Tea and Crafts Feed

St. Patrick's Day at Our House ...❤

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Happy Friday, my friends! And blessings on this bright and bonny St. Patrick's Day! I have some pictures to share today - I've been busy with my boys and baking and books and blizzards and ... well, the usual. :) I know I've promised lots of planning-type posts and I do have some coming up - but how about a look at our past couple of days? This is one of our favorite feasts and it's always such fun to celebrate with the kids, especially when they're little. :)

First though, here's what my backyard looks like today - just three days shy of the Vernal Equinox! 

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Yep, lots of snow out there! But if you look closely you can see the branches are filled with buds. I think last month's unseasonably warm weather pushed things a bit ahead of schedule ... before Winter stepped in and said: "Not so fast!"

I passed this sad little sight on my way in from getting the mail today ...

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Pretty much sums up the weather right now - a fit-to-bursting bud, thrown to the ground (by those gale force winds we had no doubt) and now encased in a patch of driveway ice. sigh

Anyhoo ...

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The sun has been out and that has been glorious ... I love working in sunny windows when we can! Our seasonal homeschooling theme this week was "returning light" and "rainbows." (Tying in with Daylight Savings Time and St. Patty's Day.) We explored colors and light and the return of the sun. Here is Little Bear working on a simple rainbow craft yesterday ...

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His cotton balls, my rainbow strips which had to be taped - he has no patience for tape. For Little Bear crafting is pretty much all about the glue. He could spend all day (and all bottle) gluing whatever he can get his hands on. Sometimes I just let him "paint" with a little thinned out glue!

And happily, as we worked, Earlybird joined us ... another glue fan. :)

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This is how projects usually go around here. I come up with an idea (or ideas) and gather materials. I set things up and stand back - or maybe I get things going. And then curious kids start to ask questions, poke around and maybe pitch in. If I really want them to participate I make sure some part of the project has something to do with glue.

We'd been rather sluggish this week so we were all ready for something hands-on. The boys have had a wicked cold this week - me too - and we're still not 100% better. It was one of those weeks where plans kept getting cancelled and we spent a LOT of time together, at home, watching too much tv and not feeling our best. We're on the mend now though and it feels good to get back to some semblance of normal!

Reading some books ...

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Tending our "classroom" garden ...

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Do you see the teeny bit of green there in the front? :)

I've been doing a lot of organizing in the learning room ...

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... and I'll have a "tour" post coming up soon!

Now this morning I started up the crockpot, eager to try out a new recipe ...

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This is the beginning of corned beef and cabbage ... before the beef - and before I took the cabbage out realizing that cooks near the end! But oh boy, is it smelling good in here!

Roundabouts mid-morning, while Earlybird worked with his therapist and Crackerjack banged out his math in the library, Little Bear and I set in on a really fun project involving all kinds of fruit!

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I had Bill (who is still healthy, knock-on-wood) stop by the grocery store on his way home from work last night and buy gobs and gobs of fresh fruit. For one thing, we can all use the vitamin C, but for another, I thought it would be fun to try making a fruit rainbow for the feast day - something I saw on Pinterest, of course.

So while LB chopped up bits of fruit with his dip spreader (another favorite activity) I started assembling the rainbow ...

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When the fruit was all arranged, I added a small "pot of gold" (foil-wrapped chocolate coins in a glass bowl) ...

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And then for a final touch, whipped cream clouds!

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Cute, right? :)

There was a lot of leftover fruit so I let Little Bear have at it ...

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We decided to make "leprechaun water" which is basically a lot rainbow-colored fruit steeping in a pitcher of water ...

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True confession - I realized as LB filled the pitcher (so industriously) that he was including the melon rinds which is a no-no. I had to fish them back out, then drain the water and try again! Lol.

Here's a little bit of St. Patty's decor on our kitchen door ...

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And here is a festive tableau I set up just after lunchtime - showcasing my Gram's Irish china and a poem I wanted to read aloud to the boys.

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Do they use the china? No. But I do and I always make a point to talk about why this china is so special - to whom it belonged and how I grew up enjoying tea. I did however use some of this china to serve some freshly baked cookies!

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These are called "Irish Lace Oatmeal Cookies" and oh my gosh, are they good! They're very easy to make and if you overcook them, you can just crumble them and serve them over ice cream. 

Now, lest you think we had a nice, quiet read-aloud with the above book and tea goodies ...

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Well, THIS is how we read that book of fun faerie poems!

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With the book perched in my lap and Little Bear hanging on my back! Which is about par for the course around here!

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Well my friends, I hope you all had a nice week and that the weekend ahead is a restful one for you. Thanks so much for stopping by and taking a moment to read. I'd love to hear about your St. Patrick's Day traditions if you have the time to share! But for now I will say goodbye and ask that you take care of yourselves and your loved ones ...

I'll see you here again very soon!


Advent Tea, Week 4: Happy Hearts at Home

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A few more nativity scenes around the house ...

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

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

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

And how about this one? :)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MERRY CHRISTMAS!


Advent Tea, 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."

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

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 ❤

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

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"My Pioneer Woman Christmas Tree Mug."

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

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"My Mary and Martha "Lovely" Mugs."

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

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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!


Tea with Friends ... ❤

Good Sunday morning, my friends! And a Happy Advent to you!

Today I have a few "tea and nest" notes to share, beginning with a link to a post written by my dear friend Martha, about her lovingly restored "thinking chair":

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Wouldn't this be a nice spot in which to curl up and dream? :)

By the way, Martha and I worked together eons ago at my very first post-college job, on the "features desk" at a Boston-area newspaper. Martha was, in fact, my editor! And oh my gosh, did we have fun ... "The TAB" is where I first tested my fledgling writing skills on the subjects of food, holidays, home, gardens and kids - before I even had kids! Martha, and our first editor, Celia, were so good to me, allowing a very "green" journalist to try her hand at a new passion. But those were good times - I learned a lot! - and I remember them fondly. Today Martha owns PulpArt, a fantastic Etsy shop where she sells plantable paper crafts - gift tags, ornaments, party favors, and cards, etc. All handmade by Martha, using ancient paper-making techniques - pop on over and take a peek!

***

Now here is a wonderful Thanksgiving Tea shared by Denise ...

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Dawn,


Thank you for inviting us all to Tea Time! I don't have the opportunity to have daily tea with my grands any longer. So, tea time is a bit different now-a-days. I don't have tea every day either (well, in autumn/winter/spring I normally have something hot to start the day!) During this time of starting the Holy Day season, I love that we start with giving of thanks! Thanks to the One who is Creator & Sustainer of all! And oh, the naming! So many things to be named, so many things/people to be grateful for, just leads me into worship of the One who provides the good gifts! Which helps prepare my heart for the Holy Day of Christ-mass!

It is an overcast, windy day. I heard it will be snowing in a couple of days. Much to be done! Moving hay, fixing the well-house (heat lamp or heater?), stacking wood by the woodstove. All of that will have to wait until this afternoon, as I am finishing up in the home office this morning. I had a few tasks for a client and our own to tend to. After I finish this post, I will be heading out of doors!

Refreshments:
I normally have several tea varieties. Today I had a cup of orange-spice. I haven't had time to bake, although if I wanted, I have some oatmeal cookie dough ready to pop in the oven. It is time to replenish my dough stash! I like to have several on hand for when I have the pleasure of having the Grands or company!

Reading:
I just finished reading a novel, light reading. I will be doing reading for Advent & Christmas next. Ann Voskamp's The Greatest Gift AND Unwrapping the Greatest Gift. I am looking forward to receiving a blessing through them!!

Listening to:
During this season, I tend to revisit some old hymns Come Thou Fount, Come Ye Sinners, Be Thou My Vision. I've been enjoying these as recorded by Fernando Ortega. So rich.

Working on:
We are in the "work the plan" phase of Thanksgiving! We started by enjoying our daughter's family last night. Family supper & card games. Oh, and a new made-up game by my grandtwin girl (10yo)! Such fun! I popped back and forth through the grands! Granddaughter/13 was busy making accessories for a Christmas present for her younger sister. 
Grandtwin girl/10 dictated a Thanksgiving letter to me for her dearest friend and cousin. Oh how I miss those days! I was "employed" by her quite often! When she was about 6 she said "When we are working on my books, can you just call me Boss?" (LOL!) Grandtwin boy/10 read a couple of passages from a new book he is reading for school. He also typed me out a paragraph in which I was supposed to correct the misspellings! And Grandson/15 & I walked out towards the pond to see if we could see any geese. He is really wanting to get one this year! I will begin preparing more for Advent & Christmas during the Thanksgiving break. Plus, I will be starting to work on setting up my 2016 planner which I lamented about on one of your Planner Party posts! Something I normally take great pleasure in & I do again thisyear, I'm just not real sure how this is going to go & I am having a hard time getting started. Silly me.

Happening in nature:
As I stated: Windy, overcast today. Blowing in some possible snow or ice. We were trying to identify some new sweet, small birds yesterday. We didn't come to a conclusion.

With the (grand) kids:
I've attached a picture of our "Thanksgiving Table." This is a table in a sitting area, looking out our south-facing windows. We all add to the Thanksgiving tree, you will see in the picture. We will be finishing up the Thanks Living Box. They enjoy that year after year!

Quotations:
Here are my sentiments I sent out in my Thanksgiving greetings, to family & close friends.

"To the end that my glory may sing praise to Thee, and not be silent, O LORD my God, I will give thanks unto You forever." Ps 30:12 Oh! Let me not be silent! The end of all we experience in this life:  To sing praise to Him and give thanks, FOREVER!! Praise His holy name!

Keeping it Simple:
For us this year, we are again in mourning. So, we will definitely be keeping things low-key and home-centered. We will have the obligatory functions to attend, and we will do so with a grateful heart, just not as many scheduled as what we might do. We will focus on just the immediate family, for the most part; with the exception of looking to see who we can offer some blessings. A favorite thing for us to do.

Thank you for letting me share tea with you & your readers today!!  I've been working on this email for a while. I was thankful you hadn't set a deadline!

~~Denise

***

Thank you, Denise! I love hearing about your family and how you take tea and where you find inspiration! I appreciate your participation, and I love your enthusiasm! Your family is blessed to have you! :)

And here, my friends, are some Tea Notes from Helena ...

What refreshments are you enjoying this week?
My morning cup of Tasha Tudor's Welsh Breakfast tea, and the odd cup of apple cider with the kids. It's been a bit hectic around here, so I'm happy just to have that!

What are you reading this week?
Just finished the latest in a cozy mystery series I enjoy (The Stitching Hour) and also Teaching from Rest.

What are you listening to this week?
I may have broken my own rule about no Christmas music before Thanksgiving to sneak in a little bit of Josh Groban's Noel in the car. :)

What are you working on this week?
Getting ready for the holiday and also working on a proofreading assignment.

What's happening in nature this week?
I'm down in FL, so a bit different from you guys right now. It actually was chilly the other day (overnight low of 48, that's cold for us). The first strawberries of the season are coming in from the fields, our garden is actually doing well so far, and our neighbor's tomatoes and peppers look great. We're starting to see some of our winter visitors at the bird feeder (our female painted bunting appeared the other day, though no sign of her handsome husband yet) and the Canada geese are appearing on the farm ponds across the road.

Any projects with the children this week?
My husband helped my daughter rearrange and clean out her room, does that count? :) Hoping to get some Indian corn in to soak so the kids can string it for necklaces or garlands, but have to figure out how to get it off the cob first!

Any quotations to share, some words to inspire?
"The true way to live is to enjoy every moment as it passes, and surely it is in the everyday things around us that the beauty of life lies."  ~ Laura Ingalls Wilder

***

Thank you for sharing your thoughts, Helena! I'd love to hear how that Indian corn activity turns out!
 
 
And now let's hear from Amy's Tea Journal ... :)

Hi Dawn,

What refreshments are you enjoying this week?
For tea I'm drinking Republic of Tea's Cranberry Ginger tea - tangy and delicious!

What are you reading this week?

I'm reading a seasonal mystery: November Hunt by Jess Lourey. Her seasonal series is hilarious! Also, my stash of old November "Victoria's"

What are you listening to this week?

Thanksgiving channel on Pandora!

What are you working on this week?

I'm a full-time librarian so am prepping Thanksgiving a little bit at a time during the week (tonight: defrosting the turkey breast, defrosting the cranberries, and hard boiling eggs). Went to Trader Joe's yesterday for cranberry chevre and four other types of cheese for Thanksgiving. I'm a DAR member, so sent off a box of necessities for a VA hospital my DAR chapter is sponsoring.

What's happening in nature this week?

I work on a leafy college campus and when I leave work at night the air is so deliciously cold and smells like autumn. The drive into work is lovely too - often very foggy and cool.

***

Thank you for sharing, Amy! You've inspired me to dig out some of my own Victoria collection - they're pretty much perfect "nest" reading in my mind. :)

Friends, I hope you enjoyed this collection of "tea & nest" notes! I love sharing our thoughts on the season and how we find time to nourish ourselves - in simple, meaningful ways. I look forward to talking more tomorrow as we begin our Advent Tea Journal ... I will be "here" around 4:00, but you are welcome to join me whenever! I'd love to hear about your nest ... I hope it's a cozy spot where we can ponder Advent, and take a break from the world! I'll share my own tea and notes, and pics of course! Our discussion theme will be giving "gifts from the heart" and I look forward to brainstorming with you on that! (And I might have another nest "assignment" for you, too!)

I hope you'll join me this week ...

Tea Journal details can be found here, and please send me your thoughts/pics/links here:

bysunandcandle AT gmail DOT com

I look forward to hearing from you!

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


❄ Snowflakes for St. Agnes ❄

Tuesday was the Feast of St. Agnes, a day that is special to my family, so on a frigid "snow day" at home, we took some time for a craft and some cake. May I share a few pictures from our day?

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This is my Crackerjack (who is just getting over a wicked cold), sketching an image of St. Agnes for the craft. We usually honor this feast day with some kind of snowflake-themed craft and/or treat, because snowflakes are known as "St. Agnes' Flowers."

After CJ finished his sketch, we cut it to fit the inside of a wooden snowflake ornament (leftover from Christmas). I added some sparkly "snow" (mod-podge + kosher salt) to the plain wood. (Still haven't found my acrylic paints and glitter!)

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  I think it came out quite nice just the same ... :)

And since cake is always a treat on a feast day, I set to work in the kitchen. It had been a while since we'd had cake ... I never did get around to making those Patriots cupcakes on Sunday ... for obvious reasons, lol.

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I chose to make an orange cake - honoring Our Lady of Altagracia who shares this feast day with St. Agnes and using up an old mix I had on the pantry shelf. For Saint Agnes, it's topped with a thick snow-cover: homemade buttercream frosting and natural snowflake sprinkles.

While we enjoyed some cake, I pulled this beautiful old Catholic dictionary from the liturgical shelf to show the boys ...

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It belonged to my dad growing up! Though I fear it's not in the best shape - the binding is loose and frayed - so we have to be quite careful with it. I plan to use this dictionary with Earlybird as part of his faith-at-home program. He was thrilled to learn it was once his Papa's.

:)

In the late afternoon, while Little Bear "chilled" in his happy little playspace ...

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I kicked back with a cup of (decaffeinated) tea ...

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Midwinter is a harsh time of year in some parts of the world ... it's cold (often very cold) and snowy/sleety/slippery or just generally hard to get out. Cabin fever is just around the corner it seems. So it's nice to indulge in some pastimes that make Winter more of a friend than a foe. Crafting, baking, enjoying books & tea ... looking a bit of joy in the every day, whatever that day might look like outside!

You know, I went back through my archives to refresh my memory on how we've celebrated St. Agnes Day before, and it was a little bittersweet. Simple crafts and seasonal "teatimes" were once a big part of our weekly routine, but with Bookworm off to college and Crackerjack in (homeschool) high school, our routine is quite different these days. I'm glad those times were a part of my boys' childhood, but I miss those days dearly ...

Happily I find I am still able to weave many simple seasonal activities into our family calendar ... and of course with our Little Bear, I will have plenty of chances to revisit those "younger" crafts and activities in the years coming up. In fact, I'm currently re-organizing my planner for these types of seasonal/liturgical things. I've been a little lazy on that front lately, and it feels good to get my ideas and materials in order. (You can be sure I'll be posting more on that subject just as soon as I have more to share!)

 

Well my friends, thanks so much for stopping by and letting me "ramble on" and reflect on my day. And thank you again - still! - for all the wonderful replies regarding Little Bear's sleeping habits ... I'll keep you all posted on that subject, too.

Many blessings on your day, and see you all here again very soon!


Crowned Cupcakes for Today's Feast

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This feast day snuck up on me! Autumn has flown by and suddenly it's the last Sunday on the Catholic calendar! (Next week we begin Advent, and with it, a new liturgical year.) It was during the homily today at Mass that I found myself envisioning a quick but easy treat in honor of Christ the King (today's feast). (Not to suggest Father's homily wasn't interesting, but sometimes I find myself getting little ideas as I listen and it's all I can do not to whip out the post-it note pad, lol.) So I mentally surveyed my craft supplies and thought of golden doilies which would make nice little crowns. It being Sunday - a day for family dinners and special desserts - I thought I would make some delicious cupcakes, and "crown" them with a little help from the kids.

Now, Bookworm and Bill were off very early to Cambridge today, where BW is participating in a neat program at MIT. They'll be there all day, so the younger boys and I ran a few errands and while we were out I picked up some gold cupcake liners and edible glitter.

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At home I dug out those aforementioned doilies and some colorful sequins (for "crown jewels"). Then I set in on making the cake ...

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Now for spontaneous baking like this, I usually rely on a chocolate package mix that's EB-friendly, but I really wanted to make white cupcakes. (The liturgical color for today's feast.) So I used the "tender white cake" recipe off the back of the King Arthur Cake Flour box and though it's a little more work, it makes such a wonderful cake! It uses both vanilla and almond flavoring and the texture is so light and tender ... and the cakes bake up nice and golden:

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So while the cupcakes cooled, I set the boys to work on the crowns. I gave them each some doilies, scissors, glue sticks and sequins and let them have at it.

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(Note Crackerjack's divided attention - he's watching Scooby Doo in the background, lol.)

So the boys cut the doilies in half and then swiped the smooth front with a glue stick. Then they pressed on the colorful sequins.

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Then we let them dry, and I headed back to the kitchen to whip up some buttercream frosting.

To decorate and assemble the cupcakes, I first spread some of the edible gold glitter (simple decorating sugar) on a plate:

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CJ dipped the frosted cupcake into the glitter:

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Then he placed a crown on top, bending it to shape, and gently nestling the edge of the crown into the frosting. (It held easily - no need for toothpicks.)

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Ta-da!

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Happy Feast Day!

I think these would be fun for any party that had to do with royalty - whether it be knights and castles or princesses (fairy or otherwise). They were so easy to make and I think the final result is pretty festive!

~~~~

Well, my friends, I hope you all had a nice weekend. Now, as for my next post, it will be "cranberries" for certain! I know I keep promising that post - and truly, I have it all written - but I was so pleased with today's last minute project I just had to share it!

So I hope you all have a nice night ... Bill and Bookworm just got home, so I'm off to hear all about their adventures. (And start supper!)

Take care, and as always, thanks so much for stopping by ... I'll be back here again very soon!

:)


Devil's Food Cupcakes and Blackberry Punch ...

It must be Michaelmas!

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And a very happy Michaelmas to all!

We started our celebrating a little early this year ~ we had some dear friends over for a visit yesterday afternoon, and so, in honor of the feast day upon us, I made up some sweet, symbolic treats.

The "devil's food" cupcakes are topped with buttercream frosting and pierced by colorful cocktail swords. (Miniature replicas of Michael's own valiant weapon.) At the top of the tier I placed an image of the archangel himself (something I found online and printed out on cardstock), and at the very bottom of the arrangement, lurking beneath, you see one of our (many) dragon toys. 

Then I mixed up some blackberry punch ...

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This is simply an Ocean Spray 100% juice blend (cranberry-blackberry-blueberry), mixed with ice, fresh blackberries and a splash of club soda. It was very refreshing on this warm autumn day!

If you're familiar with the legend of St. Michael, then you know blackberries are no longer fit for consumption after his feast day. And this would be because the devil, as he was cast out of heaven (at the hands of St. Michael), landed in a thorny blackberry patch. He spat upon the berries, thereby poisoning them for the rest of the harvest year.

My boys get such a kick out of this feast day! They always have and I hope in some way they always do. :)

Later today Earlybird and I will make a small Michaelmas lantern ...

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We've made lots of lanterns through the years - some made from glass, some from paper, some from tin. Some were quick and easy - some were more ornate. Well this time our lantern will be very child-friendly. I found this little plastic "paint bucket" at the craft store. (It was near the wedding paraphernalia.) Today we will cover it with a thin layer of glue and some torn bits of colorful tissue paper. Once dry, and as the light fades from the day, we will pop in a battery-operated tea light and place it in a window to shine.

Simple, seasonal fun.

:)

Have a great Thursday, my friends ... see you again sometime soon!


Dear Winter ...

Weatherforecast

Enough already, all right?

I know I have no right to ask that. This is January after all ... and this IS what Winter does in New England at this time of year. But the snow and the cold have been relentless lately!

So yes, as you can see from forecast above, we're getting several inches MORE snow today ... on top of all the snow we already have ... and then there will be FRIGID temperatures after that ... and let's not even discuss the "major storm" cooking for next week!

Sigh.

Now, dear readers, you know I love snow, but this weather is really cramping our style! We had to cancel our January Nature Club meeting - the day was just too cold and conditions too icy for a winter walk in the woods. And we also had to postpone our "Greek Mythology Night" to next week, because of poor travel conditions and inadequate parking on our street. (The plows will surely be busy this evening.)

Grumble. Grumble.

OK, I'm done complaining. It's Friday, after all. We're healthy and happy and (thanks to telecommuting) we'll all be home together today. And in addition to it being Squirrel Appreciation Day (those little guys will be hard at work keeping warm and full today!), it also happens to be the feast of St. Agnes, a saint near and dear to our hearts.

If you're interested in celebrating this feast day, here are a couple of posts from my past describing the crafts we made and snacks we ate in honor of St. Agnes:

2008

2009

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Before I go, l'd like to wish a very happy birthday to my friend Penny in Vt, a longtime reader and one of my most frequent commenters. Penny, my dear, did you "order" birthday snow, too? ;) Either way, I hope you have a lovely day!

Thanks so much for stopping by this morning, everyone! Keep warm and safe wherever you are ... we'll do the same here. :)

See you all again very soon ...


Doves for Sunday

I was sifting through my (ridiculously messy) craft bins earlier today and found my dove-shaped cookie cutter. Right after I mentally added "clean out craft bins" to my weekend to-do list, I remembered making these cookies ...

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... and this craft ...

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... three years ago.

I then realized these projects go along with this Sunday's Mass. (Has it really been 3 years?!)

You could also use the cutter to make dove shapes out of toast and spread them with cream cheese (a snipped raisin or mini chocolate chip could serve for an eye). And the hanging paper doves would make pretty Valentine's decorations. :)

I'll pop back on sometime over the weekend - I've got lots of puttering to do and projects to work on. And of course there's a Pats game to watch on Sunday afternoon - though I'm sending Bill to my folks' house so he can watch the big game in relative peace with my dad. ;)

So have a great weekend, my friends! I'll be seeing you all again very soon!


Bringing in the May ~

“The moon shines bright and stars give light,Lilyofthevalleyarrangement_3

A little before the day

So God bless you all, both great and small

And send you a joyful May.”

(From a traditional English May carol)

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

I'm still working on that May Themes & Plans post, but since May Day (and Ascension Day!) is upon us, I thought I'd share a few of our plans for today. :)

In the backyard ...

Look for dandelion puffs to blow (if there are any left after last night's frost!). Blow bubbles up into the sky. (I'll be mixing up a homemade solution, using a lavender-scented dishwashing detergent as the base.) Climb the play "tower" and watch the clouds passing by. Look for the corners of our property - and beat the bounds* in old English tradition. *I believe willow was traditional, but we'll use pruned forsythia branches. ;) In the northwest corner, I'll spend a little time tidying up the Mary garden.

At the craft table ...

Earlybird will do some blue, purple and white finger painting. The older boys will work on a small map of our backyard; on it they will mark the boundaries and note where we've found neat things so far this spring (like big worms, buried acorns and a mysterious tunnel). I'll be making a tin can May basket to set on our nature table (wrapping it with spring-shaded yarn). Then we'll fill it with whatever is blooming including branches of the Ascension flower (lilacs).

For teatime ...

I'll whip up some little meringue "cloud" cookies, and serve them with a fruity "May Punch." We'll read our Magnifikid for this Sunday's Mass, and the boys will start learning a new Marian prayer. I'll move the statue of Our Lady to our mantel and place some (silk) flowering vines around it.

And there's our day in a nutshell! I'll be back soon with more themes and plans ... but for now, a very Happy May, and many Blessings to you!


Tea & a Craft (& Supper!) for the Holy Father

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To honor his birthday (today) and his visit to our country (this week)!

We began shortly after lunchtime - after I hauled called the boys inside from the yard (it's glorious here today!) - with some apple strudel and an easy coloring craft ...

But, a word or two first about the strudel - I had hoped to make some homemade, in honor of our Pope's German heritage, but it just wasn't to be. Oh, I had plenty of apples and raisins on hand ... but, try as I might, the extra time to scratch-bake never materialized. (Fancy that.) So instead I had Bill pick up some strudel at the grocery store on his way home from work last night - and technically, it was a danish, but that's ok. :)

While the boys munched, I showed them several interesting and child-friendly articles I'd saved about the Holy Father and his visit to the U.S. They especially liked the ones that discussed his favorite things and what he was like as a "regular person."

We found where Bavaria was on the world map ~

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And placed a foam sticker there to remind us.

The gorgeous weather was distracting beckoning us, so we moved the "craft part" of the day to the deck. I had found a neat article in the Sunday Globe that discussed Pope Benedict's coat-of-arms in detail. I displayed it for the boys and gave them sheets to color as they wished. In true form, Bookworm colored it to match the picture as closely as possible, while Crackerjack used whatever shades struck his fancy. Earlybird was still eating lunch, and couldn't be lured from his mac-and-cheese to participate. :)

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Inside we hung up the final products ~

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And I read a lovely book aloud to the boys. I bought Joseph and Chico some time back, with this week specifically in mind. Oh, what a nice story! We are proud owners of 3 (once 5) cats, so the boys were thrilled to learn their Pope was a cat lover!   

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This next photo doesn't really fit here, but I thought it looked so nice, I stuck it in anyway. ;) This is the tablecloth I wanted to use for our dinner tonight - it needed airing, so it spent the day hanging out in the spring sunshine.

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And before we knew it, it was time for supper ...

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Bill brought home some German wine (love the label!), and some Orange Fanta for the boys (we read it was the Pope's favorite!) ...

And I cooked up a German(ish)-themed meal ~

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Sausage with apples, potatoes and peppers roasted in a cider dressing, pumpernickel bread and applesauce. Very yummy, I must say ...

But not quite as yummy as the Black Forest cake!

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This afternoon I Tivo'd (real word, yes?) a special on EWTN, called Joseph Ratzinger: A Pope from Germany. My thought was that we'd sit down atogether to watch it tonight after supper. But it will have to wait for tomorrow, because here we sit now, at 8 p.m. ~ and between all the sun and the fresh air today (and who am I kidding the enormous meal, lol) we are all feeling sleepy and ready for bed. In fact, Earlybird's already there!

So I'm off! But as always, thanks for stopping by and sharing in our day. I hope you all had a good one, too. :)


Cake and a Craft for The Annunciation

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To be perfectly honest, I was a bit tired after yesterday's shindig, but I still wanted to do something special with the boys for today's Feast, The Annunciation of the Lord, (technically, a Solemnity, but a day to rejoice nonetheless). On this day last year we brought roses (and, ahem, rocks) to a nearby Marian statue, but this year I was determined to stay in. Between the rain and the snow, it was downright unhospitable for even a brief outing, so while the flakes fell fast and furious, and the boys finished their math, I got started on the cake.

Now, you're probaby saying to yourself, "She baked a cake? Didn't she say they had a whole bunch of desserts leftover from yesterday's party?"

(Well yes I did ... and we did (still do) ... but nothing Earlybird can eat, and I wanted him to have something fresh and festive for today. Besides, I love to bake.)

Anyhoo. I had wanted to try making homemade angel food cake, which is a traditional food for today, but at the last minute I realized I don't own a tube pan! (How can that be??) I wasn't sure if a bundt pan would cut it, so instead, I reached for a lemon cake mix I had on the shelf. So easy, and I kind of liked how golden it came out. :)

And with all the time I saved using a box mix, I made up some lemon whipped cream with EB:

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(Picture by Bookworm.)

Then, I turned a Ziploc bag into a makeshift piping tube ...

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And got fancy with the whipped cream ... :)

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(More photos by my Bookworm.)

And we fished blueberries out of the fruit salad to place all around ...

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All that was needed was a pretty centerpiece - so I plucked a few leftover tulips (aka "Mary's Prayers") and voila ~

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A fun, yummy feast day treat!

As the boys ate, we read about the Angelus, and I showed them this famous painting. I also showed them the Daily Missal you see below; it has just come into my happy possession. It was printed in 1959 and belonged to my grandfather. (Thank you so much, Mum and Uncle George!)

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Here's the lovely page for The Annunciation:

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And then it was time to get our hands dirty!

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I read a suggestion in this lovely book to plant marigold seeds on this feast. (Marigold = Mary's Gold.) The boys have been itching to plant something, so a few dixie cups and some potting soil later, and we were good to go! :)

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Note the variety of Marigold = Crackerjack! Which of course, made his day. ;)

First we scooped the potting soil into the cups carefully:

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Next we fished out the seeds:

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And each of my boys prepared his own special cup:

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Bookworm added the water:

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And now the cups will sit in a window full of spring sun. (Once it returns!)

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And there you have it, our day in a (rather large, chatty) nutshell. (Though I left out the part about the flock of wild turkeys that passed through ... that caused some excitement around here!) I hope your day was a good one, too. Good night for now ~ I'll see you all sometime tomorrow.


Tea & a Craft for Palm Sunday

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But before I get to the craft - or the tea for that matter - I must show you a few pictures from our "recess" today. It wasn't very warm out, but we're just so in the spring mood these days, we couldn't help ourselves. Admittedly, there was not a lot of spring to be found, but we did spy, of all things, a spider (alive!):

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The boys inisisted I show you the spider, even though I felt it didn't really go with the whole tea-drinking, craft-making theme of my post. But I suppose this is a household of boys after all ... :)

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Earlybird and Crackerjack were mighty glad to get back in the saddle!

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While I headed in to make lunch, the boys filled a bowl with all kinds of treasures for the nature shelf ~ spruce cones and needles, bark, acorns and maple tree buds. They also found evidence of a skunk visit, and several small but deep burrows which must belong to either a mole or a chipmunk. (Or maybe something else? Any ideas?)

After lunch, it was time for our tea-and-a-craft; our focus this week, Palm Sunday.

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I saw a neat project in The Big Book of Catholic Customs and Traditions for Children's Faith Formation ~ a Palm Sunday banner made of green paper hand (or palm) prints. I thought this would make a nice decoration for the learning room this week.

Now, one of my fellas was a bit too squirmy to have his hand traced (I'm not naming names!) but he did acquiesce to having his palms photocopied, lol!

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After cutting out all the hands (a tricky task which fell upon me) we lined them up along a long length of green paper, a "spine" for our palm frond and taped them all down. Bookworm made a Hosanna sign, and then we hung up our "palm of palms" in the windows (top photo).

And for tea? Irish decaf with plenty of sugar and milk and a batch of freshly baked oatmeal date cookies. As in palm dates, of course. ;)

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As we munched, we looked over this week's Magnifikid and talked about the word Hosanna. I asked the boys if they recognized it (they did) and asked if they could name at which point it is said (or sung) during Mass (they could).

Our final plan for the afternoon was to run through their roles for the Passion Play this weekend, but a friend of Crackerjack's showed up on the doorstep so we put that off for a while. We still have a few things to tweak on their costumes, but I think they have their parts down pretty well. :)

Well, I'm going to wrap things up here now, as it's just T-20 minutes to Lost! (Is it true this is the last episode for awhile? That went fast.) Have a good night, everyone ~ I'll see you all sometime tomorrow. 


Tea & a Craft for the 5th Sunday in Lent

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Today's weather could not have cooperated better if I had asked it to. A dark gloomy morning gave way to a bright and brisk afternoon ~ just in time for our weekly tea-and-a-craft! So, after our lessons were all done (more or less) it was time to gather the boys 'round the table for a little snack, a quick craft and some chat about this Sunday's gospel.

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First thing first ~ I read aloud from our Magnifikid and then Bookworm read aloud the story of Lazarus from our Children's Bible. The boys were familiar with the story and recalled seeing it acted out at VBS last year.

This passage in particular stood out:

Jesus told her, "I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?" (John 11:25-26)

(Now this certainly gave us something to discuss!)

Once our conversation slowed, it was time for some refreshement, and this time our snack doubled as our craft! I had heard of resurrection cookies before, but in this month's issue of Take Out magazine, I noticed a brief mention of something called resurrection rolls. They sounded intriguing, so I looked them up online, and found further instructions here.

In addition to a can of refrigerated crescent rolls, these were the main ingredients:

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Cinnamon-sugar, melted butter and marshmallows; yesiree, the boys dove right in!

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Each marshmallow was first dipped in melted butter and then rolled in cinnamon-sugar, before getting wrapped up in a triangle of crescent dough:

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They baked at 400 degrees for 15 minutes.

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Now, I think the rolls are actually supposed to stay closed; ours burst open as they baked (oozing marshmallow all over my cookie sheet). By the time they had cooled, and were ready to show to the boys, they looked like little caves and were definitely empty inside.

(Note: Next time I will be sure to get the 10 ounce can of crescent dough instead of the 8, and I will be more careful about pinching the dough tightly closed over the marshmallows. I might even cut back a bit on the cinnamon measurement - the mixture was yummy but a bit pungent.)

Here's Bookworm showing you his roll:

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And here's Crackerjack's cracked open:

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This was quite easy and fun ~ a nice symbolic craft for the season. It would be easy to do this with a group of children at an Easter party, and I also think it would make a special family breakfast on Easter morn. Quite delicious with coffee or punch (and portable for those backyard egg hunts). You could set out all the ingredients the night before, so the rolls are ready to assemble early Sunday morning.

Before I go, I must show you the beautiful Hellebore I purchased at the grocery store last night. I have wanted one for so long! (Especially since Rebecca showed us hers two years ago!)

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The Hellebore is also called the Lenten Rose because it blooms right around Lent each year. An early bloomer is most welcome in the garden, especially up here in the northeast! I will do my best to tend my little "rose" until it warms up enough to plant it outside. (I have just the corner for it!) Sometime before I move it out though, I will have the boys sketch it for their field journals, as a sign of early spring.

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Well, now I'd best wrap up; I've kept you all long enough! It's 4:00 anyway ~ time to tidy and cook. On the menu tonight: turkey meatloaf, maple acorn squash, roasted potatoes and garlic breadsticks. Good hearty late winter fare. :)

I hope you had a wonderful Wednesday, and I hope to see you all again sometime tomorrow!


Tea & a Craft for The Chair of St. Peter

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For this week's tea & a craft, we focused on today's feast, The Chair of St. Peter. For "tea" we had hot milky cocoa in celebration of the snow (still falling fast and furious as I type) but no other treats were served. (We were all saving our "one sweet a day" for the cherry cobbler bubbling away in the crockpot!) We first read today's gospel, and then we read ahead for Sunday in our Magnifikid. And then, much to the boys surprise, I opened up my laptop ...

... for an online tour of St. Peter's Basilica!

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The boys were fascinated by this floorplan:

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We quickly found the Cathedra Petri on the map and opened its link:

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The image of The Holy Spirit, in stained glass above the Altar is so striking.

I then remembered we had a great picture of the Basilica in one of our Discoveries books - it happens to be a fold-out multi-page section.

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Next I pulled out a fun little paperback story, Lost in Peter's Tomb. Bookworm read this last year (and its sequel Break-in at the Basilica) but not Crackerjack. In fact, I had forgotten we had these books until just today! (You know, as much as I love to plan, half the time I'm making things up as we go, lol.)

Bookworm remembered a passage about the Chair of St. Peter in the book:

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"There's another picture of a dove at the end of the church," observes an excited Delaney, pointing toward the very end of the basilica.

"Is that a giant's chair?" Delaney asks, seeing what looks like a chair floating in gold and silver clouds beneath the dove. Now Delaney is sure giants live here.

"That is the very famous and sacred 'Chair of Peter' or Cathedra Petri in Latin," says the workman.

"Did Peter actually sit in that chair?" questions Riley. "It looks awfully big. How big was Peter?"

"No, he wasn't a giant. Just a normal-sized person. I don't think he ever actually sat in that chair," answers the workman. "It looks to be about ten feet tall; much too big for the average man to sit in. That big chair more importantly symbolizing that this is the place where the head of the Church belongs. However, a chair that Peter really did sit in is enclosed inside that big bronze chair."

Next we set about making our craft for the day, our own "stained glass" dove:

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I've shared this craft method before - it's a very common one, and a favorite of mine. Easy for the boys to do too, if I prepare things ahead. It's just bits of colorful tissue paper stuck onto clear contact paper, around a printed out image, and all set within a construction paper frame.

Our finished product:

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Which we added to our Lenten cross:

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So far we have a panel for St. Valentine, and now one for the Chair of Peter. Over the next four weeks we'll add the rest of the panels, colorful images representing special days of the season. Come Easter Sunday our cross will be filled with color and light!

Well, our day has now come to a close. The snow is still falling, and here we sit together, savoring these steaming bowls of cherry cobbler and watching a wonderful movie. A fitting choice for this time of year, as we long for the return of the spring. :)

Have a wonderful weekend, my friends!


Tea & a Craft for the Days of the Blackbird

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I know many of my readers are familiar with the Tomie dePaola books - in certain homeschooling circles, they are practically a primary resource!! And why shouldn't they be? Each title is a gem ~ a great story combined with lovely illustrations, and always that certain Tomie sparkle. :)

We are fortunate to have many of his books on our shelf, but I think Days of the Blackbird: A Tale of Northern Italy might be my favorite. I love the story of course, a heart-warming tale of loving sacrifice, but the illustrations are so beautifully shaded. Every page is a visual delight.

Today, January 29th, the first of the three Days, I sat the boys down after lunch to read aloud this treasured tale. As soon as I opened the first page, Crackerjack piped up: "Hey, I remember this book!" And as soon as I got to the page where Duca Gennaro falls ill, Earlybird hit the road ~ he's not one for dramatic tension, lol.

Once I'd finished the story I sent the boys off to play for a while and got down to work, setting up a simple go-along craft. I only got the idea this morning while waiting for EB at speech, so I had to figure out what exactly I was proposing and what I needed for materials. Not much as you can see in the top photo.

I first cut a length of paper from the craft roll and sketched out a tree with branches:

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Next, I photocopied a page from the book to get the right size and shape stencil ~ and then cut out four birds using heavy white watercolor paper.

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I called the boys back to the table; EB came with his piece of pizza in hand (but not on plate):

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I had the boys color one side of the birds with black crayons (first coloring the beaks and eyes in orange) ...

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... and we ended up with birds that on one side represented the white La Columba and on the other, the sooty La Merla.

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After hanging my tree sketch on our bulletin board, I asked the boys to think about the concept of sacrifice, particularly what it means in light of our Faith. We talked about the character of La Columba, and about her sacrifice for Duca Genarro (at the plea of his daughter Gemma). I asked the boys to write down the name of someone who makes sacrifices for us on the back of their birds, and after we each did that, we perched our birds on our tree:

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As you can see, one of the birds remains white. That would be Earlybird's. He got mighty busy coloring his black construction paper with white crayons, so I might cut his bird shape out of that.

Once our craft was finished we sat down for tea, or cocoa rather ~ hot cocoa and cold ice cream. I am working on the hot-cold concept with EB and these two treats made for a perfect (and delicious) example.

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There's nothing like a good story, but even better, a story that fits perfectly within the season, that expresses the feeling of the time of the year. Days of the Blackbird is just such a story. For one thing, the last week of January is certainly cold here in New England. And next week we prepare our hearts for Lent, a time of loving sacrifice for us all.

Now the day is fading, the boys are off to play, and I'd best get the supper started ~ Italian tonight, of course! Nothing fancy, just baked ziti and grilled sausages. Though, I might ask Bill to stop at my favorite bakery on his way home and pick up some tiramisu for dessert. ;)

Thank you so much for stopping by today, and I hope wherever you are, you are warm and well. See you all sometime tomorrow.


Tea and a Craft: Lovely Doves

“I saw the Spirit come down like a dove from heaven and remain upon him.” (Jn 1:32)

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Remember the dove cookies I baked the other day? Well, we usually have our Tea-and-a-Craft days on Thursdays, but this week Thursday was an incredibly busy day. So instead, we set aside time Friday morning to sit, read, craft and eat. :)

I try to do this with the boys each week ~ to read aloud Sunday's Liturgy of the Word, so we can talk about it a little. Usually I prepare a simple craft to go along with our talk, something to make the readings more memorable. I often tie in (or sometimes focus on) a current or coming feast day. Quite often we also weave in a book we're reading (something from Cay's Catholic Mosaic, perhaps) or even a seasonal theme from nature. Nature brings its own beautiful inspiration to the table! (I know many of you are familiar with this activity, but since I have some new readers, may I link you to my Tea and Crafts archive?)

I use several resources to plan out these teas (which for lack of a better term is what I call them; we only sometimes have tea, though, lol). Online there is 4Real, and many blogs of course, as well as places like CatholicMom, Catholic Culture and Open Wednesdays. I draw from the books I've listed on the lefthand sidebar under Living the Liturgical Year and we also subscribe to Faith & Family, Take Out: Family Faith to Go and Magnifkid.

Now it goes without saying, I don't use everything at once! But I like to check through all the resources to see my options. Usually something sparks an idea and our weekly tea takes its shape ...

But always, without doubt, there is a snack to be shared. Nothing draws a bunch of boys to the table like something good to eat! Especially when there's frosting involved. :)

The craft this week came from The Complete Children's Liturgy Book: Liturgies of the Word for Years A, B and C):

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And having decided on this craft (which reflects Sunday's gospel) I also decided to tie in our snack to the theme of the dove. My parents gave me a beautiful dove cookie cutter for my birthday, and so sugar cookies became the snack of choice this week. (A great idea is to collect cookie cutters (alphabet, religious and nature themes) and keep a stash of frozen sugar cookie dough in the freezer - you'll always have a snack at the ready!)

As the boys assembled their dove crafts, I read Sunday's Gospel aloud. And yes, my boys do the crafts readily. I get asked that a lot, lol. We've always done crafts, and they enjoy them! I keep them very simple and the promise of a delicous treat at the end also holds their attention. ;)

By the time we were done reading and making, the doves were ready to hang, and the cookies were ready to frost:

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Crackerjack kept his plain, but Earlybird's (shown below) was generously adorned with crystal white sprinkles.

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Speaking of EB, the poor kid, he is suffering a terrible cold. He didn't even want to eat this cookie - for him, it was really all about the decorating today.

Finally, the cookies were consumed, and the craft was hung on display:

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Don't they look nice hanging from the beams?

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Even better when there are so many smiling faces beneath them. :)

And now here's the weekend at last ... oh, the promise of a weekend! And a long weekend, at that! It's bright and early here as I finish up this post. EB is feeling better, thank goodness. He had a good night's sleep and I am sure that helped a lot. I have a long list of things to do today - little errands, catch-up chores - and then we'll be settling in for a quiet family weekend. Well, quiet except for the part where we cheer on our beloved Pats! :)

And don't forget, today begins the Barnes & Noble Educator Week! And, I hear tell, JoAnn's has a good sale going on too. Hmmm ... books, crafts and football? Sounds like a great wekeend to me!

I hope you all have a good one too! I'll be back again sometime soon.


Happy St. Nicholas Day!

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So, what's the plan for the day? Well, I'm so glad you asked! ;)

This morning when the boys read their Advent tag, they were directed to search the Christmas tree for a special surprise. And there they found hanging - one for each of them - a shiny striped candy cane!

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They are big, all-natural candy canes that I bought at Whole Foods! Now, I dont mean to sound like a candy cane snob, lol, but my Earlybird can't eat most candies due to food sensitivities, so I am always pleased to find natural alternatives when I can. You can't see it in the picture, but behind each candy cane's tag, I wrote the following stanza from a lovely blessing I found at the St. Nicholas Center:

Wherever these candy canes are hung,

On tree or wall or door,

May they carry with them

The bright blessing of God.

May all who shall taste them

Experience the joy of God

Upon their tongues and in their hearts.

After breakfast (and after math), we'll set in to work on a craft for the day, a very simple, St. Nicholas bookmark. I thought that since this is our Book Group day, the craft would be timely and practical. I photocopied our St. Nicholas holy card (you can easily find similar images online), for the boys to cut and apply to a few leftover bookmarks from Monday's Cocoa Storytime. They can then decorate them as they wish. While they work, I'll read aloud The Night before Christmas, and when I finish reading, I'll hand the book over to the boys - their memory work for this month is to learn this beloved poem by heart! :)

We also packed up some peppermint goodies to share with our friends at the library today (Hershey candy cane kisses and starlight mints).

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And of course no trip to the library is complete without filling up a sack-full of books! Here's my wish list for today:

This afternoon after returning home from Book Group, we'll have a little snack - gingerbread men (I bought, rather than made) and cups of Candy Cane Lane tea ~ except we do a slight variation, steeping the herbal tea bag in a cup of cocoa for a few minutes. Crackerjack does not care for peppermint, so I'll be making him a cup of warmed almond milk. His candy cane is actually cherry-flavored which will make a delicious stirrer!

Well, Happy Thursday ~ I hope your day is a good one ~ see you again sometime soon!


Tea, Crafts (and Pj's!) for Martinmas

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A milky sky, a weak sun, a chilly wind ... November has us in its grip at last! Honestly, I love this time of year and I don't mind for an instant the dark early evenings ~ to me they're quite cozy and homey. Tonight we have the fireplace crackling, the oven roasting and there are pretty little lanterns in the window. It must be Martinmas! Now, the Feast of St. Martin technically falls on November 11th, but as the 11th is a Sunday this year, we'll have our Martinmas fun a few days early. :)

Since all three of my boys are struggling with a nasty cold this week, I scaled back on some of our plans. Instead of a lantern walk tonight, we placed our lights in the front window. And instead of sorting through closets and changing beds today, we'll start in on those tasks tomorrow.

Some nice things to do for Martinmas:

  • Start a family collection for charity.
  • Begin knitting something warm for someone who needs it.
  • Bag up clothing to give to the needy.
  • Change your beds from cotton to flannel.
  • Surprise your children with new winter pajamas.
  • Read aloud or re-tell the story of Saint Martin of Tours.
  • Invite friends on a lantern walk at dusk.

If I may, here are some pictures from our Martinmas teatime today ...

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I baked a batch of St. Martin's horseshoe cookies, just like last year. Well, almost like last year. Lol, Bookworm tugged on my sleeves as I stood at the Kitchenaid and said, "No offense, but I didn't like those last year." Well, this year I remembered to use unsalted butter instead of salted, and I'm happy to say the cookies were downright delicious - buttery, oaty and tender. I also served the boys hot and honeyed pomegranate tea (excellent for their colds).

These packages piled at the head of the table caught the boys attention right away:

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But I made them wait for Earlybird to wake from his nap before opening them.

I did however set them about a small copywork assignment: the words to "St. Martin" from We Sing and Dance.

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Now it was time for the lanterns!

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Last year we made our lanterns from watercolor paintings; this year I decided to try glass jars with tissue paper ...

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The boys found it easy, if perhaps a bit sticky:

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We set our finished jars in the window to dry just as Earlybird came down the hall:

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NOW it was time to rip into the packages, and inside the boys found ...

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Brand new slippers!

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And fleecey pajamas to keep them warm all winter long!

Well, speaking of pajamas, bedtime is here, and it's time for me to be off for the weekend. As always, thank you for stopping by my little corner of the web. I wish you a warm and cozy night wherever you are. :)


Poetry Friday: October's Bright Blue Weather

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O SUNS and skies and clouds of June,
        And flowers of June together,
    Ye cannot rival for one hour
        October's bright blue weather …

  O suns and skies and flowers of June,
        Count all your boasts together,
    Love loveth best of all the year
        October's bright blue weather.

The stanzas above represent the opening and closing of October's Bright Blue Weather, a lovely poem by Helen Hunt Jackson, one you can read in full here. It's perfect for this mid-autumn Friday, despite the rain lashing the windows ...

As I considered this verse bright dark and early this morning, I remembered a craft I had in mind to do with the boys sometime this fall: an autumn leaf suncatcher. It was the first thing we did this morning, even before math!

I set out just a few materials:

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A few shades of blue tissue paper, double-sided tape and several clean Pringles can lids.

You might be wondering why I have a homekeeping book here. Well, it came in very handy ...

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... it's been pressing tiny fall leaves for over a week! I collected these way back on our woodland adventure day, specifically with this craft in mind.

By the way, I got the idea for this craft from a charming little book called The Harvest Craft Book by Thomas Berger. Here it is open to the Transparencies page where a more complex (yet very beautiful) craft was described:

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Our craft may be considerably more humble, but it required just the right amount of effort from the boys. Actually, I ended up doing most of the finish work as the bits of double-sided tape did prove a tad fussy. (Remember we did this craft early - I'd already had my coffee, but the boys were still waking up, lol!)

Quick directions: Cut a piece of tissue paper to fit inside the lid. Lay tiny leaves against the paper in a pattern you like; adhere them with a bit of double-sided tape. Stick slivers of d.s. tape along the inner edge of the lid and press down the paper with leaves facing down. Hole punch the top and tie a string through; hang where the sunlight will catch it:

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Next time we do this craft we will choose brighter leaves - say vivid orange and fiery red - which will stand out more, I think.

There was a promise of blue skies 'round middmorning, but by lunchtime it was pouring again (thunder and all!).

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It was time for a warm and hearty afternoon snack:

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Grilled cheese sandwiches cut into oak leaf shapes, maple creme cookies, and mugs of mulled cider. It all hit the spot.

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Let it rain all it wants today ... October's bright blue weather will return in all its glory tomorrow. :)