Seasonal Planning Feed

My Planning Sheets & Planning Binder {A Tour!}

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. Routines & Schedules

3. Household Information

4. Budgeting/Financial

5. Meal Planning

6. Home Education

7. Family & Friends

 8. Journal Index

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

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

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

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

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


My 2017 {Printable} Planner ... ❤

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

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

(Design notes at the bottom of the post!)

January:

January Cover Page

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

January Overview

1/2-1/8 2017

1/9-/15 2017

1/16-1/22 2017

1/23-1/29 2017

January Home Learning Worksheet

January Review

***

February:

February Cover Page

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

February Overview

1/30-2/5 2017

2/6-2/12 2017

2/13-2/19 2017

2/20-2/26 2017

February Home Learning Worksheet

February Review

***

March:

March Cover Page

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

March Overview

2/27-3/5 2017

3/6-3/12 2017

3/13-3/19 2017

3/20-3/26 2017

3/27-4/2 2017

March Home Learning Worksheet

March Review

***

April: 

April Cover Page

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

April Overview

4/3-4/9 2017

4/10-4/16 2017

4/17-4/23 2017

4/24-4/30 2017

April Home Learning Worksheet

April Review

***

May: 

May Cover Page

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

May Overview

5/1-5/7 2017

5/8-5/14 2017

5/15-5/21 2017

5/22-5/28 2017

May Home Learning Worksheet

May Review

***

June:

June Cover Page

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

June Overview

5/29-6/4 2017

6/5-6/11 2017

6/12-6/18 2017

6/19-6/25 2017

June Home Learning Worksheet

June Review

***

July:

July Cover Page

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

July Overview

6/26-7/2 2017

7/3-7/9 2017

7/10-7/16 2017

7/17-7/23 2017

7/24-7/30 2017

July Home Learning Worksheet

July Review

***

August:

August Cover Page

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

August Overview

7/31-8/6 2017

8/7-8/13 2017

8/14-8/20 2017

8/21-8/27 2017

August Home Learning Worksheet

August Review

***

September:

September Cover Page

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

September Overview

8/28-9/3 2017

9/4-9/10 2017

9/11-9/17 2017

9/18-9/24 2017

9/25-10/1 2017

September Home Learning Worksheet

September Review

***

October:

October Cover Page

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

October Overview

10/2-10/8 2017

10/9-10/15 2017

10/16-10/22 2017

10/23-10/29 2017

10/30-11/5 2017

October Home Learning Worksheet

October Review

***

November:

November Cover Page

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

November Overview

11/6-11/12 2017

11/13-11/19 2017

11/20-11/26 2017

11/27-12/3 2017

November Home Learning Worksheet

November Review

***

December:

December Cover Page

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

December Overview

12/4-12/10 2017

12/11-12/17 2017

12/18-12/24 2017

12/25-12/31 2017

December Home Learning Worksheet

December Review

***

A few notes about this year's planning sheets:

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

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

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

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

I added a few new pages:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Advent Tea, Week 3 ~ Finding Joy in Creation ❤

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Hello and happy weekend, my friends! Welcome to another Advent Tea ... may I pour you a cup of something tasty and warm? :)

Well, our third week of Advent has arrived and the pink candle has been lit ... Oh Joy! And you know how they say "all good things come to those who wait?" Well, that old adage is perhaps never more true than during the season of Advent, because in these special weeks we are a people who wait and wonder ... enjoying the here and now, yet knowing there is a greater joy that lies ahead ... 

Which is why this mug seemed perfect for today's Tea ...

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:)

Now, I am not a patient person by nature, but like most moms I've had plenty of opportunities to work on developing this particular habit. I've learned that life is easier when patience is a daily practice, not just an admirable (if abstract) idea or something left to people with loftier ambitions and/or holier lives than mine. Patience is perhaps the greatest of all virtues when one is a parent ... and if I may so, especially when one is a special needs parent. (Progress can be slow ... perfection is overrated ... patience is essential.)

But whether we're born with a patient nature or not, the world-at-large rushes us all right along, urging us onward with its message of now-now-nowInstant, immediate, super fast results ... no waiting necessary!

If we're aware of this influence we can recognize when it is affecting us falsely or adversely. It's good to pause and ask, whose time clock are we following anyway? Sometimes time is of the essence, but it's important, I think, to remind ourselves to appreciate the here and now ... to savor the wait if you will. Learning to be patient is an excellent exercise in humanity - and humility - and I think one of the greatest teachers of patience (aside from our children!) is nature. As you all know I love nature! I respect its cleverness and consistency. It doesn't rush ... it always has a plan. A plan that has worked for ... well, eons. It glories in every turn of every season, knowing everything happens in its own time ...

"Adopt the pace of nature. Her secret is patience." ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Case in point - yesterday was brutally cold with temps barely in the teens, and this morning it's snowing! It's the Saturday before Christmas ... and the weather is just not getting on board with my to-do list! But admittedly, it is doing my spirit a world of good. Because it's been a long - and, frankly tiring - week. We've all been running here, there and everywhere, getting our busy-ness accomplished. But now nature is advising me to sit back and take it slow. Leave the errands for later. Breathe in, breathe out ... maybe let Amazon Prime do the leg work today.

Even my page-a-day calendar is sending me a message ...

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So, ok. Balance is necessary. We can't always rush and we can't always lag ... managing my time and energy accounts is an-going #lifegoal for me! 

But ... that's a topic to explore further, in the new year perhaps. For now, let's get back to the here and now. We're deep in Advent, halfway through December, and it's snowing ... I'm happy in a well-insulated snow globe today. :)

Here's a look outside my window this morning ...

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So glad we made sure to fill our feeders yesterday!

As I've been describing, our family's Advent is a celebration of God's beautiful creation ... because the whole world waits together for the miracle of life (and light) to return! Just as the earth goes quiet and dark at this time of year, we too slow down and turn inward, looking for ways to light the path before us. So in our first week of Advent we explored the wonder of earth and sky, and in the second week it was the serenity of plants and trees ... and this week we are finding joy in the beautiful wildlife with which God has graced our earth ...

And as we've ambled along our journey, our Advent Garden has slowly been coming to life ...

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Stones and soil were topped with moss and trees ... and now we spy a pretty deer in this tiny forest. Meanwhile, outside there is much evidence of creation all around!

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We've been enjoying a snowy December here in New England and the boys have fun checking for tracks left behind by the creatures who call our habitat home. Mostly it's the usual suspects, but you never know ... sometimes there's something new to investigate!

Now from my pictures you can probably guess we live in a woodsy area, and that's true. We live next to a state forest and our town, while suburban, has old agricultural roots. Our own property is not quite a farm per se - though we are sort of heading that way! This past spring we began keeping hens and I must tell you - they just bring us such joy! The fresh eggs are wonderful, but our girls are such dears ...

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I do relish my "farm chores" such as they area ... walking out to the hen pen to bring them food and checking their water. 

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Good morning, pretty girls!

And how fun to gather eggs with my fellas ... we're still getting several eggs a day even though we were warned they would stop for the winter. Not sure what our girls' game plan is but we're thrilled with our daily harvest!

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I love to tour the corners of our yard and I especially love the mornings when the sun is just rising in the east ...

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Those are my neighbor's horses - aren't they lovely? They also own three goats, six dogs, a flock of ducks and lots of chickens! They are the very nicest people, too. I took this picture yesterday morning as I was visiting the hens. I was channeling a little bit of Tasha Tudor here, walking about my own homestead and tending to my critters, the domestic and the wild. (Only I was in a parka and pajama pants ... not quite Tasha's pretty red cloak!)

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We regularly set out several types of food - black oil seed, suet cakes and nyjer seed for the finches. We use a variety of feeder designs - both tubes and trays - and I throw out seed on the deck every day ...

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Yes, my beloved squirrels get fed right alongside their feathered friends - I don't play favorites! (Well, except when it comes to predators like hawks, owls and foxes. Those creatures I shoo off as best I can.)

But speaking of Tasha Tudor, this is a page from the beautiful book, Forever Christmas, the chapter called, "The Animals' Christmas" ...

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This is a wonderful book, full of old-fashioned goodness and gentle reminders to slow down and let nature be our guide. Tonight we're watching the video Take Peace, which is a tour of Tasha's Corgi Cottage at Christmas. And then perhaps we'll catch the latest episode of "The Great American Baking Show." (Anyone else watching that?) 
 
So yes, there is much joy in creation to be found, all around us and even right in our own backyards - but it's awfully bitter today so let's head back inside! I'm greeting you in the kitchen, wearing my favorite winter apron, a gift from my parents ...

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I find such joy in cooking for my family, especially in preparing seasonal foods! And though I love baking from scratch, sometimes you just have to cut a few corners, right? For example ...

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Last Tuesday was the feast of St. Lucia and once again I did not make the traditional saffron buns as I'd hoped to - BUT! I did throw some cinnamon rolls into a tube pan, baked them, glazed them, decorated them, and then set them aflame. Voila - feast day morning joy!

More joy in our week ... Earlybird celebrated his 15th birthday on Wednesday! Yes, this little boy is now FIFTEEN years old ...

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(That was a book about trains, his FAVORITE subject. He was very happy to receive a couple of books about the planets as well.) And I thought this birthday card was rather fitting - true in every word but also, such a lovely woodland design!

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Ok, since I'm keeping you so long, how about another cup of something hot?

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Snow days call for cocoa, don't you think? Tea soothes me, coffee revives me ... and cocoa brings me joy! And ding-ding-ding ... this is another one of those giveaway gifts! Yes, there will be a tin of this "Warm Me Up Chocolate & Cream Cocoa" in my Winter Comforts Basket! (More giveaway details at the bottom of this post.)

Oh, and that pretty blue notebook sitting beneath the tin?

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There will also be one of these in that giveaway basket! I have strong opinions on notebooks, and this is a notebook I just love! It's so nice to write in - smooth paper, soft lines - with a solid spiral-binding. I also have a pink one (that says, "Create a little magic everyday") that I'll use for a new diary project, but I use this particular blue notebook for my "to-dos, weekend plans and projects." I know I've been asked to post a little more about how I use this notebook and I will ... soon. :)

But since we're talking about notebooks and planners for a moment, let me give you a quick glimpse at a new planner I picked up recently ...

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(If you're thinking I might have a bit of a planner problem ... well, you might be right.)

I found this Woodland Tales planner at Barnes & Noble - it was the last one on the shelf, but I've also seen it online. I liked the layout and just could not resist the charming design! It's a smaller size - nice for the pocketbook - and it's specifically for week-at-a-glance planning. This will be used in addition to my Day Designer and my master planning binder ... and all that too, will be blogged about after the holidays!

Now, getting back to Advent, how about a look around our Christmas room (aka the library) where a woodland theme reigns ...

Starting with the children's nativity set where "all creation waits ... "

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You can just imagine the kinds of stories that get played out in this corner!

This display is set up on a table behind our loveseat and stretched out along the wall behind that is one of my favorite Christmas books, Woodland Christmas ...

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A lovely (and long) fold-out book that tells the tale of the animals preparing for Christmas. It is an Advent countdown too - with flaps on one side and labels for all the creatures on the other. I highly recommend this book if your children love animals! The drawings are soft and pretty but quite realistic.

Now our Christmas tree has a woodland theme going as well ...

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A ribbon of gold encircles the whole tree - featuring a holly-bedecked red squirrel! - as well as several strands of wooden cranberries. We've collected woodland ornaments since we were first married and some of these ornaments we've had for many years. (The birds above are from when I was little!) The reindeer lantern was new this year, though - the boys found it in one of their Advent pockets last week. :)

Even my daily Advent reading has a nature theme this year ...

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All Creation Waits - the very theme of our Advent! - has been a wonderful read so far. Every chapter (25 in all) presents a short meditation on one of God's creatures as it adapts for the long cold winter ahead - never fearing the darkness, knowing there is a new beginning ahead. Accompanied by gorgeous woodcut illustrations ... these reflections are certainly a new take on Advent, but they resonate deeply with me. 

And while we're speaking of books - I am so thrilled for this one! I stumbled across it at B&N yesterday ...

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Yes, a little early Christmas present to myself! Earth Psalms is a weekly devotional reflecting on how God speaks to us through nature. I am beyond excited to read it this year and I don't even feel badly I splurged on myself! (It was 50% off!) Now, I did offer to wrap it up and place it under the tree, but Bill let it slide ... ;)

Another early gift, this one from my husband who knows how much St. Francis means to me ... 

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Such a lovely wooden rosary bracelet. Something comfortable - and comforting - to wear every day. :)

Now, before I go (and yes I am planning to wrap this huge post up!) I'd like to share pictures of my very favorite animals of all - our cats, Archie and Oliver. It gives me such satisfaction and true joy to care for these two sweet boys ...

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Oliver by the heating element, tucked behind the loveseat in the library ...

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And Archie, snuggled up next to the chimney in the dining room. :)

**

Well my friends, as always I thank you for stopping by and I leave you with my wish that each of you are filled with joy, wherever you might find it. I hope your weekend brings you the rest and relaxation you need ... snow or shine, whatever challenges you might face, whatever comforts you crave ... may your time be full of the things that mean most. :)

I'll be back again on Monday - we've a week more of Advent Teatimes to go! I may even double up some of our friends as more readers share their cups with me ...

But oh, yes! So about that giveaway ...

At the start of the year I will be sending out a "Winter Comforts Basket" to one lucky reader. This basket will be filled with little random seasonal comforts and joys. I've been giving you "sneak peeks" each week during my Friday tea posts, and there will be one or two other surprises, as well. To enter the giveaway, all you have to do is send me a picture of your favorite cup or mug - whatever you use to drink your beverage of choice in the cold winter months. Please email me your picture(s) with description here ...

drhanigan AT gmail DOT com

I will share your submission in one of my daily teatime posts and then on New Year's Eve I will announce a winner!

I hope to hear from you! In the meantime, take care of yourselves and your loved ones ...

I will see you all here again very soon!


Advent Tea, Week 2: Plants & Peace

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Hello my friends, and Happy Friday!

And what a fine Friday this is - beautifully bright if perhaps a little colder than is seasonably acceptable in these parts. ***brrrrr*** Still, it's one of those days that make being cozy at home seem all the more wonderful. Well, whatever the weather, I'm so glad to be here and share a cup of something hot and happy with you all ... to slow down for just a moment and catch up. It's hard to believe, but we're making our way through our second week of Advent now, and I hope the season is unfolding in a way that feels right and good for you and your family. I also hope you've all been enjoying our daily "tea with friends" posts! I am very grateful to all who have shared their cups (and thoughts) with us so far this month ... and so pleased there are many more to come!

So this week in my own family's Advent journey we are finding peace in the natural world around us - in trees, plants, and the spices and herbs that are special to this sacred season. We began on Sunday, St. Barbara's Day, with an easy little craft, preparing a small vase to hold our feast day branches. (Legend says that branches snipped on December 4th will bloom come Christmas morning ... this has never failed us before!)

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The vase is an inexpensive terra cotta pot I purchased at the craft store. I spread glue on the sides and wrapped the bottom section with twine and then, using a hot glue gun, covered the upper rim with cloth floral stickers. (Bill sealed the little hole in the bottom of the pot with hot glue so it would hold water.) Next we added forsythia branches from the yard and a few pretty (craft) pine cones just to anchor those branches (and add visual interest). I think it came out very pretty! We'll be making a few more of these for teacher gifts this year ...

But now, about today's Tea ... :)

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Actually, today we're enjoying a hot winter wassail instead of my usual tea. It's easy enough to make your own, but this bottled blend from Trader Joe's is very yummy and quick to prepare. Just heat it up and - voila! - a hot cup of Christmas cheer at the ready! I floated an apple slice on top for an extra bit of fun ...

Would you care to join me in a cup? A little something sweet and spicy to warm us as we walk through my frosty gardens?

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The above photos were taken after an overnight snow, when everything was crunchy icy. Yes, I think we might be in for a white Christmas if this cold and active weather pattern holds over the next couple of weeks! We still have our "mild" days though, and so after yesterday's thaw, we harvested some moss from the stone wall ...

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... to add to our indoor Advent Garden. :)

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As I described in this post, we are rejoicing in God's glorious earth throughout Advent. One of our rituals is the tending of an indoor Advent Garden and we're reveling in the anticipation, slowly building up our tabletop terrarium with a new layer of life each week. Last week we added stones and soil, while this week we added some plants (the aforementioned moss) ...

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Oliver thought this was a GREAT idea.

And the boys found things in their Advent pockets this week that also reflected our theme ... a poinsettia, peppermint candy, fresh mint and evergreen sprigs. Each item symbolized a simple activity or treat or outing ... something to channel some of that wonderful Advent energy!

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Oh, also here in the kitchen - a new bottle of hand soap on the counter. This is such a little thing but I just love changing up the sink soap with the season. :)

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In New England, a touch of frost, a sprinkling of snow and the hint of spices in the air ... these are all hallmarks of the Advent season! Clove, allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg, mint, citrus, apple and cranberry ... these are the "inside plants" we're exploring this week. As you see below, I brought out the mortar and pestle so the kids could try grinding some whole spices ...

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I'll be perfectly honest, this activity lasted all of two minutes. Not that it didn't appeal wildly to the younger boys, but the whole "hitting things with a marble wand" was getting a little out of hand. (Straying from the bowl to the table, fingers, etc.) Still, it was a fun activity and the kitchen smelled really good. :)

Soon I'll be starting fruitcakes ...

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... and we'll be filling small muslin bags with a mulling spice blend I purchased. These will be given as gifts along with fresh apples and pretty mugs. And speaking of pretty mugs ...

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Isn't this cup lovely? It is a very generous size and the golden letters spell out PEACE ... with snowdrops and winter greenery all around. I can see myself using this all season ...

AND .... if you enter my Winter Comforts Basket giveaway ... you might be enjoying it too! This mug will be one of the goodies tucked inside that basket. :)

Before we go, let's talk books and planners for a moment ... two favorite subjects of mine! Here are some of the reads we're enjoying this week ... 

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The bottom two are for the boys (still waiting on a few library requests to come in) and the rest are for me! :)

I'm taking some time this week to revisit one of my favorite author/illustrators, Tasha Tudor. I find such comfort and inspiration in her work - her children's books are family favorites - but I especially admire the way she lived her life. Not that we could all live quite as "off grid" as she did, but there is a lot to be said for "unplugging and slowing down" ... not just at Advent, but in any season. Forever Christmas was a gift from my dad many years ago, who bought this book in Tasha's home state of Vermont. I also absolutely love losing myself in the video, Take Peace: A Corgi Cottage Christmas. In this pile there is also a book of Christmas poems (a wonderful rec from my friend, Gill), my daily Advent read, and a fascinating little book about the folklore and tradition of Christmas plants.

I keep this pile of books stacked in a hopeful fashion beside my favorite reading chair ... I've been determined to find a little reading (and resting) time every day. :)

Late in the afternoon, with the sun heading for bed quite early, I took my cup of wassail to the library, so I might sit at my writing desk and get to work on our Christmas cards ...

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Yes, I am just that selfish enough that I need not one, but two desks, lol! The one in the family room (where I am sitting at this very moment) is for my computer and file crate and bill basket, etc. The white window writing desk you see above I keep for ... well, writing! It feels just a little bit "Jane Austen" to sit down at this desk and pen a chatty bit of correspondence to a friend. In January I will share a more thorough post on this happy writing corner ... as I get my holiday thank-you notes in order!

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Now in this "aerial" photo I spy two more small items that will pop up in that Winter Comforts Basket! A small tin of Trader Joe's body butter - just lovely for dry winter skin - and a small monthly purse planner (though in a different print than the one shown here). Fun little things to bring a smile to your winter days ...

Speaking of planners - parked here is my Day Designer and as I mentioned on Instagram last night, I don't usually do much with stickers and whatnot, but I found some very pretty ones at Paper Source this past week and I had to indulge. That washi tape especially is just SO so pretty. 

**

Well my friends, I will wrap up for now, but I hope you enjoyed our time together, sharing another cup of Advent Tea! I have several friends lined up to share tea with you all again next week (every day at 4:00!) and then I will return again on Friday with another longer post. Next week our family's Advent theme is "Joy in the Woodland."

Remember, if you'd like to join us for Advent Tea please send me a picture (or pictures) of your favorite cup by email: drhanigan AT gmail DOT com. I'd love to hear about your cup and any other Advent thoughts you'd like to share! Your pictures will be featured in a daily teatime post and you will be entered in my Winter Comforts Basket giveaway. I'll announce a winner on New Year's Eve and send the basket out shortly after the new year begins. :)

For now though, I will wish you all a wonderful weekend and as always, I thank you sincerely for stopping by. Take care of yourselves and your loved ones ...

See you here again very soon!


Advent Tea, Week 1: Stones, Stars & Shortbread

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Hello my friends and Happy Friday! Did this week go by REALLY fast or is it just me? Seriously - it feels like we were just finishing up Thanksgiving dinner and now here we are nearing the end of the first week of Advent! 

Well, at any rate - welcome! Thank you so much for stopping by and, goodness - please come on in out of the cold and let me offer you something warm to drink. Or maybe it's raining where you are ... or perhaps it's perfectly sunny and warm? But whatever the weather, please do come in! Let's pause together for some rest and refreshment ... time passes too quickly nowadays. We should sit down and savor the season while we can!

Now, my Tea theme this week, as you've probably gathered from the post title, is reflective of where we are in Advent this week. As described in yesterday's post, our family's Advent is a celebration of God's beautiful creation, because the whole world waits together for the miracle of life (and light) to return! Just as the earth goes quiet and dark at this time of year, we too slow down and turn inward, looking for ways to light the path before us ...

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2:43 p.m. and yes, the sun is going down ...

So this week we are focusing on the beauty of "earth and sky" - stars, stones, shells, sun and soil. We'll be making crafts that utilize and rejoice in these blessings of creation. Because when you take the time to really observe and think about these things - particularly if you look through the eyes of a child - you get such a sense for how wondrous our world truly is.

And for me personally, I really do relish crafting with natural materials ... these kinds of projects, most of which become gifts or tree ornaments, just seem especially meaningful to me. :)

Ok, so I have several things to tell you about, but let's start with my tea mug this week ...

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This mug is an oldie but goodie and some readers might recognize it since I've shared it a few times before! But it's my favorite and most comfortable mug. And though it feels wintry to me, I use it all year round. And today in this mug I'm enjoying another old Advent favorite - Harney & Sons' Holiday Tea. This is a black tea blended with subtle spices with a lovely vanilla-type of taste. (I don't believe there's any vanilla in the tea itself, but it just seems creamy and comforting to me.) It's GREAT with a wee bit of sugar and a healthy dose of whole milk. :)

The shortbread you see on the plate - one piece for me, one for Little Bear - was baked Wednesday in honor of St. Andrew (of Scotland). Maybe it's because I'm part Scottish (my maternal grandmother was born in Edinburgh), but shortbread is my hands-down favorite type of cookie! I just love the simplicity of shortbread - the flavor and texture is perfect to my mind (or I should say, palate). I'm always tempted to dip the ends of the bars in melted dark chocolate or thick caramel but then never do. Maybe I'll try that for Christmas this year.

In these pictures you can see I was sitting in a rather sunny spot ...

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The kitchen table gets such wonderful light all day. Usually I "take tea" in the library, but this is where I spread out yesterday - it was bit of a "working" tea. ;)

Here is a closer picture of our Advent Garden-in-progress ...

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Last year we set up an Advent Garden on the patio and while I enjoyed having it there very much, I decided to do something different this year. (Ok, truth be told I had a much larger scale project in mind originally - turning a small section of the yard into a grotto of sorts - but that was deemed a project better suited to spring!)

So instead, we're bringing our garden indoors. Throughout Advent, each week we will add a new layer of creation to this terrarium bowl. This week we've added stones (and soon to come soil), then next week will be plants (aka moss from the garden). In the third week of Advent, we'll add some small animal figures, and then finally, in the last week before Christmas, we will celebrate our own kingdom of creation, humankind - with tiny peg people and little wooden houses.

I'm really excited for this project and I love how it's being done in stages ... really highlighting the "waiting" aspect of Advent. It's certainly piqued the curiosity of my cats and kids ... and even guests to our home!

Now the candles around the bowl technically number 23 instead of 24 - but you didn't hear that from me. *wink* It's all I could scrape up! I had purchased glittery battery-lit tealights for this project but then they didn't really all fit ... size-wise nor sense-wise. (Glitter is lovely but not necessarily, natural.) Then I remembered my collection of beeswax tealights and thought how much more fitting they would be. Some have already been burned a little but that's ok. We'll light a candle each night throughout Advent (one will be lit twice) and that will be another nice way for us to pace ourselves a bit. To gather around the supper table and talk about the good things that happened that day ...

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Here are a couple of stories we're reading during this week of "stones and stars." Three Pebbles and a Song is actually one of our November books but I kept it aside just for this week. It is such a sweet little tale, perfect for this time of year - all about preparing for the long winter and appreciating that we all have gifts to offer. The illustrations - in grays, blues, browns and beige - perfectly suit these bleak days of early December. And another favorite book is this retelling of the fairy tale The Star Child - with its gorgeous illustrations and heartwarming tale of generosity and selflessness. I love how the little girl in the story is so selfless and never once hesitates to hand over something of her own to help another in need. Little ones might fret a bit over the girl's condition (as she slowly sheds her belongings) but her reward at the end of the story is simple and satisfying. 

Speaking of stories ....

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Another thing I'm doing this year is creating an Advent nature story to share with my younger boys - in particular my Little Bear who loves to snuggle and "hear stories."  I bought a couple of bags of "river" stones at the craft store (they're cleaner and more uniformly shaped than our yard stones!) and each stone is painted with a symbol from nature. The story is very simple (just a few lines a day) but it leads us towards Christmas in a way that meanders through creation ...

So ... we begin with a sleepy sun, a friendly starfish, a lonely rock, and a generous star ... and then next week we'll meet proud trees and humble plants ... later on there will be hungry birds, silly crows, clever bees ... and at last ... a humble home, a friendly barn and a very loving family. :)

I'm storing the stones in the 24 little drawers of that wooden Advent tree seen below, and each day we'll pull out a stone, tell its tale (Earlybird can read the card) and then nestle it in amongst the green branches.

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I'm having a lot of fun with it so far! And the boys seem intrigued. :) And since my artistic talents are somewhat limited, I have enlisted our resident 17 year-old artist, Crackerjack, to help me out with painting the stones ... 

Now I have one more thing to show you ... something that will be part of my "Winter Comforts Basket" giveaway!

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These pretty soaps are made by a company called Hand in Hand, and whether you buy them for yourself or a friend (online or at Target), they are a gift that truly gives back. Because for every purchase, HiH gives a month's worth of soap and clean water to a needy child.  These soaps are so well-crafted, softly-scented, earth-friendly AND gorgeously-wrapped. (I love the subtle colors and natural themes!) I'm giving several people on my gift list a bar of this beautiful soap, and ...

... whoever wins my "Winter Comforts Basket" will receive one as well!

(Remember - to enter my Winter Comforts Basket giveaway, all you have to do is send me a picture of your favorite mug or cup. It can be a special one you use at the holidays, throughout the winter, or any old day. You can send me your picture by attaching it to an email (send to drhanigan AT gmail DOT com). Feel free to tell me as much as you'd like about your mug - we love to talk tea here! (And cocoa, coffee, mulled cider, etc.!) I will share these pictures in my weekly Tea posts and then, on New Year's Eve, I will randomly pick a winner! 

So without further ado, here are this week's Tea Friends ... :)

From Elizabeth: "I'm sending you a picture of my favorite mug that I use all the time. I love to enjoy hot chocolate, herbal tea and spiced apple cider in the evenings. Especially with a good book or favorite episode of a beloved TV show or movie."

Friends Tea 1

 

From Lauren: "For your tea post, I wanted to share my favorite tea cup that I use during the winter season."

Friends Tea 2

 ❤

From Heather: "I have to share more than one ... They are all perfect for the season! Happy Advent!"

Friends Tea 3

"My Pioneer Woman Christmas Tree Mug."

Friends Tea 4

"My 'Home is the Nicest Word There is' Mug."

Friends Tea 5

"My Mary and Martha "Lovely" Mugs."

Friends Tea 6

"And these little glass mugs in our hot chocolate bar!"

 ❤

And from Gill:

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

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

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

Wishing you a very peaceful Advent ..."

***

Oh my goodness, wasn't that fun? I just love talking "tea" (etc.) with friends. I do so wish we could all sit down in person and chat, but I guess for now this is the next best thing. (Maybe someday I'll figure out that periscope trend, lol ... or maybe host a "seasonal tea" webinar??)

My sincere thanks to Elizabeth Mary, Lauren, Heather and Gill for sharing their beautiful cups! I loved seeing them and hearing their thoughts on this cozy, happy topic!

And thank you all for joining me today ... I hope you enjoyed our teatime and hearing a little more about my family's Advent rituals. I will share Tea again here next Friday, and all are welcome to partake. If you'd like to send me a picture for the post (and giveaway!) please do so at your earliest convenience, by attaching a photo to an email addressed to ...

drhanigan AT gmail DOT com

I hope to hear from you! Until then, have a happy and restful weekend and I will see you all here again very soon!


Our 2016 Advent Calendar ~ Themes & Ideas

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Hello again, my friends! It's a busy posting week here as we get our Advent season underway! This Friday I will host my first Advent Tea - and I am so excited about that! - but right now I'd like to share with you what we're doing for an Advent Calendar this year. (Daily activities are listed below.) I've teased a few pictures on FB and IG but here are ALL the details ... :)

Now, first of all, I cannot take credit for this idea. I first saw it on Pinterest as I searched for "nature-oriented Advent ideas" which led me to this lovely blog post by Kelly Rowe. As soon as I saw Kelly's Advent calendar project - which brilliantly utilizes an over-the-door, 24-pocket shoe organizer - I knew immediately we must do this! I am ALL about interesting visuals and hands-on holiday projects, so needless to say ... this really got my wheels turning!

First I ordered a plain plastic shoe-organizer from Amazon and hung it up in the kitchen. I did this before Thanksgiving to give it some time to air out. (Our guests were wondering what on earth we were getting up to!) Then I got my thinking cap on and started brainstorming our Advent activities.

Just like last year (and in Waldorf tradition - though that's not why I do it) I assigned each week of Advent an aspect of nature. So the weeks unfold like this: earth and sky (11/27-12/4), plants (12/5-12/11), animals (12/12-12/18) and humankind (12/19-12/25).

*Note: if you're wondering why I connect the two concepts - Advent and Nature - my reasons are explained in this post. :)

Next I listed liturgical feast days and natural phenomena such as the full moon and winter solstice ... as well as birthdays and any family/community events. Then I started brainstorming potential activities, going from pages of scattered notes to a more organized grid of 24 post-it notes, one for each day of each week:

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As you can see in the picture above, I also added book titles to each day's note. Some of these we own, but many we request from the library. (Note to self - I've got to get on that!)

With our activities decided, it was time to get those 24 pockets filled! So after Thanksgiving I stopped by the craft store with a hefty supplies list in hand. Thankfully I had coupons, plus there were plenty of sales. It was a MADHOUSE though and about 10 minutes in ... I really just wanted to be done and go home! But I kept going and got most of the things I needed. (A few things will be ordered or picked up at a later date.) As you'll see in my activities list below, we don't really do candy or toys, but rather, simple crafts and seasonal projects. They might take a little more effort and preparation but I feel it's worth it ... :)

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Now I'll admit I'm a bit like a kid in a candy store when I'm at the craft store. Can anyone relate, lol? I try so hard to stick to my list, but then I keep seeing all these neat things and envisioning all these "potential" projects - so I can hardly resist picking up extra supplies "just in case." Sometimes that turns out to be a good thing though, because an original idea might not work out right and something I picked up randomly might work even better. In any case, I am not ashamed to say I have a pretty healthy craft stash - but it all gets used in one way or another before too long.

Ok, enough of my explaining myself ... ;)

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So now it was time to make that shoe organizer look pretty! So I tied a ribbon to each hook and wrote down the four weekly Advent candle themes (with a fabric marker) ...

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And then I decorated and filled each pocket ... 

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On the front of each pocket is a small beige doily with a woodland-themed adhesive chipboard number. (They look like a slice of log with a little holly sprig and a red number.) I found these in the final moments of my HOUR-long craft store expedition! Just as I was about to give up on finding number stickers I liked, I stumbled across (literally) this last package dangling from a hook. And they are so perfect! If they had had a second package I would have bought more ...

Each pocket was then fitted with a small brown treat bag ...

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... and then filled with a few simple items.

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Some bags just have one or two things that will suggest what it is we'll be doing (while the bulk of the supplies are set aside).

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I really, really love how this came out!

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Now admittedly, it will be a challenge to keep my younger two boys out of these pockets! Earlybird (growing like a weed) can peek into most of them and Little Bear is just the right height (and age) to be filching through the lower bags whenever he gets a chance! So far though they are taking it to heart that they MUST keep their hands off ... and wait for it. 

In the meantime, I have a "key" to all these bags and I will check in with it each night. If tomorrow's project doesn't seem "doable" (due to time, energy or weather) I will change things up before morning comes - by either switching bags around or changing a bag's contents for something simpler.

Now finally, here is the description of each pocket - organized by weekly themes and listed by ...

Date: (items found in the bag), activities for the day, the book we will read. :)

Week One: Earth and Sky (Hope)

12/1: (stationary) Write a letter to Santa. What are you hoping for? The Christmas Cat

12/2: (starfish) Make a shell ornament for the tree. Song of the Stars

12/3: (pipe cleaners, colorful beads) Make a star ornament. The Christmas Star

12/4: (decorative items and paint) Decorate a small vase for our St. Barbara's Day branches. Let's hope they bloom by Christmas! The Star Child

Week Two: Plants (Peace)

12/5: (silk poinsettia bloom) Field trip to the nursery to buy poinsettia plants. (gifts) It's so peaceful in the greenhouse. The Legend of the Poinsettia

12/6: (candy canes & cocoa packs) Enjoy a special St. Nicholas Day treat! The Baker's Dozen: A Colonial American Tale

12/7: (mint sprig) Make mint-scented play-dough and small jars of mint-sugar-scrub. (gifts). Mint is a calming, peaceful herb. The Legend of the Candy Cane

12/8: (apple, small star cookie cutter) Enjoy a cup of spiced cider and grind spices for "glogg." The Tomten

12/9: (muslin spice bags, cinnamon stick, lemon) Fill spice bags (gifts) and help make a dried fruit garland. Amazing Peace: A Christmas Poem

12/10: (evergreen sprig) Make salt dough ornaments (with evergreen impressions), make silver pinecones (gifts). Cobweb Christmas

12/11: (red candles): Walk with dad to find our yule log in the woods. Isn't it peaceful out here? Christmas Farm

Week Three: Animals (Joy)

12/12: (polar bear wooden ornament) Let's learn about the arctic! What can we do to help the polar bear? Who's That Knocking on Christmas Eve?

12/13: (reindeer lantern) Field trip to a local farm to see the lovely herd of reindeer. The Wild Christmas Reindeer

12/14: (new train ornament and "15" candles) Happy Birthday, EB! Here's the story of when you were born ... A Night of Great Joy

12/15: (colored Christmas light bulbs) Look outside - our solstice tree is all lit up! We hope the critters enjoy! Night Tree

12/16: (baby food jar, white glitter) Make a snowglobe. Decorate the solstice tree with edible ornaments. The Animals' Santa

12/17: (beeswax) Make candle jars and rolled candles. (gifts) An Early American Christmas

12/18: (mitten-shaped cookie cutter) Bake sugar cookies with Mom. The Mitten

Week Four: Humankind (Love)

12/19: (jingle bell ornament) Watch the Polar Express as a family. Discuss trust. The Polar Express

12/20: (clementine) Bake clementine snowball cookies and watch The Snowman. Discuss friendship. An Orange for Frankie

12/21: (snowflake cupcake liners) Bake "welcome winter" cupcakes. Discuss comfort. Sleep Tight Farm

12/22: (nativity ornament) As night falls, a surprise in the garden (new nativity figures under spotlight). Discuss family. B is for Bethlehem

12/23: (frame ornament) Make a family picture ornament for the tree. Discuss love. The Christmas Story

12/24: (felt heart shape) Make a scented heart tree ornament (stuffed with wool and herbs). Discuss giving. The Christmas Baby

*** 

Ok so that was a very long post! But I hope you enjoyed hearing about our Advent Calendar project this year and that maybe you found a few new ideas for your family. I am really looking forward to giving a little of my time and energy each day this Advent to this project. I think my children will enjoy it - I KNOW I will enjoy it. I know it probably sounds like a lot, but truly, these are all simple activities. They won't take up too much of our day. We have a few other Advent rituals planned and I will discuss them a bit more in my Tea post on Friday ...

What a wonderful season this is! So rich with potential and promise ... a wonderful time to shape how our children view the world. The one they live in at home and the one they face when they step outside their doors. My HOPE is that I bring a little peace, a little joy and a whole lot of LOVE into their Advent journey. So grateful to have these days before us!

So enjoy the rest of your evening, my friends! I will see you here again very soon ... later on Friday ... with a cup of tea and some pics to share ... and more thoughts on this most wonderful time of the year. :)

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


Some Thoughts on My Advent Planning Sheets ❤

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Hello, my friends and a Good Tuesday to all! I hope your new week is off to a great start. :)

In today's post I'd like to share some thoughts on each of the sections in my Advent Planner. I had hoped to get this post up before the first Sunday in Advent, but alas, that was not meant to be. But here I am today ... so I'll get on with my notes before I get carried away rambling!

Note: Green or red text indicates one section (or box) from the Planner. I'm starting with the first sheet ...

Hopes for the Coming Season (Describe our ideal Advent atmosphere ...):

As I said in my earlier post, I think it's a great idea to sit down as a family and talk about the month of December and the season of Advent, in particular. Are we happy with the way the season has unfolded in the past? Were there aspects of Advent we missed that we'd like to include this year? I have pretty strong ideas about this time of year, and as the main family planner, things tend to go my way, lol. But our family plan should be just that - one that reflects the hopes of each family member.

Now, for me, I like a quiet and cozy Advent. I don't mind that there is all kinds of hustle and flash and noise out there ... but in here ... I try to keep things a little simpler. There is still joy for certain - but it's a joy tempered with a bit of restraint. We're building anticipation ... and fostering a quiet peace that is supported even by the nature all around. Darkness is descending outside, but there's a light growing steadily within us. In Winter the earth may slow down, but it's never completely still ...

I like to take my cues from nature when I can and I do feel Advent connects so beautifully to the natural world. I am always weaving nature into our family life, and this includes our faith life as well. I think it's because I see and feel and hear God so strongly when I am feeling a part of His amazing creation. He did this for us! He created this glorious world - every creature and every miraculous, awesome layer of life - and I am thankful for all of it. So for me, an Advent with "a natural feel" is deeply satisfying.

But practically speaking ...

I envision candles in the windows, lighting up dark December afternoons. The tree in the library imparting a similar glow as the sun sets earlier each day. Fresh greenery and old-fashioned decorations - some borrowed from nature, some found in the attic. As much time spent at home together as possible, with good scents in the air and the promise of something special on its way. We're busy, but there's a quiet purpose to our busy-ness. Soft Christmas music as we drive around town ... noticing nature whenever we can with daily walks around the yard, taking care of our animals (both wild and domesticated). A few busy baking and crafting days planned so we can feel part of the season's bustle!

But that's me ... others might want a different feel to their Advent. My kids might want to be out and about a little bit more - their audio selections are probably a little different too! I'm sure if they were asked to think about it, they'd have their own ideas about this beloved season - and I want to hear them!

(Remember this section is for describing our "ideal" atmosphere - not always realistic, but something to work towards!)

This Year's Advent Calendar Project (How will we count down the days?):

An Advent Calendar is a special tradition for a lot of families. We do something every year to count down the days until Christmas. I use this as an opportunity to give my children something meaningful to do that will burn a little energy! Having something small to look forward to each day is a nice way to pace that Advent joy! Because I love crafting I tend to come up with a new idea every year, but it's usually connected with the natural world and special liturgical feast days. (I have a post coming up about this year's project!)

Advent Countdown:

In this box I will be noting each day's planned activity. It takes me a bit to get to this point ... I start with brainstorming themes and general ideas and then I narrow things down into individual activities - a la post-it note planning.

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I arrange the notes under their week - according to theme and any special days of note.

Family Holiday Traditions (What do we most look forward to?):

Another "agenda item" for the pre-Advent family meeting! It's always neat to find out what things really make the holidays for different people. A trip to the Tree Farm ... Secret Santa ... Christmas Breakfast ... Midnight Mass ... watching A Charlie Brown Christmas ... singing carols ... lighting the Advent wreath ... driving around town to see the lights ... Grammie's gingerbread  ... adopting a needy child's Christmas List ... visiting a beloved relative ... displaying cards from friends and family ... ?

These are the kinds of things we might want to work into that Advent plan!

Gatherings:

It is what it says it is! I will use this section to plan our annual Family Christmas Gathering. (Christmas Day, late afternoon.) I might also print a second copy in case we host a second (or rather, first) gathering with Bill's side of the family on Christmas eve. Actually, come to think of it, I might also print a third copy for Earlybird's family birthday party! (Which takes place on the weekend before Christmas.)

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Savoring the Season:

This is where I go a little outside the lines of a traditional holiday planner. These are concepts that are very important to me during Advent and so I designated a special spot for each area of planning.

Creating cozy corners, finding moments of peace ...

I try to envision where it would be nice to have a spot for resting and reflecting. Near the tree, perhaps ... with all the necessary comforts around me. A basket of books and a couple of throw blankets. Maybe a special journal and pen. Then I try to find a regular time for getting myself into this space each day, even if it's only for 30 minutes. I think of this place as my charging spot. :) I also like to place a pretty candle (or candles) in my kitchen window. For one thing, this spot is out of reach of my kids - and for another, the window faces the setting sun. On December days, setting my own little light against the gathering darkness is a wonderful feeling. :)

For the kids, a quiet place where they too can feel cozy and peaceful is such a nice idea. Reading corners are perfect for this, but so too are bedrooms! I like to make up my boys' beds with flannel sheets and ask Bill to add some lights, too. And how about a special Christmas bath time? It's very simple to pick up some seasonally-scented soap or bath gel - pine, clove, peppermint, orange, etc. Or better yet, find a recipe for a natural herbal blend if time allows! (Note to self for next year!) The older kids can use the bath products as they shower and younger children will enjoy a bath with sweet scents and maybe even a little holiday lighting? A candle in the window or a holiday nightlight perhaps?

Special time with the children ...

Christmas is especially beautiful when you have children to join you in celebrating! Our Advent Calendar project will provide the boys with daily "special time," but I also like to plan a separate activity for each of my children. The older boys and I will visit our favorite bookstore for a little browsing and a delicious holiday beverage. We'll also plan a fun family movie night for after the younger boys are in bed. Earlybird and I will be delivering goodies to community friends (the mailman, the postal office, the librarians). And Little Bear (my nature nut) will receive a new Advent story stone every morning ... :)

This is also a good time to consult those ideas mentioned by my kids when we held our family meeting!

 Enjoying Advent in nature ...

This is where I'll jot down ideas for bringing nature into my own Advent. In addition to our Advent Calendar activities (most of which are nature-related), I like to plan some opportunities for sending off autumn and welcoming winter myself. Gazing upon the sunset each evening as I work in the kitchen. Feeding the birds (and squirrels) and sitting by the window to watch them flit about the garden. Taking a walk under the stars with my best fella. Stopping by a favorite pond to admire the quiet, resting habitat. Noticing the frost in the morning. Working with favorite natural materials as I bake and craft (spices, herbs, beeswax, wool, shells, pretty stones, pinecones, etc.).

Baking-making days ...

Crafting and baking (especially making gifts to give) is a big part of the season for us (me especially) but it's one thing to say I'm going to bake a lot and craft a bunch, and another thing entirely to have the time to do just that! So again, looking at the calendar with the family and budgeting in a few days when there will be adequate time at home, a bit earlier in the season, will be key in making it happen. 

Family Attire (Special clothing for special events ...):

Who needs what? What holiday occasions require a particular kind of outfit - something dressy for an elegant event, festive outerwear for a tree lighting or skating party, a funny sweater for a family party, holiday PJs for Christmas morning! 

Outside Decorations (Shining our light ...): 

A space to take inventory of outdoor decorations - lights, wreaths/swags/garlands, garden flag, figurines, creche, etc. What needs replacing or new batteries/bulbs? Also, for us, it's a good idea to pick a weekend to devote to setting up these decorations. We actually don't do a lot but it still takes us some time! (And patience, lol.) Perhaps plan a special warming meal for the hard workers and helpers! Crockpot chili comes to mind ...

Inside Decorations (Adding festive touches here and there ...):

As above - we start by taking inventory. We bring down the Christmas bins once the fall bins have been packed away! Then I work on setting out decorations through the first week (or sometimes two) of Advent. I'm in mid-transition right now, fall to winter ... hoping to add my "festive touches" this weekend while Bill and the boys get the outside and windows all arranged. (And of course, right now we have a 3 year old and a couple of young cats, so breakables are on a "break" for a few years.)

The Tree! (Theme? Notes ...):

Several things to think about here! Real or artificial? Where to get it - farm-fresh or pre-cut? Then of course, where does it go and do we have all the "stuff?" Stand, skirt, star, working lights? Who's in charge of keeping the tree watered? Are we doing a special theme or certain colors or just "anything goes?" Do we need any extra items or replacements? Are there little ones in the house and therefore a "soft" tree is the way to go this year? Is there a special tree blessing we could say as a family? Should we have a tree-trimming party? And we must be sure to leave room for all the ornaments we'll be making this Advent!

Family Faith Traditions (Keeping things real ...):

In all we do throughout Advent, I hope the undercurrent is the sweet anticipation of our most Holy Night - and not just because Santa is coming! I hope to share with my children the wonder and appreciation I feel for the world God has created because He loves us so much. I hope to instill in them a sense of gratitude for the vastness of our blessings. I hope to share with them the joy that is living with Christ by our side. I hope to foster a sense of peace in our family, that it might be our small part in striving for peace among all people. I hope our own inner light shines so brightly the darkness of the world shrinks before us. I hope to kindle a love for all mankind, especially our nearest and dearest. These are my highest goals when shaping our Advent plans ...

But those are lofty goals, aren't they? ;)

I guess what I hope is that our family's faith is lived out in our most common days ... sometimes in the simplest of ways but also in special observances. At Mass or during a quiet, prayerful conversation at home. I hope we achieve a good balance, and I hope I do the best I can by my family. I think it's easy to get caught up in society's view of this season - the candy canes and silver lanes and elves that sit on shelves. And truly all those are special, fun things - but I like to be sure we're remembering what it is we're really celebrating here ...

All that said, our family faith traditions are sacred to us but understandably not for everyone, and that's as it should be. I point out to my children that we all celebrate the year differently and all families are to be respected however they live out this particular season. In other words - whether you wish us Happy Holidays or Merry Christmas or Blessed Yule, we will be honored you shared a smile and a bit of your own faith tradition with us. :)

Town & Parish Events (Special activities, service opportunities ...):

A listing of things we'd like to consider for participation. The Village Tree Lighting or the Angel Tree at Church - things like that. Once we know what is happening we can decide what fits our time, resources and expectations best. (I check our parish bulletin and tri-town newspaper for information and ideas!)

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Errands & To-Dos:

Well, this is pretty self-explanatory! Here I list where I need to go and what I need to do. Stop by the post office for more stamps. Order Christmas cards. Order cookie packages. Clean this-that-and-the-other-thing before guests arrive. I like to keep organized about these kinds of things because it keeps our Advent a little more peaceful. As hard as I try to stay calm about things, I can get as stressed as the next mom when Christmas draws near and important tasks are left undone. Plus, if I have that list handy (and written up early) I can delegate more smoothly!

Recipes & Projects to Try (*find on Pinterest):

I use Pinterest for keeping these kinds of things organized but I am using this section to make note of the pins I really want to remember! If you're interested, here are my pin boards called 2016 Planner: November-December and Happy Christmas. :)

Advent Week-by-Week:

This section can either be used for a breakdown of To-Dos (what needs to be done each week) or a breakdown of themes. The four Advent candles represent Hope, Peace, Joy and Love ... and this could be a place for reflecting on those themes, how each concept might be woven into your family's week. I'm actually writing out notes for my Advent Teas here! ❤️

Gift-Giving:

Also self-explanatory! I'm waaaay behind on this!

Our Season's Greetings:

Another obvious section! :) I've just ordered our cards and will be organizing the addresses over the next few days. Got my Christmas stamps, so that's done! I'm going to set up a little "work" basket at my writing desk in the library. I will share how it all looks in my Week Two Advent Tea. :)

Advent Calendar:

Can I just say I really like how this calendar came out? :) Bill helped me with it and I was so excited to find a way to make those blocks lined! I may be using this template to make up some monthly calendars to go along with my 2017 planning sheets. But that's getting ahead of myself (though not by much!) and off-topic! In this planner I will use it specifically for Advent-related activities. 

And finally ...

Notes:

A space for anything that doesn't fit anywhere else! :)

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So there we have it, friends! My notes on Advent planning and then some! I hope this was helpful or at least fun to read. I can hardly believe Advent is already underway! I have my first Advent Tea planned for this coming Friday (and there will be one each Friday throughout Advent). I would love to see your favorite mug (or cup) for tea (or coffee or cocoa) and if you send me a picture of it I will share it in one of my Tea posts AND enter you in my Winter Comforts Package giveaway. You can send me your pic(s) by sending an email to:

drhanigan AT gmail DOT com

I hope you'll join me for Tea!

Also, I have another post I hope to get up in between now and Friday (I know, I'm setting more of those lofty goals, lol) describing our Advent Calendar this year. I am so happy with how it's come out! Some of you might have seen a little of it on Facebook or Instagram (or both) but I'll share a pic here too ....

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(Speaking of pics, the ones above are from a beautiful book illustrated by Eloise Wilkin. I absolutely adore this book and in particular, those two illustrations. They are so perfectly in line with the kind of simple, homey, natural Advent I aspire to!)

Ok, I've kept you long enough - I'm off! I wish you all a pleasant evening. Please drop a note if  you have time. I'd love to hear from you! :)

BLESSED ADVENT!


Planning Sheets for Advent & Christmas ~ from Me to You!

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Hello and Happy Friday, my friends! I am back with those planning sheets as promised, so before I get on with my post, here they are:

Celebrating Advent & Christmas Planning Sheets (a 14-page PDF document)

And here's a second set of Advent planning sheets for writing down daily reflections:

Advent Daily Journaling Pages (11/27-12/24)

And now, a little about why I made up these sheets and how I'm going to use them ... :)

Very simply, I love planning - paper planning in particular - and now that I've figured out how to create personalized planning sheets with a seasonal flair  ... well I must say, I'm a little addicted! I've created planning sheets for each week of the year and recently, a Thanksgiving Day planner, too. Needless to say, Advent deserves a few planning sheets of its own!

But the tricky thing about Advent is - it's such a special time of year and so highly anticipated - but too often our reality falls far short of our "vision." So we have all these meaningful intentions but then all of a sudden it's Christmas Eve and ... we're not at Midnight Mass or sipping cocoa by the fire (or in bed early!) as we'd hoped. Instead, once again, we're scrambling to run last-minute errands and finish all those Christmas to-dos. Feeling all edgy and exhausted and maybe even - dare I say it - a little bit scroogey.

So the first step in sticking with a vision is a plan. A plan is always a good place to start ... but a realistic plan is even better! And by realistic I mean - something that will reflect your family's real situation, not what everyone else seems to be doing. Praying over an Advent wreath each night might seem right for your family ... but maybe not. Perhaps a star-lit walk through the forest is more appealing? Or a car-ride to look at the neighborhood lights. Younger children rely on us to start (and keep) traditions but older kids may have their own ideas and expectations. So talk with your family about their own seasonal hopes! What does their Advent vision look like? What makes the holiday - and the days leading up to it - for each of them? How can you pare down the have-tos to make room for the hope-tos? Maybe get everyone on board with a little more family-time this month? Then - together - build space into the family schedule for the wants and the needs. (And I mean this literally - work with a calendar and mark out those times!) Divvy up some of those holiday tasks, too. If you're like me, you may feel like most of it needs to be done by you ... or it just won't get done right. Well, that's not doing anyone any favors, least of all us! (I admit - I'm a bit of a control freak, lol.)

Try to organize some in-home, family-only activities - an evening movie with popcorn, an hour of gift wrapping followed by hot cocoa, a baking afternoon with favorite music - those times need to be scheduled as much as any outside commitment! I say this from experience! Create rituals and visuals that help keep everyone in the Advent spirit and on the Christmas ball ...

As with all the year's seasons - but especially at Advent - there's just so much to enjoy, and so many little things that might get swept away with the rushing of time and to-dos. This is why I make up seasonal planning sheets. They are my gift to myself and my family - a way of slowing us down and keeping us aware of the smallest blessings. I'd guess my schedule is as busy as anyone's, but I am happiest when I am feeling a part of the season - not standing aside watching it pass by. And you all know what they say about a happy mama ... !

As for how I plan to use these sheets, - well, just as I do with my weekly planning sheets, I'll be filing them in my homekeeping binder. In the spirit of keeping things simple, I'm trying not to spread my thoughts and my stuff out too far. Keeping my "tools" to a minimum, so to say. Because my binder is open on my kitchen counter all the time, and because I'm already in there keeping my family's week in order - then this is where I'll be planning our Advent.

(Or at least, that's the general idea.)

Note: When I print out the documents, I choose two-sided and then three-hole punch the sheets to fit in my binder. You might print them the same way but use a slimmer binder devoted to holiday planning. (Decorating the cover with some pretty stickers or clippings from magazines perhaps.) Or you could print the pages one-sided and keep them on a handy clipboard. As for making them portable, the slimmer binder would be easy enough to pop in your bag or you could do as I do - I take a picture of the pages I need with my phone and then I have the information available to me when I'm out and about.

Now here are some planner visuals, just because ... :)

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The pretty December cover page in my binder - I love vintage scrapbook supplies! Purple flag marking the Advent planner's place in the binder ...

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Which is just behind this floral cover page, in front of the December calendar ...

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Here's my homekeeping binder on the left, parked next to my Day Designer ...

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And here it is as it looks today - November @ a glance calendar on the left, and this week's planning sheet on the right.

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And finally, here the binder is open to the Advent planning section itself. 

Well since I went on so long, in a follow up post - sometime next week - I will talk about each page of the Advent planner and how I plan to "tackle" all those boxes. Just some of my thoughts on each area of Advent planning. :)

But for now I'll wrap up because I've kept you quite long and I know you all have other things to do besides listen to me ramble! I myself am going to make another cup of tea and ... fold some laundry! Whoo ... I know, I'm living it up here today! Actually though, we spent the morning at a salt marsh with our homeschool Nature Club positively SOAKING in the glory of this beautiful November day. Even the car ride over and back was nice - nobody argued (I packed snacks) and we played the very last chapter of our current audiobook as we neared home. So the rest of the day stretches before me ... as does my task list! Because the house - which we left in a rush this morning - is in quite a state. Very glad I got in a little seasonal appreciation earlier today! So I'm off ...

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


Late Autumn Planning Sheets + Thanksgiving Printables!

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Hello my friends and Happy Thursday!

Today I'd like to share another set of my seasonal planning sheets with you - and this time we're heading into Late Autumn, as hard as that is to believe! The end of the year already? How the weeks have flown ...

So this is my last set of seasonal sheets since I began this series back in January, but this time around I'm very happy to share an extra set of sheets for Thanksgiving planning! My family hosts this annual holiday, and there's a lot that goes into planning such an event. Every year I make up a planner of some sort for myself but this year I decided to go beyond loose-leaf and make something more streamlined and printable. I had such fun putting this planner together, so naturally I wanted to share it with you all! (There are just four weeks till Thanksgiving, fyi!)

I am also working on a set of planning sheets for Advent and Christmas, and was really hoping to have them ready to share today, too - but alas - time got away from me! I will aim to post that set sometime next week ... :)

And not to get ahead of myself but, I will be tweaking ALL the seasonal sets from the past year to coordinate with next year's dates. (You can find them all in my Printables archive.) But more on all that in a moment! Here now are my Late Autumn planning sheets - eight weeks in all, running from Monday, November 7th through Sunday, January 1st (2017!).

Late Autumn Overview (Clean)

Late Autumn Overview (Dawn's)

Late Autumn Planning Sheets

Home Learning this Week (Late Autumn)

Thanksgiving Planner

Please let me know if you have any trouble opening these PDF files or if you notice any errors. (I looked them over and over but inevitably something escapes me!) Also, I'd love to hear if you're using these sheets and how you like them! :) As I mentioned above, I'm going to update all of last year's sheets so they can be used in 2017 and I'm changing things a bit to make them (hopefully) more efficient and easier to use. One thing you'll notice straight away (starting with this last seasonal set) is I'm using photos instead of clipart. I really loved the vintage clipart but going forward it will be easier to use my own "artwork," if you will - especially when it comes to copyright issues and such. Also, as you'll see in the Thanksgiving planning sheets, I've finally learned how to add lines to my boxes! Hooray for Bill who figured this out! I really love planners with lined spaces (I'm a stickler for neat handwriting - it just works better with my brain!) and so next year's set of planning sheets will also feature more soft lines for guiding lists and notes. 

Before I go, here is a picture of this week's sheet "in action."

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As I grow more and more fond of my printable planning sheets, I've been thinking about how to use them along with my current systems. I would like to discuss this further in a future post but for now, briefly ...

I keep the current week's sheet in my homekeeping binder - opposite the current month-at-a-glance (a neat printable found here). I have this binder open like this all day so I can refer to it as needed. To the right (not seen in this picture) is my Day Designer which organizes all the hourly nitty-gritty details of my day! 

So, there you have it - and I hope you enjoyed it! As I said, I really had a lot of fun creating these pages and I'm eager to get the Advent-Christmas planner pulled together as well. I will share that with you just as soon as I can, but for now, I wish you all well and thank you, sincerely, for stopping by ...

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


Our Seasonal Homeschooling Schedule!

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Hello my friends, and Happy Tuesday! :)

I hope you are all enjoying your September! We're having very nice weather here, if perhaps a bit warm for this time of year. Muggy, I guess you'd say. But I'm relishing the "late summer" feel to these days ... it will be so cold before we know it ... and it will stay cold for AGES.

Anyhoo, what I have here is my (long promised) outline of this year's weekly themes. I refer to this concept as "seasonal homeschooling," but really, these themes are woven into all areas of our family and home life. I'll be expanding on these themes in a future project but for now, I thought you might enjoy seeing what we'll be focusing on in the seasons ahead.

Now, some themes are pretty self explanatory, while others might seem more obscure. The goal for me is to highlight a simple hallmark of the season and weave it into our family's life experience. Some weeks it's just a general awareness of something - pointing things out, encouraging observation and discussion - while at other times we really dive in! It all depends on how busy we are and how appealing the theme might be! In the notebook where I keep this schedule, I also list any days of note, so I've included them here as well - they make sense for my family but they might not yours! I share them in case they may help you fill in your own calendar. :)

Mostly our themes connect with the natural rhythm of the year - this is something I've observed and enjoyed since I was very young - but there are also liturgical feasts listed here, as well as national holidays and family events.

Ok, onward we go ...

 

September

5 - autumn seeds (Labor Day, Back to School, Nativity of Mary, NFL Season begins, Patriot Day)

12 - at the autumn orchard (Holy Cross Day, Apple Picking field trip, Full Harvest Moon, Apple Festival)

19 - crows & corn (International Peace Day, Autumn Equinox)

26 - along the autumn hedgerow/dragons in the air (Johnny Appleseed Day, Michaelmas, St. Therese, Guardian Angels)  

 

October

3 - changing leaves (Fair Week, St. Francis, Blessing of the Pets, OL Rosary)

10 - in the autumn woods (Columbus Day, Full Hunters Moon, First Frost?)

17 - pumpkins on the vine (St. Luke's Little Summer, Our 23rd Wedding Anniversary)

24 - goodnight garden (Pre-Halloween Week)

31 - fading light (All Hallow's Eve, Gratitude Project, All Saints Day, All Souls Day, Daylight Savings Time ends)

 

November

7 - cozy nests (Election Day, Martinmas, Veterans' Day, Taurids)

14 - in the autumn bog (Full Frost Moon, Leonids, Fantastic Beasts, St. Elizabeth of Hungary, Christ the King)

21 - a thankful heart (Thanksgiving Day, Nana's Birthday, Advent begins)

28 - stone walls & rock gardens (Advent Week One, St. Andrew of Scotland, St. Barbara's Branches)

 

December 

5 - from the forest: evergreens (Advent Week Two, St. Nicholas, Uncle Eric's Birthday, Immaculate Conception, St. Juan Diego)

12 - the animals of Christmas (Advent Week Three, OL Guadalupe, St. Lucy, Full Cold Moon, Earlybird's & Papa's Birthday)

19 - gingerbread folk (Advent Week Four, Winter Solstice, Christmas)

26 - winter birds & bells (Boxing Day, St. Stephen, New Year's Eve/Day, Mary Mother of God, 1st Bird of the Year)

 

January

2 - winter stars (Epiphany)

9 - winter comforts (Full Wolf Moon, My Birthday, Baptism of the Lord)

16 - snowflakes in the air (MLK Jr. Day, Benjamin Franklin's Birthday, Inauguration Day, St. Agnes)

23 - icy days, frosty nights (Handwriting Day, Burns Night, Grandma's Birthday, Chinese Year of the Rooster, Days of the Blackbird begin ...)

30 - candles aglow (Days of the Blackbird, St. Brigid, Candlemas, Groundhog Day, St. Blaise, Superbowl Sunday)

 

February

6 - by the hearthside (Full Snow Moon, OL Lourdes, Abraham Lincoln's Birthday)

13 - Valentines (St. Valentine's Day)

20 - winter citrus (Presidents' Day, Chair of St. Peter)

27 - potted plants (Ash Wednesday/Lent begins, St. David's Day, March comes in like a lion ...)

 

March

6 - thaw (Full Sap Moon, Daylight Savings Time begins)

13 - returning light (St. Patrick's Day)

20 - pussy willows (St. Joseph, Vernal Equinox, The Annunciation, Laetare (Rose) Sunday/Mothering Sunday, Uncle Greg's Birthday)

27 - spring wind (March goes out like a lamb ...)

 

April

3 - at the spring pond (Palm Sunday)

10 - eggs at Eastertide (Holy Week, Full Pink Moon, Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Vigil, Easter Sunday)

17 - April showers (Earth Day, St. George's Day, Shakespeare's Birthday, Divine Mercy Sunday)

24 - faeries in our garden (St. Mark, Walpurgisnacht/May Eve)

 

May

1 - spring fire (May Day, Cinco de Mayo)

8 - in the meadow (Full Flower Moon, OL Fatima, The Freezing Saints, Mother's Day)

15 - milk & honey (St. Isadore the Farmer)

22 - fresh air (BC Commencement, Ascension Day, Little Bear's Birthday)

29 - a family garden (Memorial Day, The Visitation, Uncle Matt's Birthday, Pentecost Sunday)

 

June

5 - strawberries (Whit Monday, Full Strawberry Moon, Trinity Sunday)

12 - butterflies (Flag Day, Father's Day, Corpus Christi)

19 - the summer sun (Summer Solstice, Bookworm's Birthday, St. John's Eve/Day, Midsummer)

26 - medicinal herbs (Sts. Peter and Paul, St. Junipero Sierra)

 

July

3 - God Bless America (Grandpa's & Aunt Ami's Birthday, Independence Day, Full Thunder Moon)

10 - thunderstorms (Bill's Birthday, St. Kateri Tekawitha)

17 - farmstand (St. Mary Magdalene)

24 - seashells (St. James, Sts. Joachim and Anne)

 

August

31 - little harvest (St. Ignatius Loyola, Lammas Day, The Transfiguration)

7 - mermaid tales & tears (Full Green Corn Moon, Crackerjack's Birthday)

14 - blueberries (Assumption Day, Blueberry Festival)

21 - bats (Queenship of Mary, St. Rose of Lima)

28 - sunflowers (Labor Day Weekend, World Day of Prayer for Creation, Sunflower Field)

 

************

 

Well, there you have it! I will be adding to the list of events as the year goes along ... field trips and social gatherings come up as they do! And sometimes I switch themes up or continue one theme into the next ... I try not to sweat it too much! For instance, we are still looking around for autumn seeds (it was drizzly that week) and I switched up autumn orchard and crows/corn as they were originally scheduled - an apple picking opportunity came up and it just made more sense!

Now, as I've mentioned - once, twice, a thousand times before, lol - what I'm doing right now is building a book around these themes, something I'll most likely self-publish - and hopefully a planner as well. (Something along the lines of the seasonal planning sheets I've been sharing this year.) I am truly sorry I have not been able to finish up this project and make it available to you as I'd hoped to earlier in the year. All I can promise at this point is to keep writing and blogging and sharing and the very moment I have something (really) ready to go - I will let you know! Thank you for all your support and encouragement - I appreciate every bit of it, every kind word, thoughtful suggestion, and friendly "wave" across the Internet. :)

But for now, I will wrap this up because dinner prep has started in the kitchen and - from the sounds of it - clearly Mama's help is required!

Enjoy the rest of your evening my friends ... I hope to be back here again very soon!


My Early Autumn Planning Sheets (Printables!)

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Happy Sunday, everyone! I hope you are all enjoying your weekend! :)

Here in America we are celebrating Labor Day weekend, which means tomorrow is a holiday for most of us. It is also considered the unofficial "end of summer" since most children have returned to school by now. (We return to lessons Tuesday!) We're still summery though, weather-wise - after some rain and wind from Hurricane Hermine tomorrow, we are expecting a return to the 90s for the balance of the week! But this is how it goes at this time of year ...

The mornings and evenings ARE cooler and the light is different now, too. The signs of seasonal change are subtle, but -  if you pay attention - then over time instinctually you can tell when these little shifts are taking place. It feels good to be connected with the rhythm of the year. Like being privy to some vital (though often overlooked) information ...

But anyhoo - I am very happy to FINALLY present my next set of seasonal planning sheets to you ... once again with my sincere apologies to be so VERY last minute. sigh My computer crash definitely slowed me down this summer, but honestly, it just took me a while to get around to ironing out all the details! (Not just the plans themselves, but the colors and the clipart!) I have such fun, thinking about these kinds of things, though ... I have always maintained that if we don't plan for joy as carefully as we plan for work, then we might just miss out on a lot. Too much. There are way too many things I LOVE about autumn that I want to share with my children. And I now have a good idea just how fast the years fly ... my oldest "baby" is 21, while my newest is a very busy and delightful THREE. How did that happen?

I may not ever do everything in my plans but I am grateful for what we can do and glad I have made myself (and my family) aware of these kinds of things. These are the things that enrich the ordinary ... make the everyday special ... set one day apart from the next ... and remind us just how BLESSED we are to get to do it again, year after year ... as long as God allows.

Well, ok - time to get down to the nitty gritty! Here are the planning sheets for the next season ahead, which I call "Early Autumn" (September and October). I have my "themes and plans" overview first - one with my notes and one that is blank for you to fill up with your own ideas (though you're welcome to try mine!). Then there are the multi-week planning sheets - an overview that allows for space for you to plan a weekly theme, days of note, home & garden tasks, comforts & joys, meal plans and to-do's ... along with a little vintage clipart and a snippet of an idea from me. :) These go from this coming week (9/5-9/11) through the last week of Early Autumn (10/31-11/6).

And finally, there is a home learning planning sheet in complementary colors. You might use this differently if you don't homeschool - maybe just notes for each of your kids. Goodness knows our kids always have a lot going on! I myself have three boys I'm currently homeschooling so there is room for their lesson notes as well as a day-by-day overview. And if you need a different number of boxes, let me know - I can tweak my original and email you a new copy. :)

Early Autumn Overview (Dawn's)

Early Autumn Overview (clean)

Early Autumn Planning Sheets

Home Learning this Week (Early Autumn) 

I do hope these are of some use to you - I'd love to hear feedback if you have a minute! And please let me know if the links are wonky - I check on my end, but who knows what glitches might come to pass in cyberspace!

I will be back next - PROMISE - with the 52 seasonal themes. (I think that's the third time I've promised them!) And in another month or so - hopefully sooner than later! - I will be back with my last set of seasonal sheets, Late Autumn (November and December). It is my fond hope to publish these on the early side and include some holidays sheets in there too. But we shall see. So please stay tuned,  and thanks so much for stopping by! 

I will see you here again very soon ...


A Seasonal Paper Chain for Earlybird!

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Hello and Happy September, my friends!

Now, before I get into the meat of my post - did you all remember to say Rabbit Rabbit this morning? :)

I'm happy to say I did! Well, sort of. Since Little Bear had us up at 2 a.m. (wanting out of his bed and into ours), I may have muttered a little incoherently before I remembered to say the magic words ... ;)

So today I'd like to share a bit about the project I put together yesterday. I'm a little embarrassed to share it actually, since it's really a rather basic craft - one I'm sure many of you have seen and/or done yourself - one I've shared here myself a time or two! - but it just looks so pretty and I know a lot of you love paper as I do, and I think it's sort of a new twist on an old favorite ... so here goes!

A bit of backstory ... Earlybird, as most of you know, is autistic, and one of his challenges is a real preoccupation with "things happening now and/or next." Like, holidays and special events and things he really looks forward to. He will ask to talk all about say, Easter, in the middle of July and act like the Big Bunny himself might be appearing any minute now. Then, on a whim, he'll forget all about Easter and suddenly we're hashing out the Thanksgiving menu or he's wondering why we aren't getting our Christmas tree this weekend ...

Yes, he is his mother's son - a lover of seasons and special days! And his capacity for joy is so wonderful! But I'm always looking for ways to help him get a bit of a handle on his passion - and understand the passage of time and order of yearly events and all that. I have a few things going on this year that I hope will help him, but here's the first thing:

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A paper chain for counting down the days of fall and winter!

For this project, the first thing I did was buy paper for a chain lasting from September 1st  through January 1st. I chose "appropriate" paper for each month - an alphabet design in September (because, back-to-school), an orange print for October (because, pumpkins and Halloween), a beige wood-look for November (because, bare trees), red and white for December (because, Christmas!) and festive stars for the days leading up to New Year's. I also purchased a pack of pretty heart-shaped tags. (You'll see why in a minute.) 

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I cut the paper into strips for each day of each month (this was 12x12 scrapbooking paper so I got 10 strips per sheet) and set aside a number of hearts.

Next I worked late into the night to assemble the chain ...

Paper chain 1

No, just kidding. The lighting is just dark here - it didn't really take all that long. :)

Once it was all linked up, I hung it up in the sunroom-soon-to-be-schoolroom ... 

Paper chain 4

Paper chain 5

And I added a heart tag wherever a special day would be coming up on the calendar ...

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Paper chain 3

💙

So here's the paper-chain plan:

Every morning we'll take down the next link in the chain and then, on the back, we'll write something we remember about yesterday. (Preferably something positive!) Then I'll roll the strip up tight, tape it closed and pop it in a large container. On New Year's Day we'll go back and read through our memories. :)

(So today we remembered that yesterday we took time to check our our neighborhood creek and found it quite empty and dry. Not necessarily positive, lol - but we've determined to begin a little science project by observing the creek weekly for changes. EB has a special fondness for this creek.)

For Earlybird, I'm hoping the paper chain will give him a fun and visual way to increase his awareness of where we are in the year. So when he wants to keep watch for trick-or-treaters I'll point out that we're not even in the orange links yet, and the tag for Halloween is still many links away! And so forth ...

(I have tags for the first day of autumn, Halloween, Thanksgiving, EB's birthday, the winter solstice, Christmas, and New Year's Day.)

If this is successful, I will do the same thing for January through April, but that's getting ahead of myself! :)

The other things I'm doing with EB this year is ...

One - He will have his own month-at-a-glance calendar to manage (I love this style for its large, lined template). Every morning, when he sits down with his therapist at their work table, he will open his calendar, cross of the day before and see what today's date is and what is on the "agenda." I'm also adding notes and stickers to make it even more fun for him!

And, Two - I am making up a three-ring binder with tabs for all the holidays and events he likes to talk about and make lists for ... aside from the ones mentioned above, he also loves to plan out shopping days (to Whole Foods, usually), vacations (Disney, for example), family parties and playdates at my folks' house. We often use these lists for language work and he holds onto them and packs them up and takes them with him until they're practically falling apart. I thought I would have sheet-protectors in this binder where we can file all these things and when EB wants to talk about something we can use the binder for reference. Halloween candy we'll buy ... pages from a catalog with costumes ... recipes we cut out from magazines ... Thanksgiving menu and guest list ... a birthday wish list ... a letter to Santa ... etc. Honestly, he really does LOVE to think about and talk about these topics! I hope these activities nurture his interests, channel his energy and help him learn a little more about how the year turns ...

💙

Well my friends, I hope your September started out on a good note! Thanks so much for stopping by and next time, I will have my yearly seasonal themes to share. 

Take care of yourselves and your loved ones ... see you here again sometime soon!


Planning a New Year + a Peek at My Lesson Planner!

Seasonal homeschooling 2

Happy Tuesday, my friends! I hope your week's off to a great start!

These are heady days, aren't they? I just LOVE this time of year ... it's so full of promise and preparation. We're still enjoying the nice weather of late summer (warm, breezy, dry) but autumn is truly just around the corner so it's perfectly respectable to start planning ahead. (Great fun for those of us who love autumn and planning!) And while we're still in "vacation" mode here, it's definitely time to get our new year in order - plans, resources, learning space, official approval and all that. Part of that rhythm for me involves pulling together a lesson planner of some sort - a tool to help me iron out the year ahead. I'm very much an eclectic homeschooler, but I draw much inspiration from the Charlotte Mason and Waldorf styles of learning. Some years have leaned more one way than the other, but I am always better off with a PLAN of some sort in place.

So I thought today I'd give you a peek at the planner I've created - even though it's still under construction! This year I'm homeschooling a 17 year old, a 14 year old (with special needs) and a 3 year old who simply will not be left out of anything, lol. (Our 21 year old is a senior in college, so for the most part, he's out of my loop!)

Ok, here is the cover of my planner:

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It just makes me so happy ...

I started with a plain, one-subject, spiral-bound notebook I really like and covered it with a vintage alphabet scrapbook paper. (You can see the print in closer detail in my blog banner above.) I adhered the paper to the front of the notebook with some yellow washi tape and added a fun sticker on top. "Capture the Joy" sounds about right for a homeschooling motto!

Inside the planner it's a rather humble affair ... I just used a pencil and ruler to create the pages I needed for planning. Inside the front pocket I keep a printout of the ed. plan I sent into the school system. After a title page I have a "Contact/Correspondence" log. Here is where I mark down when I send stuff into the superintendent and when I hear back. I also note our HSLDA renewal activity.

Next comes an academic year at a glance "attendance" calendar:

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I shaded in the days we would be on vacation (blue) and actively homeschooling (yellow). Green shading indicates a weekend. This helped me determine how many hours per week we need to count towards the 990 total for the year. Also, I can see where it makes sense to take time off and when we can (hopefully)wrap up for the year.

Next comes the two-page seasonal homeschooling schedule:

Seasonal homeschooling

On the left side of the schedule I have the Monday date and seasonal theme; on the right hand side I have written down any events of note. This chart runs from 9/5/2016 - 8/28/2017. (I'll share these seasonal themes in my next post.)

The next several pages are devoted to organizing our weekly rhythm (when we're home and when we're out each day, where to fit in which subjects) as well as a breakdown of goals and ideas for each of my boys. Crackerjack's page includes space for college planning, while Earlybird's allows for ABA goals and Little Bear's is just all about how I'd like his preschool years to look. ❤️

Then comes a list of all the subject areas I want to include this year (for example - poem of the month, artist of the month, a monthly field trip, weekly nature study and art project, etc.).

Next I break down the months of the year with notes in all areas - another hand-drawn chart with lots of tiny writing!

Seasonal homeschooling 3

It's hard to see here, but the circled letter denotes the month. On the far left I've listed the seasonal themes that fall within that month. Then comes two blocks for things like audiobook, history topic, science topics, artist(s), music focus, geography region, field trip idea, habit to work on ... etc.! And then finally on the far right I've written down the events of note in that month. These are days that will figure into our homeschooling in some way.

After this two-page spread comes a list of back-to-school supplies and traditions. (I'm working off a rather large checklist I wrote a few years ago. You can see that list in a newsletter here if you're interested. The list is on the last two pages.)

Now comes the monthly sections! First up of course is September ...

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Ok, so I get a little silly with my notebooks, I will happily admit. I love organization and tidy details, but I need to have a page for doodles and brainstorms! This is a portion of my favorite September poem and all around the edge of this page I've written out things I love about the month: apples, fresh pencils, goldenrod, grasshoppers, green tomatoes, alphabet soup, sweatshirts, spiderwebs, crisp mornings, cricket song, the harvest moon ... a kind of love letter to the month ahead. This might not be "standard" in a typical teacher's planner, but I love to include this kind of inspiration in mine!

After the title page I have a monthly planning page for September with notes on the left and a calendar on the right.

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I use post-its here because I like how they allow me to organize ideas in a flexible and visual way. Each note represents a particular area of September planning: field trip, nature themes, nature study, science, geography, events of note, social studies, math, faith focus, music, crafts, good habit, literature, bird and badge of the month, and "teas" which are basically monthly sit-downs with special food and a seasonal celebration of some sort.

The calendar (as with pretty much everything else in this planner!) is hand-drawn and embellished with a little seasonal washi tape, sticker and doodle. I'll add some quotes and notes here, too.

And now for the nitty-gritty - the weekly lesson planning section!

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I apologize if this is way too much detail, but that's just how I roll, lol! As longtime readers know well ... ;)

On the left side of the weekly spread is another post-it brainstorming page similar to the one in the monthly section. I've also listed the theme for the week (sunflowers this week) and any days of note. I have not yet decided if I will continue to use post-it notes here (which are fun and convenient but might bulk up my planner) or if I'll commit to a hand-drawn grid for planning. Meanwhile, on the right-hand page I have a chart where I can sketch out daily details for each of my three students. There are rows for Monday through Friday and then a large row for the weekend at the bottom. We don't typically do academic work on the weekends, but there is usually homework for my 17yo as well as seasonal, family activities to enjoy.

(Note: I'm still working on our week's rhythm - which days we do what subjects/activities. Our weeks are mostly shaped by Crackerjack's outside classes and Earlybird's therapy schedule. It's a little different this year so I'm re-thinking things a bit. Some subjects, like reading and math, are done daily - but we do need to find the best time of day for those lessons. Mornings would be ideal, mentally speaking, but with CJ going to classes some days and EB working with his therapist everyday, a lot of our activity takes place in the after-lunch hours. That said, EB's therapists are working more of his home education into his sessions, and I'm really excited for this support! Another reason to be really organized and detailed with my weekly lesson plans!)

By establishing a consistent framework (science on Tuesdays and Thursdays, social studies M-W-F, etc.), it is easier to plug activities into the chart. I'm still tweaking all of this - because as long as I've been doing this, it changes every year! - but will share more when I can. :)

Sometimes, for whatever reason, plans must change or be abandoned, and I've come to accept this is just the nature of homeschooling and life with kids. (Particularly one with autism!) Plans provide wonderful guidance, but they don't absolutely guarantee all the boxes will be checked off at the end of the week ...

But I never feel a minute of planning is wasted. Planning gives me a leg up on whatever our week brings our way. I've learned not to dwell in disappointment when things don't go "as planned." There is still beauty and value in creating plans that pan out in a way I didn't originally foresee. Sometimes I carry things over into the next week. Sometimes I save things for next year. Missed lessons are sometimes caught up with in a flurry. For the most part, I find it all shakes out in the end ...

If I've established an atmosphere that promotes learning, they will learn. If I've encouraged an attitude of curiosity they'll be curious. If I've shared my own joy and wonder at the world, then the world will be a source of joy and wonder for my children. If I can check boxes off in my planner I'll be thrilled, but there is room to see where my children might lead me, too.

 🍎

OK, I'm going to sign off now because I'm getting a little rambly and clearly I could just go on and on here ... I will share my 52 seasonal themes in my next post. For those of you who remember I'm working on a book (and yes I am still working on it!) these themes are my book's outline. So this will be a little sneak peek, if you will. :)

Other upcoming posts:

A look at this year's file crate.

A tour of my brand new desk!

How I'm using my Day Designer ...

Early Autumn Planning Sheets!

So I hope you all enjoy your  week and what's left of this summer season ... thanks so much for stopping by!

I will see you here again very soon ...


Welcome, High Summer!

Vintage sunflowerGood Monday morning, my friends! I hope you are all having a happy and safe holiday weekend!

Today in my seasonal calendar we are leaving Spring behind and diving deep into Summer - and what a morning it is: sunny and warm, with the garden all aglow and a-buzz. How I love this glorious time of year! For the next nine weeks I hope to weave as much summer joy as I can into our family life ... little traditions, easy activities and simple observations. To that end, I have assigned each week a theme, and created a new set of planning sheets - which you are welcome to use if you wish!

Below are links to the PDFs of these sheets - please let me know if you have any trouble opening them.

High Summer Planning Sheets (7/4-9/3)

Home Learning this Week (High Summer)

(Note: all images were found on Pinterest and to the best of my knowledge are free for personal use.)

I will do a follow up post later this week to show you how I'm using these sheets in my daily/weekly planning - and expand a bit on the themes - but for now, I hope you enjoy ... and I hope you are all enjoying a lovely start to your Summer!

🌞

p.s. If you'd like to see my previous seasonal planning sheets, you can visit my printables archive. So far there are sheets for Deep Winter, Early Spring, Late Spring and now, High Summer. :)


A Fresh Start: Late Spring Planning Sheets (Printables!)

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Well, with not a second to spare, here at long last are my Late Spring Planning Sheets! I'm very sorry I took so long in getting these to you ... there are nine weeks in the season of "Late Spring" (May and June) and they begin on this very Monday!

Still, I hope you find them fun to read, and perhaps helpful. As with my Deep Winter sheets and Early Spring sheets, you're welcome to print them out for your own personal use. The PDFs below include my own Late Spring Overview as well as a clean copy for you to use ... the home learning planning sheet (in seasonal colors) ... and then planning sheets for each week of the Late Spring season (5/2-7/3).

("High Summer" will begin on Monday, July 4th ... and I will aim to make those available well before June's end!)

So! Without further ado, here are those PDFs ... followed by some notes on how I'm using them. 

Late Spring Overview (Dawn's)

Late Spring Overview (clean copy)

Home Learning this Week

Late Spring Planning Sheets (5/2-7/3)

***

Now, for a few notes ...

My "Late Spring Overview" probably looks pretty ambitious, but it certainly is not set in stone. These are simply ideas I have for each week - and I'm full of ideas! - but not all come to fruition. Still, I enjoy setting these weekly themes because they encourage me to weave some seasonal blessings into our family's everyday life. Sometimes themes get postponed or continued, and that's ok! Because life happens as it happens, not always according to my own "seasonal plan!" I also use this outline as a prompt for future posts and/or chapters in my (still-in-the-works-but-slow-going) book. :)

I use the "Home Learning This Week" sheet for organizing lessons and goals for my younger three boys. (My oldest is a junior in college!) On the lefthand side I jot down activities mostly geared towards Little Bear and Earlybird, according to each day's rhythm:

Monday - nature play/walk

Tuesday - draw/color/puppet play

Wednesday - model with dough, listen to stories/verse

Thursday - craft project/paint, listen to music

Friday - bake at home/ field trip

Weekend - family time/faith-based activity

On the righthand side of this sheet I list specific academic goals for each of my boys - Crackerjack (10th grade), Earlybird (special needs 6th grade) and, eventually, Little Bear (who will be three at the end of the month).

And as for the "Weekly Planning Sheets" themselves, well, I use them for creating an overview of domestic and seasonal plans (natural and liturgical) and I'm still working on where I want to store them. In the past I have stapled them to my file crate folders, but currently I'm keeping them in a section of my home keeping binder, along with a (hand-drawn) weekly agenda. I use a small binder clip to make it easy to flip back and forth between the weekly planning and my daily journal page. For detailing my day - the nitty-gritty, must-do, right-now kind of stuff - I use a "Day Designer" which features a separate page for each day. And as I JUST received my brand new DD last week ... I will do a tour of it soon and talk more about how I use all these tools together. :)

But I'll wrap up for now since the day is nearing lunchtime and I have hungry kids all around me! I hope you enjoyed seeing and hearing about my planning sheets ... and please let me know if you have any trouble opening these documents. As I've stated before, the images I've used were found on Pinterest and to the best of my knowledge are free for personal use ...

So enjoy the rest of your Monday, my friends ... and see you here again sometime soon!


Themes & Plans for May (Updated!)

Violet in grass

(Note: This is a post originally composed in 2008. I have fixed any broken links and updated the content to correspond with the current year, 2016. Hope you enjoy!)

May brings flocks of pretty lambs, skipping by their fleecy dams ... 

It's no wonder it's called the merriest month of the year - there is just so much to love about May! And it's no surprise this post is a day or two late - the call of "the wild" gets stronger every day. :) I hardly ever find myself at my desk anymore - and boy, does my inbox show it!

So, what follows is just a sampling - of things to do, things to notice, and things to remember this month. I hope you might find something useful in my ...

~ Themes & Plans for May ~ 

Nature

  • Flowering trees at their peak.
  • Lilacs bloom around Mother's Day.
  • Tulips are up now.
  • Violets and wild pansies in the grass.
  • Warblers in the tops of the trees.
  • Orioles passing through.
  • Goldfinches are brilliant yellow.
  • Cool rainy days are possible ...
  • ... but so are 80 degree days!
  • The lawn might need mowing ...
  • ... but watch for toads in the yard!
  • The orchard is frothy and white.
  • Wood ducks are returning.
  • Nests spotted at the pond.
  • Tent caterpillars in the trees.
  • Morel mushrooms sprouting.
  • Spring butterflies are here.
  • Watch for hummingbirds.
  • Jack-in-the-pulpit in the woods.
  • Last frost occurs this month.
  • The Full Flower Moon rises on the 21st.

Folklore

  • Birthstone: emerald
  • Flower: lily-of-the-valley
  • "A swarm of bees in May is worth a load of hay ..."

Food

  • sweet onions
  • rhubarb
  • early strawberries
  • new potatoes
  • radishes
  • artichokes
  • asparagus
  • baby lettuces
  • morels
  • peas
  • spinach
  • mint juleps
  • pecan pies
  • edible flowers
  • spring herb soup
  • first barbecue of the year

Faith

  • May Devotion ~ The Blessed Mother
  • Season: Easter; Ordinary Time (Summer) begins
  • St. Joseph the Worker (1)
  • Minor Rogation Days (2-4)
  • Ascension Thursday (5)
  • Our Lady of Fatima (13)
  • Pentecost Sunday (15)
  • St. Isidore the Farmer (15)
  • Trinity Sunday (22)
  • Corpus Christi (29)
  • The Visitation (31)

Household (& Garden)

  • Mow lawn; leave grass clippings down as mulch.
  • Clean and arrange deck/porch furniture.
  • Clean the grill; fill the propane tank.
  • Inventory/organize the kids' backyard toys.
  • Hang hummingbird window feeder.
  • Visit the family graves on Memorial Day ~
    • Tidy and add new flowers.
  • Purchase citronella candles or torches.
  • Famly physicals this month.
  • Launder spring linens and hang in the sun to dry.
  • Make travel plans for summer.
  • Clean car and organize for summer activities:
    • Beach
    • Picnic
    • Road trips
  • Plant garden on Memorial Day weekend.
  • Hang the American flag.

Life

  • American Bike Month
  • National Duckling Month
  • National Salsa Month
  • National Strawberry Month
  • National Egg Month
  • Be Kind to Animals Week (1-7)
  • National Postcard Week (1-7)
  • National Wildflower Week (2-8)
  • National Nurses Week (6-12)
  • National Herb Week (1-7)
  • National Police Week (8-15)
  • May Day (1)
  • Mother Goose Day (1)
  • Star Wars Day (4)
  • Cinco de Mayo (5)
  • Midwives Day (5)
  • The Kentucky Derby (7)
  • Mother Ocean Day (7)
  • Village Plant Sale (7)
  • Mother's Day (8)
  • National Apron Day (12)
  • Leprechaun Day (13)
  • Tulip Day (13)
  • Letter Carrier Food Drive (14)
  • National Train Day (14)
  • World Fair Trade Day (14)
  • Chocolate Chip Day (15)
  • Hug Your Cat Day (27)
  • Indianapolis 500 (29)
  • Memorial Day (30)

Book Basket

Field Trips & Outings

  • Visit the apple orchard to sketch trees in bloom.
  • Nature walk to the pond.
  • Visit the cows at a nearby dairy farm.
  • Purchase herbs at the garden store.
  • Lilacs walk at the arboretum.

Crafts & Activities

  • Make homemade bread and butter
  • Decorate fresh butter with clover.
  • Look for 4-leaf clovers in the yard.
  • Find a special spot in your yard for a Mary Garden.
  • Celebrate Derby Day:
    • Read the papers and choose a horse to cheer for.
    • Make "Juleps" for Derby Day (herbal iced tea)
    • Wear big fancy hats while watching the race.
  • Make a paper bag piñata on Cinco de Mayo.
  • Decorate a canvas (field) bag with leaf prints.
  • Decorate a plain canvas apron (smock) on Apron Day.
  • Make nature playdough.
  • Collect and press wildflowers; begin a herbarium.
  • Plant a sunflower house.
  • Make a toad home.
  • Attract orioles passing through.
  • Spend an afternoon coudwatching.
  • Learn about waterfowl: ducks, geese, gulls.
  • Visit a duck pond and observe nesting behavior.
  • Play Duck, Duck, Goose!
  • Make a feather collage.
  • Make wind chimes with flower pots.
  • Go on a mushroom walk after a few damp days.
  • Make a catnip toy (with real catnip!) for the cats.
  • Eat rhubarb stalks with dixie cups of sugar for dipping.
  • Paint and fill herb pots for Mother's Day gifts.
  • Mix up some herbal mosquito repellant.
  • Make a handloom; weave it with rainbow yarn.
  • Fill a box with food for the letter carrier on the 10th.
  • Work ahead on handcrafted Father's day gifts.

Whew! As posts go (and mine can go long) that was a big one! ;) Thanks for reading through, and thanks, as always, for stopping by. I hope you'll enjoy the lovely new month which begins in but a few days ... and I hope you'll let me know what you love the most about May!

See you all again very soon ... :)

"What is so sweet and dear
As a prosperous morn in May,
The confident prime of the day,
And the dauntless youth of the year,
When nothing that asks for bliss,
Asking aright, is denied,
And half of the world a bridegroom is,
And half of the world a bride?"
~ William Watson, "Ode in May," 1880


Spring Garden Plots & Plans ...

Happy Tuesday, my friends! :)

It's been such a nice day here - for one thing, Bill is on vacation all week, so our days have been fairly slow and easy (what a treat!), but also, the weather is just so deliciously "Spring!" Today started cloudy and a bit damp, but by afternoon the sky had brightened and the air dried out - and now this evening is just lovely! We've been out and about in the yard a lot lately, so I thought I'd share a few pictures. Are you doing any gardening this spring? Do you have any new projects planned? We have a few things going on ... :)

Spring yard 9

First off, this is my new garden journal and matching mug - aren't they pretty? I bought them at Joann's Fabrics last month, and could hardly wait for the first nice day to sit in the garden, sip tea, and "plan." 

Spring yard 3

And here we have the beginnings of our ... chicken coop! Bill is building it himself (coop + pen) so it will take a little while before we actually have chicks of our own. (The play set will be moved to the other side of the yard ...)

 Spring yard 7

This doesn't look like much but it's a nice little sloping garden bed beside the patio - I have some things growing here (coneflowers, coral bells, snapdragons, sedum, yarrow, thyme, lavender) but would like to make it a little more formal and add a few more bee- and bird-friendly things.

Spring yard 2

Along the back of the house is a bed that, though shaded in this picture, gets a lot of full, southern sun. Our rhubarb plant thrives here and last summer we had good luck with tomatoes and peppers. I'd like to try growing things upright against the house, too - something climbing perhaps. (Currently, Little Bear considers this his personal digging spot.)

Just beyond the edge of the house is a hedgerow in front of which last summer I parked my herb pots. I'm moving those to the patio this year for easier access (and a better view).

Spring yard 4

I love these stone steps that lead from the driveway to the backyard ... I'd like to do something more creative in the beds on either side. They get good sun in the summer.

Spring yard 5

This here is an untamed "bed" beneath a large maple tree. It doesn't look so shady at the moment, but once the leaves are formed, this is a really nice, cool "alcove." I forget the name of the ground cover here, but that's about all that grows in this spot. The chiminea has been parked here since we moved - it was just where it landed! (We don't burn in it anymore.) In the summertime I love to step into this "bed" - it feels a bit secluded, all shady and enclosed. I was thinking of making it into a little shade garden of sorts. I might use the chiminea as a planter and weed out the ground cover and establish this as a true bed ... with shade-loving herbs and flowers, stepping stones, a wind chime, a thistle sock for goldfinches, and a comfy chair for nestling in ...

Well, these are all just thoughts for now, but this is such a fun stage of the process! The "planning part" when so many things seem possible ...

So these are a few of the gardening "areas" I'm concentrating on this year. I hope to grow lots of herbs and flowers plus a few kinds of vegetables. I hope to grow things we can use and that are attractive and beneficial to bees, butterflies and birds. I am also hoping to have garden areas that are fun for the younger boys to work/play in! I'd like to be better about harvesting and preserving what we grow. I have organized a binder (green of course!) with alphabetical tabs - her is where I will record information I glean from research, friends and first-hand experience!

Garden journals

This month we are concentrating on preparing the beds - next month we will get our plants. The average last frost is in mid- to late-May for my area. We don't really grow much from seed - I keep things simple and buy plants! Next month I will visit the local village plant sale as well as a local farm that specializes in herbs of all kinds. Hopefully this year I will have better luck with finding the best spots to grow what I buy!

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Well my friends, I'd best be off now, but I thank you very much for stopping by! I would love to hear about your gardening plans for the growing season ahead! Drop me a note if you have time! :)

Wishing you a pleasant evening and a lovely day tomorrow ... 

See you here again very soon!


Seasonal Food: Special for Rose Sunday!

Rose pie 1

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

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

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

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

Rose pie 3

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

Rose pie 2

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

Rose pie 5

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

Rose pie 6

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

Rose pie 7

Rose pie 8

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

Rose pie 9

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

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

Rose pie 11

And here it is all done!

Rose pie 12

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

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

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

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

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


On Meal Plans & Seasonal Eating

Menu planning 1

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

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

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

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

Saturday: takeout from our local pizza place

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

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

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

Wednesday: homemade calzones & pizzas, zucchini tots

Thursday: slow cooker cashew chicken over rice

Friday: lemon-roasted shrimp with asparagus and linguine 

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

Sunday: leftovers!

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

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

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

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

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

Menu planning 5

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

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

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

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

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

Menu planning 2

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

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

Menu planning 3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Menu planning 4

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

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

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

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

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


Spring Planning on a Windy March Day ...

Spring planning 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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