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Wednesday Teatime


On this last day of autumn, it's most certainly dark, but there's no sun to speak of - just a cold, heavy rain. Days like these are just made for afternoon tea ...

My Wednesday brew is Lemon Lift, and I've paired it with one of my lemon snowballs. I'm a big fan of lemon - flavor and smell - especially when it's paired with cinnamon or ginger. (Random fact: I craved lemon through all of my pregnancies, but especially with Bookworm. To this day I adore lemon danish.)

So it's a very cozy corner I find myself in right now ...

I took my tea a little earlier than usual, because Bill and the boys headed out to do their "man shopping." :) All I know is that it concerns me - but it cannot involve me, and for a happy little while the house was really and truly quiet. And I was completely by myself. (Even the cats were asleep!) So I hurriedly switched on the kettle and readied my mug ...

I looked through the Globe food pages - all about "holiday baking" this week - and I thought about how I want these next few days to go. Less busy-ness, more mindfulness. Easier said than done at this time of year, but at least I can try ...

I also stared at this lovely print which is sitting on the opposite side of the room ... something I bought (yes, for myself!) while I was out and about this morning.


Such beautiful words, aren't they?

Bill hasn't had a chance to hang it yet, but I think it will look nice here in our sitting/learning room. The background is not quite black - more of a sooty dark brown. And the lettering is done in an off-white pinkish hue. I think it ties in with the room colors nicely.

And do you know what? I found it on clearance at T.J. Maxx!


Money well spent, I think, because I'll enjoy pondering these words every day:

Our family is a circle of LOVE ...

Of course, words like these are certainly beautiful, but it's our example that teaches our children best:

When we show them how to be positive, even when we're unsure.

When we show them how to recognize their blessings.

When we show them how to share joy with others.

In doing these things, we exercise our "family muscle" and the more we exercise the stronger we'll be!

TOGETHER we are unbreakable ...


Well ... dear readers, I didn't mean to get so deep, so enough of my armchair philosophizing! (Lol, I get rambly when I'm tired!)

So, I'll call it a day ... it's well and truly dark now, and the menfolk are still out there somewhere. But they'll be home soon so it's time to rustle up supper ... Now, don't forget: the Solstice arrives just after midnight (est), so be sure to say "Happy Winter" in the morning! Also, if you have a chance, please leave a "cookie comment" at our poll - and many thanks to those who have already "voted!"

Have a good - warm, safe - night, my friends. I will see you here again sometime soon!

My Snowbirds


It is a lovely snowy morning here. Everything is covered in white, and the lightest of flurries is falling even now. This is the kind of day that makes you want to pull out the paper, doilies and glue and start making Valentines! Or maybe just bake something chocolate and yummy. To sit by the window with a hot cup of tea and watch the birds all afternoon. To freshen the flannels on the beds and draw a warm scented bath at the end of the day. To read a chapter from an old classic by the fire, and simmer a pot of soup on the stove.

Romancing the winter isn't so hard when the weather is as pretty as this ...

A Note from the Fridge ...


It's already busy here this morning ~ there are breads in the oven and kids at the counter, trash to take out and feeders to fill. The day is getting off to a noisy start ...

Where are the binoculars? Who's got the field guides? Has anyone seen my boots?!

We're packing up for Nature Club today, keeping our eyes on the sky. A snowstorm is coming and the whole world seems to be holding its breath - in between all the hype and hysteria of course ... 

Six to ten inches! Heavy, driving snow! A messy and treacherous commute!

Like a dear friend of mine said, snow always, always quiets me. Later today, when we're home safe and warm, I'll pour a cup of tea and savor the silence of a world stilled by snow. But until then, whatever the day brings, I will try to find that calm in my heart ...

And wherever you are, I hope you can do the same. :)

How We Came to Homeschool: a Rather Long Story


Recently we had a playdate with some new friends from church, and, as it often happens when we meet someone new, the chat mosied around to our homeschooling. Specifically, how we came to do such a thing. ;)

It is, admittedly, a rather outside-the-box kind of choice; people are usually surprised by it and curious to learn more. The question, as always, was asked in the nicest and sincerest way.

It had been a while since I reminisced about those days, seven and a half years ago, when we made the big leap into home education. It also occured to me I've never really told the story here at my blog, and this being the week of all things back-to-school, I thought it would be a good time to do so.

I personally find the answers to the "how-you-came-to-homeschool" story quite fascinating. It seems there are as many reasons to homeschool as homeschoolers themselves (which at last count, numbered around 2 million in the U.S.). Sometimes parents pull their kids out of school due to dissatisfaction with the quality of care or education or both, and some home educate their children from the get-go, as perhaps a natural extension of their attachment-style parenting. We fell somewhere in between.

Let's go back to circa 1999, the year our Bookworm entered preschool. No, let's do one better than that - one year earlier to his third year of life when I suddenly realized I was a slacker mom.

Well, maybe clueless is a kinder description. :)

In my defense, I was a newbie. I had no timetable to speak of. I was a stay-at-home mom from the start, and Bookworm and I were just busy enough with our little activities: a weekly playgroup, moms-and-tots field trips, library storytimes and cozy, comforting days at home. I relished this time. I had waited for it all my life - to be a full-time mother with a husband, a home and a little one to care for (and, God willing, more littles before long). I really enjoyed our days together - the books we read, the crafts we did and the visits we made to family and friends.

But when Bookworm neared three, the casual conversation at our playgroup intensified; the talk turned to preschool - and who was sending who where.

"Huh?" I thought, completely caught off guard. "Preschool? Could it be time for preschool already?"

It seemed so soon - too soon - to be talking about school! We were having too much fun and Bookworm was doing so well - talking a blue streak (to anyone who'd listen) and learning new things left and right. When I was a child, I attended "nursery" school for a year before kindergarten, but I was four at the time. Four was so much bigger than three! Surely we could wait?

Well, surely we could, so we did - and I got another year with my little guy all to myself.

We continued our homey little routine, and I remained somewhat oblivious. All around me my friends already had their little ones either enrolled at or signed up for or at the very least on the wait-list for this school or that.

Meanwhile, Bookworm neared 3 1/2 and nary a brochure nor an open house crossed my radar. But at some point it became clear we'd better get on our horses if we hoped to register Bookworm somewhere we both liked and trusted.

But who to like? Who to trust? Where on earth would we be comfortable sending our son?

Pulling my head out of the clouds of contentment, I began to ask around. A local Christian preschool (a mere three minutes from our home) was tops on the list, but when I called I got the unfortunate news that they were all filled up for the next year.

So we looked a bit further and after a few appointments, we settled on another preschool in the area - still in town, yet an unsettling distance from our home (12-15 minutes depending on who was driving).

It didn't feel quite right, and I was a nervous wreck (being several months pregnant with Crackerjack), but what could we do? I prayed it would all work out for the best ...

And then the call came one summer day - from the preschool so much closer to home - there was suddenly room for Bookworm! Hooray! How he ever got put on that wait list was beyond me, but I was sure glad he did.

So now things felt better. Not great, mind you, but better.

In the fall of 1999, Bookworm began his three-day-a-week preschool. He was fine about it - nary a tear nor a second glance back at his mum, lol. He adjusted well, and all in all had a great year. Before we knew it, the next step on the ladder - kindergarten registration - was looming.

But at the mid-year parent-teacher conference, a few pieces of information started a little pot simmering on my internal stove. First, we were told Bookworm was somewhat advanced (academically speaking) for his age. He knew all his letters, in and out of context as well as the sounds they made. (He was soon reading at home.) He could do first grade math, was intensely interested in scientific concepts and he loved doing puzzles of all kinds - upside down.

All right, so he was bright, and that was a blessing, but we all know learning is more than just that. Fondly I recalled reading book after book (after book) in our special chair, the one I now rocked Crackerjack in, while Bookworm looked over my shoulder. I also thought about the number games we played and how he liked to make up mathematical jokes. I thought about the nature walks we took and the collections of acorns and stones that filled our stroller basket. I thought about all those lazy afternoons puttering over puzzles, dipping fish sticks in applesauce and marveling over every little thing together.


I would miss those days once kindergarten started - and sorely - but at least, I reminded myself we would have our afternoons. Or so I thought.

You see, that was the year our town decided to change over from half-day to full-day kindergarten. Five full days a week, would my baby be gone. He would leave at 8:30 and come home around 3. This was just too much, Bill and I both felt, for a 5 year old child. Sure he'd adjust, but would we want him to have to? Home should be where he spent the bulk of his time at such a tender age.

Besides, I would miss him and his little brother would miss him. And I couldn't stop thinking about how much more he'd miss by not being home than by not being in school.

I honestly don't know how we came up with the term homeschooling (this was before Google searches solved seemingly every problem known to man and motherkind). But somehow I came across it and I was enthralled. I read all I could, and the more I read, the more I liked. No loved. I was beyond thrilled that Bill felt the same way.

Could we do this, we wondered? Would this be something that worked for our family? We talked it over and over, and we kept coming back to one thought - how could we not try? At least for one year? 

Needless to say, kindergarten registration came and went without us.

About this time, Bookworm's preschool teacher approached me, and asked me the question I'd been dreading: When is Bookworm registering for kindergarten, she wondered? (At that time, the children had to miss a day of Pre-K to attend a readiness screening. I had not arranged for either.)

I was nervous to tell her of our decision - I didn't want her to think it was based in any way on a fault of Bookworm's preschool experience. But we had had many parenting/education talks and she seemed to have a special fondness for Bookworm - I don't think she was surprised by our news.

In fact, she was quite encouraging. She felt Bookworm was a good candidate for homeschooling, and that I was good teacher material. Her words meant more to me than she knew. Though I wasn't counting on her approval, I sure appreciated it.

When people ask us why, I say that we homeschool because of all it offers our children individually, and to us as a family. We homeschool because of all the positive experiences to be had at home and out and about - not so much because of any possible negative experiences at school.

The bottom line is we homeschool because we truly enjoy it. It's been a terrific fit for our family as well as a tremendous gift of time and experience. I feel blessed to be able to do this, but I hardly do it alone. For one thing I have a generous and supportive husband who makes sure we have all that we need to proceed, and the support and understanding of our families cannot be underestimated. (How many activities would we have had to miss if it were not for my mum babysitting at a moment's notice?). We are also very fortunate to live in an area that has a large and lively homeschooling community. Between science fairs, book groups, swim-and-gym's, field trips and more, we mums joke that we could "socialize"' every day of the week - if only we didn't have to actually teach. ;)

And so that year, after Bookworm "graduated" from preschool, it was on with our home learning journey. Or really I should say, the continuation of, because as we've added more children, I see how it all truly begins at the beginning.

Is it perfect? Goodness, no. But is it the best choice? For us, yes it is.

It's all about looking forward, and now and then looking back. We learn best, though, by never taking our eyes off the present.

Thanks for listening to our story (told in my signature rather long way) and wherever you learn, I wish you a wonderful year!

Grandma Millie's Piccalilli


Green tomatoes are a hallmark of early September, and in our family, Labor Day is the day to make my grandmother's delicious piccalili!

So, what's piccalilli you say? Ooh, just a great way to use up unripened tomatoes, combining them with red peppers, onions, vinegar and pickling spice. Piccalilli is absolutely wonderful served with a Sunday pot roast, a sweet touch of late summer alongside the most wintry of meals.

Not having the gumption (i.e. time and energy) to grow our own tomatoes this year, I relied on my local farm for the bounty you see above, and did they ever come through! I got the call at 4:00 on Sunday afternoon: my 20 lbs. of tomatoes were harvested, and I could come get them anytime. Well, with green tomatoes you don't waste time (as you don't want them to turn red!) so I ran over to pick them up - but first I dug up my grandmother's recipe to check on the rest of the ingredients.


The above recipe is a photocopy of the original card (which is tucked away for safe keeping); this copy is taped into my journal from August 2005.

Next, I called my mum, and asked her to come over straight away, because piccalilli must be started the night before.

First we washed and chopped up the tomatoes along with the red peppers and onions. With a glass of wine by my side it felt like an Ina moment. ;)


We poured salt over the vegetables and they were left to "sweat" overnight.


And on Labor Day morning, it was time to stew! We added some celery, a quart of vinegar and a pouch filled with pickling spice - and, finally, 7 teacups of sugar. Yes, teacups! I use the same Irish teacup my grandmother did to ladle in just the right amount of sugar. Bill asked me if I ever checked to see how much sugar was actually in a teacup, so as to get a more accurate measurement, but I actually like the not knowing. One family's recipe will undoubtedly be a bit sweeter (or less) but that's where the tweaking comes in. :)


The smell is incredible as it cooks.

Once, when my grandma was talking about her childhood memories, she spoke about piccalilli. I wrote about it in my journal:

"Oh sure, at that time of year the whole neighborhood smelled like piccalilli because everyone was using up the last of their tomatoes. At every stove there was a pot bubbling away ..."

What a nice memory ... one rich with tradition, rhythm and comfort. It's been years since housewives have had to grow and make do with their own, but I think it's a skill and a tradition worth (pardon the pun) preserving.

The smells and tastes of late summer might have changed since those days, but really, only if we let them. I love the thought that my boys will grow up remembering a bustling kitchen on Labor Day, the house filled with that distinctive, sweet-spicy smell. Next year I hope to add to that memory, a backyard tomato garden - because nothing beats the rustic smell of tangled vines and warm soil ...

Allright, enough reverie ~ back to the present we go. ;)

Once the piccalilli was cooked, we poured it into hot, sterilized jars:


Now, I've always wanted to do a little jar topper, and so this year I made a point to pick up some fabric for just this purpose. If I was a true seamstress (which, alas, I am not), I would have scraps on hand to choose from. Instead, I bought a few "quarter flats" from JoAnn's. I liked the reds, pinks and greens ...


I wasn't sure if the fabric should be laundered first but I did iron out the wrinkles. (Note the conspicuous lack of an ironing board, lol!):


It took a few attempts to figure out the right size circle to cut. I used pinking shears to give the edges a nice finish:


And by the end of the day, the jars were done - filled and lined up on the sill.


Now, it feels like September. :)



My parents were very kind to let me borrow their camera while mine is in the shop (i.e. waiting to be taken apart one more time by Bill before we decide if it is really and truly a goner). As you can see, however, I have yet to get the hang of their particular camera. I can't tell you how many pictures I took of this tiny butterfly - but it was a lot - and this was the clearest shot.

I did a bit better with this tiny bumblee:


(He is there ~ you just have to look for him!)

Well, now that I am mostly convinced that I am in need of a new camera, I need to think about what kind to get. Replace the old one? Try something new? I really loved the way my camera worked, but lately I had been wishing for a tighter zoom. I seem to be spying birds further into the woods and yesterday there was the neatest spider web suspended between two branches way up high in the tree canopy - the morning light was cascading down through it, highlighting the intricately woven strands. So beautiful!! I took some pictures but ended up with nothing to show:


If you look really closely, you might be able to see it. It's hanging just to the left of that center branch, the one splashed by the sun.

Anyway, I can't complain, can I? When you can spend time meandering about your garden, taking pictures and gazing off into the woods, you really can't complain about much. No, you thank your lucky stars for thoughtful parents, a patient husband, a life that you love and a memory that still serves you well.

It's all good. :)

A Little Laundry Line


"And she hung up all sorts and sizes of clothes - small brown coats of mice, and one velvety black moleskin waist-coat; and a red tail-coat with no tail belonging to Squirrel Nutkin; and a very much shrunk blue jacket belonging to Peter Rabbit; and a petticoat, not marked, that had gone lost in the washing - and at last the basket was empty!" (The Tale of Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle)

This passage came to me as I watched Bill hang my new clothesline this weekend - for it's a rather compact affair, only stretching a scant several feet between the house and the shed. Plus, it's set at the entrance to a corner of the yard fondly known as "critter corner." I could not help but imagine that this line was perfect in size and location for Mrs. Tiggy-winkle herself, and I half considered placing out a small wicker basket to see if any tiny garments might appear overnight. :)

But, enough of the imaginary, on to the sensible! Here's how my brand new clothesline looks in our rather overgrown corner:


As no laundry is hanging just yet, it might be hard to see, but it is there! :)

I've long admired backyard clotheslines, particularly my neighbor's, whose lines stretch wide across her entire backyard. Mine is quite small, as you see, but that is good for me - for now. I figure I can always expand my line if this new domestic endeavor "sticks." The line Bill put up is a retractible, 40 foot line. I plan, for now, to hang just some pillowslips, perhaps a sheet or two, and a few fine linens, like tea towels and doilies.

And though I've wanted a washing line for some time, it was Nissa's suggestion of a Fair celebrating their loveliness that prompted me to ask Bill to set one up for me to use. He was happy to do so, mindful of the potential energy savings. I can hardly wait to read through Nissa's fair; I'm sure it will be inspiring and informative.

Clotheslines have a special place in my heart - though due more to memory than acquaintance. I grew up knowing a clothesline at my grandparents' house - I can still feel the rough, silvery poles that held it up across their long sloping side yard. I remember standing beneath, and between, the myriad linens - which depending on the season were pale cotton sheets or colorful beach towels - and feeling them whip about in the breeze.

For me, a clothesline might be new and a novelty; for my grandmother it was matter-of-fact - just one element of her housekeeping routine. Her laundry line stood just outside the lower door. If you went in that door, you stepped into the cool, shadowy basement (a refuge on the hottest of summer days). Here was  - and still is - grandmother's laundry room, with its washer and dryer set just beneath a crank-open casement window, just beside the upright freezer, and around the corner from the pantry. To its right stood a tall set of shelves that held all the necessities to good laundry keeping - soaps, detergents, baking soda, brushes, vinegar and shaker bottles.

I'd skip past these corners on my way out to play, never giving a moment's thought to the work that went into my sweet smelling clothes - or the plentiful provisions or the freezer filled with fruit. Even as I grew older, I never really considered Grandma's way of laundering, though the memories of her bedsheets - the softest and finest I've ever felt in my life - linger with me still.

So at long last a clothesline has become more than a symbol of nostalgia for me, for I have one of my own. My plan is to clean up this garden corner and grow some herbs and flowers that will serve as a pretty and practical backdrop. I hope the next warm breezy day sees me out at the clothesline, enjoying the sunshine and the children running about ...

Maybe I'll meet you there? :)

My Apron for the Day

Well, I was so inspired by all the apron making and wearing going on around here I just had to participate somehow. I thought about it all morning, and it was all I could do not to steer the van over to the fabric shop on the way home from speech. (It would have been completely fruitless anyway with my three boys in tow, lol.) I'll have to look at patterns online today; I'm sure a google search will bring something up (and if you know of a place to look, please do drop me a line!).

After we got home, I remembered I do in fact have my grandmother's apron tucked away somewhere. As I remember, it's a pale green cotton with white embroidery and wide sash ties at the waist - so I got the boys their lunch and then set off to search. I couldn't find it (it might be in the hope chest which must be jimmied open by Bill as I can't find the key) but I did find a nice tea towel that my grandmother embroidered and monogrammed years and years ago. I simply fastened the towel around my waist with a safety pin! It might be cheating a little, but it did feel really nice to wear!


(I'm not usually so camera shy, but this was the one and only shot Bookworm got before my camera batteries died.)

The Kitchen Madonna, hostess of today's Apron Event, graciously left me a comment in my earlier post and she said this about aprons:

"They really conjure up all sorts of feelings in the woman who wears them and in those who see you in one! Really! Try it!"

My goodness, she was right! It felt very feminine and maternal. It felt like "this is who I am, this is what I do, and I'm proud." It also felt purposeful, practical and, well, nifty! I could see how pockets would be very handy and how an apron with a full bodice would also be convenient.

Just as I was getting the hang of it, the mailman appeared at the door and he barely batted an eye that I was wearing a towel at my waist. (Not that I'd expect him to of course, but I felt like quite the lady of the house, wiping my hands on my apron and rushing to the door to accept today's package. Which, by the way, contained organic lollipops for Earlybird, and this book, a Mother's Day gift from Bill.)

As the door swung closed, I paused to notice the spring birds singing, the leafy boughs bending in the breeze, and the sunshine washing our lawn in soft light. (Along with my makeshift apron, I daresay I slipped on a pair of rose-colored glasses.)

Here's a close up of the embroidery detail which includes my grandmother's monogram ...


Though, come to think of it, this is my mum's monogram too! I wonder if this tea towel was hers? I'll have to ask. Either way, I'm glad I pulled it out of the back of the closet. Until I make my own "official" apron, this one will serve me very nicely.

Honestly, maybe it's the glorious spring weather, but I have had such a nesting surge of late! Bill is putting up a clothesline for me, and preparing a small raised bed out back where I can grow some vegetables this summer. I can't wait to pick out a new broom, a few new sponges and make up a bucket of homemade lavender cleaner ... It's good to enjoy your work, don't you think?

I have always loved being a wife, mother and homekeeper. But you know, sometimes housekeeping can seem a bit more like a chore than at other times. Lately I have felt a renewed and deep sense of blessing - that these are my duties, this is my home, these are the people who rely on me for good food, a soft place to lie their heads, clean and fresh surroundings. How very blessed I am to call all these little tasks, this beloved place - all these dear people - my responsibilities.

We are all so blessed, are we not?

Motherhood: It's Not Just a Job ...

It's an adventure ...


Men at work ...


Mud for you, Mum ...


Dirt for you, Mum ...


Worms for you, Mum ...


I have to be HOW old to drive?


Thank you, my brother ...


On the road again ...


Family Room Fort


Battle Stations ...


Hey, Mum, are you listening?


My littlest prince ...


A toad for you, Mum ...


Making dirt angels ...


A dragonfly encounter ...


Out and about one hot summer's day ...


I know that sock's under here somewhere ...


I can't wait to see what tomorrow brings ...

Happy Mother's Day! May your blessings be many and your days "full of adventure!" :)

Everyday Nature: The Quiet of Morning


We've had some wonderful nature moments here this morning, and I wanted to share them in a post, not just in my nature notes on the sidebar. I took the picture above just minutes ago from our deck. The sun rises right behind our woods and I love how it glimmers through the greenery, gaining in strength as it climbs the morning sky ...

I also love how we begin our mornings. So quietly, so slowly. The light is just creeping through the woods, and my boys are still asleep. I like to raise their windows so that as they wake, they feel the gentle breeze and hear the wakening woods. I think it is a comforting and cozy way to start their day.

In the winter of course, I can only crack the windows (if at all) but our temperatures have been in the 80s lately, and so we are having a touch of summer here in mid-May. Today, as soon as the soft light worked its way through our house, I made the rounds from room to room lifting blinds and throwing windows open wide.

The day was dawning so beautifully. The woods were literally alive with all the bird song and yet, one call lifted clearly and loudly above the rest. Crackerjack and I had been listening to that song, wondering what bird could be making so piercing and distinctive a call. A few moments later, as I made Earlybird's bed, I heard the song even more clearly and called CJ to the window. There, sitting on the gate just outside EB's window, was a tiny Carolina wren, singing his dear little heart out!

We were so close we could see his beak moving, notice the way he tilted his head back as far as he could in order to belt out his call as boldly as possible. We watched him for several minutes, marveling at his tiny perfection. This impossibly small bird has such a large voice! In just another minute he was joined by a second wren, who could only be his true ladylove, and together they flew into our neighbor's shrubbery.

Amazingly, at the very same moment, a young cardinal pair met up on the fence post and followed suit, heading for the very same shrubbery!

"That must be their church," said Crackerjack. "It's marrying day!"

You know, he might be right, for they could not have picked a prettier day! :)

Before the breakfast routine began, I grabbed my camera and headed to the deck to snap a few pictures of the sunrise. Sure I was still in my pajamas, but our yard is fairly private, and really, who else is up at this time? Just as I chased off a neighbor's cat skulking around the potting shed, a flash of dark and white tail feathers in the cherry tree caught my eye. I was immediately reminded of the slate-colored junco, but of course they've been gone north for some time now. I tried to make out the shape and call of this mysterious bird, but with little success. I took a few more pictures before heading in, and here's what greeted me at the door:


Our three cats were keeping a close eye on me - and the birds as well! :)

A few moments later, the same bird I had glimpsed turned up at the feeders and CJ and I got a closer look. It was definitely an Eastern Towhee, a spring migrant who visited us this same time last year! A female, according the description in our trusty Birds of New England. Her song was a clear and charming cherreee! I took some pictures through the dining room windows, but they all came out quite blurry. Hopefully she'll stop by again - perhaps she's making a nest nearby?

How exciting to have so much activity here so early in the morning! It's just barely 7 a.m.! Now the boys are all up and we're sharing our stories with the sleepyheads who missed the excitement. I've just come from the front door where we waved Daddy off on his day. Up and down the street neighbors are hauling trash bins to the sidewalk and pulling cars out of their driveways. A school bus just trundled by. The quiet has been replaced by the bustle of the workaday unfolding. The Blue Jays are calling from the treetops and the squirrels have made it to the feeders. Our early morning time has passed.

Really, there's just no time like the earliest hours for observing the beautiful and sometimes surprising nature all around us! But let's keep our eyes peeled, because I am sure there will be more to see before this day is done.

I hope your day today is just lovely, perhaps filled with a nature moment or two! 

Thinking Blogger Award

Oh my! I was tagged for a Thinking Blogger Award by two of my favorite bloggers, RebeccaThinkingbloggerpf8_2  and Marjorie! Thank you, dear friends ~ you have made my day and I am honored by your very kind words.

So, as I understand it, if you are tagged for this award you are then supposed to do the following:

  1. Write a post with links to 5 blogs that make you think.
  2. Link to this post so that people can easily find the exact origin of the meme.
  3. Optional: Proudly display the ‘Thinking Blogger Award’ with a link to the post that you wrote.

Gosh, just five? I am not sure I can contain myself! But I will try ...

~ KC always makes me smile and think at her Cabbage Patch. She and I both have children on the autistic spectrum and she writes very eloquently about the challenges and the blessings of our mothering path.

~ I bet she's been tagged about a jillion times by now, but I must tag Lissa at The Lilting House whose Waldorf homeschooling posts of late have really got my wheels turning ...

~ Jenn's Family in Feast and Feria makes me think about my faith in new and more meaningful ways. She generously shares so much knowledge with us, and she fills in so many gaps for me.

~ I would visit Margaret in Minnesota whether she made me think, laugh or cry (and she has done all of those things!) simply because she is such a joy to know. I always carry her words with me and think on them through the day.

~ The S/V Mari Hal-o-Jen just lifts my spirit. I love reading about Jennifer's homeschooling and seafaring adventures. Her life is quite different from mine (though we are very similar in many ways if I might flatter myself to say so) and I enjoy living vicariously through her. :)

I am grateful to each of these women, for how they make me think and feel ~ and most importantly for their friendship!

Pride & Prejudice & Laundry

Yesterday afternoon I spent hours (upon hours) folding laundry. This is not usually how I Blossomtree_2like to spend my Sunday afternoons, but really, the task was not such a burden. First, as always, I try to focus on serving my family; filling their drawers with soft, clean sweet-smelling clothes just plain makes me feel good (and I know it does them).

But this time it was something more that kept my fingers flying. You see, as I worked, I watched - in its entirety - the two-disc special edition of Pride & Prejudice (BBC version). That certainly made the time fly and the workload light! And if you are familiar with this movie (and therefore its length), you know just how much laundry I'm talking about here!

I don't usually have quite so much laundry to fold, but between the holiday week and being sick just before, that aspect of my housekeeping (already in a rather delicate balance) got pushed to the backburner. Finally the situation could be ignored no longer.

But what started as a post about laundry (I'm in housekeeping mode these days), morphed into a sort of Jane Austen free-association. I'm sure many readers here are drawn to these beloved stories, as I am. I think this particular version is my favorite. Full disclosure - I've only read three, perhaps four Austen novels to date. I think I read Mansfield Park in high school, but I'm not sure. And I can't seem to move on - I keep re-reading the ones I love!

Besides the excellent plot and the delicious scenery, I realized the whole Austen experience is just a feast for my senses - it deeply inspires me. I found myself jotting down notes left and right as I folded (my journal goes everywhere I go, even to the laundry pile, lol). As I watched scene after captivating scene, my mind wandered to the following Austen-inspired places ...


~ Crabtree & Evelyn ~ Is this lovely purveyor of fine English soaps and toiletries familiar to you? I have been a fan for years. It was a small local shop that first brought these delights to my attention. To my mind it looked just like a Victorian apothecary would - with its deep, wooden shelves, drawers and nooks and crannies filled with every kind of possibe treat for the vanity and bath. And all their goods were wrapped in the most elegant, old-fashioned packaging. My grandmother and I used to stock up on our favorite products once or twice a year. She liked Nantucket Briar, if I'm remembering correctly; I eschewed heavier scents for light fragrances such as avocado, apple and cucumber. I remember I kept several bars of soap lined up on my bedroom windowsill, the one with a view of the backyard. I had forgotten all about C&E until just recently when my mum and I "rediscovered' it. The shop looks completely different (white and modern now), and there are hardly any themes I recognize, but I did find that Nantucket Briar (I tucked a bar in my bureau drawer). I also quite happily found my old favorite avocado online. This will be my fresh summer scent - like an English garden, I'm sure.

Face1~ Complexions ~ Oh my, do those ladies have the most beautiful skin! It makes me long for a fortnight's stay in the countryside, dining on farm fresh food and breathing in clean country air. Skin played a part in the story as well - Elizabeth Bennet's complexion was quite tanned from all her time spent walking in nature, a "coarse" trait remarked upon (with trademark nastiness) by the Bingley sisters. Well, to my mind (and Mr. Darcy's) her golden skin just radiated English beauty. It completely inspired me to take better care of my complexion this spring. I used to love tending to my skin - back in the day when I had a vanity to sit at and time to look in the mirror, lol! I use very simple products but I tend to be spotty with the upkeep. Some nights it's just a warm washcloth and a smidgen of lotion. At 38 (eek, did I just say that?) I need to pay better attention to my skin. It might never look like Elizabeth Bennet's, but a girl can try, can't she? ;)

~ Letter writing ~ I simply love how the Austen characters were always writing letters to one another -  upon every ordinary or dramatic occasion. And oh, those crisp ivory papers, the ink and the sealing wax. (Of course they had to write letters - there was no other form of communication!) I think there is something very lovely, though, on the slowness of life atWomanwritingletter that time (I know, I know -the disease, the social injustice, the life expectancy - but for now I'm concentrating on the niceties of the time.) I was thinking about letter writing, and how it's something very few of us do anymore. But what can compare to the excitement of receiving a hand-lettered missive in the mail? A card or a note, whatever the occasion, is a cherished gift, perhaps in this day more than ever. In fact, I just gussied up my "correspondence basket" a bit, adding some new items, most fond among them a pretty new address book. Keeping everything I need in that basket, from postage to pens to seasonal stickers makes it much more likely I'll sit down and pen a few lines. I also love the idea of a desk, just for writing. I don't have one per se, but I've been aiming to keep my corner of the learning room clean and inviting. I will post more on that endeavor quite soon!

~ Nature walks - I think one of the reasons I love this movie the most (and I do love the acting, believe me) is the setting. The countryside is so amazing - all the lanes and the hedgerows and gardens. Does England really still look like that? I cannot imagine a more beautiful place. I love how the characters are always going for "a turn about the garden," and of course most of the country folk walked wherever they went. Who could blame them with such beautiful surroundings? I wonder if they saw it that way - no, they probably would have preferred the carriage, lol! Except for Elizabeth, and that's one of the reasons her character is so appealing. I especially love the autumn scene near the end, when Darcy and Elizabeth are walking through the farmland and ... ooh, I dont want to give it away in case any of you have yet to see it! But if and when you do, drink in those golden autumn shades, the fields and the road, the hanging bowers of russet leaves, and of course, Elizabeth's bonnet and dress. I wonder where she shops? :)


Well, I'm running long on text, and low on steam, so I will just briefly mention the other Victorian ideas that leapt to mind as I watched:

  • Formal Meals ~ Sit-down, all-together, good hot food, beautiful settings!
  • Kate Greenaway ~ A bit after Jane Austen's time, but the images are similar to me.
  • Nice Manners ~ Impeccable, a lost art!
  • Victoria magazine ~ The whole movie is one big Victoria spread! I'm off to dig mine out!
  • Beatrix Potter ~ Children's stories, to be sure, but we Austen fans can feed on the beautiful imagery and lovely language - even the dramatic entanglements!
  • Linens and lace, cotton bedding, fine washables ~ their laundry was probably (no definitely) far more tedious than mine, but I tell you, it looked so much prettier! I just may have to hang a spring clothesline!

ChrysanthemumbasketThen of course there's the handwork, fine art and beautiful music. Add that to the nature walks and letter writing (or might I say, copywork?) and I think I have found a nice connection with a Charlotte Mason education! :)

Well, thanks for sharing this brainstorming session with me. Tell me, do you enjoy Jane Austen, too? And if so, which of her tales is your favorite? Which heroine do you admire most? I myself find it hard to choose!

Have a pleasant evening, everyone! I'm off to fold just a tad more laundry. Now where's my Emma DVD? ;)


Today my blog is ONE year old! Boy, that was a mighty fast year!

I was going to say it's my blogoversary, but I wasn't sure of the correct spelling. Blogiversary? Blogaversary?? Too many variables. I'm just calling it a birthday, and since it is a birthday, there must be cake. Candles too, and we will eat it by my sunny windows and call it a By Sun and Candlelight Cake. :) (Honestly, I could come up with a baked good for any possible occasion.) Really, I wish I could share a piece with you; there's plenty of fresh hot coffee, too. :)

So naturally I am feeling a little pensive about my blog today. I am very grateful for it; it's an awful lot of fun and I find I enjoy writing very much. In fact, sometimes I worry I might post too much, lol! I know myself how hard it can be to keep up with daily blog reading, especially as there are so many great blogs out there!

So I was looking at the calendar and imagining all the things I might blog about in the year ahead. Here are some topics for spring and summer:


  • Holy Week & Easter
  • Early Spring Field Day
  • Science topic: earth/soil
  • Puddles, mud, sandbox
  • Looking for rainbows
  • Listening for peepers
  • Middle Ages: Cathedrals
  • Opening Day
  • Make Way for Ducklings
  • Arbor Day (or Earth Day)
  • Divine Mercy Sunday
  • Feast of St. George (and the Dragon)
  • Sheepshearing Festival
  • Spring Soccer


  • May Day
  • Marian devotion
  • Prayer Garden
  • Kentucky Derby Day
  • Mother's Day
  • Science Topic: air
  • Kites, pinwheels, bubbles
  • Crackerjack's First Holy Communion
  • Rogation Days
  • Memorial Day Weekend
  • Planting at long last
  • Baltimore Orioles passing through (birds not baseball)
  • Mushrooms in the lawn
  • Pentecost Sunday
  • Rhubarb ripe


  • Trinity Sunday
  • Feast of Corpus Christi
  • Strawberry picking
  • Flag Day
  • Father's Day
  • Science topic: fire
  • Bonfires, beeswax candles and cookouts
  • Summer Solstice
  • Bookworm's 12th Birthday
  • Feast of St. John the Baptist (Midsummer)
  • Slugs, bugs and toads in the garden
  • Wrapping up the academic year
  • Lemonade Stand
  • Dragonflies and Damselflies


  • Filing the new educational plans
  • Filing the end-of-the-year reports
  • Daylilies blooming
  • The Fourth of July
  • Bill's Birthday
  • Our Lady of Mt. Carmel
  • Raspberries Ripe
  • Red Sox games
  • Christmas in July (Begin planning)
  • Beach days (tidepooling)
  • Seashore Nature Study
  • Field Day by the Sea
  • Thunderstorms
  • Crickets at night
  • Feast of St. Christopher


  • Lammas Day
  • VBS: Avalanche Ranch
  • 4Real Conference
  • Crackerjack's 8th Birthday
  • Feast of the Assumption
  • Herbs & Honey
  • The Orchard: Peaches, Plums, Blueberries
  • Patriots Preseason Football
  • The Farmstand: corn, tomatoes, melon
  • Fireflies & Shooting Stars
  • Watching Bats at Dusk
  • Our Lady of Knock
  • Queenship of Mary

Well, that's a start anyway! ;)

Seriously though, one thing I love about blogging is how it helps me focus on all the joys of the seasons as they come and go. I may not blog about each and every thing I listed above, but it's nice to remember all the good things life holds in store all year round.

Before I wrap up, I would like to mention my next Field Day (number six!) is just around the corner. The Early Spring Edition will run Friday April 13th. (No, I don't believe in bad luck, lol. My Crackerjack was born on a Friday the 13th and ever since that day has been one of my favorites!)

I hoped to have a button ready to go today, but that's yet another project on the back burner. Maybe this weekend. In the meantime mark your calendars for the 13th of April and get those nature studies rolling!

Thanks for stopping by, and thanks for reading this post which I really did not mean to let get so long, but sometimes, when the kids are quiet and the coffee's hot, I really get around to thinking ...

God bless!!

P.S. I'm thinking of changing my blog topper and colors. Are you tired of the blue and pink roses too, lol? Don't be surprised if you see a different look (or two) before the weekend is up! Of course I may completely chicken out. ;)

Oldies but Goodies

Jennifer posted this morning about some of her favorite childhood books. Well, that sent me scurrying back down to the basement to see what else I could dig up. How happy I was to find these, battered but beloved, story books:


On the right is The Giant All-Color Book of Fairy Tales; it is literally falling apart. I'm not surprised given how much I read those stories. All the classics are in there, illustrated in what I would say is a very 60s/70s artistic style. Some of the stories were cheerful, many were haunting - all were memorable. Here is a page from "The Tin Soldier." This picture is so vivid:


Now, The Uncle Wiggly's Story Book resided at my grandparents' house (which was like a second home to me, I was there so often). I remember sitting on their divan (it was never a couch, it was always a divan) reading Uncle Wiggly before bed. Years ago, after I had children, my grandmother sent it home with me. Do you know I have not yet started reading it to my children? Well, I'll just have to see about that. (And I am thinking this would be a lovely Easter gift for my boys!) There are no pictures inside to show you, but there is this, which is even better:


This was written by my grandfather, in his beautiful penmanship. Goodness, I miss him.

So what are your favorite childhood books? Jennifer started the conversation over at her place - pop on over and let her know!

A Lenten Meme

Matilda tagged me for this Lenten Meme. It took a bit of pondering, but here it is ...

What is your favorite Sorrowful Mystery?
The fourth, when Jesus Carries the Cross, and His mother comes upon Him - I feel some relief that He is no longer alone.

What is your favorite Station of the Cross?
Well, this would be the same moment, The Fourth Station, when Jesus meets His Mother. I say favorite, but what I mean is, this one pierces my heart the most. I cannot imagine Their pain, and yet, I am sure she was a comfort to Him. Mary's maternal suffering only pushes the point home for me all the more. When we as children fell or were injured in some way, did it not provide an intense emotional comfort when at last we were found by our mothers? For an instant the pain hurt all the more, and yet, we knew in our heart it would be better, now that she was here.   

Do you fast during Lent?
I fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. We abstain from meat on Fridays throughout Lent.

What is your Lenten Resolution(s)?
As a family we are trying to give more of ourselves every day - small offerings which will allow us to remove a thorn from His crown. We are also keeping our lights off and heat down as much as possible. (Bookworm has taken this on as his responsibility.) We will compare next month's utility bills with last month's and deposit the difference in our alms box. We are reading from the Bible every night before bed and the boys have elected to work on memorizing new prayers for Easter. 

Personally I gave up soda, as I did last year. I waffled on this. I wondered if I should give up coffee, as it would be infinitely harder than giving up soda. I am sure it would be, but I feared the lack of coffee would affect my family in the long run, so I chose something that would only be a sacrifice to me. Truth be told, that one can of Coca-Cola a day is sorely missed. I would usually have it right around 2 when my energy was flagging and the sugar, caffeine, and the fizz - was just what I needed to pick myself up. I have some more personal resolutions as well that I'll keep between Him and me. :)

Do you use Holy Water during Lent?

The only thing we do differently is at Mass when we bless ourselves, I remind the boys that before too long the font will be emptied. (What a striking image as we enter church on Holy Thursday.) I would like to prepare our home Holy Water font before the Easter Vigil night. 

How many times do you go to Mass during Lent?
We attend every Sunday, and on Holy Thursday for the Mass of The Lord's Supper.

Thank you, Matilda, for tagging me with this thoughtful meme. I would like to tag Rebecca, Ruth and Cay, but please consider yourself tagged if you would like to participate. (Leave a comment below and I'll link you here.)

Blessings, my friends.

Today's Mass: The First Sunday of Lent

Gospel: Luke 4:1-13

A reflection from Celebrating the Gospels: Activities & Prayers for Sunday Cycles A, B & C:

"At his baptism, Jesus was anointed with the Holy Spirit. The Spirit was with Jesus for his desert journey as he resisted the three temptations of the devil and chose to walk the road to Jerusalem not as a great king but as the suffering Son of God.Cactus_banner_symbol

During Lent, we should allow ourselves to be led by the Spirit into our own desert for forty days. By setting aside quiet moments, we can speak with God; we can learn to listen by becoming docile to the Spirit in our life; we can show appreication for others and, by not giving in to our every whim and desire, we can begin to make God and his people the center of our lives.

In our forty days of desert wanderings, let us reevaluate our lives by asking ourselves where we have been, where we are now, and where we are going. As a group or family, let us provide the environment necessary for moments of silence and reflection. Together, let us live in a spirit of enthusiasm as we prepare for new life."

Other resources we use for Mass preparation and reflection:

I try to begin preparing for the weekly Mass by Thursday. On that afternoon, many times over tea (and snacks), we read the upcoming Sunday's Gospel, using our Magnifikid as a guide. There are usually some nice supplementary activities in each issue, including vocabulary words, a comic strip, a writing project, and Scriptural background information. (I haven't checked out the Magnifikid Minute yet, but it looks neat.)

Over the next few days, as we have time, we do some further preparation. Often, we look up the corresponding story in our children's Bible, and I might have the boys do a coloring sheet, a small craft or hands-on activity. (For example, this week I meant to purchase a small cactus for the altar, but we never made it over to the nursery.) My goal for Sunday is a familiarity with the week's Scripture - so that the Gospel and Father's homily are more appealing and interesting to the boys.

After Mass we bring home the week's Pilot which has a fun kids' page in the back (as does our weekly parish bulletin). The kids enjoy looking over those puzzles and games. First thing Monday morning, we begin lessons with a Mass worksheet from I let the boys work on it together, and refer to their Magnifikid if they need. This is done entirely without pressure - just a fun way to see what we remember. :)

Other areas of our faith formation I would like to address in the future:

  • Catechism
  • Home life
  • Parish life
  • Living the liturgical year

I'm making up a notebook as a kind of teacher's guide for our family faith formation. I noticed one of Crackerjack's CCD teachers had such a binder where she kept all her plans, papers and outlines. I'm keeping my version, along with my primary resources, in a roomy tote bag. So far I have a liturgical calendar in there and some tabs.

Today I will print out and file Helen's wonderful series of posts on Mass preparation. She generously shares so many wonderful and informative ideas: The Challenge, Foundations, Before Mass and many, many more ...

A blessed Sunday to you all!

A Valentine's Message


In honor of the upcoming Valentine's Week (yes, a whole week, not just one day!) here is an acrostic with a "secret" message. The theme of my verse ~  just who is my Valentine? Well, of course it's really no secret, but let me give you some clues.

He ...

Makes me coffee every morning ...

Yes, even at 4 a.m.

Helps me around the house.

Understands me like nobody else.

Supports our family by working hard every day.

Bakes a mean banana bread.

Always makes me feel beautiful.

Never fails to make me smile.

And he's ...

Darn cute, too!

Have you figured it out? :) Like I said, it's no secret! If you need a few more hints, check here, here and even in here!

Happy Valentine's Week!