It was a great day to spend outside, catching up with family and friends ... so grateful to have so many wonderful people in our family. 

Can't resist another flower shot - at the end of the day, guests gone home, sun going down - we gathered up all the arrangements and left them outside. So pretty in the soft light.

Jacks confirmation 13

 Crackerjack's special cards were placed along our living room mantle ... he also received a St. George medal to wear on a chain, a daily devotions book for teens, a St. George and the dragon figurine (he loves collecting figures) and just before Mass, Bill and I gave him this to wear. :)

Confirmation 23

We are just so happy for our Crackerjack - this is such a big day in the life of a Catholic child - and for the family who's raising him! We are very proud of our CJ ... for who he is, his kind spirit and all that he holds in his heart. It's a dear and brave heart, one we've nurtured these past 16 years as best we could ....

Jacks confirmation 2

Dear friends, may I ask you to say a little prayer on our boy's behalf - that he continues to grow in his Faith and know God's love for him always? That he also knows just how much his family and friends cherish him?

Thank you so much, everyone - for those prayers, and, as always, for stopping by and sharing in our joy. I hope you are all doing well and that your new week is off to a nice start!

Take care of yourselves and your loved ones ... I'll be back here again very soon!

We're Celebrating Crackerjack's 16th Birthday!

Which means, I have a whole lotta pictures to share! But first, a little throwback, just to keep it all in perspective ...

Cj bday 2

Some of you may remember this wee fella from way back when I started blogging ... ten years ago (almost)? Well, as hard as it is for me to believe - let alone say - this little laddie is now a young man of SIXTEEN!

And let me tell you - though I know some of you know this - what a different experience it is planning a birthday party for a six year old as opposed to a 16 year old! There's far less planning and preparation involved - for example, there are no pinatas to hang or favor bags to fill, lol. Anyhoo, what we did this weekend was to have Jack invite friends over on Saturday to watch movies in the cool man cave ("cool," as in escaping the heat) and then on Sunday our family gathered for a simple cookout to celebrate our young man.

Jacks fam party 16

The Birthday Boy himself!

Jacks fam party 5

And the family gathered: my folks and Bill's folks and all our boys!

Jacks fam party 8

August means farm-fresh corn at every chance. Seriously, we eat it several times a week at this time of year! And baked beans are traditional New England fare in any season, but I love them at parties, and they are always a Little Bear favorite!

Jacks fam party 27

And here are some beautiful heirloom tomatoes from my friend Debbie's garden ... like jewels in the sun, so pretty in this bowl.

Jacks fam party 11

And voila the birthday party spread! Hot dogs, burgers, (sliced sweet onions, tomatoes and crispy bacon), sausages, potato salad, garden salad, corn on the cob, baked beans, chips-n-dip ... and crabbies (a family favorite)!

 Jacks fam party 7

The liquid refreshments and pretty glassware were set up on the kitchen jetty ... lemonade, sodas, iced tea, and wine. 

Jacks fam party 26 (1)

A tiny pumpkin from our garden! I love how it looks amongst all the summery-ness - a glimpse of things to come ...

Jacks fam party 14

Bill and I with our boys - a bit of Christmas card practice!

Jacks fam party 10 (1)

And here's our Bookworm, talking about his new TA position at BC this fall. He'll be quite the busy undergrad this year!

Jacks fam party 21

I just love this picture of Mum and I with Little Bear. I love that we laugh so much as a family ... we have a lot of fun. :) 

Jacks fam party 2

My brother Matt had to work all day but came up to the house after he got off of work a bit early. Earlybird was so thrilled he ran to the doors to let him in - with a big hug, natch. :)

(He brought some amazing grapes, by the way - he works at Trader Joe's, fyi - they are absolutely the sweetest I've ever had!)

Jacks fam party 3

My brother (aka Unc Matt) and the birthday boy.

Jacks fam party 26

Little Bear enjoying his bubba with his Papa. How sweet is this picture?

Jacks fam party 23

LB giving out hugs and fist bumps. This one was for his Great Aunt Anne.

Jacks fam party 19

What a happy day - love spending time with these folks! With my Dad and Bill's Godmother, Aunt Anne. 

Jacks friend party 1

For CJ and his friends, I made "monster cupcakes" - aka squash muffins with a simple powdered sugar glaze. They were a hit! (And LB was a bit obsessed with the candles.)

Jacks party 2

I am so grateful that CJ has such great friends and that they've been friends since they were little kids. Note the tiny guy on CJ's lap ... sneaking in where the action is. ;) He insisted on being at the table with the big boys. 

Jacks friends party 4

Here's CJ with his friend, Kurt - and a great new Disney t-shirt in his favorite color!

Jacks friends party 5

Crackerjack is a lot of things - kind, funny, thoughtful - but I especially love what a fantastic big brother he is. I think the greatest compliment anyone can be paid in life is to earn the love and trust and attachment of a young child. It says so much about a person when little ones feel safe and happy with them ... and as you can see from this picture, Little Bear and Crackerjack have a truly special bond. Fourteen years apart, but best buddies at heart. <3


Well I'll wrap up now, but I thank you for stopping by and sharing in our special day! I will be back to chat more another time - and I have pictures of my Day Designer to share (remember the daybook I bought at Target a while back?) ... I think I'm liking it!


Enjoy your evening, my friends and see you again soon!

Pondering Project Planning ...

Confirmation outfit 1

Next month Crackerjack will make his Holy Confirmation, so I've been scrambling about checking suit sizes, dress shoes, ties and belts, etc., but it occurred to me ... we'd need something "spiffy" for our littlest man to wear, too! Well, I happened to be at Babies 'R Us yesterday (buying - what else - diapers, lol?) and saw these dapper duds on sale ... so how could I resist? I just had to share this with you all because I thought you might get a kick out of it ... :)

But also, I'd like to ask you all a question this morning about project planning:

How/where do you plan out Projects?

CJ's Confirmation, as I mentioned, is happening next month and naturally there's much to do to get ready. He's been preparing for two years, and we've had to keep track of his requirements ... there have been papers and signatures and essays and memos with important dates. And then there's the Big Day itself! A late morning Mass will be followed by a rather large celebration at our house ... so, all in all, it's a sizeable project to plan out and prepare for!

So my question is, where would you keep a project plan for an event like this? A project that requires checklists, goals, delegation, follow-up, brainstorming, etc.?

Other project examples:

A birthday party

Thanksgiving Dinner

A yard sale ... or bake sale

A move/house sale

A vacation

A home business idea

A room makeover


A new heath regime

I'm always stumped when it comes to storing project plans, and I've tried a lot of different locations:

In a special notebook devoted just to project planning.

In a separate binder where I can also stash loose papers and whatnot.

On a clipboard.

In the file crate, in a folder marked, "Projects."

In my master binder, behind a "Projects" tab.

In the seasonal binder to which the project belongs (if it's timely).

Now, I realize - as usual - I'm probably overthinking things, but I thought I'd ask for my readers' thoughts on this topic ... because I love hearing how other people organize things!

If you have a moment please let me know where you plan your projects and all the stuff that goes along with it!

{I know I keep talking about "posts to come" about my planning - seasonal, weekly, home education, nature study, etc. - and I do promise they're coming. I'm just trying to get it all straight before I begin my "show and tell!" :) Currently I'm in the midst of re-tooling my tools and re-thinking how I use them. I do love me some binders and planners and notebooks and folders, but I'm realizing that perhaps keeping things all in one place is more realistic for me. I'm trying not to overstuff my master binder, but it is convenient to keep things right at my fingertips.}

Well, I'd best wrap up and be off and get this day rolling. It happens to be Crackerjack's SIXTEENTH birthday today ... and Bill has taken a few days off so there will be much family togetherness ... which of course means there will be plenty of pictures forthcoming!

Have yourselves a good Thursday, my friends, and see you here again very soon!

Time Flies - and Little Bear turns TWO!

O party 7

 We can hardly believe that our littlest man - our happy surprise baby - is now a TWO YEAR OLD! Time does truly fly when you're having fun ... and boy, is this boy FUN! I'd like to share some pictures from his birthday if I may? 

O party 13

Here we are, my Little Bear and I, taking a moment during the party to relax under a shady canopy. You might notice the bottle in his hands ... well, he did wean himself from nursing around 19 months ... but giving up the bubba is not as smooth a transition, lol! But we're working on it ...

Ah, but before I get too far with the party pictures (which took place last weekend), here is our Little Bear with all his big brothers on his actual birthday night, reading cards and having a little birthday cake after supper ...

O birthday 3

O birthday 2

O birthday 1

He actually didn't eat a bite, lol! Little Bear's not the one for sweets ... give him some hummus or pasta, however ...

But now, back to the party ... our theme was "Things That Go!"

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Because Little Bear just LOVES all things that move, particularly trucks and trains. I placed vibrant red Gerber daisies in blue and green mason jars alongside some party store decorations ... so simple and pretty. Every table got bubbles as well because Little Bear just LOVES to chase bubbles!

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My mum made this cake, topped with her famous fudge frosting and some construction vehicles "on the job" ...

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There were also plenty of buttercream-topped chocolate cupcakes (also made by LB's Nana) with tiny vehicle picks for decoration ...

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There were balloons aplenty, natch ... 

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And because it was such a nice day, we were able to enjoy the outdoors and hold the party on the patio and in the yard ... You never know in June hereabouts, but we dodged the rain and got ourselves a dry day!

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More balloons! This one was tied to the mailbox ...

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The main tent was set up on the patio and that covered the dining tables ... we also set up two smaller brown canopies where we had a "bar" and casual seating. Note my herb containers off to the left ... more on those very soon!

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 So as I mentioned before, my mum made the cake and cupcakes ... I did the arranging and I think it came out rather clever! Those are chocolate sprinkles being hauled around by the trucks. :)

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Here's the little guy joining family at the table ... that was my grandmother's tablecloth - a soft white terry adorned with strawberries and yellow flowers. I love it for summer entertaining.

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And here are my two oldest sons with the birthday boy ... :)

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Here's my Bill manning the grill, catching up with our friend, Paul, my cousin Kate's husband. Our party menu featured burgers and hot dogs and sausages along with all kinds of sides.

Here's the buffet table in the sunroom as it got piled up with food. I lined the windowsills with favorite truck/train/boat/plane books and toys.

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There was, of course, punch!

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And after lunch came presents - present-opening is very much a family affair around here. ;)

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 Little Bear received many thoughtful gifts - trucks, books, finger puppets, summer tees and even a wading pool!

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And then it was time for cake! Note the face, lol ...

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... and then some yard games ...

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As well as some quality time in the sandbox!

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It was a lovely day spent with people we love, celebrating the littlest member of our family.  Time is indeed flying fast and I am grateful for every day - every simple, sweet, slow (or not) day I get to spend with my dear ones. And oh, how dear is this little one ... in all of his two year-old glory?


Well, my friends ... that's all for now! I'm hoping you all have a good week and thanking you all for stopping by!

I'll see you here again very soon ... 

Easter Weekend Photos ...

Happy Monday, my friends! I hope you all had a wonderful weekend! And to my friends who celebrate - Alleluia! Wishing you all of Easter's bright blessings! I am so happy this new season is here ...

We had a very nice Sunday, starting with - well, baskets, natch - then, early Mass (oh, that light coming in through the stained glass windows ...), followed by an afternoon gathering of family here at our house. We usually have quite a crowd, but for various reasons, our group was a bit smaller this year. We missed those who couldn't be with us, while relishing the time spent with those who could. It was such a lovely day and I have some photos I'd like to share with you all ... :)

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The boys' baskets all ready for the Bunny, as light waned on Easter eve ...

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My pretty birthday cloche filled with Easter grass and chocolates ...

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Festive flora! I always light this garland on Easter eve as the boys head off to bed ...

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Pretty flowers awaiting vases ...

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Eggs awaiting color!

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 I had truly meant to try natural egg dyes this year - bought the cabbage, beets, and onion skins and all - but time got pressing and thankfully, I had a PAAS package on hand!

Good ole PAAS, lol.

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My Earlybird (13) was a big help with the centerpieces (I cut, he "arranged") ...

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And the baking, of course! This was the beginnings of an orange pound cake made with fresh orange zest!

Here are the tables set up for eleven ...

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And a close up of the main table centerpiece ... I mixed blue and white dishes, old family favorites. :)

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This brass crucifix was made by my great-great grandfather. I typically have it in a place of honor, but I've never thought to use it on my Easter table!

These jellybean-filled glass globes were also part of the table setting ...

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(Tiny tealights blessed at Candlemas!)

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I love this cross-section of basket goodies - very telling of my boys' ages .. from candy and Tolkien to finger puppets and Scarry!

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Little Bear had an early nap so was a bit disgruntled to wake to a house full of people.

(That is my new Easter blouse - funny how it is when you order something online and it is NOTHING like it looked in the catalog, lol ... but still. I loved the colors and it was quite comfortable.)

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Here's my veggie basket - a la Pioneer Woman - basket on loan from Mum. :) The dip was meant to be served in a hollowed-out red cabbage but alas, my "fiddling" time ran out.

And here's the dessert & punch table ... I love to serve desserts in our living room.

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Non-alcoholic strawberry-lemonade punch, rhubarb pie, orange pound cake (served with whipped cream, not shown), chocolate cupcakes and fresh fruit salad. Plenty of assorted candies, too!

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I simply cannot have a party without punch!

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I used Gram's Irish china for coffee ... and placed some jaunty daffodils in a pretty white pitcher. My paternal grandmother made the white cabbage vase in a ceramics class. :)

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I love these sweet little cupcakes made by my mother ... EB can have them (he pulls the carrot candy off first) and they are SO delicious!

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Every holiday has its signature cocktail, of course! This year I wanted to use our pretty cosmo glasses and I loved the "spring-sky" shade of these "Tiffany Blue Cosmopolitans."

I set this table up in the sunroom as a place for drinks and appetizers. This was early on before it filled up ... there was artichoke dip and the aforementioned veggie basket, as well as hummus and pita, sweet grapes and goat cheese and assorted crispy, crunchy things.

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(Yes, we still have snow ... but it was a nice day, all in all. No rain (or snow!) to speak of and mostly sunny skies. Almost, but not quite, 50 degrees.)

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Main dishes were served from the kitchen ... we had baked ham and beef pie, mashed potatoes, roasted asparagus, baked beans, parmesan peas, soft rolls and deviled eggs. Homey fare, typical of New England holidays. :)

And here is (some of) my dear family, gathered 'round in our dining room. (Earlybird was camera shy!)

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 My cousin Kate (LB's godmother), Auntie Marcia, Dad and Mum ...

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Bookworm (19) and Crackerjack (15) ...

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 Little Bear on my lap (22 mos.) with Manuel and Kara (my cousin and EB's godmother) ...

And finally, the man behind the camera for most of the day - finally getting to sit down and have his cupcake! 

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What a blessing it is to spend a day like this with those we love ...

My friends, thank you so much for stopping by and sharing in our joy! I hope you all had wonderful Easter ... and I'd love to hear about your day if you'd care to leave a comment! I love hearing how families across the country (and world!) celebrate treasured days like this. For now though, I wish you all a very pleasant evening and a happy day tomorrow, too ...

I will see you here again very soon!

Our Thanksgiving Day, 2014

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Happy Friday, my friends!

I hope you all had a nice week - and a lovely Thanksgiving Thursday, if you are American like me. We had a wonderful holiday and I'd like to share a few some a LOT of pictures from our day if I may ... some food, some family and some festive touches around my home. :)

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Love this sign my mother bought ~ I'm grateful for all those things!

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 This is my grandmother's crystal punch bowl, filled with this year's "signature holiday cocktail" -  a Bourbon Wine Punch. I am such a sucker for punch! This was a mixture of chilled white wine, bourbon, cranberry juice, lime juice, sprite and frozen grapes. I added sliced apples for an autumn touch. It was so very yummy.

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Thanksgiving cupcakes - made by my mum and decorated by my boys. My initial plan had been to make "turkey cupcakes" but as the hour drew late, I called uncle. I think I like them like this even more. The chocolate frosted ones were made in such a way that my sensitive EB could still indulge.

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Some pretty candies on the windowsill ...

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My brother in his silly turkey hat. :)

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Crackerjack with my Aunt Marcia who brought, amongst other things, this delicious shrimp dip - a family favorite.

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Mum and me - two cooks in the kitchen! But I bet you can guess which one of us was responsible for this situation:

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This would be burnt crostini tossed onto the front doorstep ... in a snow-filled planter, no less. There were smoke alarms blaring inside and I might have panicked a bit. Lol.

(Luckily I bought a LOT of French bread!)

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Here I am with my Earlybird, who had a great day after a bit of a rocky start. Party prep sets him on edge, but once his loved ones arrived, he relaxed and enjoyed himself.

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My cousin, Kate and her husband, Paul - their first Thanksgiving as husband and wife!

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We served appetizers and drinks in the sunroom ... I like spreading the party out as much as possible. Keep bodies - and conversation - moving!

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The aforementioned shrimp dip ... so good. I have a real weakness for this stuff.

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A Thanksgiving Blessing Snack Mix: Bugles, pretzels, sunflower seeds, dried cranberries, m&m's. I think there was supposed to be candy corn too, but they got used up on the cupcakes. I found the recipe on Pinterest.

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 Cranberry jam-goat cheese toasties - a recipe from Family Fun Magazine.

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 Desserts of all kinds lining the windowsill ... pies, cake and cookies!

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This is a Gingery Pear-Apricot Pie , a recipe I found in Woman's Day Magazine. It called for a crust made up of overlapping pastry cut-outs - which looks neat, but is very labor-intensive. It had a nice filling though - pears, dried apricots, golden raisins, real grated ginger, orange zest ... 

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 Yes, that's snow you see out there - we had a white Thanksgiving this year!

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We had two tables for our party of 14; the first was set for eight in the dining room ...

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And the second was set for six in the living room.

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 I like how this table fits in this room, and might keep it here for crafts and homeschool projects. Without the china and glass, of course. 

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 Our Bookworm, home from BC, where he is a sophomore this year.

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 Little Bear was napping till the very last minute - he woke up just after grace!

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"Who's coming to my house?"

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 Loving a new ride-on toy, a gift from Grandma and Grandpa.

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Hard to believe this little guy is now 18 months old. Such joy he brings to our family!

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My mother's birthday cake - a cranberry spice cake with cream cheese frosting, dried cranberries and golden candles ... November's colors!

(Note my brother photo-bombing the shot.)

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The living room mantel all aglow at the end of the day ...

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 My four boys, relaxing after dinner ... so good to have them all home!

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Pretty lights ... a taste of things to come. :)


Well my friends, thank you so much for letting me share these pictures (and my thoughts) with you all. I just love Thanksgiving - it is perhaps my favorite of all the holidays! But I am now turning my attention to the season of Advent which begins this Sunday! And I will be back on Monday with my next Tea Journal post and some thoughts on the new season ... until then I wish you all a very happy weekend!

See you here again very soon ...

Thursday Thoughts & Dinner Plans

Thanksgiving plate

"Cooking demands attention, patience, and above all, a respect for the gifts of the earth. It is a form of worship, a way of giving thanks."

~ Judith B. Jones

This is a wonderful quote to ponder, don't you think? Especially so close to Thanksgiving!

Today I am working out the final details of our holiday dinner ... talking it over with my mum, looking through my folder, writing out final lists. We usually stick to a pretty familiar meal plan but we also like to work in a few new twists. There must, of course, be roast turkey - as well as stuffing, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie ... but we can have a little fun with apps, drinks, desserts and sides. Are you trying any new recipes this year?

I thought you might like to hear what we're serving next Thursday ... and if you have a moment, I'd love to hear about your dinner plans!

Drinks & Apps

Thanksgiving Cocktail: cran-apple bourbon punch

Also: cold beer, cider, wine, asst. soda

Shrimp Dip

Thanksgiving blessings snack mix

baked brie with figs and pistachios

cranberry jam toasties


sweet and sour cippolini with goat cheese on crostini

Main Meal

roast turkey

stuffing (plain and "dressed up")

cranberry sauce (canned and homemade)

mashed potatoes




peas and/or beans

soft dinner rolls

brown bread muffins


cheddar-chive biscuits



assorted pies (tbd)

cranberry spice cake

maple cream liqueur (if I have time!)

and perhaps ...

sweet potato cupcakes with toasted marshmallow topping

(because they just sound uncommonly good)


Now, my friends, I must stress to you all that I am not making all of this (or even most of it) myself! My mum does the bulk of the cooking, while family and friends bring along contributions. I generally make a couple of desserts and an appetizer or two, the biscuits/muffins as well as the signature cocktail. I do love to cook, but I especially enjoy organizing tables and dishes and centerpieces and trying to be sure the house is all tidy and arranged for comfortable socializing ...

Which is why I have all these lists!

Speaking of lists, I'm also working on my Advent plans this week because the season comes up rather quickly once Thanksgiving is over. Lots to think about, much to plan ... but I will talk more about that subject next Monday when we gather for tea.


Hope you all enjoy the rest of your Thursday ... see you here again very soon!

My Thanksgiving Day Planner

Thanksgiving folder 1

Hello and Happy Wednesday, my friends!

I'm coming to you from Crackerjack's computer once again - good old CJ, he's very patient with his mom - but there's a light at the end of the indisposed-laptop tunnel. I.e. I might have it back soon!

What had happened you see - which I could barely stand to mention I was so distraught - was that when Bill did the backup, and then went to restore my saved "old stuff" (for lack of a more technological term) onto my brand spankin' new hard drive - only a few things actually transferred. Some documents, a few folders ... and that was it. NONE of our precious photo library seemed to have been saved ...

So as you can imagine, we were quite upset. Incredulous, frustrated  ... but mostly, just so very upset. Well, fast-forward several ideas, suggestions and keystrokes later, and - *knock on wood* *fingers crossed* - it seems we've recovered the photos and they are slowly being restored. 


So, anyhoo - on to today's subject. I thought I'd write up a quick little post about my Thanksgiving Day Planner. I've talked about it here before - I use the same format every year - but I thought for new readers (or those readers who, like me, can talk planners incessantly, lol) I'd revisit the topic.

Now, I suppose it's mostly folks who host the actual dinner who would be in need of a Thanksgiving Day "planner." But whether you're hosting or not - and especially if you have children - there can be a lot to work into the celebration of this beloved American holiday ...

Books to read, songs to sing, foods to enjoy, crafts to make, tv shows to watch - and traditions to uphold and begin!

Bill and I are blessed with a large family as well as the honor of serving dinner each year at our home. And we always have such fun with the endeavor - but admittedly, it's a lot of work! So a planner of some sort is a must if we're going to get it all done. There are lists to make and recipes to clip and craft ideas to consider ... and time is already a-tickin! So I set up my T-Day planner just before the first of the month.

I find a file-folder format most useful for entertaining events (holidays and parties, etc.). I can staple a master time-frame/brainstorm page on the front cover and inside keep all the loose items like lists and magazine clippings ...

It's as basic as that, but it works!

On the calendar I write in when we'll do what (shop, farm pickup, bake pies, set tables, polish silver, wash wineglasses, iron linens ...). I look at my master monthly calendar first (the one in my planning binder) and see where there is time to get things done - what days we'll be home and what days I can run errands. I also jot down random "Thanksgiving" joys that come to me.

And finally, of course, I add stickers and washi tape. Just to make it all pretty.


My planning lists include (in case you're interested):



Cleaning/To-Do List

Baking/Cooking Timetable

Crafts/Activities with Kids

Decorating/Table Settings




I'm keeping the folder front and center at my planning station so I can add to it/consult it each day.

Folder 4

So there you have it - a quick (ish) look at my Thanksgiving Day Planner!

Please let me know if you have any questions and as always, I'd love to hear about your Thanksgiving plans! 

In the meantime, thanks so much for stopping by, and take care ...

I'll see you here again very soon!

A Party for Little Bear!

O birthday party 5 

Good Monday morning evening, my friends! I hope you all had a nice weekend. :)

Today I have a GINORMOUS post for you, all about Little Bear's birthday party ... I hope you don't mind a bit of "oversharing," lol! As many of you know, Little Bear turned one back in May - but for a few reasons his party was moved to August. Luckily the day was not too hot or humid as August can be here in New England - in fact, it was just about perfect!

Our party theme was "animal crackers" because LB just LOVES animals and animal sounds of all kinds these days. Orginally I toyed with an owl theme, inspired by my boy's love for this book, but we decided animals would be A. easier and B. more fitting right now. :)

So anyhoo - here we go, on a "little" tour of Little Bear's party ...

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We were expecting a good size crowd (40ish) so we rented the tables and chairs. The price was not too bad and this way everyone had a place to sit down and eat, all together. We purchased the tent (which came with windowed sides you can lower or raise) - it was basically the same price to buy as it was to rent and it fits our patio perfectly. 

The tables were set with soft shades of green, blue, yellow and orange.

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The centerpieces were also multicolored and relatively inexpensive:

O birthday party 1

First I laid down a small felt mat in animal stripes or spots. The vases were candy-hued mason-style jars (set of 6 on sale at AC Moore for $5) filled with sunflowers and mums purchased at Trader Joe's. The small wooden frames I found at AC Moore ($1, unfinished) and were painted by my mother. She applied colorful animal stickers once the paint was dry, and I picked out favorite pictures of LB through his first year, one for each frame. Not shown is the tiny Beech-Nut "Just Bananas" baby food jar (emptied and washed) filled with tiny asters from the garden.

Here's a look at all the frames together, six in all:

O birthday party 3

And I found these wooden animal masks at JoAnn Fabrics for $1 - Crackerjack painted them for me and we stuck them in big pots of sunny marigolds.

O party 1

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Most of the party was held outside, but I'm not a fan of serving food al fresco (bugs drive me nuts, lol) so I set the buffet tables up in the sunroom.

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(This was taken early in the day before everything was ready.)

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A small table set to the side held plates, napkins and mason jars filled with plastic cutlery ...

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Windows and walls held (more) pictures of Little Bear taken throughout his 1st year!

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Appetizers included light fare such as chips, salsa, veggies and dip, shrimp with cocktail sauce and cheese and crackers ...

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... while lunch consisted of "heartier" fare: shredded barbecue chicken and sloppy joes (served from the larger crockpots) and baked beans (in the small slowcooker). (Love this Honey-Peach bbq chicken recipe! So easy and makes a ton.) Sliced garden tomatoes and onions, assorted pickles, soft rolls, turkey and ham calzones, fruit salad, green salad, pasta salad and deviled eggs. All typical New England fare. :)

Now, the drinks we arranged outside, under a canopy ...

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Another reason I was so glad the weather was nice! 

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Bill set up a couple of tables for beverages and some comfortable seating nearby.

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Now, you might have noticed, I have a real thing for Mason jars lately! They're fun and look "vintage" but they're quite practical, too - I find so many uses for them. Here I used them for serving drinks ...

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My mum and I made little name tags from golden scrapbook paper and tied them to the jars with twine. Folks coud jot down their name and have their own glass for the afternoon.

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An old (but pretty) tea tin held paper straws ...

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... and a wooden zebra kept the napkins from flying away.

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In addition to this "Bear-y Punch" we also had pitchers of "Lion-Ade" and "Tiger Tea." (Fruit punch, lemonade and iced tea, respectively.) My new beverage jar ($20 at Paper Source) was perched on a rather old garden pot. :)

It was such a nice day for sitting and chatting ...

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... and lawn games.

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Little Bear was all over the bocce balls!

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This was supposed to be my "zebra-safari" outfit but I think, perhaps, I looked a bit like a gondolier, lol.

Next it was time for presents!

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 And then of course, it was time for CAKE!

For Little Bear's first birthday I made an assortment of "small cakes."

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I baked chocolate and "funfetti" cupcakes and made up a batch of buttercream frosting. I also had a couple of cans of "key lime" and "blue raspberry" frosting in the pantry so we used them as well. We added some colorful sprinkles and animal crackers. Fun!

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Happy Birthday, dear Little Bear!

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This was his face when we sang to him:

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 Shy boy. :)

We also served up a few tubs of ice cream from a local shop - freshly made peach, raspberry, blackberry and blueberry! All fruit was picked at farms in the area (save for the blueberries - they came from Maine where everyone knows they grow the very best blueberries). :)

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Little Bear waltzed around sampling flavors ...

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A little bit from Mama, a little bit from Nana, a little bit from Aunt Ami ...

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Hey you, cameraman? You have any ice cream for me?


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A lovely day - so nice to spend time with our loved ones ...

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It's a blessing to share Little Bear's sweetness with our family and friends. I think he had a really nice day ...


Thanks so much for taking the time to read, and look through my photos. I am now onto my next "project" which is school reports and ed. plans due this month. (How did it become August already?!)

Have yourselves a lovely evening, my friends ... see you here again very soon! 

A Woodsy Little Tea ...

Good Tuesday morning, my friends!

Well, it seems Typepad is back in working order this morning, so I'm here to say Hello! I hope you all had a nice weekend. I'd like to share a few pictures of a little "moms' tea" I hosted Sunday afternoon for a few dear friends:

  Moms tea 2

I used my beloved pinecone tea set, the one I bought for a song at a discount store many years ago ... I set the tea table up in the living room where we gathered, in front of a sunny window. And for refreshments, we had strawberry-rhubarb coffee cake (purchased from a local farm) and tender butter spritz cookies ...

Moms tea 4

... there were also fresh strawberries to nibble on and, of course, there was tea! (Black English Afternoon Tea to be exact.)

Before my friends arrived, I arranged a samplng of our woodland blossoms into jars and pitchers - azaleas and lily-of-the-valley as well as a clump of the yellow archangel which is, quite frankly, taking over our property. Invasive, but quite pretty.

Moms tea 5

 Fourteen years ago, I started homeschooling alongside these dear ladies ...

Moms tea 1

We try to meet, at least once a year, for a little "tea and conversation" ... to catch up and compare notes. Years ago (though it seems like just yesterday!) we were discussing curriculum and co-op - nowadays we're grappling with college decisions and life "after homeschooling." (Though a couple of us are still in the thick of it!)

Speaking of which, this little guy was thrilled to be part of the "tea," because otherwise it was a "child-free" event ...

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It was such a fun day and I loved having them all here ... hope to do it again soon!

Moms tea 7


Well, thanks so much for stopping by and letting me share my day with you ... I hope you enjoy your Tuesday, my friends!

I'll be back here again very soon ...

Mother's Day, 2014

Good Sunday evening, my friends! I hope you all had a nice weekend, and I hope all you mamas out there had a lovely Mother's Day, too!

Here in New England, it was a spectacular day ... perhaps one of the best all year. Sunny and dry, highs in the 70s ... sparkling I'd call it. :) Felt a little bit like summer, but deliciously spring-like as well. A day that seemed like an impossible dream back in March, when it was still snowy and bitterly cold ...

But enough of all that weather talk! I'd like to share some Mother's Day photos with you all if I may ... :)

Mothers day 1

Pretty china, all stacked and ready ... these were my Gram's Irish dishes and I treasure them. I miss her so much but especially so on days like this when she was always such a big part of the planning, the preparations, and of course, the "party" itself.

A memory of Grama I shared with the boys this morning ... she and I drank a lot of tea through the years, and she always used her fine Irish china. Always. And do you know what that made me think? That made me think that I was as special - as important - as any company that might come calling ... and she was a popular lady; she had a wide circle of friends. But I always knew I was at the top of her list (along with my brother and cousins) ...

It might seem a small thing, but sharing her china cups with me was one way she showed me how important it is to live life while we have it to live ... to share life while we have it to share ...

Mothers day 3

 Champagne flutes for the bellinis ... one for Mum, one for me. :) I tied a violet sprig (freshly plucked from the yard) and a silky green ribbon to the stems ... a little special touch.

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More tiny blossoms - jonquils and forget-me-nots, also from the yard ... I love the "lavender-blue" shade of the latter!

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The sweets table, filling up fast! 

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A bit of homemade, a bit of store-bought ... 

Mothers day 4

 My favorite thing to do on a Sunday afternoon? Visit with family. And share a nice meal with the family. I feel fortunate to have these days for such endeavors.

 Mothers day 5

 I decided to set up tables in the sunroom because it was such a nice day and with the windows open, there was quite a refreshing breeze. There was a long table to seat six (not shown) and this table for the two ladies of the day ... my Mum and myself!

 Mothers day 7 

Strawberry Bellinis ... pretty yummy! Made with fresh berry puree, orange juice and Prosecco. Sort of like a smoothie ... only just for adults. ;)

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I love that Earlybird (who was having a bit of a tough morning - as he tends to on big days like this) came over to pose with Little Bear and me. Baby O was having his own little shy moment, having just woken from a nap.

Mothers day 10 

Cruisin' .... on a Sunday afternoon. :)

Mothers day 11 

Me and my fellas ...

Mothers day 12 

We joke that my bright pink polo is ... A. clearly Mama's shirt and, B. Mama wears it all the time. (What can I say? It's comfortable ... and nursing-friendly.) So we decided to build around it for Mother's Day - everyone wore a polo, even the baby! In all kinds of springy hues. :)

Mothers day 14 

Little Bear's favorite mode of transportation these days ... up on his Daddy's shoulders! Note the solar panels in the background. I have Bill working on a "guest post" to describe how and why we went solar. :)

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My wonderful brother ... the boys look up to him so much.

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Goofing around with big brothers. Speaking of - Bookworm is home for the summer! He is officically done with his freshman year of college! I can't tell you how happy this makes me, to have all of my "birdies" back in the nest. :)

Mothers day 18

 With my Mum and Dad ... since I was a little girl, I have been deeply loved and completely supported. At this stage of life I know what a blessing this is and has been.

Mothers day 19

Me with my Little Bear ... I am so grateful to be a mum again ... to have another soul to nourish and love ... how I love all my boys! God has been so good to me, and I can never thank Him enough.


Well my friends, thanks so much for letting me share these photos here with you all ... I hope you enjoyed seeing how we spent our day! How was your Mother's Day ... how your weekend? I'd love to hear ...

And I hope your new week is a good one. Mid-May already? Wow, time flies fast ...

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

Easter, 2014 ~ Light, Love, Joy!

 Well, good Wednesday morning, my friends ... long time no see!

So I took my little Easter "break," and then right when I was ready to jump back in and start blogging again - Typepad crashed! And boy did it crash hard. Hoping they have it all worked out now ... so fingers crossed, everyone!

But enough with techy first-world problems, I hope you all had a nice weekend and a lovely Easter Sunday. Ours was wonderful - so good to spend time with family and friends - and as usual, I took a ridiculous amount of pictures so I'd like to share them here if I may. 


Easter sunday 25

"Hot cross buns" for Good Friday. One of these years I'll make them from scratch ...

Easter sunday 14

Baskets at the ready ...

Easter sunday 15 

Hard-boiled eggs cooling ...

Easter sunday 23 

Jelly beans soaking in vodka ... (more on that later).

Easter sunday 20

Just like magic, every year! 

Easter sunday 21

The baskets were hung by the chimney with care ...

Easter sunday 26

 Next morning, Earlybird was the first to the spoils (natch) ...

Easter sunday 27

 A few of my fellas ...

Easter sunday 31

Note the cats behind Little Bear ~ they were after that pink crinkly stuff! 

Easter sunday 32

 "Yay! My biggest brothers are awake!" 

Easter sunday 36

Easter egg hunt #1 ... a bit chilly that morning.

Easter sunday 37


Easter sunday 105

 Palm crosses in pansy pots ...

Easter sunday 17

My grandmother's first set of china, so lovely on a pink cloth ...

Easter sunday 43

Our forsythia wreath hung indoors - one of my favorite spring decorations.

Easter sunday 19

It's just not a party without punch ... :)

Easter sunday 64

 Love these orange-hued flowers ...

Easter sunday 47

 Preparing our "signature" cocktail for Easter, 2014 ~ the Jelly Bean Martini!

  Easter sunday 56

Pretty pink tulips ... photo by Crackerjack. :)

Easter sunday 61

Pansies on the patio (also by CJ) ...

Easter sunday 59

The colored sugar rims really made these drinks pop!

Easter sunday 66

(We ran out of lemons, so we used clementine wedges as well.)

Easter sunday 18 

Signs of life all over the yard ...

Easter sunday 70

 Dinner is served! Ham *and* turkey for our group of 25!

Easter sunday 78 

What's Easter without a baby in smocking? :)

Easter sunday 79 

My Uncle Karl's Pineapple Upside Down Cake. As good as it looks, and them some.

Easter sunday 80

 My mum's "peep" cake for her grandboys!

Easter sunday 81

My Peter Rabbit cupcakes. :)

Easter sunday 83

 Egg Hunt #2 ... this time with cousins!

Easter sunday 84 

Little Bear gets a smooch from his Daddy ... :)

Easter sunday 92

Peace be with you ...

Easter sunday 88

"You go this way, I'll go that way!"

Easter sunday 6

Little Finnegan found one!

Easter sunday 89

The bigger boys (my brother included) had fun with bats, balls and frisbees.

Easter sunday 90

 It was such a nice day - sunny and almost warm (about 55). Perfect for sitting outside!

Easter sunday 52

Me and my Little Bear ... 

Easter sunday 98

 Sunlight on pretty china, crystal and flowers ...

Easter sunday 99

 One last egg remained hidden ...

Easter sunday 95

Happy Easter from my family to yours! Thank you for sharing in our joy!


Tuesday Tidbits

Well my friends, this day did not go even remotely as planned ... but still, there were lots of nice moments ... bright little blessings in amongst all the "dailiness." :)

So naturally, I have a few pictures to share ... :)

Morning glory seeds 2

Here we have some morning glory seeds soaking in water ... they were supposed to be for planting today (a tradition on the Feast of the Annunciation) but A. I forgot to soak them last night and B. I realized I have no potting soil. So the planting part will wait a day or two ... or three.

Last bit of snow on deck

Our deck was caked with snow for the entire winter and at one point, it reached and exceeded the window frames! I am so happy to see there's just that one little strip of stubborn crusty snow left ... we've been eyeing it for days now ... and with temps in the 50s over the next several days, it's a goner!

Easter folder 2

Shown above, is my Easter planning folder ... I finally got it together! I've been stashing clippings and lists in my weekly file folder up till now, moving them along week to week ... but it was time to get serious! Pretty paper, isn't it? :)

Carrot soup in tea cups

Here's one of the recipes I have stashed in that folder ... I think this carrot soup sounds delicous and looks so lovely served in tea cups!

Kitchen garden and herb books

Two beautiful books from the library that alas, had to go back today. They are both illustrated by Tasha Tudor and I enjoyed them very much. They got my "spring gardening wheels" turning!

Robin in bush

A jaunty robin who somewhat hidden in the bushes as we headed out today ... he let me get close enough to get a few shots, but flew off chirping once I stepped just one step too far. I think he's claiming our yard as his own ... looking for his missus. ;)

O in car seat with toys

I just loved this little visual ... a little boy and his little toys!


Well my friends, I hope the day's been kind to you ... I'm going to sign off now and do my best Little Bear-willing) to get as good a night's sleep as I can. I wish you all the same.  

Oh, but before I go!

I just checked in with the Kitchen Chat post and there are some wonderful comments in there! Lots of great ideas, thoughtful suggestions and delicious recipes ... I hope you'll take a look if you have time! And remember - if you'd like to send me photo(s) of your kitchen (or a spot in your kitchen) for next week's chat, you can do so at this address:

bysunandcandlelight AT comcast DOT net

I hope to hear from you!

And I also hope you all have a nice evening ... see you here again sometime soon.