Teatime Feed

Advent Tea with Friends ... December 6th ❤

Advent tea with friendsHello and Happy Tuesday, my friends! Thank you so much for joining us for 4:00 teatime. :)

As discussed in yesterday's post, I'll be sharing readers' favorite cups and mugs here every day (or so) throughout Advent, and returning on Fridays with my own Advent Tea post. Everyone who participates is entered in my "Winter Comforts Basket" giveaway (a random collection of little wintertime comforts & joys to be mailed out after the new year.) On New Year's Eve I will announce the basket winner!

If you'd like to join us, please read more at this post - but for now, let's stop by Angie's for a wee hot cuppa! ☕️

"Here is my favorite kind of cup - so simple, just a glass mug, because I like to see what I'm drinking. I'm from the Pacific Northwest and a coffee girl at heart, so that's what you'll find in my cup most of the time. I do like a cup of peppermint tea occasionally, especially if I'm under the weather. I think hot drinks are one of my favorite parts of the winter season - so yummy and comforting."
 

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What a lovely tea spot, Angie! I love glass cups and mugs - I had a favorite glass mug for many years (technically it was Crackerjack's, a monogrammed gift he received when he served as ring bearer in my cousin's wedding) and it was such a nice size and weight. Plus I really loved seeing the contents! I must say, that's a nice head of foam on your coffee, Angie! How do you do that? And what kind of coffee do you like? We use a combination of Peet's and Dunkin Donuts in our morning coffee ... :)
 
Well my friends, thanks so much for stopping by today! I hope you enjoyed our teatime with Angie! Please drop a note if you have a moment and remember to send me your own favorite cup when you have a chance! (drhanigan AT gmail DOT com) I'll look forward to hearing from you ... 
 
See you all tomorrow at teatime!

Advent Tea with Friends ... December 5th ❤

Advent tea with friendsHello and Happy Monday, my friends!

Today I am kicking off a little something new - well not really new for my blog, but new for this year! As you all know, I am running a "Winter Comforts Basket" giveaway this month, and all you have to do to enter is share with me a picture of your favorite hot beverage cup (or mug). The winner of the basket - a random collection of little wintertime comforts & joys - will be announced here on New Year's Eve!

I shared the first few pictures I received last week in my Friday Advent Tea post, but I thought - how about I post all these lovely pictures in their own separate posts? So I'm reviving "Advent Tea with Friends" and will be sharing YOUR pictures here every day at the blog - roundabouts teatime (aka 4 p.m.) More details at the end of this post ... :)

But for now, let's drop in at Denise's for a hot cup of cocoa ...☕️

 

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"Sitting down to a planning time afternoon
tea, or as is the case today, hot cocoa, when I saw that you had an
afternoon post up ... :)

I can not have a favorite!  I don't have a Christmas/wintry tea cup. I am
still looking for just the right one, as I take Mom flea marketing (those
trips are getting fewer, sadly). But this is the one I used today. It is
actually the cup I use most during the autumn season. :) And I actually
think it 'belongs' to my grand-twin boy. They each have a favorite they
have claimed.

The lighting is terrible, but if I hadn't taken a photo then, I would not
remember to do it! Where I sit in the afternoons, here in front of the
south-facing windows, is so warm! Geese had flown overhead, leaving our
pond & heading to feed & slumber maybe, at the empty soybean field just
west of us, I would imagine. I have these swivel 'talking chairs' as my
husband dubbed them. So, I can swivel to look outside, or look at the
Christmas tree, or the fireplace, or turn all the way around and look at
the grands at the table.

Thanks for asking to see our cups!  This is going to be fun!

Have a blessed season!"

**

Thank you so much for sharing, Denise! Your teatime - or cocoa time as the case was here - sounds so nice!  Planning time teas are so wonderful - "working teas" I call them! :)

So remember dear readers, to join in our Advent Tea fun, please send me a picture (as many as you wish) along with a description and your thoughts on tea (coffee, cocoa or whatever you prefer) by emailing me at drhanigan AT gmail DOT com. Throughout Advent I will share "tea with friends" here at the blog every day (or so) roundabouts 4:00 p.m. Then on each Friday I will put up my usual weekly tea post - this coming week my theme is "Peace and Plants."

Enjoy the rest of your Monday, my friends! 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!


A Spot of Thanksgiving Tea 💛

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Hello, my friends ~ and Happy Thanksgiving Eve! :) Things here are all a-bustle as we prepare for tomorrow's big family gathering. My happiest news is that our oldest son came home last night from college! It is so good to see our Bookworm! Despite all the cleaning and decorating I've been doing this week, our Thanksgiving holiday officially began once this boy stepped in our front door ...

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(I never sleep so well as when ALL my boys are at home.)

So today I'd like to pour you all a cup of tea, offer you a cookie or two - pre-made I'm afraid, but quite tasty! - and catch up over a little Turkey Day chat:

If you're American, how are you celebrating this wonderful holiday? What's your favorite tradition? What does your menu look like this year? For my friends living outside America, how does your weekend look? Are you enjoying these last days of late autumn?

And how about your weather? It's VERY cold and windy in these parts ...

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We even had our first snow the other night! Just a coating, but it was quite pretty. A gentle reminder that more white stuff is coming ...

So if you had a peek at my Thanksgiving planner then you know I have lots of things to do this week! I absolutely relish this week though, because Thanksgiving is all about family, home, food and GRATITUDE. A time that highlights all the dearest pleasures of home, and the kinds of things I love doing best ... baking, decorating, welcoming, remembering. And with all my boys home and the house shining and smelling of baking - well, I'm a very happy mama today!

So here is where I was yesterday - out in the sunroom, working on table linens, flowers, place cards ...

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... and lists, of course! Always the lists. :)

Now, I usually drink my tea out of a very large mug but it's nice sometimes to sit down with a fine china teacup don't you think? And as you see in my top photo, I enjoyed yesterday's tea in a beautiful cup that once belonged to a dear friend's grandmother. When Shoshana stayed with us last month she was in the midst of cleaning out her ailing mother's home, preparing to sell it this fall. A difficult task (both physically and emotionally) and I was glad we were able to find some time to sit down and really talk. As she cleaned, Shoshana found many family treasures, including unpacked boxes of teacups that once belonged to her maternal grandmother. Knowing how I love teacups, she offered them to me!

So as I sipped my from that cup yesterday, I thought fondly of Shoshana and our friendship that dates back to kindergarten. Shosh (or Susie as I called her growing up) has lived in California for many years, so we don't get to see each other very often but I am so grateful for her friendship. There were lots of cups to choose from but I picked the black and white print yesterday because it reminded me of a pilgrim. :)

(And by the way, I was drinking "American Breakfast" tea - a caffeinated blend because I needed a little shot in the arm yesterday!)

But now here's today's tea ...

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Back to my favorite decaf - with a spoonful of raw sugar and LOTS of organic whole milk - served in one of my gigantic tea mugs. Oh, and those cookies ...

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These are just Pilsbury holiday sugar cookies - because yes, I'm a sucker for holiday marketing! Just pop them in the oven and 10 minutes later, freshly baked cookies! I made them for the boys this week but honestly, I'm pretty sure I've eaten the most of anyone so far.

And here again is my helper, assisting in the placement of china and napkins and turkeys. :)

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About those paper turkeys ... remember I showed them to you in a previous post? Well, as you can see they are serving as place cards and on the back of each turkey we glued a printout of our grace ...

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He was SUCH a big help with those glue sticks ... ;)

And now each guest can follow along with the grace as it is said ...

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After grace, each guest can use the crayon by their plate to write down what they're thankful for then hang their turkey blessings on the learning line. It will be fun to see what everyone says!

Now before I go, a few random things ...

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This is my favorite Thanksgiving decoration - a pretty little pilgrim-turkey-angel jingle bell ornament I've had for years. I have it hanging in my kitchen window. :)

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Our favorite holiday special ... we watch it every year WHEN it is on. (I mean, we could watch it any time obviously - between YouTube and DVDs - but there's something really neat about participating in the annual airing!) Which is tonight, by the way - at 8 p.m. on ABC. :)

And here's me, having tea in the sunroom (aka learning room), wearing a new sweater I bought myself this morning!

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I have a longtime love for cardigans, and my favorite is one I've had for years - a long soft gray sweater that I wear ALL the time in cool/cold weather. Well, it was time to have a second sweater for changing things up! I saw this navy blue cardigan at Target and couldn't resist. And then I had to show you all, because if you're looking for a soft and WARM, kick-around, but nice-enough-to-wear-out kind of sweater, this is it. $30 is not bad in my opinion for a well-crafted sweater. There were other colors to choose from but I just honed right in on this deep blue. It's one of my favorite colors to wear.

Oh, and there are pockets! :)

Had to share this too ...

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A fresh binder and pad of vintage-style cardstock! Revamping my homekeeping binder with fresh supplies makes me very happy! I'm working on tweaking last year's seasonal planning sheets so that they're current for 2017. Adding a few new page designs, too. Hope to have a post on all that sometime in early December!

Here's a peek at the November-themed page ...

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(P.s. Remember a while back on Facebook I mentioned I was hosting a homeschool moms meeting with the discussion topic, "time management tools?" Well I have not forgotten I promised to share notes from that meeting! But we had so much to discuss, we're actually having a follow-up meeting next month! In a future post I'll tell you all about the meetings and all the different planning styles we discussed.)

One last picture ...

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Basking in the sun, taking all the holiday prep in stride (while Oliver hides) is my Archie. :)

Now I have a couple of pies to make and some cranberries to brandy, but first a bit of housekeeping ...

(And how about another cup of tea?)

ADVENT NOTES 

I will post the follow up to my Advent planning sheets after the holiday (but hopefully over the weekend, or at the very latest early next week). I have notes on each of the planning sections to share, but I'm still in the midst of organizing this year's plans! (Hitting the craft store on Friday!)

I can show you this though ...

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So this is something we'll be doing for Advent! I saw an idea on Pinterest (originating at this blog here) and I just thought - how very clever! I'm still mulling this over, but I will fill you all in once I get all those pockets filled in!

ADVENT TEA


I will also be hosting a weekly tea here all throughout Advent ... up till New Year's actually! Stay tuned for more details but I would love to have you join me. This year I am eager to see YOUR favorite tea cup. What do you like to drink your tea/coffee/cocoa/mulled cider in best? Every one that sends me a picture of their favorite cup (or mug) will be entered in my Winter Comforts Giveaway. This package will be mailed out after the new year. :)

Note: I still don't have my blog email up and running so for now, if you'd like to send me a picture (or just a hello!) you can send it to drhanigan AT gmail DOT com. :)

Ok, I think that's all I have for now. I do hope you enjoyed our tea, and I would love to hear from you if you have a moment. I know many of us are busy scrambling about getting ready for tomorrow's big feast, so maybe we'll catch up in a few days. But as always, I thank you for joining me here and I look forward to visiting again! 

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

AND HAPPY THANKSGIVING!


A November Tea & Some Advent Thoughts!

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Hello my friends and Happy Wednesday! Can you believe that a week from tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day? And a few days after that is The First Sunday in Advent? I know it's become cliche to say, but truly - time just flies when you're having fun - or wait, scratch that - time just flies period! 

I have a few things to share on this dark, damp, Novemberish day ... first, some tea, cake and cozy goodness, as seen above. :) In our seasonal homeschooling we focused on "dens and nests" last week (it's "autumn bog" this week) and one of the activities was to decide where our own winter nests will be this year. Several spots were discussed here and there throughout the house but I'm migrating back to the library because it's a warm room in the winter and plus, this is where our Christmas tree will be. We'll amble out there in a minute, but first let me show you the breads I made with my little guy this morning - or cakes as Little Bear calls them!

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It's all about cranberries this week - which grow in the aforementioned bogs and are native to our region ... plus of course, a staple of the Thanksgiving holiday! And tomorrow being the feast of St. Elizabeth (patron of bakers) a cranberry-pumpkin bread sounded just right. Made with eggs from my hens, no less! I used my favorite mix-and-match quick bread recipe which makes two loaves - handy when you have a house full of hungry boys and young men!

In the background you see our colorful family "flock" - a paper turkey for each person joining us for Thanksgiving dinner. (I didn't cut these out, fyi - found a package of them at the art store!) These will be used for writing out a special kind of blessing come dessert time next Thursday ...

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And now into the library where I have this lovely basket stuffed full of our favorite holiday stories:

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And a few special books and pretty greeting cards on display ...

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More books on the coffee table - our latest library crop. :) Nests, bogs, beavers, dens ... these are things we've been talking about lately!

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But when I think about my own cozy nest, there is nothing I like better than a cup of tea by my side, a basket of books by my feet ...

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... and a little one in my lap! 💛

But can we talk for a minute about how cute my new autumn tea mug is?

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Found at HomeGoods for $3.99  - a generously-sized, wide-mouthed, solid mug ... perfect for a BIG cup of tea. Plus, how could I resist that face? :)

Now, some of my long-time readers might recognize this post as one of my "Teas" that I like to share every once in a while, especially at the holidays. So, yes ~ I will be returning to those Teas beginning this week! I'll sit down for another "Thanksgiving Tea" next week - in between pie-making and glass-washing - and then my Advent Teas will begin. More on all that soon, and how you can join me if you wish, but here's a link to last year's Advent Tea series if you'd like a look!

And speaking of Advent ...

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As I recently "teased" on Facebook and Instagram, I am finally getting my Advent Planning sheets assembled and ready to share! I'm just tinkering with a few final edits and then tomorrow - or Friday at the VERY latest - I will have them up here at the blog in PDF form. I really enjoyed putting these together and I look forward to sharing them with you! I will also share in that post where I'm keeping them and how I'm using them - or will be. I'm really trying to keep focused on Thanksgiving for the time being, but I do like knowing my Advent season will be ready to roll once the last bit of turkey leftovers is gone!

So please stay tuned friends - expect another post in a day or so - and as always I thank you sincerely for joining me here today. I hope you too are having a nice week ...

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


My Birthday Tea Journal ❤

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Happy Tuesday, my friends! I hope your day's been a good one!

Mine has been very nice ... my dear family treated me to a lovely birthday today! By chance, everyone was home, and my folks came over for lunch (bringing said lunch - plus cake and presents!) and now, at the end of the day, I am sitting upstairs in a comfortable chair, sipping tea, blogging and listening to Bill and the boys making supper downstairs ... :)

So originally, I was going to do this big list - a kind of "favorites" quiz I found online, answering "47" things about myself (I'm 47 today!) but my time sort of ran out (and honestly, I'm not that interesting, lol) so instead, I am going to share a whole bunch of pictures from today with you all ... just for fun and kicks! :)

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🌞

"Birthdays are good for you. The more you have, the longer you live."

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Afghans in lots of colors - this one knit by my grandmother many years ago.

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 LL Bean tote bags - I adore them! This one is my favorite, though - for the color AND the monogram. :)

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 Carnations are the January birth flower! This is a small $3 bouquet I bought for myself the other day at the grocery store - that's right, I bought myself flowers! - and I have never seen them in prettier colors. All my favorites: buttery yellow, soft peach and deep coral. "Sunrise" colors. :)

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 Another shot of the front of my 2016 planner. I love what it says, I love the color of the text (that shimmery copper) and I love the background scenery ... This morning as I walked up the driveway, I realized why I love this notebook so much:

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Look familiar? :)

"The best journeys take you home."

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 And these guys ... well, you all know how I feel about these guys. :)

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 My favorite hobby, I think, is journaling. I love adding bits and pieces of my days (words, ideas, observations, pictures) to this ever-growing tapestry in a three-ring binder. In the background is a mug I love - red squirrels are another favorite of mine!

"I can measure the quality of my life, at any given period, by how much or little I journaled. They go hand-in-hand." Stacy Duplease

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 My pretty penuche birthday cake - I think they tried to get all 47 candles on there! ;)

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(p.s. Penny, I will ask my mum for the frosting recipe - might be similar to the fudge - and the cake was "Golden Vanilla," Duncan Hines I think. All to say ... it was delicious!)

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I am grateful, deeply blessed, to have all these healthy lungs (and the young men attached to them) around me!

"Sons are the anchors of a mother's life." Sophocles

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And finally, one last "mug" shot ...

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 Bill found this cute little mug in one of the many boxes we still have yet to unpack since moving here 2 1/2 years ago. He presented it to me the other day as an early birthday "present" and he knew how it would make me smile. This came from my late grandparents' house and it was one of my favorites. The date stamped on the bottom says 1978, and like any child in the 70s and 80s, I just about LIVED for rainbows. I drew them, collected them ... wore them everywhere: on my socks, my pajamas, in my hair, on my suspenders. I'm so happy to have "found" this mug and will use it happily and remember my Gram ... who would have been 102 on Thursday. She was my birthday pal and for that and so many reasons, I miss her, deeply.

"Try to be a rainbow in someone else's cloud." Maya Angelou

I think this makes a mighty fine birthday resolution, don't you? :)

🌞

Well my friends, I am going to let you all go now ... you've been so good to humor me! So thank you very much for stopping by and I hope you all enjoy a pleasant evening ... I'll be watching a movie with my fellas in a bit and then hitting the hay early, thankful God has granted me another year here on earth. I look forward to seeing what He has in store for me on my new journey 'round the sun!

Next post - pinky promise! - a look at my 2016 planner! I took the pics today and everything! :)

See you all here again very soon ...


Tea with Friends ... ❤

Tea with Friends button 2

Happy New Year, my friends, and Merry Christmas, too!

Yes, it's still Christmas! And for several more days!

Well, I hope you're all having a nice weekend ... I'm sorry I've been so slow on replies and posts, but I seem to be off my routine a bit lately. Finding it hard to get myself back online in a regular fashion. I feel like it will take some time to get back to our usual household "rhythm" ... we've been spoiled with Bill home so much and so many easygoing days. Next week - a return to "normal!" (Whatever that means, lol!)

Anyhoo, today I am very happy to share some lovely tea notes with you, from several dear readers, and these reflect not only on Christmas, but the Winter season, too. I hope you'll pour yourself a cup of tea and join us! And please see me at the end of the post for a bit of this and that ... :)

Vintage teacup black and white

First, from Karen T. - my Massachusetts friend :) - an invitation to Christmas Tea at her blog: A Servant's Memories. Thank you for sharing, Karen! I am honored to be linked and share tea with you! I am with you on starting earlier next year - YES! I hope 2016 is a great year for you. :)

Vintage teacup black and white

And now some Christmas Tea notes, from Amy P.  ...

Christmas Day was wonderful. It was just my husband, younger daughter, and myself, and we had a completely relaxing day - slept late, had a leisurely breakfast after presents, and spent the rest of the day watching a couple of movies, assembling a puzzle, and just being together. Then the next day my older daughter came with her family for the weekend and it was so good to spend time with them. As for the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas, they were the most hectic and overwhelming that I can remember. :(

What was the best thing you ate (or drank) this Christmas?
 
There are a few things I only make at Christmas, but my absolute favorite is a gelatin-based recipe that was handed down through my Dad's family. It has pineapple and dark sweet cherries and sour cream and I know it sounds like it should be gross, but it's SO good. 
 
What are your hopes for next Christmas? What would you like to do differently?
 
My husband and I have been talking quite a bit about this, given that every year seems to be more horribly busy and overwhelming to the point that we don't enjoy the season at all. Our hopes are that we can enjoy the entire Christmas season, and that we aren't completely physically and emotionally exhausted by the time Christmas arrives. Unfortunately, the way I think we will need to accomplish this is to do more Christmas-y things before Thanksgiving, such as write cards and put the tree up. Over the past few years I've cut back on baking and purged decorations to the point that I don't want to cut any further. We also may not attend any Christmas parties at church - my husband is on the pastoral staff (his first year there - he recently retired from the Army) and we were invited to every party for every class and organization there. We only attended a few - there was no way we could have gone to all of them! - but some people were upset that we didn't attend their particular party, which added to the stress we were already under. So yeah. Next year, we'll probably attend none of them.
 
Do you celebrate Christmas beyond December 25th in any way?
 
We pretty much celebrate Christmas until the New Year - the decorations stay up, we're finishing up holiday treats, and and there are unwrapped gifts and half-stuffed stockings left under the tree until at least the 2nd. :) 
 
I'm glad I finally got to answer some of your questions! I wanted to join in the last month or so, but have had NO time. Thanks for hosting these, Dawn!
 
~ Amy
 
Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts, Amy! I agree wholeheartedly about getting an earlier start on things next year because I found myself (my family) in a similar situation very close to Christmas. We had been so slow-paced and peaceful about things early in Advent ... and it was wonderful ... but things didn't get done! So there was a bit of a scramble there at the end and that was NOT the way I wanted to enter Christmas. Next year will be different I hope!
Vintage teacup black and white
  
From Shirley  ... :)
 
What is Winter like where you live? Is it true to form this year?

Here in England we tend to have very changeable weather. Snow is not always a given, some winters can be more volatile than others, we are an island after all. This year we (in fact most of Europe) are having a very unseasonably warm time. I have to say that I DO NOT like it! Winter should be winter in my books. I love that each season is so distinctly different and relish what each new season brings. Right now my snowdrops are blooming - in DECEMBER! Some people have daffodils blooming already. I find this all a bit sad because it means spring is not going to be as bright and colourful as it usually is.

What are your favourite things about winter?

Snow and frost hands down. I love bundling up warmly to go outside. I love how the world is transformed by a snowfall or hard frost. I love how the birds flock to my feeder. I love having the fire going, candles glowing and wholesome meals cooking in the crockpot. Honestly, there's so much to LOVE about this season :)

Hobbies?

Well I love to have something on my knitting needles all the time. I'm keen on trying to dye my own yarn but that takes a whole lot of setting up and I'm thinking that summer may be a better time for that endeavor.

What foods do you like serving over winter?

Well my crockpot works overtime during this season. You can cook just about anything you want in the crockpot. I love setting it up around lunchtime then smelling the warming, delicious aromas all throughout the afternoon. I love that the afternoon is then mine to do with as I wish - no having to stop to prep supper. I find that with the shorter days I always get restless to start supper earlier because it feels later. But with the crockpot all that restlessness disappears :)

Other than that, root veg, pies, hot chocolates, tea - lots of tea. Home-baked cookies and goodies - gosh, thank goodness winter does not last all year! We would all be HUGE! :)

~ Shirley
 
Lovely thoughts, Shirley, thank you! We have also been unseasonably mild here in New England ... it is only just getting truly wintry here, with snow that finally fell last week and stuck! I also appreciate the distinctive seasons and like things to stay true to form! And I'm with you on the crockpot - such a lifesaver and a real homey comfort on blustery afternoons. :)
 
Vintage teacup black and white
 
From Helena ...

What is Winter like where you live? Is it true to form this year? 

Normally it’s quite a bit warmer than the rest of the country, but not *this* warm! Apparently our Christmas temperatures are supposed to be in the mid-80s, which is hot for this time of year. We had a chilly day or two over the weekend (overnight lows in the 40s), and we were hoping the chill would stick around for the holiday, but no such luck.

What are your favorite things about Winter?

Well, during a typical winter, I enjoy opening up the house to the breeze, working outside without getting all sweaty, and being able to wear jeans and a sweater.

What are some hobbies you might try over these long winter days?

I’d like to improve my embroidery skills and maybe finally learn how to use my Nonna’s sewing machine—she gave it to me about a year ago and I’m still trying to convince myself it won’t eat me. :)

What foods do you like to serve during the Winter? Are there seasonal meals you return to every year? 

I like to make more soups and roasts, fewer grilled things. This year marks the first winter of our low-sodium journey (for my husband’s heart) so there are several favorite dishes I have to figure out how to modify. It’s a process, but definitely worth it.

What refreshments are you enjoying this week?

My sister and brother gave me a tin of Simpson and Vail Winter Wonderland Rooibos and it is amazing. I don’t usually put milk in herbal teas, but with a little milk and a smidge of sugar this tastes like a Christmas cookie in tea form. So delicious! (And no caffeine, which means I can drink it later in the day, after I’ve had my cup of Welsh Breakfast in the morning.)

What are you reading this week?

I was flipping through some old holiday issues of Tea Time magazine, but not much else as far as personal reading. Lots of Christmas stories with the kids though.

What are you listening to this week?

Heather Dale’s holiday album, This Endris Night. (She has the most amazing voice. She has become a favorite with the kids too.)

What are you working on this week?

Cleaning, baking, cooking, trying to slow down and stay sane.

What's happening in nature this week?

As I mentioned, it’s been quite warm. We’ve seen some of our usual migratory birds at the feeder, but not in their usual numbers—not sure if this is due to the weather or something else. We’ve had a ton of bees visiting our heather plants lately—so many that when I sit on the porch I can sometimes hear them all buzzing over there. In the garden, our beans are done and the lettuce actually bolted because of the heat, so I’ll be planting more of that. The romanesco, carrots, and sweet potato continue to thrive so far.

Any projects with the children this week?

Not really. They’ve been baking cookies with my husband’s aunt, but at home I just haven’t had energy for much in the way of projects. Last week we made pomanders with our homeschool co-op though, and both kids loved that. Even my little guy was completely absorbed in poking holes and inserting the cloves for a lot longer than I would have expected him to be.

~ Helena

Thank you for sharing a bit of your "southern" winter with us, Helena! I love hearing about your weather and how things are so different from here where I live. What you describe sounds familiar to me - only at the other side of the year! And I love the sound of that tea ... sugar cookie in a cup? Oh, I'm going to have to try that! I have a tough time liking herbal teas, but with a little milk and sugar I could give anything a try! :)

Vintage teacup black and white

Well, my friends, I'l be off for now, but thank you so much for joining our happy friends' tea. You might have noticed a new Tea button up at the top of the post - some pretty vintage clipart I found on Pinterest, doctored up with a bit of text. :) I am going to use that throughout the new year to host seasonal teas from time to time. I must refrain from naming a set day or schedule because I will likely only set myself up to fail! But I will hope to host Tea here a few times a season, anyway, usually around a holiday or feast of some sort ...

And in fact, I will host my next Tea with Friends on Tuesday, January 12th - it will be a Birthday Tea for me! :) My theme will be "favorite things" and I will of course, have some pretty CAKE to serve alongside our tea ... stay tuned for more information, and watch for that button to pop up now and again ... :)

Now, I would also like to mention that on Monday I will have a Masterpiece Monday post up - just as soon as I'm able! Things like late bedtimes and sleepy mamas sometime take precedence but my aim is to watch the premier of Downton Abbey's sixth and FINAL season (sob!) in live time AND write up notes to post the next day.  I know there are plenty of places around the web to chat about Downton, but I do enjoy sharing my thoughts here and would love to hear from you, if you have the time. :)

Hmmm ... I'm pretty sure there was more I was going to tell you, but I will keep it there for now ...

Thanks so much for stopping by and I will see you here again very soon!

(p.s. Sorry for the odd formatting - I think Typepad is on the fritz!)


My Christmas Tea Journal, 2015

Christmas tea 4

Happy Tuesday, everyone! I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and that your week is off to a great start! Our Christmas was very nice and I have lots of pictures to share, but in the interest of time and keeping our tea hot and fresh ... I will share them in a separate post. For today I'd like to invite you to sit and share a bit of your Christmas with me ... how your holiday went, is going still, and how you'd like to see it go next year. So grab a favorite mug and let me pour you a hearty cup of "brew" - I need something bracing today - and let's chat!

Firstly, how was your Christmas?

Ours was lovely! Spread out over a couple of days, we celebrated with family and friends and had a really nice time. As usual it seemed to fly by and I can hardly believe we are but a few days from New Year's ... 

What was the best thing you ate (or drank) this Christmas?

My mother's homemade penuche fudge is my FAVORITE Christmas treat - she makes it every year and I remember bringing pretty little packages to my teachers when I was a child. As for drinks, our signature Christmas cocktail this year was a really yummy punch called, "Jingle Juice." It made quite a large batch and while potent, was quite refreshing - nice for the mild day we had! Lots of citrus zest and juices plus frozen cranberries and ... spiced rum, Amaretto and Grand Marnier! Recipe found here ... though I will tell you, we used bottled juice instead of fresh. There just wasn't time for anything else!

What are your hopes for next Christmas? What would you like to do differently?

This was something Bill and the boys and I talked about at our family meeting last Sunday. I wrote down what each of us said so we can remember our thoughts next year. I myself wished for more time to just be home and bake and less last-minute running around. We all wished we had made more gifts. We also had to skip our town's tree lighting and caroling on the common. We talked about why these things happened (or didn't) and, moral of the story: we need to start earlier and give ourselves more time. Too many to-do's were left till late in December.

Do you celebrate Christmas beyond December 25th in any way?

Yes! There's so much fun to be had throughout the Christmas season! We keep most of our decorations up till Epiphany, and I try to leave a bit of greenery tucked somewhere till Candlemas (Feb. 2nd). On New Year's Eve we have a quiet celebration at home - a good movie or two (this for me, this for the fellas), cheers at midnight (or as close as we can get) and before bed we'll "wassail" our little apple orchard with a blessing of warm cider (an old English tradition). We'll honor Mary, Mother of God, on January 1st by attending Mass, enjoying a special breakfast after, and refreshing our peace corner ... and we'll bring blessed chalk home from Epiphany Mass with which we'll mark our front door for the New Year (20 + C + M + B + 16). Speaking of C, M and B - every day we're moving our Wise Men closer to the nativity set, and reading stories about their journey. They'll arrive at the manger on Twelfth Night (January 5th), and our dinner that night will feature a spiced beef (slow cooker) stew, hot wassail and gingerbread.

On Little Christmas (January 6th), in Irish tradition, the menfolk will be in charge of packing up decorations, picking up dinner, and doing up dishes! Yours truly will work on organizing Christmas bins and making notes for next year.

:) 

Now, I'd love to hear your answers to my questions above - either here, in the comments below, a post at your blog, or in an email sent to bysunandcandle AT gmail DOT com. I hope to hear from you! For now, though, here is ...

My Christmas Tea Journal

Vintage christmas bells and birds

What refreshments are you enjoying this week?

In my Christmas stocking I found a box of my FAVORITE tea - Allegro Black Decaf. It's organic, and rather expensive, so I only buy it once in a while, but I just love the flavor. I'm enjoying it in my special snow angel mug along with a couple of festive yogurt-covered pretzels ... sitting at my writing desk which looks out at the side yard, which, as you can see, is (finally) covered in snow!

What are you reading this week?

In my stocking I also found: 

Illuminations

Illuminations: A Novel of Hildegard Von Bingen

I discovered Mary Sharratt's books this past year and I'm so eager to read this one next! I have just started digging in ... but it's so hard to find reading time in a busy mama's days!

And with the younger boys:

Christmas tea 6 (1)

The Twelve Days of Christmas, a beautifully illustrated favorite, and so nice for this week "after" Christmas. I have also requested The Chronicles of Narnia (audiobook) from the library - this will be our Winter read-aloud. For New Year's Eve there will be Cider Apples and I've moved the Epiphany books up to the front of the Christmas book basket. I have listed some titles over on the sidebar under, "Epiphany Basket."

What are you listening to this week?

How about some seasonal songs? We Three Kings, Here We Come A-Wassailing, Go Tell It on the Mountain, Do You Hear What I Hear?, Joy to the World, Auld Lang Syne ... and one of my favorites, What Are You Doing New Year's Eve? by Ella Fitzgerald. I heard this standing in line at the bookstore last week and thought, what an oldie but goodie! Next year I think a little unit study on Christmas carols and what their lyrics mean - where they fall in the Nativity story - would be fun.

What are you working on this week?

Christmas tea 2

Oh, I am so in love with this "planner" ... still very much a work in progress! I bought the notebook last week at Paper Source and it's just gorgeous. Smooth, lined paper and NON-perforated, silk-trimmed pages ... sturdy, copper-coil binding ... and a stunning front cover with a powerful reminder (All We Have Is Now). I am transforming this notebook into a very personalized weekly/seasonal planner and am having SUCH fun in doing so! I am trying to replicate the weekly planner I made last year but in a more manageable size. With better checklists and more planning space. I will post all about it VERY soon. :)

What's happening in nature this week?

Christmas tea 7

Winter has finally arrived ...

Christmas tea 8

Christmas was incredibly mild this year - we hit 70 on the 24th! And then today, at last, we had our first snow ... mixed with ice and sleet, however, so it's kind of gunky and wet. Still, it's nice to see white on the ground again!

Any projects with the children this week?

Not really - it's kind of a breather week here!

Any quotations to share, some words to inspire?

 "Write it on your heart, that every day is the best day in the year." Ralph Waldo Emerson

Vintage holly sprig

Well, my friends, do we have time time for one more cup of tea? Ah well, perhaps not today ... here in my corner of the world it is dark and suppertime is upon us ... so it's time to clean up my crumbs and get back to business. But I hope you enjoyed this Christmas Tea post! I can hardly believe how quickly these weeks have passed ... and now here we have our last Tea together. It's been such a fun journey and I thank everyone for reading and commenting and especially those lovely ladies who sent me their own Tea posts to share here at the blog. What a gift this sharing has been! I would love to host more Seasonal Teas through the Winter ... I'm sure we can all do with a weekly sit down during this long, cold season. Spending time in our nests - WHICH will need some attention now that the festive holidays are winding down. I could use some revitalization next month, how about you?

So please stay tuned! And as always, thanks so much for stopping by ...

I will see you here again very soon ...


My Advent Tea Journal ~ Welcome Winter!

Advent tea winter 24

Happy Monday, my friends ~ and Happy Winter Solstice, too!

I'm getting a late start on Tea, because it's been a busy one today! And mostly it's been a "working tea," so if you've just stepped into the kitchen to join me, please excuse the mess! There are, however, some good smells in the air and soft music in the background ... the kids are all occupied (bigs watching littles), so I'm ready to sit ...

Please grab yourself a cup (there are plenty in the cupboard) and let's chat! :)

Now as you're probably aware, today we begin a new season: around midnight tonight the seasons will change guard, as Autumn retires and Winter makes its triumphant return. Though to be honest, I don't know how triumphant Old Man Winter is in these parts - we hit 50° earlier today! And not a speck of snow to be seen, which is quite late in the game for New England ...

But snow or no, Winter is arriving at our doortsteps and I think it's a wonderful thing to prepare our hearts and home for all it has to offer. I take joy in all the seasons as they turn (and return) - and I love all of them equally. Each one has its unique pleasures and promises to offer, and I've been taking notes for years on how to make the best of each season of the year. It's such a passion of mine! I will spend more time discussing the new season in upcoming posts, but here are a few questions for us to ponder as we Welcome Winter on this dark, chilly night. I've added my own answers, but I'd love to hear yours, too!

What is Winter like where you live? Is it true to form this year?

Here in New England it's unseasonably mild, and has been for some time. They're predicting near 70° on Christmas Eve! This is just unheard of ... although, after last year's epic snowfall, I should probably be counting our blessings! Things will turn around before long, I am sure ...

What are your favorite things about Winter?

I love SNOW! From gentle flurries to snowstorms - big old Nor'easters thrill me! I just love it. And nothing beats a Winter sunset stretching across a clear, frosty sky. Vivid and breathtaking - God's perfect artistry! I also love watching birds at the feeders at this time of year, and savoring the warmth of home on cold days and nights ... with extra blankets, cozy slippers, and nourishing foods like hot cocoa, baked apples and hearty beef stew.

What are some hobbies you might try over these long winter days?

I'm going to recommit to my journal-keeping this Winter, and get more organized about seasonal crafts.

What foods do you like to serve during the Winter? Are there seasonal meals you return to every year?

I love seasonal meals ... so in Winter, that means potatoes and root vegetables, pot pies, stews and soups, oatmeal, citrus fruits, molasses cookies and hot beverages of all kinds.

*☀️*

And now, for my Tea Journal Notes this week, our fourth week of Advent, just a handful of days from that holiest of nights ...

What refreshments are you enjoying this week?

Advent tea winter 2

We are so grateful to have received a wonderful selection of citrus fruits from Bill's aunt who now lives in Florida. Because I know I'll be "indulging" quite a bit later this week I'm trying to eat as healthy as possible these days, so my "snack" today is hot tea and a very simple (but sweet) clementine. I find oranges and clementines very Christmasy, don't you?

Advent tea winter 14 (1)

Now, if you're "game," maybe you'd care to join me in some last-minute Christmas crafting? :)

As I work, the cider is simmering on the stove and the boys are all busy with their own affairs - Earlybird is working with his therapist and my older boys are taking turns playing with Little Bear. I don't always have my kids at the craft table with me, but I like that they see me here ... being calm and thoughtful and taking joy in the season with my hands and my heart. It's one of those pre-Christmas days when the home atmosphere is so important ... one of quiet anticipation and joyful preparation. I try to model this mindset for my children, and hope that their memories of these days will be dear ones.

 What are you reading this week?

Advent tea winter 18

I'm not doing much "personal reading" this week, but that's to be expected. I do love all those holiday picture books, though! Our book basket is full of "Winter Welcome" this week, and here is a list of some of our favorites:

Winter is Coming

The Shortest Day

Wintertime

Grandmother Winter

Winter Waits

Winter Lullaby

Dear Rebecca, Winter Is Here

Waiting for Winter

Winter

When Winter Comes

The Yule Tomte and the Little Rabbits

 Also by my side is Winter: A Collection of Poems, Songs and Stories for Young Children, as I look for little verses to journal or share or write into curriculum plans.

What are you listening to this week?

Advent tea winter 20

And Winter Came ... by Enya. It is just so lovely, and an early Christmas present for me! :)

When Bill and I were first dating (in the late 80s/early 90s) then engaged ('91) and then married ('93), Northern Exposure was our favorite tv show ... for its quirky plotlines and lovable characters as well as the very cool soundtrack. Several Enya songs were used throughout the series and we just fell in love with her music. To listen to this or this just takes me right back to those sweet, early days! We're actually re-watching this series with the boys over vacation, and loving it all over again. :)

What are you working on this week?

Advent tea winter 1

Setting up a Blessings Jar for the New Year, organizing a family meeting, and finishing my monthly calendar for the file crate ... as well as my 2016 planner. The notebook above is - potentially - my new daybook for 2016. I found it at Paper Source (while Christmas shopping with Bill!) and not only did I love the cover, but the pages are gorgeous. It's a nice size, too. I have to play around with it a bit - but of course, I will let you all know how it turns out!

 In addition, this week is all about readying ourselves for Christmas ... a bit more in the practical sense than the pensive, but I'm trying desperately to keep things in perspective. To keep the peace we've cultivated ... in me and around me. 

A couple of projects:

Advent tea winter 10

Sun and moon ornaments I made for the tree ... :) I have a plan to make "nature" ornaments throughout next year - a couple each month to reflect the changing seasons and natural phenomena. I found some plain, kraft-brown, round ornaments at AC Moore that are very easy to paint up and decorate. On the back of each ornament will be a quote or sentiment I wish to pass on to my children ...

Advent tea winter 11

I also made this ornament, a mama robin on her nest ...

Advent tea winter 13 (1)

(The eggs are painted whole nutmeg!) 

What's happening in nature this week?

 Mostly, we've been taking advantage of dry, mild weather and enjoying the last sunsets of Autumn ...

Advent tea winter 4

Advent tea winter 3

Advent tea winter 7

Any projects with the children this week?

We set up a Solstice Tree for our little furred and feathered friends ...

Advent tea winter 6

Advent tea winter 25

And this week in our Advent plans we're focusing on "Friends, Family and Fellow Man," so it was time to move our Holy Family into the manger where the rocks, plants and animals have gathered to welcome them ...

Advent tea winter 23

Shepherds wait on the windowsill amongst the nativity-themed books ...

Advent tea winter 21

While the wise men began their journey in the bookcase across the room. :)

(and finally)

Any quotations to share, some words to inspire?

For my friends who are not quite as pleased to see Winter makes its appearance:

Advent tea winter 12

**

Now, speaking of Winter, I am so pleased to tell you all that there will be ANOTHER Live Planing Chat between Jen, Mystie and myself sometime next month! Details to come, (and of course I'll share them as soon as I can) but I do know we'll talk further about planning strategies (nitty-gritty stuff!) and brainstorm ideas for the first couple of months of the year. If you have any suggestions please drop me a note! I will be picking up speed with my Fresh Start series starting next week, and I will address the "mind map" I mentioned in the talk last week as a couple of you have asked about it. I think it's a great tool for anyone thinking about their responsibilities and routines or perhaps beginning a new planner. A timely topic for sure!

As always, I would LOVE to hear from you, my friends, about your own Tea this week and/or your thoughts on welcoming Winter. If you have a moment, please drop me a note below or send me an email here:

>> bysunandcandle AT gmail DOT com <<

(Pics are always welcome!)

I look forward to hearing from you and chatting more about all these fun topics! Thank you so much for joining me today and letting me prattle on about this and that ... I appreciate your time and kind attention! :)

See you here again very soon ...


Tea with Friends ... ❤

Advent Tea with Friends button

Happy Sunday, my friends, and blessings to all on this 4th Sunday in Advent! I can hardly believe our Advent Teas are winding down ... it feels like I just posted the idea! But here we are with Christmas but a few days away ... are you ready? Wrapped presents and cookie platters aside, are you ready in your heart to embrace Christmas? Did your Advent go the way you had hoped?

Well, tomorrow afternoon I will post my final Advent Tea, and our theme will be one of "Welcome." We will be welcoming Winter (which arrives tomorrow night!) and looking for ways to embrace this new season in our hearts and in our homes. There will be lots to talk about there! But for today, I'd like to share a lovely cup of Advent Tea, poured by my dear friend Denise ... I hope you enjoy! 

**

Advent tea magic denise 3

We love weaving our faith and the true meaning of Christ-mass in our Holy-Day celebrating, (which for us begins with Thanksgiving) especially with our grandchildren. We do that in lots of various ways. Decorating the tree, which has many faith-symbols and talking about what they are, what they stand for. Another I think I wrote about, our Jesus gifts. When they were a bit younger, we would find the Christ-babe for our nativities. I have a couple who still enjoy the hunt, and now for the older ones especially, we also add in a time of discussion, "How can we *find* the
Christ-babe in our lives today? How have we LIVED the Christ to those around us?" As the Scripture says, "One generation will praise Your works to another and will declare Your mighty acts." (Psalm 145:4) Oh for us to take *every opportunity* to declare HIS mighty acts to our progeny! Passing on our love for the One who first loved us!

~~ Advent Tea Journal ~~

Refreshments:

Advent tea magic denise 2

An assortment this week: Chai Tea Latte (homemade!), peppermint tea, hot cocoa! These little Grinch cookies, that did NOT turn out like Pinterest! I only had brown candy hearts (what?) and they weren't supposed to spread out quite so much. Next time bake in mini-muffin tin, maybe??? But cute all the same. Family story that goes along with this, so the Grands will have quite a laugh!! 

Reading:

The prophecy of the Messiah - and then the FULFILLMENT of those prophecies, as recorded in the Holy Scriptures!  WOW! The lineage is spelled out. The locations are pin-pointed! The most miraculous, the Holy Son being born of a virgin! WOW! Oh, help us, Holy Father, not miss the Christ-child, who grew to be a man freely giving Himself a sacrifice for all who would receive in faith! Now, I'm not a great woman of faith, but I know Almighty God who is ever-faithful, fulfilling ALL His promises!!

Listening: 

Christmas music continues. I've been enjoying Christmas music by Third Day this week! And a little David Crowder Band Christmas as well.

Working On:

Thinking of the new year, the great growth potential! Praying about what the LORD wants to do in my life, what my "focus" of the year will be.  Trying to see how this new planner will fit me(?) It's a fun thing, playing in new planners, but I am a little timid about how this one is going to work!

Nature Notes:

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We've had rain so that was good! But, we had a Christmas surprise! We've lived here 6 years and this is the first year these big, green leafy bushes (out front, facing south) have flowered! White flowers (which I didn't get a picture of) and then these adorable RED BERRIES! Not many, but a few bits of bright color here & there! I can't wait to get down to Mom's to cut the red berry-limbs that will last until March!!! Also, I am trying to identify a new-to-me bird that has been visiting our home. Has just a slight bit of red on its head, and maybe in the folds of its wings.

Projects with children:

Our focus this week is our Children/Community theater's production of Elf, Jr.!! My husband (Gramps) is co-directing this one & three grands are IN it, and one is backstage hand! They have been working diligently and I am sure it will come together beautifully, although there is some worry. Opening night is THIS Friday (18th)!! So, we are busy & excited around here, and to be candid, tired!

It seems like just yesterday you were announcing your Advent Tea, Dawn! Yet, here it is so very close to end our waiting! It has been a time of calming for me, to come to your "web-home" and join you in the pausing, the calming, the anticipating, the sharing. Thank you!

~~Denise

**

Thank you so much for sharing your Advent Tea Journal with us, Denise - such beautiful thoughts and pictures! I hope the play was a success for you all on Friday night ... I am sure you all must be exhausted, but what memories you are making! Do you know, I have never seen the movie, Elf?! It seems to have become quite the holiday favorite, but so far it has slipped under my radar. I will have to sit down with the boys and check it out sometime as I know many people enjoy it. :)

Well, my friends, as I mentioned above, tomorrow I will share a last pot of Advent Tea with you all, as Winter slips into our lives and we consider how to best make it welcome. And following that, on the very next Monday (the 28th) I will have one more Tea to share, and that will be my Christmastide Tea, with thoughts on celebrating the 12 days of Christmas at home with the children. I hope you will join me!

For today though, on this beautiful 4th Sunday in Advent - bright and cold here! - I wish you all a wonderful start to your week. I hope these next days bring you little stress and much peace as we head towards The Moment we've all been waiting for ... hearts and arms wide open. :)

See you here again very soon ...


Tea with Friends ... ❤

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Happy Wednesday, my friends ... I hope your week's going well!

I am so pleased to share some Advent Tea with you today ... these lovely thoughts and images come from Cath, and I know you will enjoy them. :)

***

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The tree:

This year my tree is white and has all the counted cross-stitch ornaments I have made (except for one I received as a gift I'll always treasure!). The shading of white and dark ... so peaceful as the tree turns round and round in a revolving stand. It's as if I'm driving on a back county road at night in a snow storm. I do miss the real tree I have gone and cut the last few years ... We started a tradition of naming our trees. I can't seem to name the fake tree this year. It's fake! No life ... no name?  
  

Past trees have been named Twinkle, Noel, Wenceslas, Genevieve, Stanislaus, and last years name being Shalom ... They started taking on Saintly names and meanings. Last year was special hosting the family for Christmas Eve and Shalom was my prayer for all entering my home. So yes, needless to say I am missing the personality in my home but thrilled to know the tradition has carried on in my baby girl's home and this year they have welcomed Alfred into their home and even bought him a red tree skirt to keep his toes warm. He is simply decorated, not overloaded with lights or ornaments, and elegantly beautiful in his simplicity!

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Reading:

I am sticking with Ann Voskamp's Book for Advent and enjoying it very much. Pretty good for someone who forgets to keep up with her nine-day novenas!

Drinking:

I am out for lunch having pizza and not drinking this ...

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I don't like it ... clove and spearmint are not for me. I must have grabbed the wrong box after reading the ingredients ... I hope the other box isn't this same stuff! 😕 Looks like there will be some gifts in a few Christmas cards ... Mom, do you like cloves?

I am just returning from a weekend retreat about the direction of the four gospels with a twist on Therese. Leaving, I looked down and found a fresh red rose petal on the side walk. Fresh, like it just fell off, was pulled off? Wish I would have taken a picture before giving it to the priest who walked right past it ... I went back inside to ask the sister if she brought in roses ... Nope? Therese said she will let flowers fall from heaven ... Seems we may have just received one? What a blessing ...

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My word for Advent has been PEACE... 

Quote:   

“To the American People: Christmas is not a time or a season but a state of mind. To cherish peace and good will, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas. If we think on these things, there will be born in us a Savior and over us will shine a star sending its gleam of hope to the world. 
Presidential message, December 25, 1927” ~ Calvin Coolidge

Thoughts:

Advent is moving along too quickly. Let's take it back to 6 weeks. I need more work on me!

Looking forward to: 

Being back home, getting things in order and crafting - that hasn't happened yet! And I guess it may not if I don't get started ... or should I say ... settled!

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Pink Sunday....  the "Shepherds Candle"  to represent joy.

And today my cup holds ...

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Good old fashioned Campbell's vegetable soup ...

(The kind grandma served for lunch with sandwiches before Marketing created 3 or 4 different types!)

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My favorite ornament made by someone else...

I don't usually watch much TV ... But today I did eat breakfast (something I don't usually do), I did turn on the TV and enjoyed some of the morning shows like Rachel Ray, and The View... Trying to create some kind of routine. Trying to place some everyday joy into my life ... Trying to create chunks of time for different things that bring joy and bring something to show for my time?

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Needless to say ... Baby girl will be 25, and her stocking was done for her 1st Christmas ... The man's a few years later ... And mine? Still a work in progress? Some of that used-to-have TV time kept me sitting in my chair and I have treasures to show for that time ...  Internet time? Not a lot around here to show for it? Need a plan.

And waiting.....

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Until next time ... 🎄
   Cath++

***

This was just so lovely, Cath - thank you so much for sharing a little of your Advent here with me (us). It is such a privilege to share my readers' tea notes and pictures at my blog. I am so honored each time someone - YOU - share your time, your thoughts and your wide open heart. It's such a generous thing, to share in this way ... and my blog shines a little brighter each time I post "Tea with Friends."

:)

Well my friends, I hope you are able to find some time for Tea this week, a quiet hour to just sit and do something for YOU - read a little, pray a little, plan a little ... snooze a little! Recharge your batteries in some way ... and don't think for a second you don't need it ... you do! We all do. I'm so used to just go-go-going all day thinking, well, once dinner's over and the kids are in bed, then I can sit and rest. But you know what? By that time of day ... I'm just done. There is no "resting" or "recharging the batteries" ... there is just unplugging, lights out and then Zzzzzzzzz .... 

So now I ask for a bit of time like this, for me. An hour once or twice a week to sit for "tea" and quiet thoughts. Someone else is reading to the baby and someone else is answering the phone (or not). And sometimes it's just half an hour, not a whole ... but it's still a gift whatever I get. It's good for me, and it's good for my family!

Today it's a glass of wine (poured by my husband!) and Christmas cards in my lap - not the ones I still need to sign, but the ones we've received in the mail. Before I hang them, I'll sit here and think about each family with love and a prayer for their very best new year. 

But alas, I am now nearing the end of my rest time! There are now a few children present and a cat has just been startled from his nest by the heat. Plus, it's high time to start supper and meatloaf doesn't make itself! So I'm off to the kitchen but I leave you all with my thanks and my hopes that your evening is pleasant ...

See you here again very soon!


My Advent Tea Journal ~ Magic & Meaning

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Happy Monday, my friends! I hope your week is off to a great start! It's time for another Advent Tea, but first off ...  how on earth did it get so far in the season?! Honest-to-goodness, time seems to pick up speed as we get closer to New Year's!

Well, on Sunday (Gaudete Sunday) we rejoiced to light our third (pink!) Advent candle. What a great time to stop and take joy in our life today - right this very minute! Joy is such a gift, something we give others and something we receive as a blessing from God. I love when He opens my eyes to the joy around me ... because sometimes I can get so wrapped up in the trials and tensions of everyday life, I forget to look around for the JOY.

Wouldn't this be a great prompt for a new year's journal?

>> What brought you joy today? How have you made this day joyful for others? <<

Advent candles snowmen

(Clearly, some of these snowmen get it, while others do not.)

I have such love for this week ... because for one thing, I love that pink candle! (I don't see a lot of pink in my life, lol.) But also, on this Sunday we are still very much in the heart of Advent ... I'm still able to take peace in the season that is now ... not fret over the season to come. (Ok, truth be told - I'm fretting a little. I really am a wee bit behind.)

But most of all, I love this Sunday because it almost always arrives right around my Earlybird's birthday ... and he is as joyful a boy as you will ever meet. In fact, this very DAY happens to be his actual birthday (he turns 14 on the 14th!). So it's a very special day in our household! :)

Well, this week I'd like to talk a little about sharing Christmas with children ... the magic of the season, as well as its deeper meaning. Christmas comes for all of us, but how very special it is for the children in our life. They are so ready to soak it all up and just BELIEVE ... what they see, what they hear, what they are told ... and that's sometimes a good thing, but other times not so much. How do we hone the message they receive at this time of year?

>> How do we shape their joy? <<

Speaking of joy, we have these lovely pink, sparkly letters that spell out JOY - I made them several years ago and I always bring them out on this particular Sunday. Unfortunately, I seem to have misplaced one of the letters ...

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... and the message isn't quite what I meant. At least, not on most days. But it gave us all a good chuckle!

So before I go any further, here are some Advent questions for you, in regards to our theme this week: 

What are your children's favorite aspects of Christmas?

How do you share with them the true meaning of Christmas? In what special ways do you pass on your Faith traditions?

How do you keep your family from burning out before the Christmas season has even begun?

For me, it's all about pacing and balance. Filling the weeks before Christmas with quiet delights for the senses: warm lights in the growing darkness, soft music in the background, good smells and tastes from the kitchen ... and of course, a touch of season's magic. Our Advent countdown message, a mystery unfolding in the empty manger, flickering candles, books appearing each week, packages arriving in the mail, a letter posted to Santa ...

Where is Santa right this minute? When will he come HERE? What is the angel saying? What is the candle in the manger all about? Who are the rocks and the plants and the animals all waiting to see? What do they all know that I don't ... (yet)?

Children respond so deeply to magic and mystery and anything that attracts their developing senses. They're like super-curious sponges! And boy, do they love a good story ...

But I think my children enjoy the family traditions we've created most of all - they look for them and request them every year - which makes me think that all these "little things" we've done through the years have possibly made a big impression. Living a quieter life, a bit outside of the mainstream in some ways, we are able to avoid the commercial side of Christmas that colors so much of the season these days. To a comfortable degree, anyway. We attend Mass, and soak in the atmosphere of our Parish and the words of our Pastor. I try to weave liturgical events and meaning into our days, as I do every week of the year ... 

We eat certain things and read certain words ... light special candles and believe amazing things ... and we wait, and we wonder ... because we are Catholic, and this is what Christmas means to us. It's a privilege to live this way, and though we may be entertained by the world around us, we are sustained by what we share with each other.

Christmas lights are a good example of "magic and meaning." Without a doubt, those sparkling lights are a hallmark of Christmas - shining through the darkest nights of the year. They are SUCH magic - especially for children - but why do we light them? What is their meaning? How can we make our own inner lights shine as brightly?

Here is a beautiful passage shared by my friend Michelle M., from Vermont, in which she describes an Advent walk she shared with her family and special friends. This is EXACTLY what I am talking about when I say I want my children to experience a season full of magic and meaning ... 

"I am paring down the usual Advent festivities and just trying to find quiet. With some sadness and a whole bunch of relief, I decided not to host our beautiful Advent spiral walk in the lovely round building we usually use. This has been the most lovely and spiritual part of my Advent for years and years, watching the children grow up walking in the candlelight circle. But there is just too much happening and the children are growing and transforming, so our rituals must too. I decided to invite one special family two nights ago to wander up our hill in the dark, drink hot cocoa from real mugs, light a tea light in a squat Bonne Maman jam jar, and place it somewhere in the dark while whispering a prayer or wish or hope. It was a vision now etched in my forever memories to see those sweet children's faces bent over their candle in total silence in the dark. Of course, this mood was soon changed as they came together over one jar and descended into bathroom noise humor...but that's all part of the journey, no?!"
 Thank you for sharing, Michelle! What a lovely memory for you all! :)

I'll have more thoughts on this topic in time, and I hope to post more as the week goes along, but for now - because this post is already running long! - here are my tea journal notes:

What refreshments are you enjoying this week?

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This week my "tea" - in the spirit of childhood - is a cup of creamy, minty homemade cocoa! Earlybird LOVES our fire pit and so as a birthday surprise, we had one last bonfire out back yesterday afternoon. I used our old favorite snowman mugs (Crate & Barrel, from before we had kids!) and added a natural candy cane "stirrer" as an extra-special treat. 

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Just before Bill lit the fire pit, I had the boys gather 'round the Advent garden so we could light the third apple's candle, and check today's rock. Our prayer for the week: God, please help us spread joy to those who need it most!

Once the words were said and the fire was lit, I took Little Bear for an amble around the yard. We had some nature walking to make up for after a rainy, head-cold kind of week!

What are you reading this week?

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It's all about the children's books these days, and on our coffee table I have an array of books featuring "Animals in Advent" (our "Advent in Nature" theme this week). Many of these we own, but I request several books each week from our inter-library loan. (I often joke/worry that our librarians either love us or hate us ... but we sure do love them!)

I also parked a couple of our rather LARGE seasonal book baskets in my library nest ...

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One basket for Winter books ...

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And another for the bulk of our Christmas books proper. These get divided and dispersed to certain corners and baskets around the room as themes pop up through the season.

What are you listening to this week?

"Christmas Piano Music" on Pandora. I had a facial this week (finally using a gift certificate my boys gave me LAST Christmas!) and this was the music my esthetician was playing. So beautiful and calming!

What are you working on this week?

Planner in car

 Getting my 2016 planner in order! I just had it spiral-bound at Staples today. (Needless to say, there will be a great big post all about it in the very near future!)

There is also, of course, much Christmas to-doing this week, as we get down to the wire. Making teacher gifts is the top of the list this week.

What's happening in nature this week? 

Well, as I've mentioned, we've all been sick, and the weather has been a bit miserable, so outdoor time has been limited. It's been very mild for November, though, and the plentiful winter moths are ... shall we say, a bit disconcerting.

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Meanwhile, we are happy to see so many acorn caps!

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This means we should have well fed squirrels this winter! (I brought in a whole bunch of caps to set on our nature shelf to remind us our critter friends will be eating well! I'm also googling lots of "acorn cap craft ideas" ... and if you follow me on Pinterest, you know what I mean!) 

Any projects with the children this week?

We have some more handmade gifts to be finishing, and this week we'll be working with the theme, "Animals in Advent." We will be taking special care of our cats and assembling a donation to a local animal shelter ... as well as migrating our barn animals to the manger ...

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Also, we'll be organizing our Solstice Tree for next week ... but that will be a topic for another post!

Any quotations to share, some words to inspire?

In addition to all those children's stories, I am (re)reading a lovely little book called Festivals with Children. It is a small book written in the Waldorf tradition with a focus on the Christian festivals (or feasts) of the year. Needless to say - right up my alley!

I love, in particular, how the author describes the season of Advent:

"The calm and quiet which is prerequisite for every "inner becoming" is under attack everywhere today but especially during Advent. Today it can only be achieved by conscious effort ... There are so many customs and suggestions for the celebration of Advent that we must choose consciously to meet our particular situation. This period of time is in danger of losing its own characteristic mood. The atmosphere of preparation is often overwhelmed by the Christmas mood of fulfillment itself. Children have often already had enough by Christmas. Too often Christmas Eve is experienced as a hard-to-achieve climax followed by exhaustion, making the celebration of the twelve days of Christmas very difficult."

***

I've found that constant activity really takes its toll - not just on me, but my children. And boy do I hate feeling tired of Christmas before it's even arrived. Community is important, absolutely, and it's hard to pick and choose among so many wonderful opportunities: a tree-lighting here, a card-making there, a cookie-baking marathon somewhere else. But as with anything (and especially with children) less often means more. The one great thing you do with your family this Advent will make an equally great memory ... eighteen great things will just make a blur. These days I try to choose carefully where we spend our energy and leave ample space in our December for rest ... so we might learn to appreciate the mood of the season as well as the magic.

As always, I'd LOVE to hear your thoughts on this week's topic and of course, get a peek into your Tea Journal, too. Please leave a comment below or - even better! - send me an email with your thoughts and/or pics and I'll share them here at the blog. You can reach me here:

>> bysunandcandle AT gmail DOT com <<

And I'm still hoping to do a little video tour of our Christmas library (tree and all) but that didn't get accomplished in time for this post. Hopefully I will have it for you later this week, but for now here are a few "quick pics" ...

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:)

Now, before I go I have one more thing - no, make that TWO more things to tell you!

The first is to announce the winner of my Christmas Books Giveaway! I so enjoyed reading all the "hellos" and "heys" and "howabouts" from you all! I wish I could send everyone a package, but for today, I must choose one ...
 
So the randomly picked winner of the giveaway is:
 
CAROLYN!

Here's Carolyn's question which I LOVE and will definitely address soon ...
 
Hi Dawn!
Happy Advent! I've really been enjoying your blog these last 2 months! What homeschooling resource books would you recommend for a young mom looking at starting homeschooling kindergarten next fall?

Thanks,
Carolyn
 
Oh, such a fun time in a homeschooling family's life - kindergarten! I've been there three times so far, and am thrilled to revisit it with Little Bear in a few years. I have some definite favorites when it comes to resources and will get a post up as soon as I can, Carolyn. :)
 
And I'll be in touch soon to arrange mailing details ... hope you enjoy these books with your family!
 
Now, before I go, I also wanted to remind you all that TOMORROW I am participating in a live planning workshop with Mystie Winckler of Simplified Organization and Jen Mackintosh of Wildflowers & Marbles! We've got an hour to talk about all kinds of planning topics - and answer questions as we go along! You can watch our chat and submit questions by signing up HERE. There will also be a chat replay and you will receive a link for that as well.
 
Ok, well, as usual I have just gone on and ON and I thank you very much for your time and kind attention. I will be off now because as I mentioned, it is our Earlybird's birthday and before the littlest wakes up I have a few presents to wrap and a chocolate cake to frost ... :)
 
But I'll see you here again very soon!

Tea with Friends ... ❤

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Happy Weekend, my friends! I am so glad you've joined me today, as we share another pot of Advent Tea. Today I have some lovely posts from Leah, Kimberly, Lisa, Tammie, Denise and Helene ...

Kind ladies, thank you so much for your participation ... and friends, I hope you enjoy! :)

First up, here are a couple of links to my blogging friends ... a post from Kimberly at A Gathering of Days, where she welcomes us into her Cozy, Christmas Home ... and another from Lisa at Its Own Sweet Will who shares her family's Christmas Tree Trimmings. Both of these posts are brimming with light, warmth and good cheer ... and oh, how I wish we could really house-hop and visit for real. What fun we would have!

Now, here is a charming tree tradition, as told by Leah:

We go up into the "tree mountains" as my 7 yo son calls them. There are "rock mountains" and "tree mountains" out here ;-) The National Park Service (I think) sells a certain number of permits to cut down trees because it reduces the risk of forest fires (I had to ask ... it just felt strange to cut down the trees in the National Forest, but it is actually helping to protect the woods.) 

We like to drive up to the mountains with a giant thermos of homemade hot cocoa and perhaps some cookies. We live out on treeless plains so just being in the woods is magical. The way the sun doesn't really beat down on anything, it flitters in like little fairies through the leaves and pine needles (it is mostly evergreen in the area we harvest the tree from,) and a completely different bunch of animals make for a very - well - magical day. We play around for awhile, look for squirrels (who knew there were squirrels in trees, not just on the ground!) and then we get down to business looking for a tree.

I will admit, they are not as full-bodied as the tree farm trees. They are typically the younger trees because we have a height limit and even the taller trees are not evenly full all around because the sun only reaches one side of them before the sunlight finds its way to the west side of the mountains. BUT, even if they are sparse little things, we have such an adventure in finding a tree, that it is how we like to do things now.

As for decorating the tree, we like to make a few things and put on some purchased ornaments. One year we strung cranberries (messy!) and popcorn (I don't know how much ended up on the string with the kids helping). This year, my husband suggested that we just do natural ornaments so we can toss the tree out in the back of the property (we live on some acreage and no one can see parts of our property so only the pronghorn and cottontails and jackrabbits will be the wiser). Then, the tree can provide something for them in the cold of the year, even if it is just shelter.

Leah, what a wonderful experience this must be for your whole family, but especially your children! "Magic" is the perfect word for it  ... and boy does this whole tale fit perfectly in with my NEXT Advent post, too! (Magic + Meaning) Thank you for sharing your famlily's tree tradition with us ... you have me itching to get out into my own woods (we're surrounded here!) and take note of the dappled sunlight and frisky squirrels!

:)

And now we pop over to Tammie's!

Thank you, Dawn, for inviting us to take tea with you! This afternoon I am sitting in a sun-filled nook at my desk in our bedroom with a mug of Numi Orange Spice Tea. My husband and I tried it last year in tea-bag form and enjoyed it so much that we ordered it in a 1 lb bag of loose tea for this winter.
 
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I am glad you asked us to share our trees here! We have a large tree in our living room, but I put up a special little tree here on my desk . . . a tiny silver tinsel tree reminiscent of the tinsel tree that my family had as I was growing up. Just looking at the sparkle and glimmer takes me right back to the excitement and anticipation that I always felt each Christmas . . . forty-something years ago!
 
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     Last night when my husband came home from work, he suggested that we read something "Christmas-y." I knew right away what we should read ... a few selections from an Ideals Christmas issue:
 
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We both remember this publication in our homes as we were growing up and a couple of years ago he bought me the 70th Anniversary edition. This magazine first came out in 1944, right during the dark days of World War II. In the first issue, the founder set forth his vision for the magazine with these words: "Ideals is a book of old-fashioned ideals, homey philosophy, poetry, music, inspiration, and art - things that some of us may have overlooked during these busy days." It continues to carry out those same qualities today and we find the illustrations, photographs, & stories to be charming and uplifting to us in our own busy days. I think that tonight we'll be reading some more selections from this book.
 
As far as projects I'm working on ... I'm cross-stitching ornaments for each of our five grandkids. Also, I'm putting the finishing touches on my Christmas cards ... I create our cards each year with rubber stamps. I hope to get these finished and sent out by the end of the week.
 
Thanks again, Dawn, for your sweet hospitality!  
 Blessings to you and your family,
Tammie B.
 
 
Thank you for sharing your Tea and Christmas traditions, Tammie! I have to tell you, I feel the same way about tinsel. I wouldn't use it nowadays (though my cats would love it!), but it holds nothing but fond memories for me when I remember trees dripping with all that sparkly stuff! (And those giant colored bulbs!) And thank you for recommending that Ideals book - I'd never heard of it before, but it looks lovely!
 
***

And now, let's hear about Denise's Christmas tree traditions!

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O Christmas Tree!

Our preference is live! However, the frugalilty of my self hasn't let us indulge in quite some time. :-) So, we get the next best thing: artificial. We normally put them up as soon after Thanksgiving as we can (depending on travel, time, etc) and leave them up until Epiphany! I don't have a favorite ornament.

We have four trees we normally put up. We are only putting up three this year; I'm not putting the one up in the Grands' play room, as we won't be in there much this season.

One is a wooden tree, made by my sister- and father-in-love. They worked together on it! (He has since passed on.) It is adorable! I put this one in our over-sized hallway.

Another tree is my snow-themed tree. White lights, white snowballs, white crocheted (purchased) snowflakes, and gold (they didn't have silver) jingle bells with red ribbon. I *reeeeeally like this one!* I learned several years ago that I don't like "hodge-podge." Now no offense intended to anyone who does, and I, in fact, do put one up, it is just not my preference! I discovered that while shopping during the Christmas season one year with Mom & baby sister (who had a baby of her own we were babysitting while she served our country in the Air Force).  I saw different styles of trees, all together. The one I gravitated to most was the one that only had a few different things, but several of those. I liked it! I discovered I liked things that looked *similar,* had some semblance of order, so I purchased what I liked & put up the tree! You know what? I actually enjoyed putting up that tree! I think it was a first. Ok, well that's not quite right, I always like putting up our live trees!!

Now, under this tree, we have our selections of Jesus Gifts. This is usually all that is under this tree. These are just things that represent some options. Our grands work throughout the year to earn money towards the gifts. We then match what they earn. Then at some point through the holiday, we select how they want to spend the money. Oh my goodness! What JOY this brings!! It is something they look forward to throughout the year. The money is spent locally and overseas through different organizations. Some of the gifts have been: money for the food bank, shopping for the food bank, sports equipment to a family, gift certificates to a shopping center, "Christmas meal baskets," clothing for homeless shelters (all local), Bibles, money to help fund translators, wells, providing animals, sewing machines, bicycles for missionaries, oh my goodness, the list goes on. It is always interesting to hear what our grands have picked & why they have chosen it!

The last is the Family Tree that goes in the family room. THIS is the hodge-podge tree. Ornaments handmade by little beloved hands, or handed down, or that have a special meaning. The Grands always decorate this one with us. It is not decorated yet; we just didn't have time last week! It is all set up, lit & just waiting! We *will* get to it next time they are here! Afternoon tea, carols on Pandora (thanks to granddaughter/13), decorating the tree! Yes!

Advent Tea Journal

Refreshments I am enjoying this week:

Apple-cinnamon has been my tea of choice for a bit. I seem to go in 'spurts' on what I crave. :-) Grands and I baked Peanut Butter Blossom cookies. So yummy!! Grands have been drinking their favorite, peppermint. They don't branch out too much. :-) If they do, it is for hot cocoa or vanilla milk (one can't have chocolate).

What am I reading & listening to?

Christmas readings and music, of course!! "Hope is Alive" by Ellie Holcomb is a favorite right now!

"So sing with the angels they fill up the sky! Heaven broke through & now HOPE is alive! He is right here among us, our God is with us tonight!  
Into our aching, into our breaking, into our longing to be made whole! Your arms are reaching, your love's holding us close! And into our suffering, into our weeping, Into this need we have to be known. Your arms are reaching, your love is holding us close."


What am I working on?


Enjoying the Advent season. I have a Christmas funny I'm working on for my dear, sweet grands, who like to tease me, so I am going to *tease* them back! I hope I don't regret it.

What is happening in nature?


 Still hunting the elusive goose! Grandson/15 just can't get out here at the right time. They always come land on the pond at some point.  However, they must be wily creatures, as they know you can't hunt 30
mins before dawn/dusk. Guess when they come in to land?? The times he CAN hunt & is here, it seems they are too high.


Thoughts I am pondering:


 My thought this week in Advent, continuing my *Faith* theme has been: 

If I have the *faith* to believe, to take God at His Word, that Christ was born of a virgin, (Bible Scripture:  Isaiah 7:14, Matthew 1:23, Luke 1:27) (and I DO!) then I need to apply that same *faith* to the impossible situations in my life today! I need to have that faith that HE is faithful to His Word and IS IMMANUEL, God with us!!

*** 

Beautiful as always, Denise! Thank you for sharing your Tea and Trees with us! How I love to hear about your Grands and the love you all share ... all your trees sound lovely, but that Jesus Tree is extra-special! (Not just in looks, but in purpose!) I love what you had to say about Faith, too ... it's such a GIFT, this ability to have Faith in that which seems impossible. God is so good to give us this gift because it is so very necessary throughout life!

***

And finally, here are some Tree thoughts from Helene:

Do you prefer live or artificial trees? Cut-your-own or pre-cut?

We love live trees! I’d love to cut our own but that’s not an option down here, at least not in my area.

Are there any special tree-trimming traditions your family follows each year?

Not really - my husband trims the bottom and gets it into the stand, then he and I put on the lights. After that we all start hanging ornaments. This year my little guy was really into hanging ornaments for the first time, so I spent my time digging out non-breakable ones and handing them to him to hang. We never hang all the ornaments we have, but it’s fun to go through them all and choose which ones to hang from year to year.

What is your favorite ornament?

I love old-fashioned looking glass ornaments in various motifs. I have a “bride’s set” from my husband’s grandmother (years ago, not long after we were married) that I adore but that does not get hung up right now, because if little hands broke those I’d be pretty sad, as Grandmama has since passed away and I like having those as a remembrance of her - we were kindred spirits, despite the fact that I didn't get to know her for very long.

When do you put it up and when do you take it down?

We usually get it early-mid December, but got it earlier this year because my husband was going out of town for a week and we wanted to get the tree up and decorated before he left. I love it, actually, because we get to enjoy it longer. I usually try to wait until Epiphany to take it down, but the last few years I’ve caved and done it early. By that time everyone seems to be a little over it, and we often travel for New Year, and it’s a bit sad coming back to a drying, drooping tree.

Colored lights or white lights?

White on the tree, but the lights on the house are colored.

What refreshments are you enjoying this week?

My morning cuppa, and I’ve been downing Emergen-C trying to avoid the colds and other bugs that seem to be going around lately. As you said, illness can really put a damper on plans. My daughter seems to have a cold coming on, and I really hope she’s able to kick it as my sister and I are planning to take her to her first Nutcracker performance this Saturday.

What are you reading this week?

I pulled out my copy of "Forever Christmas" as well, actually. And I just picked up the latest in a cozy mystery series I read (Library Lovers mysteries) from my library, so I’ve got that to look forward to. Also a book called "Labor Day" that’s a collection of birth stories by women writers.

What are you listening to this week?

Handel’s Messiah has made a few appearances. I just found the "Ancient Noels" album you mentioned on Spotify, and I’m listening to that as I type. It really is lovely music, thanks for sharing your discovery!

What are you working on this week?

Trying to finish up a knitted baby hat and booties for a friend’s daughter’s baby. And also I did a huge deep clean of the apartment on our property - it needed a lot of attention, so now every surface has been cleaned, all soft things laundered, and am finishing up the washing of literally every dish and utensil out there (and we don’t have a dishwasher!). But now it’s all sparkly and ready for holiday guests to come and stay. Now just need to give our house a good scrub too, when I recover my motivation! :)

What's happening in nature this week?

Our neighbor let us pick a ton of bush beans from his garden this week. Our beans are finishing up, our collards are going crazy, and the carrots and broccoli romanesco still look good—at this point I’m still hopeful of a harvest! Plus the strawberry season is kicking into high gear, and they’re probably shipping some up north by now—if you see berries in your grocery store from Plant City, FL, they were grown right near me. :)

Any projects with the children this week?

Not really, my husband has been gone for work all week, so we had a scaled-back week that may have involved a few Christmas movies in the evenings and also some playdates with friends, all of which helped mama stay sane.

Thank you Helene, for sharing your Advent Tea Journal! I loved hearing about your Advent doings - so glad you found Ancient Noels good listening! And I had to smile at your mention of The Nutcracker - another magical moment I can remember from my own childhood. My grandmother and great-aunt would take my cousin and myself in (by train!) to see The Nutcracker in Boston and it was SUCH an experience. Full of mystery and wonder and magic. I cherish those memories!

Also I must tell you - I will be keeping my eyes peeled for those strawberries! I tend to stick to produce "in season" as much as possible, but I will not be able to resist enjoying berries raised near where you live! :)

***

Dear Friends, I hope you have enjoyed all these Advent thoughts, shared by my kind friends. Leah, Kimberly, Lisa, Denise, Tammie and Helene ... thank you all SO much for the time, energy and love you put into your posts. I appreciate your participation so much! I look forward to hearing more from you (ALL of you, dear readers!) as we continue along in our Advent journey. On Monday we have a new theme to chat about and I can't wait to dig in ...

"Magic and Meaning": Making Advent Memories Our Children Will Cherish.

(And don't forget, I'll be announcing the Book Giveaway winner, too!)

See you here on Monday afternoon, everyone ... thanks so much for stopping by and I wish you all a peaceful evening!


My Advent Tea Journal ~ O Christmas Tree!

Advent tea tree 7

Good afternoon, my friends! I hope this post finds you well ...

We're all on the mend here, slowly but surely. It's a tough time of year to get sick - it really puts a crimp in your plans! But in a way, it's a good reminder ... Advent is all about mood and mindset, not as much about where we go or what we get done. We had planned to take the boys to a tree farm over the weekend, and I had hoped to get to the library and the craft store for some supplies. (This week's activities - and my tea post itself - all hinged on doing these things!) But alas, nobody felt up to doing any of that, so "plans and hopes" were readjusted and we just stayed home (except for an emergency run to Stop N Shop for tissues and cat food, etc.) ...

So the "forest nature walk" didn't happen, the "cut-our-own-tree experience" didn't happen, and we didn't return home from the farm with rosy cheeks and happy hearts to a pot of simmering wassail. The tree was not up and decorated in time for this post, and we missed out on parish pancake breakfast entirely ...

But you know what? Getting sick really simplifies things. I found myself re-evaluating my list and editing our schedule by asking: "What is it we actually need? What can be set aside? What is most important for the people I love?"

Here's what we need: safety, warmth, nourishment, attention ... a feeling of being cared for, and time spent together. Well, we had all that, and then some ... so it was all good. :)

(Except for the sore throats and fevers.)

At one point on Sunday, we sent the two healthiest among us to the closest tree-lot and they came home lickedy-split with a really magnificent tree. We gathered the bits of greenery that were trimmed off and set them on our nature shelf. I still made up that pot of hot wassail since I had the ingredients on hand and they were so very good for a late autumn cold ...

We played music on Dad's phone, and I lit a few candles placed high out of reach, including this pretty one, a lovely gift from my dear aunt ...

Advent tea tree 9

And I reminded myself to just try to relax, reboot and follow where this Advent Sunday was taking us ...

I love seasonal homeschooling as you all know, and "evergreens" are this week's theme ... which also ties in nicely with our Advent-in-Nature plans for week two: exploring the beauty of Christmas greenery. So this was a great start - bringing a big, beautiful tree into our home!

Advent tea tree 10 (1)

My tree is nowhere near ready to show you, so I will do a follow-up post with a look around our Christmas room, including the tree. (Perhaps even a short video?) But for now, I have some questions for YOU, and if you'd be so kind - please leave me a comment below answering them or send me an email (with tree pics perhaps?) ... OR, link me up at your own blog! I bet you have a photo or two of your Christmas tree there ... ;)

>> bysunandcandle AT gmail DOT com <<

***

Do you prefer live or artificial trees? Cut-your-own or pre-cut?

I prefer live trees, harvested from a local sustainable tree farm if possible.

Are there any special tree-trimming traditions your family follows each year?

Not particularly - we tend to just layer on lights, garland and then ornaments. And lately - between cats and kids - the ornaments have been all soft and non-breakable. Bill is in charge of getting the tree up, stable and lit ... the boys and I handle the decorations.

What is your favorite ornament?

Hard to say! I love all the antique glass bulbs that belonged to my grandparents and a few of the boys' handmade treasures. When I do my Christmas room tour I will zoom in on my favorites. :)

When do you put it up and when do you take it down?

We typically get our tree the second weekend of Advent and leave it up till New Year's Day ... though I love the tradition of waiting till Epiphany, I'm usually itchy to get it out. By January the cats have thrown up dry needles one too many times ...

Colored lights or white lights?

White for the house tree ... but I love having one outdoor tree trimmed in big colorful bulbs.

And now, here are notes from my Advent Tea Journal ...

What refreshments are you enjoying this week?

Advent tea tree 8

This week my "tea" is actually a yummy wassail ...  which, I just learned, means "to be in health." Something we can really use around here! It was a new recipe, prepared in the crockpot and full of good-for-you things ...

Wassail 1

Orange juice, apple juice, cranberry juice ... plus sliced lemons and oranges and fresh ginger root ... honey, cloves and cinnamon sticks, too ... The house smelled amazing, so being "trapped inside" was not such a bad thing, really! Also, the recipe makes A LOT and it can be reheated as leftovers.

I also had planned to make a special cake for the day, and I ended up doing that, too ...

Advent tea tree 3

Another new recipe, this is a Spelt Orange Bundt Cake from Mother Earth Living, and ... Oh MY. So delicious and moist, bursting with spice and citrus flavor. I think it would be a great cake for the Winter Solstice or Christmas Day. Fyi, I used whole wheat flour instead of spelt ... and left the butter sauce on the side for those in my family who can't do dairy. (I myself slathered it on.)

What are you reading this week?

Advent tea tree 15

Working through my basket of magazines (holiday issues are the BEST) plus a lovely old book about living a quieter, country Christmas ...

Advent tea tree 2

Tasha Tudor's Forever Christmas ... my folks gave this to me back in 2001. I love re-reading this (and watching her video, Take Peace) at this time of year and refreshing my Advent attitude a bit. I've never visited her house in Vermont but it's on my "someday" list! :)

Then we have the basket of "this week" books for the younger boys ...

Advent tea tree 4

Filled with lovely stories (and a field guide!) to go along with our nature theme (evergreens, Christmas greenery):

A Wish to Be a Christmas Tree

Night Tree

The Legend of the Poinsettia

The Family Christmas Tree Book

The Story of Holly & Ivy

(and not shown, on request at library):

 Christmas Farm

The Littlest Evergreen

***

What are you listening to this week?

Ancient noels

Ancient Noels is on request from my library, and we'll mostly be listening to it in the van as we drive around town. We're studying the Middle Ages this year and this month it's all about how Christmas was celebrated in medieval times - food, music, decorations, and festivities! With a soundtrack that features hammered dulcimer, recorder, pennywhistle, Celtic harp, cittern, guitar and tambourine ... this music takes you right there ... or so I'd like to imagine. ;)

(At home we're also enjoying holiday selections from Pandora Radio on our phones. I particularly like Charlie Brown music, classical Christmas and old vintage tunes.)

What are you working on this week?

Well, it's mostly all about Christmas preparations, but I'm also organizing my materials for that Planning Workshop I'm attending next Tuesday! :) 

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Refreshing the file crate ...

Advent tea tree 11

... and assembling another homemade planner for 2016!

Then, as soon as they arrive, I'll be devoted to assembling Christmas cards ... :)

What's happening in nature this week?

Advent tea tree 16

Early sunsets ... surprisingly mild afternoons.

Advent tea tree 17

Though the mornings are quite frosty!

Some of you have asked if our Advent apple candles are still intact. Well ...

Advent tea tree 22

As you can see, I threw the critters off by offering a tasty pumpkin instead ... it's been fun to watch their antics. A couple of squirrels have been up on the table, sniffing at the apples and knocking over the center candle. They didn't cause too much harm though ...

Also this week we are searching our yard for any Christmas greenery we can find ... so far, plenty of evergreens, pinecones, English ivy and a few withering herbs ...

Advent tea tree 18 (1)

This photo will feature in my "nest assignment" next week. It's a bit bleak looking isn't it? Well, I have some thoughts on that ...

Any projects with the children this week?

Of course there will be tree decorating! And we'll spread it out over the week. Meanwhile, we've added some greenery to our manger table: a few evergreen sprigs, a pinecone and a (silk) poinsettia blossom, too.

Advent tea tree 23

That candle burns steadily all day and night.

Watching, waiting ...

Also, per my (admittedly, adventurous) Advent plans, we'll choose from the following craft ideas as time, (health) and supplies allow:

terrarium bulbs * nature ice molds * late autumn suncatchers * paperwhite bulb gifts * dried orange slice garlands * grinding whole spices with mortar and pestle * pine branch slice candleholders with Daddy * cinnamon stick-lined candles * gift jars of mulling spices * a local holiday greenhouse visit * water forest snow globes * twig ornaments * orange clove pomanders

(Now, in no way do I expect to do most of these crafts. Certainly not when we're all under the weather! And as I mentioned, I didn't get to the craft store as planned, so I'm short a few key supplies. But when I brainstorm a theme, I really go all out! I've pinned most of these ideas so we'll always have them if we need them. I'm hoping to get a few gifts made if nothing else, and I think the boys will really enjoy grinding spices. I have some oranges on hand to slice and dry and Bill is pretty eager to make some candleholders from our log pile.)

Any quotations to share, some words to inspire?

Advent tea tree 20

"Never worry about the size of your Christmas tree. In the eyes of your children, they are all 30 feet tall."

~ Larry Wilde 

***

Well my friends, it's time to wrap up our Tea! I hope you enjoyed hearing about our "doings" and a preliminary peek at our tree! I will share how it turns out once we get it all done up ... and as I mentioned, I would LOVE to hear about your tree and tea! Please share with me here in the comments or send me your thoughts at ...

>> bysunandcandle AT gmail DOT com <<

I look forward to hearing from you!

Wishing you all a lovely Tuesday, with my thanks as always for reading! 


Tea with Friends ... ❤

Advent Tea with Friends button

Good morning, my friends! And blessings to all on this 2nd Sunday of Advent. 

I am so happy to share with you all some lovely Advent Tea notes and pictures from some of my very dear readers (and friends!). I am just so enjoying this season so far! It's unraveling slowly and simply ... and it's such fun to share. :)

Well, today we are taking the boys (the ones who DON'T have a cold) to a local tree farm to cut down our Christmas tree ... I'm hoping to have it (mostly) decorated by the time I sit down to share my next Tea Journal late tomorrow. But we shall see what the rest of the day brings ...

For now, I hope you enjoy hearing from Michelle, Denise and Helene, and I send these kind ladies my sincere thanks for taking the time to share their thoughts and pics here at the blog. I am so happy to be spending our Advent together!

***

Advent Tea with Michelle P. ...

Hi Dawn,

 
I hope your Christmas season is off to a blessed start. From the looks of your pictures I would say it is. I love the way you are incorporating nature crafts into your Christmas decor. I love the look of a country Christmas theme. I have tried for that look this year. I hope you will be able to see that from the photos. Other years I have gone with a silver theme, but my family all seems to like the country theme the best. I think it fits with the style of our home. We always have artificial trees, but I adore the smell of pine so my middle son and I hang the ornaments that have a pine smell. They usually sell them at crafts stores. The decorating begins right after Thanksgiving.
 
The day depends on my husband's work schedule. The whole family decorates the tree and my husband always plays Christmas music to get us in the mood. We have quite a few trees. The tree that has Santa in the picture holds all the family ornaments ...
 
Advent tea gifts michelle 1
 
The tree that has an angel on top is more of my country themed tree ...
 
Advent tea gifts michelle 2
 
The two trees by the fireplace hold all of our Jesse tree ornaments.
 
Advent tea gifts michelle 3
 
Now that my oldest boy is in college it is harder to find the time for the whole family to participate. But I have sent him photos and he will be home soon enough. I can’t wait until all my birdies are back in the nest again! We always have white lights on our trees. Somehow it seems so calming and it reminds us of the stars in the skies.
 
My favorite ornaments have to be the Jesse Tree ornaments that my son hand sculpted a few years ago. He was only 13 and I am so proud of how they turned out. We use them along with Ann Vaskamp’s book.
 
Advent tea gifts michelle 4
 
Advent tea gifts michelle 5
 
I love the cozy warm feeling of our home at night when all the lights are on and the candles are burning with the scents of the season ...
 
Advent tea gifts michelle 6
 
Thank you for letting me share my home with you!   
 
Blessings,
Michelle P.
 
***
 
You home is lovely, Michelle, and thank YOU for sharing your family Tree traditions with us! Your trees and decorations are just beautiful ... and the way that tree looks in front of the big window! Gorgeous!
 
I am in complete agreement on the white lights! I adore white lights and the peaceful feeling they give me, especially as you say, late in the day. What comfort they bring on those dark afternoons! Though I will admit I like seeing one tree - perhaps outside in the snow - full of cheerful colored lights. That always makes me smile. And yes, it's hard to get completely in the spirit without ALL our birds in the nest! Bookworm will be home just before Christmas and I will have to send some pics along to him, as you mentioned. That's a wonderful idea! As I understand it, he and his roommate have a small tinsel tree in the apartment, but I have yet to see picture-proof! ;)
 
***

Now, let's hear from Denise's Advent Tea Journal this week ...


Gifts. Such a focal point of the holy-day season, appropriate since Christ gave Himself! This year my husband & I are *only* giving gifts from the heart, to each other. Gifts of Love Service to each other, for each other, with each other for others! It is a work in progress, for me as, no I am not as organized as I should have been! I think, however, it will be a gift from the heart, simply spending the time coming up with ideas! Something I will enjoy over the next couple of weeks! Now, for our kids & grands, we have, of recent years, been giving gifts of *time with each other.*  Different gift certificates for activities the whole family can enjoy. Sometimes we join them for the activity, sometimes it is just their immediate family. Gift of time always comes from the heart, I believe!

Refreshments I am enjoying this week ...


Today I will have *hot cocoa* time with the Grands. We will be baking simple cookies - sugar cookies with sprinkles to
decorate! We will not roll them & cut them. We will drop them & then they will press with glass covered in red or green sprinkles! (Our time is very limited today.) The cookies will look festive, we will make enough to send some home with them, & put some in the freezer to bake another day to deliver to others. It is also their great-grandma's recipe, so we will call her & talk with her, asking her to share a Christmas memory. I am looking forward to *hot cocoa* time this afternoon, after school!! After 45 mins in the kitchen, the fixings for chicken & dumplings are simmering in the crockpot (family dinner tonight), the cookie dough is ready for hands to roll, smash, glitter, bake & eat!! Hot cocoa mix is ready.

What am I reading?


I've begun Advent reading. I have a couple devotionals by Ann Voskamp. My focus for Advent this year seems to be FAITH. Faith - that is a lasting gift, a gift that can increase!! Faith - to believe in what really can not humanly be explained! Faith - that precious gift from God Almighty - to little ol' me! WOW! I have attached a staged picture, so
you can see the Advents books we are using. One to go through with the grands, and one for myself! The teacup is actually my grandson's (15). He didn't want it today, as he wanted milk with his cookies and the teacup just doesn't match up to his milk consumption! :)

Advent tea gifts denise 1

What am I listening to?

I asked granddaughter (13) to load Pandora on my cell. Yes! Fun! Currently I am listening to John Tesh, a Christmas instrumental. Lovely. Peaceful.

What am I working on?


Of course, fine-tuning our Advent/Christ-mass celebrating!! The Grands like to help decorate, so I only put out one nativity. I've attached a picture ...

Advent tea gifts denise 2

The mantle isn't finished, but I needed to get a picture sent to my sister as my niece wants to make these this year. This is an old salt-dough nativity I made with my mom, sister and a very young daughter! It has held up very well through the years! It has to be about 30 years old now! The month of December (November too, actually) is pretty low-key on most fronts. Of course, I must keep up with our clients ... you know business related things. However on the home-front, I pretty much only do what must be done. Just keep things in maintenance mode, no deep cleaning of any kind. However, I did notice that somehow (shock) my closet shelves got all messed up. I think it is because I have had two seasons on the main shelves, and so I will get those switched out & the shelves all neatened up!

December is a month to enjoy family, friends, peace, quiet, Christ-centered activities!

What's happening in nature?


It is hunting season. Grandson (15) got his first pheasant of the season. He wanted to have it tonight, but we were just too rushed! (From after school to theater practice is just too short a time! Throw in cookie-baking, tea-time, catching up on the day, hunting & then cleaning the bird, family supper & time just flies! So they will have it tomorrow.) The ice is all melted & we are living with muddy roads! Thankfully ours is pretty sandy, so I don't generally have to worry about getting stuck! It actually warmed up nicely today & we were able to be outside early evening! Grandson tried for a goose, but didn't get one tonight.

Words to inspire.


"Christmas is about the greatest of miracles - the LORD coming to earth as a human being - and it offers to the world the greatest of gifts - eternal life."

C is for Christmas, Warren Wiersbe. Such a thought!

~ Denise

***

Oh my goodness, Denise, I just love all the details you share! We are cut from the same cloth, you and I! Thank you so much, for all the time, thought and LOVE you put into this post. I truly appreciate that you are joining me on my Tea Journal journey this year. <3 That salt dough nativity is just beautiful - what a family treasure! And if you don't mind, I'd love to borrow your idea to exchange gifts of the heart only with my husband. That's a wonderful tradition, and as you said, the brainstorming ahead is a gift in itself!

***

And now for some Advent Tea thoughts from Helene ...

Do you try to create gifts at this time of year? 

We’re doing a few. My daughter, who is 7, has been making various ornaments - Perler beads are a favorite. She also made one at her Girl Scout camp that she wants to give to her little brother - so sweet. Mostly if a gift isn’t already made by now, though, it probably isn’t going to happen.

Are you super-organized (as I always wish I'd be) and start your gift-giving early each year, by starting projects, growing things, gathering materials, and just generally planning ahead?

I’m pretty good about making small items (like knitted washcloths) throughout the year, just because if I tried to do it all now it wouldn’t happen, and besides, it gives me something to do on long car rides. :) I’m currently planning to cross-stitch some bookmarks for my family, which should be quick, but we’ll see how it goes.

How do you encourage your children to give in a thoughtful manner? Even if their gift is something they've bought, they can put their hearts (not just their monies) into the selection.

We are working on this! We’ve talked about how we don’t buy something just for the sake of it, but we really give some thought to our loved ones and what they need or enjoy.

What refreshments am I enjoying this week?

Sticking with my morning cup of Tasha Tudor’s Welsh Breakfast Tea (ever since I gave up on coffee this spring, this tea has been a mainstay of my morning). That Scottish tea you mentioned sounds tasty though, may have to add some to my tea stash to enjoy!

What am I reading this week?

Watch for the Light: Readings for Advent and Christmas. I also just started A Christmas Carol this evening, and I’m working my way through the complete collection of Sherlock Holmes stories (I *love* the BBC’s show Sherlock, but somehow had never read any of Doyle’s works, so I’m fixing that now).

What am I listening to this week? 

My holiday music playlist on Spotify. I still love Josh Groban’s Noel, but right now I’m also really enjoying the Three Irish Tenors and Placido Domingo. (I seem to be on a tenor kick right now—just noticed that while typing!)

What am I working on this week?

Trying to finish up gift shopping, as I find it really stressful to be doing that at the last minute, wondering if things will be delivered in time - and of course, then pushing the wrapping to the last minute as well. I really want to be able to relax and not rush through this season, so I’m trying to get time-sensitive things done.

What's happening in nature?

Cool breezes, blue skies, local strawberries turning up in the produce stands. Soon we’ll have local citrus as well. Our fig tree’s last fig just came ripe (we got about five this year—it’s only the tree’s second year, so that’s pretty okay, I think). Our garden is producing beans, and I’m holding out hope for the broccoli romanesco—the plants look healthy, at any rate!

A project with the children this week:

The kids and I are slowly putting up Christmas decorations - I’m finding that promising to dig in the tote and find something fun during a school break makes a good incentive for finishing math lessons!

***

Such lovely journal entries, Helene! I enjoyed reading your thoughts on gift-giving and I agree it's so much better to start handmade things earlier in the year. I will be working that idea into my New Year's goals. That said, we've been churning our homemade gifts the past couple of weeks, lol! Sometimes you have to strike when the iron is hot ... ;)

I had to smile when I read about your love for the BBC's Sherlock - oh I am SUCH a fan and we are waiting on tenterhooks for January when I believe it is set to return. I myself have never read all of the Sherlock Holmes stories, but my Bookworm went through a kick in high school and he absolutely LOVED them. :)

Also, I love hearing about your southern weather and how different it is from ours up here in the northeast. I'm a little envious of all that fresh produce - especially those strawberries! We'll be waiting for June for our own local berries.

***

Thanks again to Michelle, Denise and Helene for sharing their Advent Tea notes with us! I hope today you are able to sit and enjoy the blessing that is a Sunday in December ... perhaps it's in spending time with family, or at church, or puttering in your kitchen, or walking in nature. Whatever recharges your batteries, I hope you are able to do that today!

And as always, thank you so much for stopping by and I hope to see you here again tomorrow! I'll have Tea ready to serve just as the sun goes down and the tree lights come on ... :)


My Advent Tea Journal ~ Gifts from the Heart

Advent One 8

Happy Monday, my friends! Blessings to all in this brand new season!

And oh, do I LOVE Advent. It's such a lovely time of anticipation and preparation, a stilling of the world in some ways (yet a rushing in others), as we journey towards the most beautiful night of the year. Today I am sitting down to tea, catching my breath (it is Monday after all!) and taking a little time to think about the Season ahead ...

(How I'd like it to be - and not be.)

Well, there is much involved in the weeks leading up to Christmas, and that includes gift-giving. And every year I hope to make as many gifts as possible (in the physical or spiritual sense), but as time and energy dwindles, I find myself ordering things from Amazon at the last minute, and feeling immensely grateful for my Prime membership's two-day free shipping! I yearn for a non-commercial holiday, yet it's such a challenge every year! The material world (and my own busy-ness) work together and conspire against me! Even so, ever the eternal optimist am I, and this year I aim to make as many gifts as possible with my boys' help, and to come up with offerings that would be much appreciated by those that we love. In short, gifts from the heart (and hands).

I'd love to hear your thoughts on this topic!

* Do you try to create gifts at this time of year?

* Are you super-organized (as I always wish I'd be) and start your gift-giving early each year, by starting projects, growing things, gathering materials, and just generally planning ahead?

* How do you encourage your children to give in a thoughtful manner? Even if their gift is something they've bought, they can put their hearts (not just their monies) into the selection.

 More on how you can share your thoughts on this theme at the end of this post, but for now, let me open my Tea Journal and share my notes with you ...

What refreshments am I enjoying this week?

This week it's Taylor's Scottish Breakfast Tea and a freshly baked star cookie. Not quite the "Swedish" spice cookie I was aiming for, but close enough! I usually like to bake shortbread on this particular feast day (St. Andrew of Scotland) because for one thing, I'm Scottish! And for another, I love shortbread! But today I was hoping to make some Swedish star cookies because I recently learned (through Ancestry DOT com) that I am in fact, 4% Scandinavian!

So since we're all about "stars" here this week, I decided to make some gingerbread star cookies. They're not technically Scandinavian, but I'm going to pretend they are ... ;)

Advent One 23

And I will confess to you, dear readers: this is not a homemade recipe, but some commercial, roll-out dough purchased at the store. It was just that kind of day - if we were going to have cookies, they were going to happen this way or no way! Also, as you can see, my stars are pretty wonky. The dough just would not cooperate!

(They still tasted great, though ...)

And how about this new mug? Isn't is sweet?

Advent One 27

I found it at HomeGoods recently for all of $5. (How could I resist?) I love the tiny stars and the four birds returning "HOME" (to the nest) ... :) 

Now, you may notice my nest chair is not where it's been in past posts ... well, I've been "remodeling" (re-feathering?) my nest a bit this week with an eye toward Christmas decorations. The tree will be going up in this room, so that changes things a little. I'll have a tour up sometime soon ...

What am I reading this week?

Advent One 22

Advent One 1

Advent One 6

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In addition to a few children's books that work well with our nature theme this week, I am also reading Advent and Christmas Wisdom from St. Francis of Assisi. This is my daily devotional (along with this and this) and I have a pretty little notepad to use along with it - an informal Advent "journal" where I can jot notes as I read. :)

 

(Note: In a separate post I'm going to outline our nature-inspired Advent plans for this year - which I keep hinting at, but not really explaining, lol! I don't mean to be secretive (as if!) but I don't want to bog down my Tea post with too much about all of that.)

What am I listening to this week?

A lovely CD I purchased years ago, recorded by a homeschooling family, Eventide Lullaby, as well as my own humming as Little Bear settles to sleep - tuneless, but still soothing, thankfully. Today, it was one of my favorite carols. :)

 What am I working on this week?

Advent One 2 (1)

Crafts for the first week of Advent - using as many natural materials as possible (some found and some purchased), and making handmade gifts with the boys. I'm also arranging a quiet manger corner in the living room. This will slowly be built up over the next four weeks, according to our nature themes. As you can see, we have a few donations already ... :)

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Advent One 5

They don't tend to stand still, though. :)

Oh! And I made up a little frame for myself ... seen here at the far right of the sill:

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This is a $1 acrylic frame found at the craft store. I printed out the Christmas Novena as well as a pretty nativity picture and cut them to fit the frame sleeves. A perfect reminder for the season!

What's happening in nature?

Ok, here's a new idea ... I am going to record a short nature video each week to share with you. A little commentary on our weather and how the season is unfolding and what we're up to in nature each week. I could not - for the life of me! - figure out how to share a video directly in this post, but I was able to get one up at my Facebook page. I believe anyone can access it whether they are FB users or not ... I hope you enjoy!

November Woods

 

A project with the children this week:

Well, most importantly - and with but moments to spare - we began our Advent calendar, with an apple candle on Sunday ...

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A tiny beeswax tea light is stuffed just inside ... and one apple is placed at each one of the table's four corners. 

(They may or may not be eaten by squirrels ... but that's just part of the fun.)


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A rock a day ... 24 in all. And beneath each one is a word, leading up to a verse. A little mystery to solve ...

And in the center of the table, a plain white, battery-lit candle. I set the candle to turn on each day as the sun lowers and to turn off around eight. We can see this table from the kitchen nook window, and it has been quite the focus of attention already ...

Waiting, wondering ...

We are also spending our outdoor time gathering twigs (as mentioned in the video) and little stones for crafts. And of course, getting busy with some of those crafts:

seashell ornaments * a pebble-filled grotto * yarn stars * twig stars * shell candles * grinding spices with a mortal and pestle * filling hand-sewn felt sachets with said spices ...

Will all of it get done? Not very likely ... but we'll do our best and pace ourselves, and hopefully make some nice handcrafts for our tree and our family and friends.

Now, I was thinking about the older boys, and how to involve them in our family Advent plans. It gets harder as kids get older to "reach" them and secure a little of their time! They will certainly be taking part in some of the activities, and helping with the youngers as they can, but I'd like to make this season a meaningful time for them as well. My plan is this:

  Each evening, they will think about the next day and decide on a small gift to give of themselves: to a friend, a family member, a teacher, etc. It might be hard to think of actions at first, but depending on their schedule, and who they'll be seeing, it should be easy enough to come up with some small token of affection or charity. It might just be a kind word or gesture of some sort, or even just an extra prayer. After all, the best gift we can prepare for the Baby Jesus each year is simply to treat others as we would treat Him.

"What can we give him? We can give him our heart ..."

I'm not asking them to keep track of this or even share what they've done if they'd rather not. But I think we can discuss this over supper each night and help call their attention to potential situations where they might give a small gift of their heart ... if they think and plan ahead it should be easier to pass out those "gifts!"

Words to inspire:

"The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mystery." ~ Albert Einstein

I don't even have a whole lot to say about that quote - I only just heard it today! - but it seems to go well with this season. A time of waiting and wondering ... and yes, mystery, too.

How was it possible? How can it be true? How did they manage? It's just such a miracle!

How beautiful would it be it to fully immerse ourselves in this special time? To experience the true spirit of the season - tuning out what the world is shouting at us through our TVs and laptops - and instead find the quiet where we can and just listen? I myself listen best in nature ...

Advent One 13

Peace

Well, my friends, as usual I've rambled on quite a bit, but goodness, do I love this topic and of course, sharing my photos! I hope you will continue the conversation with me - by leaving a comment below, or emailing me your thoughts (with pictures if you'd like!) or perhaps linking me up at your blog? You can reach me at:

> bysunandcandle AT gmail DOT com <

I would love to hear about (see!) your tea and talk more about how we can give from our hearts this year. For those we love and those in need ... it's a wonderful time of year for giving, in every sense of the word.

And thanks so much for joining me! I will be back again soon - I have a little nest "assignment" to share this week, as well as some more reader nest posts, too! I will also be back with more details on our Advent with Nature plans ... I'm still figuring them all out because - oddly enough - I kind of let things wait till the last minute this year!

Enjoy the rest of your evening, everyone ... see you here again very soon!

p.s. Here's a link to my Homemade Gifts archive - there are several kid-friendly craft posts there, as well as a blog fair I hosted many years ago, The Loveliness of Handmade Gifts. There are lots of ideas and links in that one! :)


From Nest to Nest ... ❤

Cozy nest button

Happy Tuesday, my friends!

As I write (type), the sun is still fairly bright in the sky, it's a chill 42°, and my youngest is (finally) sound asleep. With the rest of the family off fending for themselves, I'm finding some quiet time to sit and work on a post. My mind is straying to the cleaning and baking that needs doing before Thursday, but that all can wait for an hour or so ... because I have another nest to share. :)

This sweet nest belongs to Gill and she enjoys it way across the globe in snowy Norway! (Isn't the Internet grand?) Please read on and enjoy ...

***

Dear Dawn,

Here is my little corner nest, where I have my work basket and magazine rack close to hand. We actually have bright sunshine today after weeks of fog, and the snow is dazzling outside!

Cozy corner gill 1

When I sit here I can see bird feeders in the rowan and birch trees and the view is across two fields to our barns and then to the river, with hills behind. There was a greater spotted woodpecker on the feeder earlier, but now just the usual selection of tits, sparrows, finches and a nuthatch or two. There are usually a few of my hens underneath, foraging for spilled seeds and nuts too!

My mantleshelf is always decorated for the season and beside it, just out of the photo is my small writing desk with my Bible, prayer books and framed family photos on it.

Cozy corner gill 3

As soon as I got up to take the photos for you our smallest kitten hopped up to take my place! She is one of three, now nine weeks old. The curtains are knotted up as a deterrent to curtain climbing (although a previous batch of kittens discovered that they actually make a cosy hammock to sleep inside!). I have my tea in my favourite Emma Bridgwater mug that says, "Mother."

Cozy corner gill 2

It is a peaceful spot, and I can relax to the sound of the clock ticking (it just chimed two) and the whir of the heat driven fan on top of the woodstove. There is a contented purring from the kittens' mother cat as she nurses another kitten and a clattering and scrabbling from a more adventurous one as he explores the room. But now his siblings have scampered off to join him and my geriatric cuckoo clock has called three! It is no longer able to tell the correct time, or even coordinate its calls with the time on the dial, let alone the real time, but it has been a happy accompaniment to my children's whole lives and I love to hear it still! 

This rest time, from two to half past, usually, is always spent in this corner, reading or writing in my journal, or catching up a little online. 😉 In the evenings I sit and work at my knitting, crochet or sewing here.

Thank you for inviting us all to tea! I am looking forwards to the chatting later.

Gill.

***

Gill, there is so much I love about your nest I hardly know where to start! Well, actually, yes I do - I'l start with that KITTEN. Oh my goodness, such sweetness. As you know, I am a cat person too, and I do love black kitties very much. Our first cats were black and whites and calicos - including one all-black, handsome fella. Though I adore my marmalade boys, Archie and Ollie, my first cats will always have a special place in my heart. :)

But back to your nest, Gill! I love these colors, so much. I usually say yellow is my favorite color, but I am always so drawn to red. Especially red paired with cozy colors ... like the tartan plaid of your blanket and the granny squares of your pillow and the pretty embroidery on the napkin tucked under your mug. (LOVE Emma mugs!)

I like how you have so many fabrics at play here, too ... such a great way to add comfort and eye-appeal. And second in cuteness to that kitten is your adorable beehive tea cozy!

And what a sweet mantelshelf to gaze upon, and the view from your windows sounds lovely, too. As I read this passage I thought, Gill's feeders sound exactly like mine - including the hens! (Though "my hens" belong to my neighbors.) And here we are a whole ocean apart ... :)

Gill, thank you so much for taking the time to photograph and comment on your own cozy nest. I so enjoyed seeing it and you have given me some ideas for my own - like digging my Gram's afghans out of the hope chest for starters!

My friends, I hope you enjoyed this tour of Gill's nest ... won't you consider sharing yours, too? Maybe you have a spot of your own, that you always return to (or home, keeping in theme!) or perhaps these posts will encourage you to organize something like this for yourself. It's the perfect time of year to do so!

Please leave a comment for Gill or myself below, and/or you are welcome to email me your thoughts/pics/links anytime that's convenient for you - I'll be posting about nests all season long!

bysunandcandle AT gmail DOT com

(Feel free to grab the "nest button" at the top of the post.)

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


My Thanksgiving Tea Journal, 2015

Thanks tea button

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

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

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

> bysunandcandle AT gmail DOT com <

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

What refreshments am I enjoying this week?

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

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

Thanksgiving tea 3

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

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

What am I reading this week?

Thanks tea 4

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

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

What am I listening to this week?

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

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

What am I working on this week?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What's happening in nature?

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

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

A project with the children this week ...

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

"the cats "

"pears and hot dogs"

"packages in the mail"

"dirty boots"

"rain"

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

Words to inspire:

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

~ John McLeod

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

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

What refreshments are you enjoying this week?

What are you reading this week?

What are you listening to this week?

What are you working on this week?

What's happening in nature this week?

Any projects with the children this week?

(and finally)

Any quotations to share, some words to inspire?

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

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

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

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


An Advent Tea Journal ~ Please join me!

Advent tea button 2015

 Good Friday morning, my friends!

I'm popping in today to tell you a bit more about my 2015 Advent Tea Journal, which I'll kick off on Monday with a little "Thanksgiving Tea" here at my blog. How will this work? Well, I will be posting pictures of my own tea things (my favorite autumn set) and a few of my Thanksgiving decorations. (I MAY try to do a short video tour, but that might be beyond my technical "prowess," lol!) I will also share what I'm writing in my tea journal that week: nature notes, a recipe, a quote for the week, a book I'm enjoying, etc. Then I'll introduce the theme of the week which on Monday will be  ...

Simplifying the Season

These are the questions I'd like to ponder and pose:

How are we going to simplify the season this year, for ourselves and our family? What can we step back from or make easier in some way?

What is our Season's focus? What are the main things we want to do (activity) and feel (atmosphere) this Advent?

Can we plan a family meeting next weekend? A time to talk about expectations and perhaps look at the calendar together?

***

Each Monday through the end of the year I'll share my Advent Tea Journal (themes and dates can be found here), and I would LOVE to have you all join me, in any way that works for you. You might leave a comment on Monday's post ... or link up with me at your blog ... or you might send me your thoughts on this topic - along with pictures! - by email:

bysunandcandle AT gmail DOT com

I will add your thoughts and pics to my post as we go along ... no deadlines, just reply as you have time. I might even do separate posts as I did with the planner party so we can spread our discussion throughout the week. :)

Oh, and feel free to grab my tea "button" up there if you'd care to help spread the word! :)

My friends, I do hope you'll join me for tea this Advent ... and of course, "tea" is whatever your preferred libation might be! Cocoa, spiced cider, coffee ... etc. It's such a nice time of year to do this - to sit down and re-set our batteries and perhaps, re-set our focus if life is taking us away from where we want to be. I find these weeks tend to just FLY by and the pressure builds all around us - are you done wrapping yet? have you mailed all your cards yet? - and the next thing we know, it's more about getting things done ... and less about the big picture. If we look back at the "hopes" we wrote for ourselves in November will we see that living vision around us?

But aside from all that - it's also about sharing tea and enjoying each other's company. :)

So please consider joining me in whatever way you can. I'll post reminders each week about what's coming up next so everyone has time to think over the theme and if and how they'd like to participate.

And of course, I'm still hoping to see more of those wonderful cozy nest pics! You may send me those at the same address listed above ... I'll be on-and-off line all weekend. :)

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


Tea Parties & Plans ...

Oak leaves branch

Good Thursday morning, my friends! I hope your week's going well. :)

First up - in Planner Party news, I'm eager to hear from more of you and am very happy to share more planner posts, so if you have some thoughts or pics to share, please send them to me at:

bysunandcandle AT gmail DOT com

I have a bit more to share on the subject myself - in fact, I'm currently working on a post about my binder tabs ... but of course, mid-way through I decided to completely overhaul the whole thing. ;) So that post will be up soon, I hope! 

Now, about my next "party" ...

Advent tea

I was thinking it would be nice to bring back my Advent Tea Journal from last year ... and I'd love to have you all join me again! If you'd like to see how we "took tea" last year, here is a link to my Tea Journal (and here is a link to my Advent archives for good measure). This year I will follow a similar format: there will be a theme to each week, a topic to discuss. I will share my own thoughts and photos, and I invite you all to do the same, whether by e-mail or comment or by posting at your own blog and linking up ... :)

And just like last year I will begin with a Thanksgiving Tea! Join me here on Monday, November 23rd to share some afternoon refreshment and take a collective breath before the busy holiday week gets underway. Our Advent Teas will follow over the next four weeks and then there will be one final Christmas Tea before we conclude our party. :)

Here are the Tea dates and topics:

Thanksgiving Tea: Monday, November 23rd ~ "Simplifying the Season"

Advent Tea, #1: Monday, November 30th ~ "Gifts from the Heart"

Advent Tea, #2: Monday, December 7th ~ "O Christmas Tree"

Advent Tea, #3: Monday, December 14th ~ "Magic + Meaning" (Advent for children)

Advent Tea, #4: Monday, December 21st ~ "Welcoming Winter"

Christmas Tea: Monday, December 28th ~ "'Tis the Season!"

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My friends, I welcome you to send me your thoughts on our weekly topics (along with photos if you care to share them) and if you blog, I hope you'll consider posting about our Teatime and sending me a link. I'll also collect comments as they post and add them into each post ... so there's a way for just about everyone to participate!

In the week leading up to each Tea I will post reminders (where, how and when to send things) and describe more fully each topic. And I'm going to try to make up a pretty Tea button of some sort ... but I haven't done that in a long time, so I hope I remember how! 

I think this will be such fun - a nice chance to pause and reflect on the season while indulging in a little teatime together. I'm hoping by organizing this all now I'm giving myself (and you!) some time to digest and think ahead ... I hope you'll join me if you can!

For now though ... well, Advent seems pretty far off ... it's a damp and dark (dare I say dreary?) day here. Very mid-November. Most of the leaves are gone (from the trees, that is ... there are plenty plastered to the wet ground). But December is just around the corner! I'm not one to rush things (and certainly not seasons) but there is prudence in getting things set, at least in your mind if not also on paper. Because as much as I don't like rushing I really don't like scrambling ... and that's what happens when I leave things to just happen without planning ahead! I want my seasons to be simple, yes - but also satisfying ... and that takes a little forethought, I think.

Well that's all for now, friends ... my little one's due to wake any moment. So I must be off ... but I thank you, as always, for stopping by and I will see you here again very soon!