Reminiscence Feed

Gratitude & Remembrance (November Crafts)

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Hello and Happy Thursday, my friends! I hope your November is off to a great start!

I posted the above picture on Facebook and Instagram, because I find it so inspiring when craft supplies are organized for a particular season or month. I don't always have them so well-ordered but I do like to keep items stored in seasonal groupings when possible. This is my "stash" for November and I thought I'd share what we got up to these past couple of days ... :)

November is the month for remembering our blessings and expressing our thanks, and like many families we enjoy keeping a "gratitude project" of some sort in the days leading up to Thanksgiving. There are all kinds of variations on this annual activity, but I kept things super-simple this year ...

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A grapevine heart ($8 at Michaels Arts & Crafts), hung up with some twine, and autumn leaves cut from colorful cardstock ...

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I hung the wreath on our kitchen/dining room door and each day we'll write down our blessings and add a leaf (or leaves) to the wreath. We're only two leaves in now, but I added extras as seen above to show you the overall affect. I think our "Thankful Heart" is rather pretty!

I placed the extra paper leaves in a small box along with a pen and left it on our kitchen table. Hopefully this will remind us to record our blessings around the supper table each night.

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And yesterday (Nov. 2nd) was the feast of All Souls (also known as the Day of the Dead). One of these years we will make the traditional sugar skulls symbolic of this Mexican feast day, but this was not that year. Instead, I used some cupcake liners decorated with colorful skulls (found at Target) ...

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... and made up some "harvest" muffins with that applesauce I told you about in my Halloween post, as well as some mashed squash ...

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... and four beautiful eggs laid by my chickens!

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I try to keep muffins low in sugar but for today's feast I added some simple icing and a pretty chrysanthemum from the garden:

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(Marigolds are actually the traditional Day of the Dead flowers, but my little calendula plant - aka pot marigold - stopped blooming some time ago. I will try to keep next year's plant alive in a sunny window just for this feast day!)

But the muffins were quite a hit with the boys who enjoyed theirs with apple cider, while I had mine with a hot cup of orange spiced tea. All the flavors and smells seemed so autumnal and it was a gorgeous morning, too - so warm and breezy. I had my kitchen window open as I worked and just savored such a blessed day. And baking those muffins really made me think of my grandmother, who was well known for her delicious pink applesauce. In particular, as I milled the apples, my mind was on Gram ... I was using kitchen tools that once belonged to her!

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All I could think was Grama, I hope you can see me and how much you have inspired me. I hope you know just how much I admired you and how your love and vision lives on in my heart and my home even now. Goodness I miss her ...

Anyhoo ... here's another Day of the Dead decoration, a little planter my brother gave me last month:

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So fun! I keep it on my kitchen windowsill. That's an aloe plant growing there ... hopefully I'll keep it alive!

Now, in Catholic tradition, November is dedicated to praying for the Holy Souls. So on the first of this month I set up a small remembrance altar so that we may honor our loved ones who have passed away. I've done this in a windowsill in recent years but this year I decided to devote our living room mantle to the project.

I started with some particle board letters ...

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I bought these at Michaels for $1.49 each and painted them in a soft bronze shade. While they dried (where Little Bear couldn't reach) I got to work on the rest of the altar items - photos, candles and flowers. I have several vases in my collection but I wanted something small, so I made up some simple vases from things I had on hand ...

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These are glass votive candleholders (about $1 at craft stores), along with a bit of sheer ribbon, some rustic twine and small beige doilies.

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I wrapped the green ribbon around each glass twice (securing the ends with a hot glue gun), then wrapped and tied the twine around the middle. The doilies are just lightly glued to the bottom of the glass. (And as you can see I had my usual assistant close at paw hand ... keeping his eye on that twine, sneaky thing that it is ... with all that twisting and twirling.)

Then added more of those orange mums ...

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These fit in nicely with the other remembrance items, but I think they would also be lovely on a Thanksgiving table. Or possibly even a Christmas gift - a paperwhite bulb stuck in some pebbles? I don't know if the glass would be too small, but I think it would be very pretty.

For this annual project I have some small photos of our late loved ones which I display in tiny metal holders (prayer card holders actually - purchased a long time ago at a local Catholic gift shop). But I found I was one short, so I made up a makeshift photo stand with a small binder clip!

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And lastly the candles, which we light as we pray for our dear ones ...

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I have plenty of real candles on hand - some of them blessed at church on Candlemas - but because I have curious cats and young kids about, I decided to stick with battery-lit tea lights this year. 

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I really love how the altar came out. I laid down a wide "ribbon" of burlap before setting it up and hung a garland of autumn leaves just under the mantle edge. I placed our Halloween roses on either end along with some white miniature pumpkins and our beeswax candlesticks ... plus a few Thanksgiving decorations. :)

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I am always fond of projects that involve candlelight, but especially so at this time of year. The days are short and dark and we can all use a little brightening as winter nears. As the year ends we watch nature dwindle and fade - reminding us that our own lives will end just as surely someday. But in the midst of that sadness comes human love and our memories and God's love and our prayers ...

I found this quote the other day and felt so moved by it:

"How can the dead be truly dead when they still live in the souls of those who are left behind?"

(From The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, a book I never read but I sure love that sentiment.)

Traditional prayers are deeply meaningful, of course - but I like to think our every loving thought and memory is a prayer in its own right. Feeling my Grama as I cooked those Macintosh apples and lifted my face to that warm window breeze - is something that is not only good for her soul, but mine. I pray for my loved ones all the time, but I hope I do them as great an honor by living my life by their example, with their unconditional love in my heart. 💛

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Now, it was supposed to be Mexican for supper last night, but I didn't have all the appropriate ingredients on hand ... so American Chop Suey it was ... and with garlic bread, no less! Tonight is a catch-up night with assorted leftovers and grilled cheese sandwiches. Maybe some soup, too ... it's quite rainy and dark out there! Leaves are blowing about and the hens have tucked themselves away for the night. But our lights are lit and our den is warm, so it's all good here ... 

November really is a lovely month. :)

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


Happy 5th Birthday, Archie & Ollie!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Archie and Ollie 5 Years Old

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

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

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, ARCHIE & OLLIE!

Treats twice today and lots of belly rubs ear scratches!

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

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


More Q & A: journal = scrapbook?

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Good morning, my friends! And Happy Monday!

I am checking in quickly this morning - it was a busy weekend and a very late night last night as we cheered on our beloved Patriots ... but I'm quite happy to say this morning that we are going to The Superbowl!! Well, not us personally of course - but our team will be there! And we'll be there too, if only in spirit, watching at home in New England.

:)

Anyhoo, suffice it to say I was not able to watch Downton Abby last night (or TGBBC either). I hope to catch them one night this week and when I do I will get a "Masterpiece Monday" post up so we can chat - only it will probably be more like "Masterpiece Wednesday or Thursday."

So today, I'm a bit sleepy-eyed and slow-moving (much like my Oliver up top), but I'm going to do some catch-up here as I find time. So many of you have left wonderful comments and I can't wait to read and digest and respond. I will also continue working on several upcoming journal/planner drafts, and while I don't have any of them quite ready to post yet, I will answer this quick question from Kelly, because I think I have a pretty brief answer.  

I thought of one additional question, Dawn - could your journal be described as a scrapbook? I love the idea of it but as I mentioned, I tend to keep parts of my life organized differently so I'm having a hard time seeing how this fits in. Understanding it as a scrapbook helps me to understand this better.

Kelly, my journal is a collage of memories and observations, mostly about family, current events and the turn of the seasons. I don't, however, include photographs or stickers ... and it's not all that planned ahead or thought out. And I don't really show other people (though I certainly could and hope I might someday).

So I consider my journal habit to be a form of scrapbooking, just maybe not as formal or clever. I dabbled in Scrapbooking, as a hobby, many years ago when Bookworm was little. I attended "Creative Memories" parties and subscribed to Creating Keepsakes ... and collected TONS of scrapbooking supplies. I remember when I started blogging I called it a kind of "online scrapbooking" ... and that's when my love of photography and capturing memories really kicked in. I couldn't seem to sit down and create pages, but I could upload photos to my computer and write (rather lengthy) texts to go along with them.

Our photos now are stored here at my blog and on my (personal) Facebook page as well as on our home computer. Oh, and my phone. Bill just offloaded about 1100 pictures because I'd used up my storage space - in about a month, lol!

(All that said, I think digital photography has made true, in-your-hands photo albums, a rarity these days. And that's a shame, because those types of memory books are wonderful to display and share with friends and family. That might be a great topic for a post - storing and sharing family photos - though, come to think of it, we might have done that already, lol ... )

Well, this wasn't as brief as I thought it would be, but I hope I've answered your question, Kelly. Please let me know if that cleared things up for you, and if it didn't, feel free to ask for more clarification. Thanks so much for reading and caring and sharing!

One more shot of Oliver because ... well, just because:

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:)

My friends, I hope you will excuse a bit of a pause as I get my gears going this week - we're heading back to formal lessons and everything else that comes with it! (I've made note of several homeschool-planning questions and have a draft started!) And I think I might have found a solution for my weekly planning sheet/clipboard conundrum. Photos to come! 

Enjoy your Monday, everyone ... see you here again very soon!


To my mother, on her birthday ... ❤

Mum and I at kate and paul's wedding

Today is my dear mother's birthday, and as many of you know, I am very close with my mum and so grateful for all she has brought to my life ... beginning with my own life, of course! There's that to begin with, of course!

My mother, Maureen, has always been my best friend, and I talk with her every day about ... well, pretty much everything! Bill and I are grateful for how involved she and my dad are in our family's life but, truly, it has always been that way ...

My friends, may I reminisce a bit while I have a moment?

My brother Matt and I were so blessed to have Mum at home with us and I can honestly say my childhood was pretty much idyllic. My parents have a wonderful marriage and my mother was truly happy raising her children and taking care of her home and family. I could not have asked for a better role model and I knew from a very early age that what I wanted more than anything was to be a mother just like her. Because to my mind, and from what I saw and experienced, nothing could bring greater happiness.

I loved how she read all the time, and seemed to know so much about everything. I loved how she sang along in the car as we drove around, but especially when she sang folk songs with my dad and his guitar. I loved how she was always doing something creative - crafts of all kinds. I loved how she fed us and and to this day I wish I cooked as well as she does ...

I loved how my brother and I always felt involved and important to our parents. Our opinions counted and our feelings mattered. I especially loved how - even when we chose paths that were slightly off center, my parents supported us and encouraged us ...

I loved how my mum was always volunteering in the community and especially at my school - as leader of my girl scout troop, or a chaperone on field trips, or the mom in the front office making photocopies. I loved knowing she was close by and involved in my life. It's no wonder my house was the one all the kids wanted to be at! It was bright and happy and inviting and I was just so proud that she was my mum.

I loved how she had such a friendly and lovely way about her - whomever we met - whether it was familiar friends at a party or a perfect stranger in a checkout line, she was always gracious and kind. I hoped to emulate her as I became a woman myself.

As I got older and became a mom myself, I loved watching her become Nana. I love the special bond she has with my children and that she knows them so well (and they her). I love how I feel I can always ask for her help when I need it (though it's often offered before I even have to ask). I love learning from her and sharing our thoughts on everyday and worldly events. I loved watching her care for my grandparents as they aged and grew fragile ... I loved how she took on every responsibility without question and always with much love. Setting another example for me to remember and emulate as life moves forward ...

Most of all, I love how she loves us. I felt it then without thinking about it much - a child takes their parents' love for granted perhaps - but these days I find myself thinking about it all the time. I know how blessed I have been and continue to be every day I have my mum in my life.

Happy Birthday, Mum. I hope you don't mind that I just blathered on about you here, but I really felt it in my heart to share you with my readers today. I share a lot of myself here and who I am here is all because of who I have been my whole life: your daughter. ❤

With Much Love and a Grateful Heart

~ Dawn

 Blessings to all on this snowy Thanksgiving eve ... thank you so much for stopping by!


Monday's Musings

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I shared this picture on Facebook recently so this will not be new for some of you - but the jars ("vintage" Ball) and the flowers (peonies from our yard) just make me so happy I had to share it again here. :)

Speaking of happy, I hope your Monday's been nice and your week's off to a good start. Did you all have a nice Father's Day? Ours was lovely ... weatherwise and otherwise!

In honor of this special day, here I am with my Dad and my brother, Matt.

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I think I can speak for my brother when I say we had an absolutely wonderful childhood. Happy and safe, comfortable and secure, the kind of childhood one remembers fondly and hopes to bestow on their own children. And I know Bill feels the same way about his family ...

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(Three generations in one frame: Grampa, Daddy and Little Bear.)

:)

"Anyone can be a father, but it takes a special man to be a Dad."

These words are very true and I am blessed to have a few special men in my life. So today I am wishing a - belated but sincere - Happy Father's Day to all the Dads out there!

May God Bless you with all you need as you care and provide for your families. Strength, wisdom, patience, faith, courage ... your hearts and arms open to the love all around you.

**

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


Happy St. Valentine's Day!

"A hundred hearts would be too few, to carry all my love for you."

~ Unknown

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Good Friday Morning, my friends. I hope this note finds you well!

We'll spend our day shoveling out from yesterday's storm (and prepping for another on Saturday), but there will be time for celebrating, too. Today is a wonderful feast day! And I have a few things planned for my fellas ...

But first, I found this old picture the other day and thought I'd share it here ...

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Me and My Valentine, 1989 - the first year we were "official."

Blessed we have been in our life together! 

Happy Hearts Day, everyone!


On Grandma's 100th Birthday ...

Do you ever wish there were visiting hours in heaven?

Longtime readers of my blog will know how very close I was to my maternal grandmother ... "Gram" or "Damee" (as my boys called her) would have been 100 years old today! She passed away several years ago, but I miss her so much, and especially so at this time of year, when we would share our "January birthdays" celebration.

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My brother Matt and I with Gram - I think I was maybe 12 or 13?

If you'll indulge me, I'd like to share some of the things I remember best about my grandmother. She was a huge part of my life, every step of the way ... 

We read Anne of Green Gables together.

We shared a Victoria magazine subscription for years.

(How she would have loved Downton Abbey!)

 We enjoyed a beautiful dollhouse together for years - first mine and then later, hers.

In the summers she took us to Concord & Lexington where we immersed ourselves in the local history: the Orchard House and the Revolutionary War.

We'd visit family and friends up in Maine - often returning with delicious lobster (her lobster stew was THE best) ...

From the time I was a little girl, she'd take me with her to her weekly "hairdresser appointment" and what fun I'd have there ...

Grama and Grampa traveled a lot and on every return trip they had a doll for me, one that reflected the country's culture ... 

She grew up one of the older children in a large Irish Catholic family ... and she loved to share stories. I loved to hear her talk about her family members, their home, and her life stories ... long afternoons sitting in her den, sharing tea and conversation.

When we'd go out to dinner she always let me have the cherry from her "amaretto sour." ;)

It was Grandma who took me out for my driving lessons ...

She taught me about making lists (she was the most organized person I've ever known) and about staying on top of household chores ...

She was the BEST homekeeper you can imagine ... her home was neat and clean but always so welcoming.

She was always on top of the current news and very politically minded (and opinionated!). She read a couple of newspapers every day - checking off articles to return to ...

Her pantry at the foot of the stairs was filled with everything you could imagine, all organized and well maintained.

She was thrifty (living through the Depression taught her that) but knew the value of quality ... no "mongrel" brands for her family! She and my grandpa were also the most generous people you'd ever know ...

She was the one who broke the truth to me about Santa ... she was that kind of confidante, a dear friend as well as a grandmother ...

 **

 All of these things make up my memories of my grandmother, and it's fun to reflect ... but sometimes I get sad too, because I wish I could go back and just have a little more time with her ... how I'd love for her to know Little Bear.

But when I look in the eyes of my children, and as I look around my home, at how I live my life now ... I know her love lives on in me. As I carry on being the best mother and wife I can be, giving all I can for my family - in this way I keep her alive in my heart.

Enjoy the rest of your Tuesday, my friends ... I'll see you here again very soon!


Happiness is ...

... being married to your best friend. :)

Today Bill and I celebrate 20 years of marriage! I can hardly believe it, how time has flown. I have such wonderful memories from that day ... we were surrounded by so many people we loved! I've been uploading photos scanned in by my dad, and thought I'd share some of them here with you all.

(Side note - how different photo-taking and saving is nowadays! How much easier to store and share photos with computers and digital photography.)

First, a shot from inside the church as Bill and I made our way up the aisle as husband and wife.

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This is the gazebo in my mum and dad's backyard, all decked out for the autumn-themed wedding.

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Waiting outside the church with my dad. His friend Skip was our chauffeur for the day - driving us to the church (and Bill and I to the reception) in his gorgeous antique car.

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Bill's mom made these adorable "bride and groom" scarecrows. They were stationed outside the reception hall and "greeted" guests as they arrived.

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With our beloved grandparents ... how we miss them.

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Me and my girls ...

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Bill and his guys ...

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I love this picture - it was taken while two dear friends helped me with my bustle, "hidden" behind the bushes. We were laughing ourselves silly trying to wrangle that bustle!

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We did finally get the bustle done up as you can see in the photo below. Bill and I sharing a kiss during our first dance (to "At Last" by Etta James).

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A toast with the bridal party ... our tables were done up with pumpkins, candles, flowers and bittersweet vines.

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Our getaway car!

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We drove down to Colonial Williamsburg for our honeymoon, stopping at bed-and-breakfasts in Connecticut and Maryland on the way.

One more ...

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So many blessings we've shared ... looking forward to the next 20 years!

**

Have a wonderful Wednesday, my friends!


Lullaby Magic

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One of the joys of having a baby again is rediscovering all the lovely little things we've forgotten through the years. So as Little Bear grows, Bill and I find ourselves remembering things like familar facial expressions ("That's Crackerjack's smile!" "That's Bookworm's furrowed brow!") and favorite toys and books ("Oh here's Elmo - or MoMo as Earlybird called him!" "Remember how much they all loved this book?") to long forgotten instincts - what a particular cry means and how to rock a wee one just so ... 

Well the other night, as I rocked a fussy baby all across our bedroom floor, it suddenly came to me - a lullaby I sang to each one of my boys, a beloved song that my own father sang to me when I was a child (often accompanied by his guitar) ... I have not thought of it in years! But with a couple of tries the words all came back to me (click the title to hear it online) ...

Morningtown Ride

Train whistle blowing, makes a sleepy noise,
Underneath their blankets go all the girls and boys. 
Heading from the station, out along the bay, 
All bound for Morningtown, many miles away.

*Sarah's at the engine, Tony rings the bell,
John swings the lantern to show that all is well.
Rocking, rolling, riding, out along the bay,
All bound for Morningtown, many miles away.

Maybe it is raining where our train will ride,
But all the little travelers are snug and warm inside.
Somewhere there is sunshine, somewhere there is day,
Somewhere there is Morningtown, many miles away.

*Sarah, Tony and John became Bookworm, Crackerjack and Earlybird. :)

I sang it over and over to Little Bear, who crooned right along with me. (He absolutely LOVES music we've discovered.) And to be honest, I actually found myself tearing up because I was just flooded with memories of my first babies - so vividly aware of how fast time does fly - and so completely filled with love for this new one ...

**

My friends, what were/are your favorite songs to sing with your baby? I do love a lullaby but I'm quite partial to Beatles ballads as well. Actually, my go-to sing-a-song is this and it's another I remember fondly from childhood.

:)

Well, enjoy your Friday evening, my friends and Happy Weekend as well!


In Remembrance ...

An altar for saints and souls ...

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This activity has become a part of our All Souls Day tradition - an altar filled with candles, flowers and pictures of loved ones passed away. This year I added symbols of family patron saints as well.

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I used clean leftover baby food jars (from those Halloween carrot breads!) to hold the candles, and for candles I used tea lights blessed by our pastor on Candlemas. The jars could certainly be "fancied up" with paint or glue and glitter or colored tissue paper. But EB got such a kick out of washing the jars - and honestly, my energy was running quite low - we just left them "as is." :)

Marigolds are traditional flowers for All Souls Day (aka the Day of the Dead) but I'm hard pressed to find marigolds at this time of year. Even our hearty mums are well past withered at this point. So instead, I picked up a very small bouquet of russet-colored chrysanthemums and cut them down to fit the jars and a couple of glass votives I had on hand.

I've set up the altar in different spots through the years, but this year I chose the family room mantel. I nestled the jars into a leafy fall garland that stretches along the length of the mantel, and then I set out the pictures we had gathered of loved ones who have passed on. Behind the pictures we set up holy cards, pictures and other symbols of family saints.

**

My grandfather ("Pa") with a two year-old Bookworm and me. Behind the picture is a holy card for Blessed John Paul II - a man my grandfather not only admired, but happened to look very much like. :)

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(At the far right in the wooden frame is Crackerjack's patron, Saint George.)

Bill's grandmother ("Grammie") with Crackerjack, who was probably about four in this picture. I had not found my holy card of St. Therese before I took these pictures ~ Grammie was extremely devoted to The Little Flower. :)

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In the background is Earlybird's "Saint Nicholas" dvd. :)

My mother's brother ("Uncle George) with Crackerjack (on his First Communion). CJ adored his great uncle, and the feeling was mutual.

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(Not shown off to the left is a framed picture of Bookworm's patron, Saint Thomas Aquinas.)

My beloved Gram ("Damee" to the boys) with me, on her "divan" many years ago. (Judging by my haircut, this was shortly after Earlybird was born.) In the background is a holy card for Saint Francis which once belonged to my grandmother and - though it's hard to tell in this picture - was hand-stiched with fine embroidery thread.

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I love how the whole altar glows as the light fades on All Souls Day. We keep our altar lit till the candles burn down ... or until Earlybird begs to blow them out. ;)

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On this day for all souls, we think about, talk about, and pray for these dear people. We remember how much we loved them ... and how much they loved us. And I remind the boys that that love never ever ends ... and that someday we'll see them again.

Well my friends, thanks so much for stopping by, and I hope you've all had a good week. Have yourselves a nice, rejuvenating weekend ... and I'll see you here again very soon!


Happy 19 Years!

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And they've been very happy indeed!

Nineteen years of marriage ... three beautiful children ... and one more on the way! Time sure has flown ... but God's been good to us ... so very good.

This photo is my favorite from our big day ... our first dance as a married couple. I remember this moment so clearly! Our song was "At Last" by Etta James ... it's a beautiful song to begin with, but it was very fitting for us ... we had been together four years before we got married: two years spent dating and two spent engaged! So we were truly so very happy to be married, "at last." :)

Now, Bill and I usually enjoy dinner at our favorite restaurant on our anniversary ... but we're postponing our night out this year - just until my morning sickness passes. ;) Instead, we'll enjoy dinner at home with our boys ... Bill just helped me assemble a huge beef stew in the crockpot ... it will cook all day and be served alongside a nice crusty bread and glasses of sparkling cider (the same kind we served at our reception!). And later today I'll enlist a boy or two to help me make our annual "family birthday cake." Because, after all, our family was "born" on October 23rd, 1993.

Have a lovely Tuesday, my friends ... I'll see you here again very soon!


A Birthday Dinner for Bookworm :)

Dinner @ TH 4

Last night we took the older boys to a favorite family restaurant, in celebration of Bookworm's 17th birthday. I've been coming to this restaurant for special dinners since I was a little girl, so it's more than just a really good meal - it's a place where many fond memories were made. Both Bill and I said last night we felt my grandparents, especially, were "with us" in spirit ... they loved treating family and friends to a special meal here. And oh, how they would have enjoyed treating these boys ... they truly savored the whole experience!

So Nana (my mum) came over to have dinner with Earlybird and Bill and I headed out with the older two ... we were just a few minutes ahead of this crazy storm:

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As we arrived at the restaurant, the skies opened up and we just made it inside ... where there were fireplaces going, and soft candlelight. So very cozy!

Here are the boys with their salad courses: Crackerjack's is nothing but lettuce, while Bookworm's has just about everything on it!

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And here is Crackerjack with me ...

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And Bookworm with Bill ...

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Lol, I think my wine glass is present in each and every picture! I truly savored this glass, though ... it's a Rodney Strong Cabernet Sauvignon.

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The food, as usual, was fantastic. We don't go out to eat much at all - for one thing, it's expensive (and we do live on one income) and for another, we have a special needs child so restaurants are not always easy for us. But a few times a year we do treat ourselves, and most of the time it's here. It's hard to pick anywhere else because the food is always excellent! And as I said above - this place is so special to us. :)

In the top picture you see Bookworm with a lava cake they brought out to him (a lovely courtsey). He shared that with CJ and enjoyed that very much - but he still ordered (and almost finished) his favorite dessert: a Swiss Chocolate Bread Pudding au Caramel. (And yes, it tastes as good as it sounds!)

When we left the restaurant, the skies were starting to clear, and look what we spied!

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And a little further up the road, we saw the full rainbow - and it was complete!

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I don't think I've ever seen a complete rainbow before!

So it was a very nice night, and now I think the birthday celebrations have come to a close. (Though Crackerjack leaned over at Mass and whispered in my ear: "Hey Mom, it's St. John's birthday - are you making a cake?" Lol, I probably will.)

We have more summer birthdays to look forward to - several famliy members enjoy summertime birthdays, including Bill in July and Crackerjack in August. Will we end up at our favorite restaurant again? We just might!

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Well, my friends, I hope you are enjoying a nice weekend. Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing in our joy. I hope you enjoy the rest of your Sunday ...

I'll see you again very soon!


Exploring "B" Foods Week

Bananas for b week

In continuation of a project we started last week, the boys and I are currently exploring "B" fruits and veggies. Our produce choices this week include bananas and blueberries, which are easy to love, as well as beets, which are not quite so ... "child friendly." ;)

Here are a few of my ideas for "B" week:

Bananas

Bananas are so sweet and delicious ... we're big banana fans in this house! So we started by finding out where bananas grow. Can they grow in our part of the world, we wondered? A quick look online and well, the answer was decidely, no. Banana plants need tropical conditions, year-round (not just in the depths of July).

We also found some neat video online that shows how bananas are harvested.

Earlier in the week we went shopping for bananas ... and we observed how some are yellow and some are green, and some are a little of both. We also saw bananas that were nearly brown! We chose some greenish ones so we could watch them ripen at home (and enjoy them fresh) and we also chose some "freckled" bananas with which we could bake something yummy.

We also bought a tub of Stonyfield Farms "BaNilla Yogurt. (We almost always have a tub of this in the fridge!) Saturday morning we'll make smoothies using this yogurt as the base.

And these would be fun to try if we have extra bananas and time!

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Blueberries for b week

Blueberries

Little blueberries, one of the few fruits native to North America, are a big deal here in New England! And we learned that May begins blueberry season, which lasts through October and peaks in late summer. And that makes sense to me, because I've always connected blueberries with August. My grandparents would come back from Maine with fresh quarts of blueberries and then Gram would make THE best pies and cake. Yum.

I also remember sitting on my grandparents' hillside and picking the bitty bushy berries that grew wild there ... I'd fill a tiny dixie cup ... eat half of them, and then bring some back for my grandmother to "cook." I can remember that hillside so vividly ... the scratchiness of the scrubby undergrowth, the various shades of the berries - some of them so puny and hard. I think finding and eating food in its natural environment - whether you grow it or seek it out - is such a memorable childhood experience. And such a great learning experience, too.

So we "googled" a little, and learned that our neighbor state, Maine, is the top U.S. producer of "lowbush" blueberries, whereas Michigan produces the most "highbush" blueberries. We investigated the difference between high- and low-bush berries and then looked up what we would need to grow blueberries on our own. (According to this book - which is FABULOUS, by the way - we can grow them in pots, so I'm now totally sold on the idea. Not quite the hillside I grew up with, but it will certainly do!)

Back at the market, we searched out a nice pint of blueberries to bring home (we checked to see where the different packages were from). I found this recipe for Buttermilk Blueberry Breakfast Cake which we will bake this weekend to serve at Mother's Day Brunch.

I also dug out and read our much beloved (and bedraggled) copy of Blueberries for Sal (making me simply pine for a summer in Maine) and I just requested Blueberry Train from the library. (How perfect for EB?)

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{Note: I have no picture of beets here, because we have no beets just yet!}

Beets

So I must admit, there's not much love in this household for beets, but I did not let that deter me. My mother LOVES them and I have very fond memories of the beets my grandfather grew in his garden. I never ate them myself (or if I did, I repressed the memory), but he was so proud of them, and they were just huge and earthy and so vibrantly violet. And my grandparents and my mother just relished them. I always wished I did like them because they seemed like such an honorable vegetable to like.

So, my plan for exploring beets is this ...

We will watch one of our Jamie at Home episodes, titled "Carrots and Beets," and see what Jamie has to say about these humble root vegetables. I have his J@H cookbook (which is SO beautiful and makes for excellent reading whether you cook anything from it or not) and I am going to try making the "Roasted Carrots and Beets" one night to accompany our supper. The recipe involves herbs, citrus and balsamic vinegar and honestly it does all sound rather delicious. It will be an experience if nothing else.

But to find beets, I want to get as close to the source as possible, as it is my understanding that beets are at their best when freshly harvested. This is likely true for most fruits and vetegtables, but if you're a beet, you can probably use all the help you can get. The farmer's market would be the ideal place to find them - roundabouts late June or July - but we'll settle for a quality produce store. This weekend we'll visit either Trader Joe's or Whole Foods and see what kind of beets they have on hand. Hopefully we'll find beets of a smaller size and varied color, but we shall see what we shall see!

As I said to the boys, Nana loves beets, so there must be something good about them! (I'll let you know how it goes, and if you have a fondness for beets I'd love to know how you prepare them!)

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Well, my friends, I'm going to sign off ... but thanks so much for stopping by! I also thank you for all the FANTASTIC dinner ideas you've been leaving me under yesterday's post! Lots of great ideas there ... and goodness knows, I can use them! I also thank you all for the kind words and encouragement for my daily domestic notes blog. It's fun for me to do and I'm glad you find it fun, too!

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


Happy National Teacher Day!

What a great day to remember those teachers who touched our lives in a Teacher 1 meaningful way!

When we think back to our teachers in school, naturally we remember some with more fondness than others ... just as I'm sure teachers remember some students more fondly than others, lol!

In grammar school, I'd say my favorite teacher was Mr. Kingston, 7th grade. He taught English and was very kind and encouraging. He told me he'd see my name in print someday, and I never forgot that. :)

In high school, my favorite teacher was, without a doubt, Sister M.L. (Mary Louise). She taught French and was quite harsh - somewhat infamously, so - but she truly had a heart of gold and a wonderful sense of humor. Of course, I was able to see this only after freshman year ... once I grew a thicker skin and got used to her "style."

And in college, my favorite professor was Chet Raymo (of the Boston Globe) whose fantastic journalism class I took senior year. He taught me SO much about writing and expressing one's point as finely as possible (i.e. in as few words as possible - though I obviously tend to lose sight of that lesson, lol). I remember he and his wife hosted a spaghetti dinner for our class at the end of the semester - it was lovely spring evening, the wine and conversation flowed  ... and I'll always remember it as one of my first "Oh my gosh, I'm a grown-up!" moments. I felt inspired, connected and ready to step out into the world ... which is a good way to feel at the end of your college experience. :)

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So, on this National Teacher Day, I'd love to ask you: Who was your favorite teacher in school, and why? If you have a moment, I'd love to hear your thoughts!

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Well, my friends ... have a GREAT day! I'm off now to scramble eggs, scan the paper, and set out math. Just a typical Tuesday morning for this teacher! But first, before I get too far into my day, I'm going to call my mum and dad and thank them for being the best and most important teachers in my life. Because, "so much of what we know of love we learn at home." (unknown)


See you all again very soon!

:)

"Education is not filling a bucket, but lighting a fire." ~ Yeats


18 ... and Counting!

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There are 18 pictures in this post ... I was 18 when Bill and I met ... and as of today ... we've been married for 18 (wonderful, way-too-fast) years!

So this morning after Mass, we had my folks and my brother over for a little brunch. It was such a beautiful day - just like the day of our wedding - bright and cool with the foliage at its peak. Celebrating with food, family and fond memories was such a nice way to celebrate our special day ... I'd like to share a few pictures with you, and a few flashbacks as well ...

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In the front window I set up a collage frame filled with wedding day pictures, our anniversary cards and the flowers Bill gave me this morning. (Very pretty flowers for sure - but they are now sitting on the front steps since the cats find them absolutely delectable.)

And on the kitchen island, my go-to buffet surface, I spread out the brunch goodies ...

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Oh my goodness ... this quiche. SO delicious!

It's called a "cheeseburger quiche" and if anyone would like the recipe I'd be happy to post it - it was easy to make, and so very tasty!

I have to point out the flowers barely visible in the background of the above picture. These are hydrangeas from our front garden ... full, lush and perfectly purple and green. How I love hydrangeas!

In fact, I will always think of hydrangeas as our wedding flower. We had a really wonderful florist - he had recently opened a nursery in a nearby town and we were quite taken by his natural, seasonal, "earthy" arrangements. We were only his second or third wedding, but he came highly recommended. Best of all, when we described our dream of a very "autumnal" wedding - pumpkins, bittersweet, kale and the like - he was right on board! For the bridesmaids' bouquets he suggested hydrangeas because they really are the star of the fall garden. So I spent the weeks leading up to our wedding studying (sort of stalking, really) neighborhood hydrangeas - observing how they were changing in hue. By October 23rd they looked something like this ...

Hydrangeas

And they really made a beautiful bouquet, mingled with other complimentary flowers (autumn roses, etc.).

Back to the buffet though, the menu also included ...

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Fresh grapes, granola, dried cranberries and yogurt. Raspberry turnovers and crumb cakes as well as Nana's special scrambled eggs ...

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Hash browns, bacon and chicken-apple sausages, and soft downy biscuits.

And just for fun ...

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... a few dishes of seasonal candy. :)

For liquid refreshment ...

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Sparkling cider - straight apple, and apple-cranberry. This is what we served for our wedding toast, and it's nice because not only does it taste lovely, but it is free of alcohol so everyone can enjoy a sip or more. :)

Now, I don't have our wedding photos scanned in, but I thought I'd share a few of the pictures from that collage shown above. When I look back at these photos I know why our parents and grandparents all called us "the kids" - we looked so young!

And I guess we were. :) 

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Bill and I are on either end of this picture - our "scarecrow selves" are in the middle! My mother-in-law made these fantastic creations - they stood outside the reception hall and as guests came up the long winding drive, they saw the "bride and groom" welcoming them in all their autumn finery. More than one guest thought - from a distance - it was actually us!

Here I am with my dad on our way to the church ...

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His good friend Skip did us the great honor of driving us on this day in his gorgeous, vintage car. Wish I had an exterior shot to show you - it made quite the set of "wedding wheels!"

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The gazebo at my folks' - also decked out in autumn regalia.

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Here we are with our grandparents: on the left, are my Grampy and Bill's Grammie, and on the right stand my Grama and Grampa (who became "Damee and Pa" to our boys). All of them are gone now ... though sometimes that doesn't seem real. I miss them all every day.

Anniversary

It's hard to see in this shot, but this is the wedding party table, and it seems this was the "toast moment." Directly behind me stand the maid of honor and best man, Sabina and John, our best friends from high school. On the left are my dear friends - college roommate, Kathy and cousin, Amy. And there are those aforementioned pumpkins and bittersweet!

Here are the remaining bridesmaids:

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Unfortunately, the picture slid off center - but on the left are Amy and Kathy again, and to my right is Sabina, my cousin Kate and sister-in-law Ami, and in front is my cousin Kara - our sweet little flower girl!

Now this next picture is quite fuzzy and at first glance it might seem like nothing much is going on at all, but for me it will always be one of those unforgettable wedding moments ...

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What we have here is me in the middle with my two friends (and editors) from the paper where I worked at that time. The formal pictures were done and we were trying to tie up my bustle before heading into the reception. But oh my gosh, we just could NOT get that darn thing to cooperate! And oh, how we laughed ... we just laughed ourselves silly, hiding behind the hedges, fighting with that blasted bustle. Betsy and Martha kept me calm and in good spirits and yes - we did finally get that bustle to behave itself!

And now here we have the wedding cake ...

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... garnished with a garland of autumn leaves. It was a delicious carrot cake with a soft cream cheese frosting. For brunch today I had planned to make a triple layer carrot cake, but at 7 a.m. it was either take a shower or bake a cake before church ...

Needless to say, I went with the shower and promised the boys I'd make our "family birthday cake" sometime this week. :)

Now, for a few bits of random wedding trivia:

Our favors were Yankee Candle "Spiced Pumpkin" votive candles.

Our wedding party was introduced to the theme from "Northern Exposure" because it was our absolute favorite TV show at the time (of all time, really).

For our first dance we spun to "At Last," by Etta James; our last dance was set to "Shower the People," by James Taylor.

We went to Colonial Williamsburg for our honeymoon. We drove there in Bill's old Saab ...

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... the streamers and cans only lasted a mile. ;)

Well, we may not look like "kids" anymore - and we have a few of our own now - but I wouldn't trade one wrinkle or gray hair for even one precious moment of the last 18 years ...

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Honey, I love you. I hope and pray our next 18 years are as blessed!

*❤*

Dear readers, thank you for allowing me this rather long and rambly bit of reminiscing ... it was a lovely indulgence, to spend a few hours this afternoon remembering this special day and all the wonderful people who helped us make it so. 

So I'll wrap up now and be off ... but I'll be back next time with a post on my holiday planner ... that was one of my many plans for the weekend but, well, let me be frank: not many things on that list got accomplished this weekend! (I tend to wear rose-tinted glasses when it comes to making up weekend to-do lists, lol.) I will post about my planner sometime this week - hopefully tomorrow but certainly as soon as I can.

Have a great night, my friends ... and as always, thank you so much for stopping by.

:)


A Beloved Childhood Book

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My mum found this tiny treasure in her attic the other day and I recognized it immediately ~ my little Kate Greenaway's Birthday Book!

I've been enthralled with Kate Greenaway for as long as I've "known" her (and thanks to my grandmother, I knew her at an early age). Throughout my childhood I collected little books - coloring books especially - that featured Kate Greenaway's lovely, old-fashioned drawings. I remember watching my mum (who was the best "colorer" ever, anywhere, hands-down) gently shade in the pretty pictures and bring them to life. I also remember honestly wanting to live in Kate Greenaway's world!

I had such fun flipping through this book the other day, I thought I'd share a few pages here with my readers. I'd imagine I have some kindred Kate Greenaway fans reading my blog!

Inside the book I have the names of all my family and school friends (boys and girls, young and old). I also have some cute "domestic" notes regarding family habits and my "babies" (i.e. dolls) and their basic needs. Lol, I guess I started young!

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Each day of the year has a birthday verse, note space, and a small illustration. 

Some note spaces were assigned a birthday girl's or boy's name; some note spaces were filled with my third-grade thoughts. :)

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And this is how I knew the book was from 3rd grade - that was the year we went to Disney World (1977)! That last note reads: Cynthia Betsy Riley, Newborn Gerber, Baby Aspirin, Jonson clothes. Lol, I was such a little mother - to my (real) baby brother and my baby dolls as well! Apparently, March 8th was "Cynthia's" birthday.

The book is also filled with beautiful, full page, full-color illustrations ...

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Another note page ...

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I have to smile at my eight year-old self, so earnest in her note-taking ... and seeing all the names of my grammar school classmates was a fun stroll down memory lane. 

 Now, if you'd like ~ tell me your birthdate in the comment box below, and I will "read" you the Kate Greenaway poem for your special day. (Check back this evening and I'll update the post.)

Here's the verse for today (June 1st):

Windmills, like weathercocks, turn with the wind,

And change, as indeed they may;

Some little folks are exactly the same,

Perhaps this is their birthday!

As always, thanks for stopping by ~ I hope you all have a great day!

:)

*Evening update: I've just left a comment with all the birthday verses - I hope you enjoy! I'm happy to do more - please feel free to leave me your birthdate if you'd like, it's fun reading all these quaint little poems. :)


Domestic Bliss ~ Morning at the Door

Frontsteps

Looking out my front door, very early in the morning ...

It may seem old-fashioned to some, but I do this every weekday morning ~ I stand at the front door, and wave to Bill as he goes off to work. In my slippers, clutching my coffee and the Globe (which Bill has just thrown up from the driveway). Often there are smaller bodies beside me, waving as well. Earlybird just poked his head outside - it's chilly and crisp - took a big sniff and declared, "It smells like Halloween!" Lol. I know what he means. Autumn air smells so distinctive. A spring, summer or winter morning would smell nothing like this.

The door stays open throughout the early morning hours - it's comforting to see dog walkers go by, neighbors leave for work, a school bus trundle down the street. It's a small way to feel connected to the world as the new day unfolds. I also walk through the house and open window blinds, filling the house with soft light. Bedsheets are straightened, pajamas put away, the bathroom's wiped up ...

A second cup of coffee's is poured, and the day really begins. :)

I hope you all have a fantastic Friday! Any plans for the holiday weekend?