Teatime Feed

Tea & Mitten Strings: Ch. 8, "Secret Places"

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Hello my friends, and Happy Sunday! I hope you all are having a nice weekend, and I hope my fellow Americans enjoyed a very happy Thanksgiving! Ours was quite nice - and I do have some pictures to share - but for now, I'd like to serve one last cup of Autumn Tea and talk about our next chapter in Mitten Strings for God, chapter eight, "Secret Places." 

Now, despite the "Christmassy" look of my tea pic above, it actually is still Autumn! But I think most of us are switching gears at the moment ... tucking away Thanksgiving (and maybe Halloween) decor, and working on our December calendars and this year's holiday plans ...

But outside my window the world still looks very autumnal! There are crunchy leaves underfoot, and some still clinging to the mostly bare trees ... and oh, those late, glowing sunsets! But the chipmunks have gone underground now - we realized that the other day, shortly after we spotted our first dark-eyed junco on the front lawn. These two species disappear (the former) and reappear (the latter) around the same time each year and it's always a highlight in our household - right along with that first hard morning frost!

Who saw the first junco? Has anyone seen a chipmunk lately? Wow the grass is crunchy this morning!

Autumn's ending ... winter's nearing ... it's time to turn inward and "switch on the lights." 

Here's a peek at our Saturday afternoon, roundabouts 3:00 ... 

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See how dark it gets around here?! And though my Little Bear is wearing a winter jacket in this picture, the temperature was strangely mild today - very near 60°! And, according to our local forecast, all next week is looking unseasonably mild as well - which doesn't bode well for our pre-assigned seasonal theme of "Welcome, Jack Frost!" Lol, we may be hard pressed to celebrate "frosty weather" next week, with highs near 50° ... though the nights will dip down to the 20s, so there is hope! (I contemplated switching themes, but I think we'll stick with it ... and if it stays mild we'll talk about how elusive that ol' winter sprite can be at this time of year!❄️ )

(p.s. The wooden structure is an Advent project in the works - more to come next week on that!)

Ok, enough with the weather talk now, let's talk about tea! This week I'm drinking my favorite decaffeinated black tea in a sweet mug I bought at Home Goods a year or so ago. It's a good sturdy mug that holds a nice amount of tea - and I love the bright red letters spelling out HOME - and the four birds heading straight for it!

(Note - I find the cutest mugs at HomeGoods for very little money. Well, they're not free or anything - as Bill would remind me - but they're a nice enough price I don't mind splurging once in a while! 😉 )

So I took my tea yesterday in our sunny kitchen nook while filling out my December calendar -  because GOODNESS the new month arrives Friday! (Calendar post to come soon!) And though most Advent calendars begin on December 1st, technically, according to the liturgical calendar, Advent begins on the first Sunday of Advent, which in 2017 is December 3rd. And that's a week from today!

Either way you look at it though - whichever calendar you follow - Advent is coming - and SOON!

Before we get on with our chapter talk though, and speaking of tea and Advent, I have to share this with you all ...

Advent teas

This is MY Advent calendar this year, an extremely generous and incredibly thoughtful gift from a dear friend! It arrived in a wonderful surprise package last week, a lovely and festive box filled with special teas for each and every day of Advent ... 24 in all! I am so excited to try them all, and I love the inspiration they represent - a perfect reason to sit down and savor a few quiet moments each day throughout the season ... to soak it all in and think it all through. Advent goes so fast and we can easily get caught up in the hustle and bustle ... but as we tea lovers know, a hot cuppa something special is all the invitation we need to slow down and press pause. I am planning my teatimes already and making room for these special moments in each day. I hope to share most, if not all, of these teas with you all on social media this Advent season!

Ok, let's now move on to our next Mitten Strings chapter ... and today we are discussing the concept of "Secret Places." Here is a link to my post from 2008 and once again I had a chuckle reading back through my thoughts back then. Different house, different (aged) kids (plus one more kid now) ... unsurprisingly things were so ... different back then! Our house has more floors and our yard now has more acreage - so there are more nooks and crannies to explore - but my primary "secret place finder" is only four years old! So I'll have to adapt the concept of a "hideaway" this time around ...

"Every child needs such a place, a place that invokes the processes of the imagination and the possibility of transformation. A place that is at once a haven from the adult world and a source of mystery and wonder, a place that a child can discover and shape and lay claim by virtue of his or her own quiet presence there, and deep observation." (p. 62)

Little Bear is just at the right age for seeking out such special, secret places - though again, he's too young to be left to his own devices just yet. I hope next spring to help him explore a little more around our property, to find some little nooks in which he might find "a sense of ownership and mystery," (p. 58).

Here is one such place he has taken a liking to recently ...

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As you can tell from my posts, we are surrounded by woods here - even our front yard has "a small wood" of its own! Well, Friday afternoon, as I walked down to get the mail (taking a break from Thanksgiving cleanup!), I heard Little Bear calling ...

"Mama, come see what I found! Come see, come see! Me and Daddy are here now!"

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A little nook right inside this cozy wood, just a slight dip down below our driveway ... with big, moss-covered rocks to climb and (unbeknownst to Little Bear) a vernal pond to explore come spring. (No actual peepers, though. Just lots of muck and murk.) I was so pleased he stumbled upon this spot which is clearly visible from the house but feels "secretive" to him. Four is such a great age, and LB has such an adventurous spirit ...

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This will make a fun, out-of-the-way place for him to explore ... and "claim."

"The best ones are the ones that children discover on their own, the ones that are imbued, from the very first, with a sense of ownership and mystery; places that no adult would ever think to go, that are hollowed by the shapes of small bodies and furnished by wild nature and rampant imagination." (pg. 58)

Kids are magnets for these kinds of interesting outdoor spots, especially when and if allowed to roam (and lead). Their sharp eyes see such possibilities! But winter is coming and the weather will soon be turning inhospitable; outdoor explorations will be put on the back burner for awhile ...

So as we spend more time indoors, I thought I'd take a look around the house and see where else LB might find his own special nooks ...

Here's a great place for a little "fort" ...

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In the library, where Mama reads (and drinks tea) ... in between the chair and the loveseat, just beneath the (rickety) end table. :)

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He'd be snuggled up right next to the heating register, too! And just under the tablecloth there, you see a glimpse of the cats' soft pet-bed. This is used mostly (always) by Oliver, who is our quieter of the two cats. (There's a reason you see Archie in most of my photos - he's my constant sidekick!) Oliver though, likes being out of sight and prefers being somewhere dark and warm. I'm thinking Little Bear could make good use of this space, too!

And here's another possible secret (ish) place ...

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Well, there's really nothing too secret about the loft bed in Little Bear's bedroom, but I think it has "secret place" potential ... maybe with a curtain of some kind providing some privacy ...

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He's too young to sleep up here just yet (and he has a separate single bed in this room as well) but I think this will be great fun for him as he gets a little older and more adventurous! And there's that neat little cubby just beneath the bed as well ... currently it holds out-of-season clothing but that too could make a wonderful "fort" or hidey-hole someday!

You know, "Secret Places" was another wonderful chapter, with some lovely inspiration for those of us with young children ... but I think the whole idea of a "secret place" is of value to all of us. Our imaginations might not be quite so active as we age, but the need to feel out of the limelight and "off on our own" on occasion ... really never goes away.

"Children need their privacy just as we adults do. In the secret places of childhood, the soul drinks deeply, is refreshed, and flourishes." (p. 63)

Do you have a secret place you retreat to? Do your children have such places they call all their own? I'd love to hear about them and your thoughts on this chapter, if you have time! Or how about the weather where you are, or the tea you are drinking these days? Do you, like me, feel called to pour a cup of tea and "hide away" as the days grow dark and cold?

I'd love to read your comments if you have time to leave them, or send me a link, your thoughts and/or pics if you have a moment!

---> drhanigan AT gmail DOT com

I hope to hear from you and I thank all of you who have been reading along and sharing your thoughts as you can! Sorry I am a bit late in my replies - last week was a busy one! I will be catching up with you all again soon (and sharing some pics from our family's holiday too). Next week's Sunday post will be our first Advent Tea and very fittingly our chapter is all about "Wants and Needs." Something to ponder as we head into the busiest shopping time of the year, and choose gifts for our loved ones ...

So until then (or next time, whenever that may be) I wish you all well and a very lovely last week of November! Take care of yourselves and your loved ones, my friends ... 

See you here again very soon!


Autumn Tea & Mitten Strings: Ch. 5 "Simplicity"

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Hello my friends, and welcome to this week's Tea and MSfG discussion! We are now on chapter five, "Simplicity," and what a wonderful chapter it is ... my favorite of all, I think! Mostly because there is one passage in this chapter that just stands out so strongly to me, I've remembered it more than any other all these years ...

Also, because I feel like simplicity is something just so powerful and alluring (there's a whole movement after all) and I feel I am always striving towards it - finding it in some areas, yet falling short in others ...

Anyways, before we get further into the chapter talk, I want to talk a little about my tea shown above. Now, I am going to be completely honest with you - this was not how I originally imagined my "simplicity" tea. You see, every week when I start thinking about a tea post, I like to envision just how it might look, according to that week's theme:

What cup might I use? What treat might I bake? Which tea will I choose and in which cozy spot will I sit?

It's really quite fun to think about these kinds of things - and sometimes, my vision does come to life! Other times ... not so much.

So this week, as I kept "simplicity" in mind, I was envisioning a teatime setting that was not quite so ... busy. Something very neat, maybe - quite tidy, and sparse. All in soft colors, with perhaps a plain stoneware mug, a simple shortbread on a small plate alongside one of our new cotton napkins ... nicely arranged in a quiet corner of our library, somewhere out of the way (clutter removed, natch), where I might sit by myself and earnestly consider how I might bring a little more simplicity to my life ...

Well, with all the energy I was spending on thinking and arranging - I was creating a rather complex situation for myself! 😜  Here I was going to great lengths to create what I thought was a "simple tea" but it just wasn't happening (not without a lot of fuss) and it was frustrating!

But that's me in a nutshell ... I slow down by doing things like taking tea at home on a quiet afternoon ... but then I complicate the whole process by involving too many time-consuming details, and working a bit outside of reality, if you will.

From the second page of this chapter:

"We set the bar too high, take on too much, turn small doings into big ones." (p. 35)

My lesson learned: simple isn't necessarily how something appears, but rather, how it fits into your life. How it makes you feel inside.

So instead of whipping up a "simple tea," I decided to keep it real, and (to quote my GPS), recalculated ...

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My reality that very day (as it is most days) was taking tea at the worktable in the sunroom. I was here trying to get a handle on the new month to come ... and I was surrounded by STUFF: my workhorse of a tea mug filled with my everyday tea, piles of books, open-faced planners and notebooks, myriad school supplies, plenty of sunshine and ... a cat.

(Always, the cat.)

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I didn't even have time to grab a cookie - let alone bake something sweet and pretty!

So is it simple? Maybe not in how it all looks, because obviously there's a LOT going on in that photo! But in spirit, yes this was keeping things simple for me. I wanted to share tea with you all, and I wanted to talk about this chapter, and here was where it was simplest for me to do that. :)

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The nice thing about tea is that it always makes me slow down a little no matter what I'm up to. Because it's often pretty hot to begin with and usually I have a really full mug. So I really can't rush it! And most days I find myself needing a cup (or sometimes two or three) in the afternoon, just about the time it makes sense to slow down a bit - maybe check in at my computer or crash on my couch with my kids.

But let's get back to our chapter now because I think I've talked about tea long enough! (Boy, can I talk about tea.)

A little "simplicity moment" from my home last week ...

O boo halloween

Here's Little Bear in his first-choice, much preferred Halloween costume this year - handmade by us both. (And the cat.) It took one piece of construction paper, a pair of scissors, a hole punch and twine, and we were done. And funnily enough it fit well and stayed put!

Meanwhile the $30 costume I bought from Amazon weeks ago still sits up in my bedroom - completely refused and rejected! (LB wanted NO part of that bright green "creature power" suit with its velcro mask and detachable tail. Oh, no ... it was simply too much.) Mama should have listened to him when he insisted last month that all he really wanted to be for Halloween was a ghost ... because for him, it was enough.

How sweet is a four-year-old, I ask you?

And this leads me to the part I referenced at the start of my post, the Mitten Strings passage that has stayed with me all these years: 

"It is not enough anymore to pull together a Halloween costume from the dress-up bin, add a few extra touches, and head out the door to go trick-or-treating. The store-bought costumes are more elaborate, more expensive and more grisly every year. There are decorations to buy, light shows to orchestrate on the front lawn, haunted houses to visit, and a week's worth of pre-Halloween activities to attend. Last fall my neighbor's six-year-old daughter had been in and out of her costume so many times that she refused to put it back on for Halloween night. She'd been a ballerina in a parade, at school, and at two parties. The novelty had worn off." (p. 36)

I've always maintained that the Halloween we celebrate in our family is one that has ancestral roots and a mostly innocent agenda - filled with festive foods, old-fashioned games, homemade decorations - nothing much to do with what society does or what's selling fast at Target this year. And yet, here I fell for the "snazzy costume trap" hook, line and sinker!

Of course, keeping in mind that lesson I learned up above - it's really all what feels simple to you. For some folks, picking up a costume at Target IS the simpler solution! Finding the time and energy to make a homemade costume is anything but. (Though I'm not sure you can beat our ghost mask for easy!) I think it all depends on what works for you.

Simple looks different to everyone ...

Simply put, I think it all boils down to how something affects your life, and beyond that your family. How will it make you all feel? What choices feel right and cause the least stress? Because then you're living authentically and I think this is what we want to share with our children ...

"Watching us manage our own lives sensibly, our children will learn to set limits, too." (p. 39)

I found this particular chapter to be very timely reading, because currently I'm fleshing out our Thanksgiving and Advent plans. And these are the weeks when it is VERY easy to get swept up in - not just what society is offering, but our own schemes and dreams, too. I may envision a homemade, homespun, home-centered holiday ... but if I wanted to - and in some ways I do - I could easily stuff every moment full of activity and awareness ...

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So I pause my pen above that page and rein in my tendency to over-plan ...

"It takes conviction to say, "This is enough." (p. 38)

So you see, simplicity lessons are not just for those who are always on the go, seeking to be where the action is ... but for we introverts, too! And I'm a perfect example of that! 

(Side note: I'll be sharing my (hopefully) rather simple holiday plans in an upcoming post!)

Now, I love this quote too, from the last section of the chapter in which the author offers some wonderful steps toward simplicity:

"Don't feel guilty about skipping events that everyone else attends." (p. 39)

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The above picture was taken while doing just that ...

Last weekend we skipped our town's annual "great pumpkin hunt" to simply stroll around our own yard and seek signs of autumn's end. This is Little Bear gathering weeds and feeling those feathery grasses ...

There was a pull to be sure - my husband is more of an extrovert than I am, and usually he's more eager to get "out there" and mix it up with ... well, whoever all shows up at an event! But my reasoning was ... just the day before we had enjoyed - really thoroughly enjoyed - a wonderful family Halloween party. We had spent hours frolicking inside and out, doing all kinds of Halloween-y things, including ... hunting for pumpkins! Was Little Bear running around with dozens of kids in a jumble, while his parents sipped cider and made small talk with strangers?

No, he was playing with his cousins and brothers while his Mom and Dad were having a grand old time with dear ones we can never seem to spend enough time with. :)

Now, had he really wanted to go to that community event (either Bill or LB) we would have gone. Because again, it's about balance and what feels right to each family. But when we really thought about it, our previous day had been so nice and we were thoroughly (and pleasantly) exhausted. Little Bear had his pumpkin (and a few to spare) and we all came away feeling just the right kind of full-up of happy and tired.

One more time though, I'll stress - this all made sense for my family. That "homey" weekend was a pure and simple joy for us. Another family would not find throwing a party for two dozen people easy or fun. For them it might be much more enjoyable to roll out of bed a little later in the morning and throw the kids in the car, off on an adventure ...

So to each his own, is my motto ... and ours is most often (nearly always) here at home. 

Well, I've gone on quite long now, so I'll wrap up - though I still have several other quotes marked in my chapter! I would LOVE to hear your thoughts on this chapter - or on simplicity in general - if you have the time. You are welcome to share your thoughts here in the comments below, or if you've done a post at your own site, please feel free to link me up (and let me know) and of course, all are welcome to email with links, thoughts, pics, etc. ...

---> drhanigan AT gmail DOT com

I'll weave contributions into this post as I receive them and catch up with comments left below as I can. :)

For now though I'm off ... I'll be back again soon with my November planning pages and book list, plus some old journaling pages like the one I shared on IG this morning! I'm enjoying looking back over old notes and clippings, and I thought you all might like a peek too!

So enjoy the rest of your weekend, everyone! Next week we'll be talking about ... gasp ...TV! And to be honest, I'm a little nervous about this chapter, lol ... I think I may have to face the harsh reality that things are not the ideal I'd envisioned back in my early mothering days! But we'll catch up on that later ... next Friday we'll strive to get back on track, but there may be some weeks (like this one) where I need to postpone things a day ... or two or three. 😉

Please take care of yourselves and your loved ones, my friends ...

I'll see you here again very soon!


Happy Halloween ~ from My Family to Yours!

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Hello my friends, and Happy Halloween! I'm popping in today to wish you all a nice (fun & safe!) holiday and to share a few pictures from our Halloween party last weekend. What a fun time we had with our family!

Now, you all know we love entertaining, and we host several gatherings throughout the year, but this was our first big Halloween party in some time! And it was mostly our Earlybird's idea. :) He got it in his head last month that we needed to throw a Halloween party and so, together we worked out what that party would look like and how to go about making it happen!

So over the next few weeks we made up a guest list, filled out invitations - mailed those invitations with help from a kind postal worker who found THE perfect jack-o-lantern stamps for us to use! - and then set about planning out food and decorations. This project took up our whole October and boy, was it fun! 

Anyhoo ... below I have some pictures from our day, but first I'd like to share a couple more pictures of my autumn-inspired writing desk from last week's tea ... it really captures the Halloween spirit for me!

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I don't use this desk as often as I do the one in the family room - for one thing, it's a little more removed from the general household, nestled as it is along the far western wall in the library ... and though that can be a good thing sometimes, I usually can't remove myself for very long from said household! Also, I don't have a computer here and normally I need that handy when doing "work" or whatever else I might get up to. But I love having this desk all the same, and I relish it especially in the autumn time. Because the sun sets just beyond those woods, so the afternoon light is beautiful here ... which seems all the more important as we head into the dark time of year ...

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And as the days grow cold and dark, I think it's very important to create some nice, cozy spots for ourselves where we can. So I have some tea lights and "fairy" lights here in the window, along with some silk leaves and mini pumpkins. My cup of tea as described in this post is surrounded by lots of fun things: a few special books (both Mama's and Little Bear's), a pretty notebook and some Halloween cards, and right there in the middle is one of my old journals, from October, 2009. I was looking through it for ideas and getting caught up in old autumn memories!

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I have always loved Halloween and have so many fond memories from my childhood. I especially liked learning about the ancient agricultural roots of this Celtic celebration. In recent years though, I feel society's version of Halloween has become very commercialized (not to mention creepy!) so we tend to avoid outside activities. I prefer a quiet Halloween for my kids, with time spent in nature and a few special family traditions ... some festive food, grinning pumpkins, cozy lights and a little frolicking 'round the neighborhood. It's all in good fun, nothing too scary or severe. In our town tonight we are dealing with the aftermath of a crazy windstorm and so trick-or-treating has been cancelled! So instead we'll be having a "Halloween Supper" and then making some s'mores at the fire pit before wrapping things up with a few holiday specials on tv. :)

Ok, now for the party pics! First is a collage of the "Halloween" menu ...

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Clockwise from upper left hand corner we have:

  • witch's potion punch
  • mummy dogs
  • haunted pumpkin patch cake
  • autumn apple-pear salad
  • deli wraps in Halloween colors
  • vomiting pumpkin dip (yep, I went there)
  • Frank-en-Guac
  • bread dough bones and "dipping" sauce
  • poisoned apple cider cocktails

It was SUCH fun researching recipes! (A few of the above ideas can be found at my Halloween Pinterest board.) My mother was a big help in putting this all together, though I admit she was a bit shocked by that vomiting pumpkin! (Also, I should note - Bookworm made the bread bones and frankenstein dip!)

As for party activities, on the patio we had set up the pumpkin tic-tac-toe I showed you in this post, as well as a tabletop Jenga game Bill and Bookworm made. And then, in the way back yard (next to the old barn - my future "she shed") we set up a little "pumpkin patch" for the little kids to visit!

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(Next year we're determined to grow pumpkins for real!)

Naturally, Little Bear made sure he found his pumpkin before his cousins did ...

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Here he is with my cousin Kate's daughter, dressed up as an adorable owl ...

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They really had fun running all over the place ...

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And what a beautiful day it was ... plenty of golden sun and almost 70 degrees!

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I love it when we're able to bring a party outside ... it provides a nice change of scenery and a little breath of fresh air!

Here are my older boys with a couple of their friends ...

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They spent most of the party watching "scary movies" down in the man cave ... ;)

And here's another pumpkin patch cutie, my sweet niece, with her parents ... 

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Happy 1st Halloween, little one! 🎃

Meanwhile our girls were wondering just what the heck was going on!

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(Do you know they don't care at all for pumpkin? I thought for sure they'd love it but nope - they were completely uninterested!)

But here's their contribution to the party:

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💛

Ok, back inside now, here I am with my beloved mum ...

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Just two (good) kitchen witches brewing up a little culinary magic!

And next we have Aunt Anne (Bill's godmother) and Ami, my dear sister-in-law ...

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... aka my sweet niece's mom!

And now for a few hectic, slightly blurry foyer shots as everyone arrived ...

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And as usual there were plenty of choices at the desserts table ...

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My mum's beautiful cake (spice cake with penuche frosting) was the biggest hit, I'd wager!

And lastly, happily - and shockingly! - we were able to wrangle our four boys into a family picture! 

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Wishing all my friends here a very Happy Halloween ~ I hope your October is ending on a good note!

 Can you believe how big they're all getting? 😱

We'll have lots to talk about later this week ... November plans, another Autumn Tea and Mitten Strings, of course. (This week we're discussing chapter 5, "Simplicity.") And don't forget I will be joining Pam Barnhill at Homeschool Solutions Thursday afternoon on Facebook Live! We'll be talking about MSfG and how it's shaped my homeschooling through the years ... please wish me luck! I'm not the most tech-savvy person, as you well know, so I hope I do the interview justice!

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


Autumn Tea & Mitten Strings: Ch. 4, Quiet

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Hello my friends and Happy Friday! And holy smokes, it's the last October Friday of 2017 - can you even believe it?! No, I can't either, but I'm not going to dwell on that just now because we all have SO much to talk about this week! And it's such a lovely October day ... we have Tea to pour, and Quiet to discuss, plus I have a really fun announcement to make at the end of this post! :)

So welcome, everyone, to another Autumn Teatime and our ongoing Mitten Strings for God book study. Today we are discussing the fourth chapter of this wonderful book, titled "Quiet." And what a nice chapter this was, full of such thoughtfulness and inspiration.

(I'm pretty sure I'll be saying this a lot throughout our study.)

Quiet is such a valuable thing to consider, on both a personal and family level ... and ... as mine is a family of FOUR BOYS ... well, you can imagine that ours is not the ... um ... quietest on the block. (Lets just say our neighbors know us well and are very kind.) I think though, the message I got from this chapter was not so much that we need more silence in our life (though that's nice too at times) but perhaps more room to hear the right kind of noise - noise that is meaningful and intimate. And maybe because of the way we all live nowadays, it's a balance we need to be mindful of - noise vs. quiet and where the outside world fits in. I think there's a real need to allow "a thoughtful quiet" to permeate our homes so we may live in such a way that allows us to absorb OUR world - not necessarily THE world - and the sweet simple details of our everyday life.

I guess what I'm trying to say is, and to quote from my original post on this chapter (from the 2008 book study):

"I could do with less noise, but I savor the sounds of my life."

Now, before I go on too much further here is a link to the post I did on this chapter back in 2008 (with so many wonderful reader comments). I'll also update this post with any current links and comments from all of you as (hopefully) you jump into our ongoing discussion!

(Everyone is welcome to participate - please see this post for more details!)

But! Before we get into the meat of our book discussion, I'd like to briefly talk tea. :)  Above you see my autumn-decorated writing desk ... with its candles and twinkling lights, golden leaves and pumpkins, and, of course, my tea. I "took tea" today in a pretty china cup I inherited from my friend's grandmother ... I thought the black, white and gold scheme was rather fitting! My brew is an Irish Breakfast decaf, and my teatime treats are two Scandinavian ginger crisps - a nod to two of my main ancestral roots. (Halloween always makes me feel ancestral!) As I sipped, I surrounded myself with autumn journals and board books, and some darling holiday cards I hoped to get into the mail before day's end ...

But now, on to our Mitten Strings discussion!

Now, rather fittingly, I (re)read this chapter about "Quiet" in absolute silence. Not a normal atmosphere for me! (Unless it's 6 a.m. or 10 p.m. - more on that in a minute!) So I was sitting in an exam room at my doctor's - in that atrocious "gown," awaiting my annual physical, all alone ... and it was absolutely still. (My doctor was running late, stuck in traffic!) Anyhoo, I relished the quiet, and began reading, making mental notes as I went along, and reminded myself once again just how much sense each of these chapters make. Not just for families with young children (as the author was back then, and I was back then - though also, still now) but really, for any one of us seeking a more mindful life.

On my drive back home, I took a moment to capture the gray, autumn stillness of the morning ...

Fall road

It was so quiet in my car - because, inspired by my reading, I decided to NOT turn on newsradio, which is my habit - and honestly, found myself paying more attention. I was so moved by the whirling leaves and the drab sky and the wet roads ... I just had to stop and snap a picture.

"Before we flick on the car radio or the CD player, we stop long enough to think: Do we want to exchange this quiet for sound?" (p. 29)

Normally I automatically turn on the car radio, but lately I've been consciously keeping things quiet. When the boys are with me, we talk more. When I'm alone ... I think. Or I roll down the window and really listen to the sounds around me ...

The same holds true at home.

"In silence, I become more attentive." (p. 30)

Attentive, yes - to a developing mood, a certain "edge" to a comment, footsteps on the stairs - plodding or rushed - the sound of the door opening when it should not be opened. That's something I need to hear, because Earlybird does like to go outside - at any hour, in any weather - and despite the stop signs we have posted at each egress, he tends to just rush out the door without asking. (Because he's a smart boy, he doesn't risk the chance that the answer will be no.) So you know, at 6 a.m. on some random morning you just might find me in my yard, in my pajamas, cajoling my son to get up and out of the dirt pit and come back inside, because now is not the time to be playing outside and people are sleeping so we need to be quiet and WOULD YOU PLEASE JUST GET BACK IN THIS HOUSE RIGHT NOW?!. (And that would be the moment caffeine deprivation takes over.) 

This chapter inspired me to take a good look at our days and where we might invite more quiet into our life ...

And to begin with, our mornings start out quiet for sure. There are, in fact, pockets of EXTREME don't-wake-the-baby quiet (though he's not a baby anymore, as he'd be swift to remind me) because LB's also a night owl so he really sleeps in. (For everyone's benefit!)

But then there's Earlybird's morning bubble in which he's got his Kindle Fire blaring and it's only 5 a.m. EB has always been an early riser, and he's awake a good hour or three before the rest of his brothers so Bill and I spend those wee, dark hours keeping him occupied, (inside) and supervised, while maintaining a level of quiet on the bedroom floor to permit Little Bear to sleep in as late as he needs. I talked about my mornings in my last post to give you a clearer idea how this time of day unfolds ...

Once Little Bear is up though, we're off! And the day itself is nearly always filled with noise of all kinds - human, electronic, feline and yes, even the squawking of our chickens reaches our ears through open windows. I crave quiet at times absolutely, but mostly I feel blessed to be surrounded by so much "joyful noise." 

So moving forward, I think looking at our family's days to discern where all the "noise" is coming from is helpful - but also asking, which noises are a valuable experience?

"Be conscious of all the different kinds of noise you allow into your life. Begin to eliminate any that don't enhance the present moment." (p. 31)

Honest to goodness as I type this now the family room tv is on. There is no one else in the room with me and I sure as heck am not interested in Bubble Guppies at the moment. But I'm so used to the background noise I didn't even think about it ...

*turns the tv off and returns to desk*

Now I hear the wind rattling the window, and the driving rain on the deck ... the dishwasher running and my 15 yo's yelling along (happily) with his train video upstairs ... the UPS truck is pulling up the road, a woodpecker is tapping on the siding, and my cat is vigorously cleaning himself under the table next to me.

I'm not immersed in Bubble Guppies anymore ... now I'm immersed in home, and open to the world - MY world - around me.

"In silence, we allow the world to enter our hearts." (p. 32)

My world is full of yelling kids and blowing wind and dishes washing and packages being delivered, etc. - simple and humble sounds that make up the "sound track in [my] life." (p. 31) How much better to be filling my ears (heart and soul) with these sounds rather than whatever might be playing on TV!

(Boy, won't the "TV" chapter be quite interesting to discuss?!)

You know, I remember when my brother and I were young, just how much my mum craved quiet. We'd be watching TV or listening to the radio - or both - and she'd be cringing and begging us to turn down the volume - or maybe to just turn that darn thing off. And when we would, she'd just visibly relax, sigh, and say ...

"Oh, that feels so good to my ears." 

I never understood what she meant by this but now that I'm a mom - of, ahem, a certain age - I GET it.

I really appreciate the suggestions Ms. Kenison gives us in this chapter. I know I want less electronic/outside noise in our life, but it can be hard to know where to start. I think though, I've found it easier to manage my children's audible input when they're at a younger age ...

"Avoid electronic games and toys that talk, beep, or make other noises. The best sound effects are those that children make themselves." (p. 31)

Admittedly, almost all of our toys are quiet toys. We do have a couple of rather "vocal" trucks, but as tends to happen ... batteries disappear or a new layer of duct tape appears on said truck, directly over the spot where the speakers are situated.

To begin with, this was for Earlybird's benefit, who, as I've mentioned (and I'm sure will mention again) has autism and has many significant sensory challenges. One of them is noise. Some kinds of noise are unbearable to him - chatty toys being one - but oddly enough, he finds the right kind of noise addictive. For example, if he's watching a train video on his DVD player or a science video on youtube, it's ALL ABOUT THE VOLUME.

So he keeps his Kindle Fire turned up high, and if he's watching TV it's also quite loud. He actually loves having both devices going at the same time if he can swing it, and he rocks and stims to the experience like nobody's business. However, if he hears Little Bear and I reading, or if - God forbid - he hears one of us singing - he absolutely loses it. These are not "noises" he can stand.

While some sounds are ok, others absolutley are not. We're still piecing together that particular puzzle, but for now we're investing in a pair of these ...

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Noise-cancelling headphones. We're currently working with EB's therapists on this, and hopefully they'll allow him to control what he allows in his ears and when. The challenge will be discerning when they're providing comfort ... and when they become a crutch EB might use to ignore things he'd rather not face. His brother's sing-songy voice might bug him but it's not going anywhere. It's something he needs to learn how to handle. I'm sure we all like to escape aggravation when we can but life isn't about escaping (at least not all the time) it's about learning to handle what we must. All my boys must learn to handle life, but Earlybird has so much to handle it's overwhelming sometimes - for him and his parents. We're always learning from (and with) our EB though, and his extreme sensory issues often shed light on how we manage our own ...

Autism is such a puzzle, as I know many of you know. Sure, I love quiet conversation, and loud noises might startle or bother me, but they don't actually emotionally disturb me. For my son the opposite is true. Finding his balance is an ongoing project, one that keeps me ever mindful of the vivid effects noise has on anyone's quality of life ...

So I guess we're working on a new normal here - between EB and all of us! Being a little more "aware" of what noise is actually improving our existence ... but not impairing it. Wielding a little discretion, while creating a simpler, softer sound track to our life.

***

But now I'm going to be even more honest. I'm nearly done with this post, and supper is ALMOST ready. I have Bill finishing the asparagus and I jumped back on here to finish my post. Crackerjack is working on his college applications and Bookworm is off somewhere else. Four year old Little Bear - antsy and in need of a diversion - asks (quite politely) to watch a preferred tv program and - as I sit here and write about a book that embraces a quiet and unplugged life - I acquiesce.

Then EB comes into the room, Kindle Fire in hand, blaring Peep and the Big Wide World ... and chaos ensues.

LB: "EB! Turn that down! You're annoying me and I can't hear Blaze!"

EB: *casts a glare at LB but turns down his Kindle*

LB: "Mama, he's not making it quiet enough!"

Mama: "EB, please turn that down."

EB: "No."

Mama: *sighs and walks over to tv* *turns up the volume*

(Because truly, we need just five more minutes!)

So there you go ... I am trying, I am. I understand there were better ways to handle that challenge just then. (Keeping LB better occupied while his parents got stuff done, mediating volume level arguments between my younger children.)

But you know, baby steps ...

What I am LOVING about this book is that it's giving me a chance to take a good long look at our family life and see where we might improve things a bit. I'm not going to let it make me feel guilty or inadequate - I've been a special needs mom long enough to know there's not room for that - but I will see what kind of light it shines on our various situations. This book fills me with hope and challenges me to do better! All while wrapping me up in a very warm and understanding hug. ❤

Now, before I go, I have some super fun news to share! Next Thursday, 11/2, at 3:30 p.m. (EST) I will be a guest of Pam Barnhill's on her Facebook Live chat at Homeschool Solutions! Pam is running a series of interviews about books that shape our homeschooling and I will be talking about Mitten Strings for God! I've never done Facebook Live before, so I'm not exactly sure how it works (wish me luck!), but please check in with Pam's page - because first of all, it's awesome - and also to find out more! (Here's today's post in which she mentions our upcoming chat!) I am SO honored Pam asked me to talk with her about MSfG - this re-read is reminding me just how influential this book has been in my life as a mom as well as a homeschooler. The heart of these lessons have truly shaped what I try to do here with my boys ... and I look forward to talking more with Pam - and you all - about that! :)

For now though, I wish you all a happy weekend, and I thank you, as always for stopping by. Please share your thoughts if you'd care to - leave a comment here or link us up or feel free to email me if you wish (thoughts and/or photos) ---> drhanigan AT comcast DOT net.

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


Autumn Tea & Mitten Strings: Chapters 1-3

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Hello my friends and welcome back to my little home on the web! It's time for another seasonal tea series, and I hope you're as excited as I am! In the weeks ahead I'll share several "Autumn Teas" here, followed by a few "Advent Teas" ... we may even squeeze in a couple of "Christmas Teas" before all is said and done!

Each week I'll have pics of my weekly tea (cup/mug, brew, baked goods and more) but this time around, as we sip our tea, I'll be reflecting on our current book study, Mitten Strings for God: Reflections for Mothers in a Hurry. Some of you will remember we had a lively discussion of this book nine years ago - well, this is my attempt to not only revisit our previous conversation, but to continue with all those un-studied chapters! (Please see this post and this one, for more on how to participate! All are welcome and I'd love to have you join me!)

So in today's post I'll be talking about the first three chapters of MSfG: Dailiness, Morning and Peace. (For a full list of the chapters to come, please see this post.)

Before I dig in let me start by saying ...

Mitten Strings for God is one of my favorite books of all time, and definitely my favorite book about mothering ever. I'm a sucker for a pretty book cover, but the contents are some of the most beautiful thoughts I've ever read.

I've read this book countless times ... but not in nine years! I'm eager to dig back in since my mothering life is, in many ways, much different than it was in 2008.

Case in point - back then I had three boys (13, 9 and 7) and all were homeschooling. Today I have four boys (22, 18, 15 and 4) and all but one are homeschooling, because - gasp! - HE GRADUATED. 😳 

I'm combining "tea" with our book study because tea represents to me, a slowing down, and an encouragement. A state of mind that lends itself beautifully to the themes we'll be discussing as we make our way through this beloved book. (In other words, if you were coming to my home so we could sit down and chat - about MSfG or anything - the first thing I'd do would be to ask you to sit and have tea. It's my happy place.)

My tea this week is "Constant Comment, Decaf" and as you might remember, this is my very favorite tea. (Second would be Allegro Organic Black Decaf and third would be Harney & Sons Holiday Blend.) The mug is new though - and sweet, don't you think? I have way too many mugs already, but I am a weak, weak woman when it comes to new mugs. And the "goody" today is a home-baked pumpkin spice donut ... it was pumpkin week after all! (Pumpkin week recap to come soon!)

Ok, on with our book study, beginning with chapter one ... :)

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Dailiness (2008 post here)

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"My deeper hope is that each of my sons will be able to see the sacred in the ordinary; that they, too, will grow up knowing how to love the 'dailiness.'" (p. 13)

And that quote, in a nutshell, is precisely why Mitten Strings for God is my favorite mothering book of all time, because Ms. Kenison's sentiment above is exactly what I'm striving for - for myself and my family. In all we do, in every day we spend together, and in every season that passes. 

Now, because last Thursday I shared a new post about this chapter, I'll just say a few things and then move on to chapters two and three. I also want to direct you to my friend Kim's lovely post, a reflection of the book's Introduction. I am so thrilled to have Kim along with me in this read-along. We both have kids that are basically adults now (her daughter is 18), and one of the things I hope to do with this book study is talk about how these reflections can be applied to families with children of all ages ...

That said, I am looking back at the "suggestions" I made for myself and seeing how we're doing now:

Maintain balance within our family schedule. I think we've done a pretty good job of this through the years. We have always been people who refuse to over-commit. We do love our home time! That said, we have a very busy schedule this fall and I am really feeling the effects of it. It's all really good stuff - Crackerjack has several classes with other local homeschoolers - but these take place outside the home, and he doesn't have his license yet! And Earlybird's home-based ABA therapy increased by double (a Godsend) so I feel like I'm going-going-going as soon as my morning coffee time is over and rushing to get things ready, get kids where they need to go, take care of home things and MY things - did I kiss my husband before he left for work? Currently trying to find ways to make these weeks feel a little less hectic. 

Learn to appreciate the "humble household rituals." Always an ongoing challenge - I still don't love doing the dishes but I do try to appreciate how blessed I am to be able to devote much of my time to caring for my family. Always looking for ways to make chores easier and less - what's the word I want here? - mundane. It's never fun to clean a dirty sink, but if the windowsill above said sink is clean and thoughtfully arranged - perhaps with a sacred memento, something from the garden, or a lit candle - and maybe if the dishwashing soap is something fragrant and natural - it can really affect the overall sink cleaning experience. It's gotta be done, why not make it ... nicer?

Make home a nurturing place to be. Hobbies, cozy spaces, simple family activities and traditions. YES to all these ... and I think we've been pretty good about this. Like I said before, we're mostly homebodies and none of us more so than the "body" in charge of the domestic department (me). That said, as the boys get older and we get busier, it's easy to let things slide ... now that we have all our boys home under one roof again, and before a long winter hits, I'd like to take stock: hobbies that don't involve power sources ... inviting corners that encourage togetherness and those aforementioned hobbies ... reminding ourselves what we liked to do altogether when the boys were younger. Some things might still work (family game night), maybe some things can be tweaked (Daddy Saturdays) ... I love simple yet meaningful traditions, too - like Thursday nights with Father Brown on PBS ... and I still text/wake my boys with a hearty "Rabbit-rabbit" on the first of every month. :)

Take time to consider it all. With this tip I meant to be faithful in my blogging so as to capture "life" as best I can. I definitely don't blog as often as I did, but I do post on social media almost daily ... with pictures, remarks and snippets of our life ... things that mark a day in a special way (a sunset we're all marveling over, for example). I'm not sure I'm any better than I was back in 2008 at documenting and reflecting on our family's journey - but I do have a few more platforms. (My paper journaling has suffered of late, though, and that's definitely something I'd like to revive.) Of course capturing and considering are two different things ... I do need to build more "reflection time" into my schedule.

The photo above is my kitchen windowsill the day I began this post. I think a kitchen windowsill can be a real snippet of "life as it is" at that time. Wouldn't you love to see a picture of your mother's or grandmother's kitchen windowsill when you were young? I bet it would seem very dear. Mine usually has (in addition to herb crumbs and water stains) a couple of candles, a reminder of my faith, a photo of my beloved grandmother, a jar of homegrown dried lavender from a dear friend, a pumpkin (natch), a Halloween print, a small golden pot holding Earlybird's med dispensers, and my evening tea mug - all washed out and ready hours before its needed. I loved looking at that mug all day - thinking ahead to the hour after supper when I'd sip a warm, soothing cup of bedtime brew. :)

And now for chapter two ...

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Morning (2008 post here)

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"Yet we can still pause long enough to gaze at the new world before our eyes and to give thanks for the day we have been given." (p. 17)

I love this quote so much - because every single day is a gift. How wonderful then to begin each morning with a little mindfulness? A moment of recognition - I'm here, we're here, we can start again today - followed by a breath of thanks or prayer.

My mornings have changed somewhat from the first time I read this chapter. They're perhaps a little more complicated, and they're still super-early thanks to our Earlybird! Now though I have bookends to my mornings; I start with Earlybird (who wakes anywhere from 4-6 a.m.) and then I wait for Little Bear to wake (between 8 and 9) before I head downstairs to physically get the day going. Mentally the day is already cooking away while I sip my coffee and rock in my bedroom chair ...

Earlybird is good about keeping himself busy (usually with his kindle - no tv) and he knows not to expect too much of me! He is allowed snacks and water but otherwise he must wait for breakfast when I'm downstairs for the day. I actually don't mind waking so early - I've always been a morning person! In fact, if I wake later than six I feel a bit gypped! I absolutely relish those dark, quiet hours ... my brain is still revving up and I can just sit and think and pray or meditate. And as I do, I shake off the night's dreams and restlessness and wait for Bill - God BLESS him - to bring me coffee, as he does every single morning. This is a daily kindness I cherish  - it's a bit of a ritual for us, since he's off early and doesn't return until dinnertime. He hands me my cup - waits for me to take a sip and murmur my thanks - then he's off to ready himself for his day. I carry that moment with me all day ...

While it's still dark I look at my phone and use the "alone" time to read articles and work in ways I don't usually have time or space to otherwise. I don't read my current novel at this time because I don't like to immerse myself in another world (so to speak) when I might have to jump back to reality at a moment's notice. I save that kind of reading for bedtime when the younger boys are asleep.

But once the day grows light enough, I turn to my planners and notebooks. Little Bear will be in our bed by now, because every SINGLE night he leaves his for ours. Ours is a high bed so I prop pillows all around him and then keep watch from the corner ... rocking, sipping, writing ... half wanting him to keep sleeping and half anticipating that first sleepy smile ...

As it nears eight o'clock I quietly open the blinds and the drapes so that he wakes to gentle daylight. (I used to do this through the night in my boys' rooms after they were soundly asleep, but have given that practice over to the wee hours of the morning. I think it is such a gift if a child can wake with the day's natural light.)

As for the older boys, well - as you can imagine, like most older boys, they are good sleepers! Both would sleep well past nine or ten if they were able. I know many parents with older kids who bemoan their late sleepers and/or exult in their recaptured weekend mornings. But between my little boy and my special boy, I can't imagine I'll have ever have a day when all my kids are late sleepers! But that's ok with me ...

I'm getting a little off-topic here because in this chapter Ms. Kenison touched upon the magic of starting the day off in a thoughtful way. And I guess I described how I do that for myself above. For my Earlybird it's knowing Mom and Dad are checking in on him and making sure he's a-ok as he rocks on the couch with his kindle. For Little Bear, it's the special time he gets in mama's arms, in that rocking chair, by the south-facing window. Even when we have a busy morning, we take time to sit here together. We talk about the kind of morning it is and listen for birds or chipmunks or cicadas or the gusty breeze or the ice melt - or even the silence of deep winter. Whatever the time of year, it's always "our thing" to notice what kind of day it is, and where we are in the year.

Mornings for my older boys mean tousled heads and half-shut eyes and they mostly walk right to the kitchen ... so I try to have that be a warm and cheerful place for them as they start their day. We don't converse much to begin with (after the usual, "Hey it's nearly nine and you don't want to be late!") but I do like their morning experience to include a mom who is up and attentive to their thoughts and available to their needs - within reason. I don't get them breakfast, but I make sure there is plenty available for them. I don't lay out their clothes but I do give them a weather update and make a few suggestions. ("It will be warming up later - shorts would be fine with a sweatshirt.")

Mornings for my husband - the dear man, who often has to wash, dress and leave in the dark - are benefitted by (as simplistic as it sounds), clean laundry and hot coffee. I take care of the former and he takes care of the latter. Then he can leave the house as smoothly as one hard-working husband might hope!

Ok, I feel like I have a lot more to say about "morningtime" but in the interest of time, I will move on ... to chapter three!

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Peace (2008 post here)

Pretty-pink-bloomsChapter three begins with this quote:

"Like Thoreau, I love "a broad margin to my life" - the less packed into a day the better." (p. 23)

And back in 2008 I began our chapter discussion with the same quote - because when I first read it, it just leapt off the page and grabbed me by the pen-in-hand, imploring me to see its truth. So YES to this. So very much this. I'm definitely someone who appreciates a lot of white space in their planner ... 

Further on Ms. Kenison said this:

"Knowing peace at home we bring peace into the world."

Another wonderful quote, and the picture above represents this kind of peace to me. That's Little Bear sitting in my lap yesterday afternoon, reading a little book with his mama. This is an example of sharing peace with my youngest son - in such a way that matches his needs, at his level - and it's my hope that these kinds of things help him become a more peaceful person.

I seek to understand him now, and someday he'll seek to understand others ...

For Earlybird this might be a quiet morning stroll down the driveway with Mom - the rest of the house asleep - to fetch the Sunday paper.

For Crackerjack this might be listening to the piece of music he's really fond of at the moment, or a little one-on-one conversation in the car.

For Bookworm this might be working on a crossword puzzle together, or trying a new recipe.

For all of us, it's having as much unstructured time as possible when we can all just BE, at home, together - maybe doing something or maybe just being available should the need or desire to converse/interact arise.

I remember a story told by Stephen Covey (of 7 Habits/Franklin Planner fame) in which he described his teenage son asking if he might be home that coming weekend. Mr. Covey responded yes, wondering what his son might need of him or what might be going on - but the son just shrugged. All he wanted was to know that his Dad would he home.

What peace that gives our children! Simply to be available when they need us, in both an emotional and physical sense.

As I've said before, our autumn semester is frightfully busy - I've still not adjusted - but because I place such a high priority on "downtime" I'm earnestly working on how to smooth things out as best I can. I need to recreate my margins!

On p.23, Ms. Kenison goes on to say ...

"So I try to build the margins in, to keep our days from being inscribed too densely."

It's not something you can turn your back on - these family schedules - and just hope things fall into place. We have to be proactive if we want to keep our children alongside us as we navigate this hectic modern life ...

"Other times I have to switch gears ... so that I can pull my children out of the swift current of a day and guide them into a calm pool instead." (p. 24)

So to begin with, I'm not just waiting for those moments to be available - I'm writing those moments right into my schedule! Because I can get caught up in the busy-ness with the best of them. I can let a day roll on, and forget to pause for these peaceful moments. Suddenly it's bedtime and as Little Bear asks for a story I realize - with horror - that it's the first one of the day. (Honestly, it's happened.)

If I can't manage a peaceful day, how can I expect my children to?

Being an example to our children is, I think, one of our greatest duties and privileges as parents, and I like to think that in most things I'm providing a good model for my children. As discussed above I hope that my attention to the small things will rub off. I also hope that the way I conduct myself just in general, as a human, does too. I try to be mindful of how I react to things - circumstances, stresses, aggravation, disappointment, society and current events - and I hope that I'm showing them a way to stay calm, open-hearted and considerate.

Let me say this though (without going too deeply because it's truly a topic for a whole separate post) ...

Our home is not always a haven of peace and gentle living. In fact, some days it's anything but ...

We are an autism family and that means in our house peace can be fragile. Our Earlybird is an absolute love and a wonderful child - brave and loving in so many ways - but he does have some severe challenges. Challenges that greatly affect our family as a whole. Among them, impulsivity, aggressiveness, anxiety, rigidity, a penchant for chaos and disorder. This journey has been so trying for all of us, and my mother's heart breaks for all my sons - for the one struggling and the ones having to put up with so many injustices and disappointments ...

But what I have to remember is our older boys look to their parents to see how we react to the situations that arise - daily - with their younger brother. His behavior at times can be extremely trying, frustrating ... upsetting. We love our children more than anything in this world, but we are human too. We get hurt, and angry and yes, we sometimes yell and act irrationally or even break down and cry. It's so, so hard to navigate these waters - still, and I fear always - but we are constantly aware that Earlybird's brothers are learning from our responses. They'll take those lessons with them into the world - not just in how they act with their autistic brother, but in how they respond to any challenges and frustrations they might face in life. To any person who might be different or trying in any way.

On our fridge there is a magnet - it has been there for YEARS. It says:

"Peace: it does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble or hard work. It means to be in in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart."

I'd add two more magnets about peace if I could, the first would be from Mother Teresa:

"If you want world peace, go home and love your family."

And the next from Katrina Kenison herself:

"If we have peace at home, we'll bring that peace to the world."

Words to remember and ponder ... peace is on everyone's mind but it's also within everyone's grasp. Find things that bring peace into your home and peace will find you. 

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Well my friends, I'll be off now, because this post has become longer than I intended and I know - like me - your time is not always at your leisure. So I thank you, truly, for stopping by today and sharing a cup of tea with me and hearing me air my thoughts out on these chapters. I would LOVE to hear your thoughts, too - whether they are on the chapters themselves, my posts, or the concepts discussed here in general. Please feel welcome to leave me a comment below or link me to a post at your own blog ... OR email me your words (and or photos) here: drhanigan AT gmail DOT com.

I will update this post with links as they come in!

Here is Kimberly's beautiful post about her precious relationship with her daughter and balancing the needs of an extrovert and an introvert. :)

And next Friday I will be back with another cup of Autumn Tea in which we will be discussing chapters 4-6:

Quiet, Simplicity and TV

(Remember to check out my Mitten Strings archives, for earlier posts on these topics!)

Thanks so much everyone ... I will see you here again very soon!


Autumn Tea and Tidbits!

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Hello my friends, and Happy Weekend! Welcome to my first Autumn Tea  - of 2017! Something I hope to make a semi-regular recurrence at my blog going forward. Every so often I'll pop in with a cup of tea and a few bits and bobs from our homeschool ... a way to catch up and celebrate the season at hand. :) I'm hesitant to set a schedule however, as tempting as it is because you know I LOVE schedules - but it's been a little bit hectic so far this school year. Time at the computer (nevermind time for tea itself!) has been a little on the low side. But two things that make my heart so very happy are blogging and savoring tea, so I'm determined to make more time for both in my life!

So since it's been a while since we talked tea ... what are you drinking these days? I myself am enjoying Allegro Black Decaf during the afternoon (sweetened with raw sugar and a splash of whole milk) but after supper, now that the nights are cooler and darker, I am turning to a cup of decaf Constant Comment. There's something about that orange-spice flavor just makes me think AUTUMN! I still savor a cup or two of coffee in the mornings but after that I limit my caffeine intake as best I can ...

Well, I started in on my tea-taking early today as the above photo was taken just now (Saturday around 11 a.m.) because I was ready to get down to the lesson planning and for that, I absolutely MUST have tea! But before we talk about autumn homeschooling ...

Grab yourself a cup of your favorite brew and make yourself comfortable, please ... I have lots to share! :)

Let's begin with a peek into my October planning. Below you see the cover page for this month's section in my homemade planner (also seen in the top photo) ...

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And here is my planner stack on my kitchen counter - aka "mama's command center!"

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Sitting below my homemade planner is my Day Designer, and below that is a project clipboard. (I always put something underneath my planners in case there are spills or marks on the counter.)

So after the cover page (which is made from that cute vintage paper I love!) I have the two-page monthly calendar spread ...

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I added the stickers and a few quotations written with black ink and soft colored pencils ...

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I love peppering my planners with seasonal poems and quotes!

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Next page has my October menu calendar ...

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I described how I fill out these menu calendars in this post, but I want to stress that this is an ideal - we don't always keep up with the "new" and "varied" meals I've envisioned. Often - especially when we're busy or I'm tired (the state of affairs more often than not around here!) - I fall back on tried and true, easy meals. (Homemade pizzas, baked pasta, grilled cheese and soup, burgers, meatloaf and roasted veg, etc.) 

And next comes my monthly overview ...

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I added the highlighted notes at the top of the page this month, and of course there are post-its! The green apples reflect our October homeschooling themes and topics. I try to review this page every weekend to see where we're at and what tasks and activities can be scheduled in the week ahead. Note: "October Goals" became a place to write down upcoming movies, tv shows and books.

A closer peek ...

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And here is last week's spread!

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Next week I will do a WHOLE post on how I'm using this weekly spread, but in the interest of time and word count, let me move on and show you  ...

... next week's spread that I'm filling in now!

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You might wonder how long it takes me to fill in all those spaces, but honestly, it's not very long. A lot of the information is already available (Days of Note, Seasonal Theme, Dinners, Weekly Rhythm) so I just write those things in first. The to-do list is also pretty quick to fill in - I look at last week's list as well as our weekend planner to see what tasks still need doing. I take another look at the monthly calendar to see what new things have been written in for the week (a new event to prepare for, for example) and I also look back at that monthly overview to see what To-Dos can be fit into this coming week.

Beside my homemade planner I have parked my Day Designer ...

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Here's how it looked one day last week (when I first started working on this post!) ...

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Ok, moving on from planning (let me know if you have any questions or would like me to follow up on anything!) ... I thought I'd share some random photos from the past week or so ...

First, because it was the week of the Full Harvest Moon, I had planned to make "Harvest Moon Muffins," (a quick bread recipe baked in muffin tins) but due to the aforementioned busy schedule/tired mama syndrome, I stopped short at "Harvest Moon Applesauce." 😉

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I love using my grandmother's food press when making applesauce! 

This was actually part of a little "science" experiment this week, making applesauce together! The boys helped me with counting and measuring before I loaded the apples, sugar and spice into the crockpot, and good GOLLY did it smell wonderful in our house all day! The apples were done cooking just before bedtime so I placed them in the fridge for the next day. After milling the apples into sauce we set up a little taste-test - our homemade applesauce vs. Stop 'N Shop brand! Could people tell which was which? (The answer, happily, was yes!)

Then last weekend I combed through the autumn book basket and pulled out titles that matched October's weekly themes ...

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  • Changing Leaves (10/2-10/8)
  • Woodland Flora & Fauna (10/9-10/15)
  • Pumpkins (10/16-10/22)
  • Goodnight Garden/Halloween (10/23-10/29)

I also have two sweet board books for my younger boys for learning the Hail Mary and Our Father prayers, as part of Holy Rosary month. :)

Speaking of books though, look at these lovely new titles that arrived in my mail last week!

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A couple of picture books we usually get out of the library to celebrate the Full Harvest Moon, a new (and adorable) autumn board book for Little Bear (which might be my new favorite autumn book of all time!), a CD of scientific storytelling for Earlybird (which we once owned but now can't find!) and a new Waldorf-inspired crafting book for Mama. I'm positively swooning over that last one in particular - a bit of a splurge, but worth it!

Here's a gorgeous page from Hello, Harvest Moon ... 

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Did you happen to catch it last Thursday night?

Harvest moon rising

We are surrounded by trees here so we have to wait a while before the full moon is visible ... but honestly, I think the way it peeks through the branches and illuminates the tree-line is quite magical! We let Little Bear stay up a bit late so he could watch the full moon rising ...

LB and the full moon

Now, back to books for a moment ... just look and see what arrived in my mailbox early last week!

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A very thoughtful gift from my friend (and longtime reader), Penny! When Penny read that I was positively pining for this particular PW book, she offered me her own copy. (How nice is that?!) Naturally I said I would just LOVE to have it, so she popped in the mail and I received it a day later! Hooray for packages in the mail and hooray for the ever-speedy USPS ... but most of all, HOORAY for kind-hearted and generous friends!

Ok, now we all know the Pioneer Woman loves boots ... well, I'm no cowgirl, and I haven't been on a horse since I was 12, but how do you like my new "riding" boots?

Boots

I have lusted after these "Westport," Maine-made boots for years ... and finally (with Bill's blessing of course), I made the splurge! I ordered them online because I don't get over to LL Bean's that often, but was very happy that not only do they FIT just as well as I'd hoped, they are truly quite comfortable. I thought they paired rather nicely with a knee-length denim skirt. :)

(This was me on my way to Sunday brunch with my college girlfriends!)

Speaking of shoes though ...

Archie and sandals

That's my Archie, flopped all over my favorite pair of summer sandals ... the ones I can't bear to put away for the season just yet. (Though truly, we've had plenty of summer-like days recently.) But as you can see, Archie's looking rather relaxed here, smug you might even say ... because while Oliver had to be at the vet's annual exam last week, Archie got to skip it completely. And all because he's just SO naughty when we bring him! Nothing like the sweetie-pie he is at home - at the vet he's all hissing, spitting and growing ... frankly, it's a bit of a horror show. The next attempt was going to include some serious sedation ... which makes me very nervous ... but fortunately our vet is wonderful and fully understood our apprehension. We decided he can wait till next year when he is due for his rabies shot. (My cats are indoor cats, but are still kept up on all their vaccinations.)

In other wildlife news ...

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Howsabout this guy???

Isn't he magnificent? This is a Barred Owl, and we hear him (her?) very often in the woods behind our house - usually around dusk, but my older boys (night owls themselves) say they hear hooting late at night as well. Well, there I was at the sink starting supper last Friday night when Little Bear, looking out the kitchen nook window, exclaimed: "Mama, look! It's a snowy owl!!"

And this is what he saw ...

Barred owl on feeders

Isn't he GINORMOUS?? And clearly looking for his supper! I took this picture above with my cell phone, then went outside with my big camera to try for a better shot. The first owl picture was taken from beneath the tree just to the right of the feeders. The owl was staring at me - really peering at me with those gorgeous black eyes! - then his attention would be caught by something moving in the underbrush and he'd turn his head downward ...

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Finally he'd had enough of me, my snapping camera and restless Little Bear and took off ...

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He landed in the front yard where LB and I were joined by Bill and Earlybird and we watched the owl fly across the road and into the woods to the north. Absolutely amazing ...

(Crackerjack and Bookworm were out on a driving lesson and missed the whole thing!)

Ok, and now for some autumn homeschooling ... these pics are all from the past couple of weeks!

First came APPLES ...

Apple collage

Apple Week included apple snacks, an apple star surprise, drying apples, applesauce and an apple-y harvest wreath on the front door. :)

Also, I finally made use of that peg dolls book I showed you a couple of posts back, and look who Little Bear found in his learning room mailbox one morning!

Autumn star fairy

I made this "autumn star fairy" from a wooden peg base, with a little sheep's wool for hair, an acorn cap for a hat and a silk leaf (plucked from a garland) as wings! I made the verse card with a blank postcard and watercolor paints. I just wrote the verse on the card once the paint had dried. I've been using these cards for little poems, prayers and verses this year and I love the effect of those pretty paints!

Next came SEEDS ...

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Seeds week included seed gathering, sorting and observation, seed crafts, seed treats, seed experiments ... and very happy chipmunks!

And then on Michaelmas Day we had our first Nature Club meeting of the year ...

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My younger boys all came along and we met with other homeschooling families to take a walk along a local trail. We found everything on our Nature Scavenger hunt checklist as well as garter snakes, spiderwebs, several types of leaves and some very cool fungus. Best of all, there were Michaelmas daisies growing all over the woods! :)

The next Monday we celebrated the Feast of the Guardian Angels ...

Angel collage

I made another watercolor card for the Guardian Angel prayer and set up this small scene on our learning room table. I lit the beeswax tealight and read the prayer aloud to Little Bear ... who took great joy in blowing out that candle! :)

We also found time to celebrate the Feast of St. Francis, our family patron saint ...

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Little Bear especially enjoyed assembling "all of creation" as I crafted a simple grotto and read aloud our favorite child-friendly version of Francis's "Canticle of the Sun." I made a verse card for the first stanza and plan to make cards for the rest of this beautiful prayer. :)

Last week we also visited a local agricultural fair - along with Earlybird's therapist and Bill who took the day off so he could join us. :)

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And the day after that we joined our homeschool group on a field trip to a local corn maze!

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It was a beautiful day - as you can see, warm enough for short sleeves! - and what fun we had navigating our way through the rows of corn and listening to the raspy dry ears in the breeze and hearing great vees of geese honking overhead! 

✨ 🍂 🍎 🐿 🌻 🌞 🍁 🍄 🌽 🌛 ✨

Well this was quite a long post I'm afraid, but I hope you enjoyed it! I had meant to create posts around each of these collages - with more details - but time kept slipping by and then we'd be onto the next thing! I can certainly expand on any of these themes and projects (as well as my planners) in a future post and happily, though last week was particularly busy with two field trips, a fair trip, a vet appointment AND the SAT ... the coming week will be much quieter! Knock on wood!

So I will leave you now my friends, with my thanks for your visit and my wish that you all enjoy a lovely autumn weekend. I will be back again here just as soon as I can but in the meantime you can always find me on Facebook or Instagram. :)

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


Christmas Tea with Friends ... ❤

IMG_2144 (1) copyHappy New Year's Eve, my friends!

Our giveaway is just about at its end, but I have two more lovely tea moments to share! Below we have a submission from dear friend and longtime reader Gill - who was actually the very first person to send me a tea picture! But it somehow got lost in the shuffle of pictures and posts! Just came across it this morning as I was looking back over my emails. I apologize Gill, for my oversight - I remember how excited I was to receive my very first tea cup! And Mason was my very last entry - having heard from her just yesterday ... and she was hoping she was not too late to be part of our project. And Mason, you're not! :)

As I mentioned before I will include anyone in the giveaway who sends me their cup up until 6 p.m. tonight. Then I will be doing a drawing (randomly) to see who will win that "Winter Comforts Basket!" (Announcement to come shortly thereafter ...)

So let's pop in at Gill's and Mason's. Wishing you both a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Gill: 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!

Tea gill

Wishing you a very peaceful Advent...

(I remember when you sent this, Gill and thinking - that is just about the coziest Advent breakfast I can imagine! Tea is a special moment - whatever we might be drinking and wherever we might be drinking it!)

**

Mason: I love what you said below, Dawn . . . It's how I feel about tea! Any tea, all tea, hot or cold!

"It's much more than a beverage - it's a mindset!"

My favorite tea cup is one of a set of two that I purchased last Easter. I bought the tea pot, two cups, sugar bowl, creamer and a plate for tea cakes. I love that the cups are LARGE - lots of room for milk and tea.  
 
My favorite tea is Earl Grey, by Twinings. But I love everything else, too.
 
My favorite way to drink tea is with friends ...
 
Tea mason
 
Happy New Year!

**

Thank you, ladies! I'm happy to post this final "Tea with Friends" post today while I'm sipping my own mug on a cloudy and cool December afternoon. What I love about your pictures (and all the photos sent in throughout the series) is how we have each composed a moment of peace and enjoyment. Whether we're treating ourselves or sharing with friends. What a lovely way to move forward in the new year ...

Well, stay tuned my friends ... I'll be back tonight to announce that basket winner! Until then, enjoy the rest of your LAST day of the year. Stay safe and have fun!


Christmas Tea with Friends ... December 30th ❤

IMG_2144 (1) copyHello my friends, and Merry Christmas! Thank you so much for joining me for another teatime. :)

All throughout December I've been sharing readers' favorite cups and mugs, in my "Tea with Friends" series, returning on Fridays with my own special Tea post. Advent and Christmas Tea has been such fun! Thanks to all for joining me, whether you shared a peek at your cup or simply stopped by to check in and share your kind thoughts. It's been a lovely cozy project ... but I can hardly believe it's coming to a close!

But December IS at its end ... and so too is my giveaway contest! Tomorrow evening I will be announcing the winner of my "Winter Comforts Basket" (randomly drawn from all entries) and then I will follow up on Sunday with my own New Year's Tea post. :) (You might notice I'm skipping my last Friday Christmas Tea ... back issues are keeping me from working at the computer as much as I'd like today so I'm shooting for Sunday instead!)

Anyhoo ... today I am very happy to share with you three final readers' teatimes. Let's visit with Michelle, Darla and Raven ... Merry Christmas, ladies!

Michelle: Hi Dawn. I'm adding a photo of this morning's tea. We got hammered with the tail end of that nor'easter and I'm currently sitting on about 6" of fresh powder snow. My ducks, shown in the photo, are less than thrilled, but are out. My chooks, however, won't even leave the hen house. I enjoyed some Sleepy Time tea while I fed them this morning, in a funny mug I bought my husband last year. The chamomile and mint soothes my irritable stomach ...

Tea shell

Hope the holidays were good to you. 
Blessed be.
 
**

Darla: I'm just beginning my mug collection so I don't have many favorites, but this is one of them:

Tea darla
 
 
Best wishes ...

**

And now, let's pop over to Raven's Instagram page where she is sharing three of her favorite mugs - hooray for snowmen and kitty cats! Such cozy comforts and joys ... :)

**

Thanks so much, ladies! It was so fun sharing tea with you ... I loved seeing your mugs and hearing about the kinds of teas you prefer. I love that there are so many of us who share a love of tea! (Or cocoa or coffee or cider ... or whatever we prefer to drink in our own special cups. It's all about the mindset, I think. Creating a familiar ritual for connection, calm, creativity and coziness. Making a little space in our day for ourselves. 

Well, thanks to all for stopping by today! I hope you enjoyed our Teatimes! I've just loved hearing from you all and seeing your mugs ... imagining we're truly sitting down together, chatting over a cup of something warm and comforting. This has been such a nice time, and I'd love to do it again ... maybe we'll do a Winter Tea series later in the season? Or Lenten Teas in the spring? And I'm already making plans for a "Garden Tea" project this summer ...

But for now, please stay tuned for tomorrow's exciting announcement! (If I receive anymore submissions I will add the names to the drawing and perhaps share the cups after the holiday.) And I will have my own New Year's Tea post coming very soon ... I am ALMOST finished updating my weekly planning sheets for the new year and would love to make them available to you all. I will get them posted just as soon as I can ...
 
Enjoy your evening my friends, and Happy Friday!
 
See you here again very soon ...

Christmas Tea with Friends ... December 29th ❤

IMG_2144 (1) copyHello my friends, and Merry Christmas! Thank you so much for joining me for another teatime. :)

All throughout Advent I shared readers' favorite cups and mugs, every weekday at 4 p.m. ... and returned on Fridays with my own special Tea post. Advent has come to an end, but our teatimes will continue ... so now we are celebrating Christmas Tea together! Anyone who participates in our teatime - by sending me a picture of their favorite cup or mug - will be entered in my "Winter Comforts Basket" giveaway ...

And on New Year's Eve I will announce the basket winner!

p.s. Each Friday throughout Advent I gave a little peek at something that will be tucked inside that basket. There was soap, body butter, a pocket calendar and a pretty mug as well as a tin of cocoa and a small blue notebook ... and finally, a package of notecards and a favorite magazine! :)

If you'd like to join us, please read more giveaway details in this post - but today I am honored to have Grace and Lisa welcoming us into their homes! Merry Christmas, ladies! :)

Grace: Today I am term-planning. All four children are with their papa, so it is a good time for a (still) picture! My tea mug is a Mikasa from their French Countryside line. We received a pair of these 18 years ago, as a wedding gift. Today my cup is filled with strong chai tea and a bit of raw honey ...

Tea grace

Blessings to you and your family.

**

Lisa: Well, I'm running late as is usual for this year, (though I'm determined to get ahead in 2017 and make it shine!). But I have been enjoying your teatimes this Christmas season, and wanted to send you some pics of my favorite mugs, well - my favorites right now at least. ;)

This first one is a longtime favorite - one I take out at Christmastime, and (usually), put away for safekeeping till next year. Next to it are a couple of lovely and delicious cookies (store bought of course - I wish I could make such pretty pastries!). 

Tea lisa 1

I drink hot tea year round - all kinds. We have a large collection of teas (and cocoas) at our house, even more so in the last year as one of my sons worked at Starbucks over the summer where employees receive a free box of tea (or bag of coffee, which I don't care for though my older sons and husband enjoy it), every week. 

I can usually be found sipping black tea with just a bit of sugar, *or* black tea with a dollop of Italian Creamer, *or* peppermint tea (with perhaps a chunk of peppermint in it for extra kick and sweetness). I also love Earl Grey, Chai, English Breakfast Tea, & lemony, citrus teas. 

Next is a new mug - given to me by Son #3 (I have four), just this Christmas. It's a nice size for my hand, and is lovely and sparkly! (Goes right along with my plans for 2017 to Shine!) Here it's sitting on my 'family room desk' alongside my favorite saltrock lamp (also a gift), and my 'Christmas Tide Bird' who arrives to hang out with me each Christmas!

Tea lisa 2

Finally, (yes I know three's a lot - but I have literally 100's of mugs, many boxed awaiting the day when our basement may be finished and they're given their own place to live), here's the "trailer mug" - you may have seen this one at Target this year? Because that's where I bought it! Then wrapped it up, tagged it to myself, and added it to the Family Christmas Box, (though honestly it's more often been a basket these past years), a traditional present we gather to open each year on whichever evening we choose. There's always a little something in it for everyone, as well as something for all - such as some "food treat" (Japanese candy, baked goods from the local Indian restaurant, one year a coconut for my youngest who was intrigued with them for some reason!). Maybe a movie, and always a book!

I was so drawn to this mug. Due to its Christmas theme of course, and it's odd shape. Plus I think it'd be lovely to have a "Christmas Trailer" to travel around in all year long. 

Tea lisa 3

Wishing you and your family a bright, healthy 2017 ...

**

Well, ladies - thanks so much for welcoming us into your homes and sharing your teatime with us! What fun and pretty mugs! Everything looks so cozy and warm. I think that's part of the tea allure for me ... because like Lisa, I too drink hot tea all year long. It's much more than a beverage - it's a mindset! :)

And thanks to all for stopping by today. I hope you enjoyed our teatime - and I hope you are all enjoying your Christmas! I just love hearing from you all and seeing your mugs ... imagining we're truly sitting down together, chatting over a cup of something warm and comforting. And I'd love to have you join us! Please drop a note if you have a moment and send me your own favorite cup when you have a chance ...

 
(drhanigan AT gmail DOT com)
 
I'll look forward to hearing from you ... :)
 
We might have one more day of "Tea with Friends" this week - if I have more submissions I'll fit them in somehow! - but tomorrow (Friday) I will host my own Christmas Tea ... and then on Saturday (New Year's Eve) ... dun dun dun ... I will announce the winner of that basket!
 
So please stay tuned and enjoy your evening, my friends ... I will see you all here again very soon!

Christmas Tea with Friends ... December 28th ❤

IMG_2144 (1) copyHello my friends, and Merry Christmas! Thank you so much for joining me for another teatime. :)

All throughout Advent I shared readers' favorite cups and mugs, every weekday at 4 p.m. ... and returned on Fridays with my own special Tea post. Advent has come to an end, but our teatimes will continue ... so now we are celebrating Christmas Tea together! Anyone who participates in our teatime - by sending me a picture of their favorite cup or mug - will be entered in my "Winter Comforts Basket" giveaway ...

And on New Year's Eve I will announce the basket winner!

p.s. Each Friday throughout Advent I gave a little peek at something that will be tucked inside that basket. There was soap, body butter, a pocket calendar and a pretty mug as well as a tin of cocoa and a small blue notebook ... and finally, a package of notecards and a favorite magazine! :)

If you'd like to join us, please read more giveaway details in this post - but for today I am very pleased to welcome Libby Jane, Barbara and Sherrylynne to our teatime. Merry Christmas, ladies!

Libby Jane: This tea cup and saucer I was just given from my grandmother's house as she moved recently. I have a little collection of the loveliest teacups and saucers. Some gifts, some thrifted, all cherished. So if you stop by, I will lay a tablecloth and pull out the china!
 
Tea libby

I like oolongs, and a good English Breakfast, unsweetened. Even more, though, I love to make teas with lemon or bee balms, peppermint or rose petal, from the garden. I also love cedar and balsam fir tips. Bee balm cheers me up and balsam fir tea is the best winter tonic for all that ails!

I like yellow for cheer in these dark days of winter.
 
You can also see some of my favorite Christmas books, much loved - the Christmas Nutshell Library. Nearly loved to death, in fact!
 
"Winters come and winters go, summers come and summers go; soon the swallows will be here." (The Tomten, by Astrid Lindgren)

The merriest of Christmases to you!
**
Barbara: I have three favorite mugs and three favorite teas! The first mug is a recent purchase from Goodwill! I couldn't resist the old-fashioned winter scene from Currier & Ives. I use it every morning with my Yogi Green Tea Kombucha Decaf. 
 
Tea barbara 1
 
The next mug was a gift from a friend who knows my Dutch heritage. It's Delft and as you can see from the photos, it has the front of a Dutch girl on one side, and the back of her on the other!
 
Tea barbara 2
 
Tea barbara 3
 
The last mug is another favorite due to the lovely scene which looks like an Impressionist painting.
 
Tea barbara 4

The two other teas I regularly enjoy are Bigelow Constant Comment and Twinings Chai.
 
Happy New Year to you and your family!
** 
Sherrylynne (who shared her beautiful picture at her IG page): Here's a little shout out to Dawn at By Sun and Candlelight for helping the rest of us relish each season ...
 
IMG_2123
 
Happy Winter!

**

Oh, how fun and kind, Sherrylynne! I am not quite as IG savvy as I could be but I saw your post and boy did it make me smile! And I love so much about your tea spot - the cup, the candle, the books - and that jaunty British robin in the background! Barbara, I also love Constant Comment - especially at this time of year! And your Currier & Ives mug brings back memories of a lamp my grandparents had in their den - it had a lampshade featuring the four seasons by C&I. Boy do I wish we still had that lamp! And Libby, how lovely that you assemble your own teas! I might have to pick your brain on that a little bit ... I am a budding herb grower and would love to try my hand at tea crafting sometime. Maybe I'll host another tea series in the summer ... Garden Tea with Friends? :)

And I agree with you that yellow is perfectly cheerful, and especially so in the wintertime ... it's been my favorite color since I was a little girl and my birthday arrives in the cold, dark days of January!

p.s. I adore the Tomten books ... two of them are tucked in our winter book basket right this very moment! :)

Well, ladies - thanks so much for welcoming us into your homes and sharing your teatime with us! And thanks to all for stopping by today. I hope you enjoyed our teatime - and I hope you are all enjoying your Christmas! I just love hearing from you all and seeing your mugs ... imagining we're truly sitting down together, chatting over a cup of something warm and comforting. And I'd love to have you join us! Please drop a note if you have a moment and send me your own favorite cup when you have a chance ...
 
(drhanigan AT gmail DOT com)
 
I'll look forward to hearing from you ... :)
 
There will be more "Tea with Friends" posts this week - roundabouts 4 p.m. And this Friday I will host my own Christmas Tea ... and then the next day ... dun dun dun ... I will announce the winner of that basket!
 
So please stay tuned and enjoy your evening, my friends ... I will see you all here again very soon!

Christmas Tea with Friends ... December 27th ❤

IMG_2144 (1) copyHello my friends, and Merry Christmas! Thank you so much for joining me for another teatime. :)

All throughout Advent I shared readers' favorite cups and mugs, every weekday at 4 p.m. ... and returned on Fridays with my own special Tea post. Advent has come to an end, but our teatimes will continue ... so now we are celebrating Christmas Tea together! Anyone who participates in our teatime - by sending me a picture of their favorite cup or mug - will be entered in my "Winter Comforts Basket" giveaway ...

And on New Year's Eve I will announce the basket winner!

p.s. Each Friday throughout Advent I gave a little peek at something that will be tucked inside that basket. There was soap, body butter, a pocket calendar and a pretty mug as well as a tin of cocoa and a small blue notebook ... and finally, a package of notecards and a favorite magazine! :)

If you'd like to join us, please read more giveaway details in this post - but today we're visiting with Andrea and Greta! Welcome ladies, and Merry Christmas ... 

Andrea: Hi Dawn, I wanted to pop in with our tea time. My 8 year old daughter has her snoopy mug with her "honey tea" which is just honey and water. I am taking my tea in my little honey bee cup given to me by my sweet sister-in-law. The candles are an early Christmas present from my 14 year old son ...

Tea andrea

We love our tea time. It's daily for me and my daughter joins me often.

Merry Christmas to you all!

**
Greta: Hi Dawn - I'm not a tea or coffee drinker (even after living in Brazil for a year!), but I do love a good mug of hot chocolate. This glass Santa mug is one of my favorites. We inherited it from my mother-in-law, so I always remember her when I use it ...

Tea greta
 
Thanks for the opportunity to share. Merry Christmas! 
 
**
 
Thank you so much, Andrea and Greta! Your teatimes are lovely ... the marshmallow floating in that mug of cocoa looks so inviting and that honey "tea" sounds yummy! I will have to try that with my Little Bear sometime (though he does love a warm cup of tea!). Everything looks so cozy and warm ... I hope you both are enjoying this beautiful new season!
 
And thanks to all for stopping by today. I hope you enjoyed our teatime - and I hope you are all enjoying your Christmas! I just love hearing from you all and seeing your mugs ... imagining we're truly sitting down together, chatting over a cup of something warm and comforting. And I'd love to have you join us! Please drop a note if you have a moment and send me your own favorite cup when you have a chance ...
 
(drhanigan AT gmail DOT com)
 
I'll look forward to hearing from you ... :)
 
There will be more "Tea with Friends" posts this week - roundabouts 4 p.m. And this Friday I will host my own Christmas Tea ... and then the next day ... dun dun dun ... I will announce the winner of that basket!
 
So please stay tuned and enjoy your evening, my friends ... I will see you all here again very soon!

Christmas Tea with Friends ... December 26th ❤

IMG_2144 (1) copyHello my friends, Merry Christmas and Happy Boxing Day! Thank you so much for joining me for another teatime. :)

All throughout Advent I shared readers' favorite cups and mugs, every weekday at 4 p.m. ... and returned on Fridays with my own special Tea post. Advent has come to an end, but our teatimes will continue ... so now we are celebrating Christmas Tea together! Anyone who participates in our teatime - by sending me a picture of their favorite cup or mug - will be entered in my "Winter Comforts Basket" giveaway. On New Year's Eve I will announce the basket winner!

p.s. Each Friday throughout Advent I gave a little peek at something that will be tucked inside that basket. There was soap, body butter, a pocket calendar and a pretty mug as well as a tin of cocoa and a small blue notebook ... and finally, a package of notecards and a favorite magazine! :)

If you'd like to join us, please read more giveaway details in this post - but today we are popping in at Helena's and Tanya's. Merry Christmas, ladies! Thanks so much for having us in ... :)

Helena: 

I finally got around to snapping photos of my two favorite mugs - I couldn't decide. :) The Jane Austen mug was a Christmas gift from my husband last year, and I use it every morning to drink my only caffeinated tea of the day - 95% of the time it's Tasha Tudor's Welsh Breakfast Tea, with milk and sugar.
 
Tea helena 2
 
The turquoise "Mama" mug was a gift from my sister - she knew I'd love it because it's my favorite color and that's what my kids call me. :) I use it in the evenings because it holds heat longer than any of my other mugs, and my hands are often cold at night, so I tend to cuddle my tea a little. :) Tonight I'm drinking Harney and Sons Vanilla Comoro (the decaf version) with milk and a smidge of sugar - so delicious!
 
Tea helena 1
 
Thanks for sharing everyone's photos - I love seeing the variety of mugs and teacups (and reading about all the teas everyone's drinking!). Wishing you and your family a lovely Christmas and all the best in the new year!
 
**
 
Tanya: Here (at long last!) is my tea time picture ...

Tea tanya

This is my very favourite tea mug in my favourite tea time place. It's filled with strong Yorkshire Tea and this picture was from a few moments stolen to drink my tea, sit in quiet and read my Advent devotional. Our household is so busy and loud that finding a few minutes here and there to recharge my batteries is absolutely essential. I just absolutely love this tea mug. It is an *enormous* David's Tea mug and I love the beautiful Christmassy design on the outside! Being able to sit with a cuppa and watch the skies darken in the late afternoon is something that truly refreshes me for the busy evening ahead. Thank you so much for the inspiration to make tea time a part of my day!

Many blessings on you all ...
 
**
 
Thank you so much, Helena and Tanya! You are both long-time readers and friends, and it's just lovely to hear from you both ... and see your mugs! I love them all. Now, I've had Yorkshire Tea before, as well as Harney & Sons Vanilla Comoro - and both are delicious. But I've never had the Tasha Tudor Tea, Helena! I've always wondered about it though (since I love pretty much all things Tasha Tudor, lol) and now you've got me thinking I might order a tin for my birthday next month! (I also think these beeswax candles are lovely.)
 
Well thanks so much to all for stopping by today! I hope you enjoyed our teatime - and I hope you are all enjoying your Christmas! I just love hearing from you all and seeing your mugs ... imagining we're truly sitting down together, chatting over a cup of something warm and comforting. And I'd love to have you join us! Please drop a note if you have a moment and send me your own favorite cup when you have a chance ...
 
(drhanigan AT gmail DOT com)
 
I'll look forward to hearing from you ... :)
 
There will be more "Tea with Friends" posts this week - roundabouts 4 p.m. Sorry this one was a little late today ... I must admit, though our weekend was wonderful, we are a little behind on cleanup today! Ah well, it's a slow week ahead and there is time to "put things to rights" as they say. This Friday I will host my own Christmas Tea and then the next day ... dun dun dun ... I will announce the winner of that basket!
 
So please stay tuned and enjoy your evening, my friends ... I will see you all here again very soon!

Advent Tea, Week 4: Happy Hearts at Home

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A few more nativity scenes around the house ...

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

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

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

And how about this one? :)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MERRY CHRISTMAS!


Advent Tea with Friends ... December 22nd ❤

Advent tea with friendsHello my friends, and Happy Thursday! Thank you so much for joining me for another teatime. :)

All throughout Advent I am sharing readers' favorite cups and mugs, every weekday at 4 p.m. ... and returning on Fridays with my own special Tea post. Anyone who participates will be entered in my "Winter Comforts Basket" giveaway ... and on New Year's Eve I will announce the basket winner!

p.s. Each Friday I give a little peek at something that will be tucked inside that basket! So far there's been soap, body butter, a pocket calendar and a pretty mug as well as a tin of cocoa and a small blue notebook ... wonder what tomorrow's post will bring? :)

If you'd like to join us, please read more giveaway details in this post - but today we are popping in at Karen's and Adie's! Two friends who shared a few pictures each ... :)

Karen: My favorite mug? I have three! :)

Tea karen 1

Tea karen 2

Tea karen 3

Blessings to you and your beautiful family!

**

Adie: My daughter and I were way overdue for a tea party - so today was the day! We had a few hours without the boys.  =-) So that means we did not get interrupted! This is our tea party set - I know it is not very wintery - but we don't have a lot of room for extras here ... 

Tea adie 3

So we had very hot, strong black tea, with foamed milk and lots of sugar ...  

Tea adie 2
We were also hungry so we had a mini lunch to go with it! The teens made Christmas cookies - and we each had one of those too! I made gluten-free ones this year, and they were pretty good ...
 
Tea adie 1
 
Now that we are done with our tea party - we are on to our hour of planning. My daughter and I do this together each week with our planners!
 
**
 
Just lovely, ladies! Karen, I love all three of your mugs - they are each beautiful in their own way! (Introverts unite! No one ever believes me when I say I'm an introvert, but it's true!) And Adie, I just adore that pale yellow honeycomb china! And those cookies look scrumptious and festive. How special to enjoy a tea party with your daughter - followed by a weekly planning hour! Thanks so much to you both for sharing your favorite mugs ... I hope these final days of Advent are filled with much peace and contentment. :)
 
And thanks to all for stopping by today! I hope you enjoyed our teatime. I just love hearing from you all and seeing your mugs ... imagining we're truly sitting down together, chatting over a cup of something warm and comforting. And I'd love to have you join us! Please drop a note if you have a moment and send me your own favorite cup when you have a chance ...
 
(drhanigan AT gmail DOT com)
 
I'll look forward to hearing from you ... :)
 
There will be more "Tea with Friends" posts next week, each day at 4 p.m. - but tomorrow I will be back with my final Advent Tea Post ("Happy Hearts at Home"). I'll take a break over the weekend (natch) and then we'll continue our teas right up until the day before New Year's Eve ... just before I announce the winner of that basket!
 
Enjoy your evening, my friends, and I will see you all here again very soon!

Advent Tea with Friends ... December 21st

Advent tea with friendsHello my friends, I'm wishing you all a happy Wednesday ... AND a Happy Winter Solstice! Thank you so much for joining me for another teatime. :)

All throughout Advent I'll be sharing readers' favorite cups and mugs, every weekday at 4 p.m. ... and returning on Fridays with my own special Tea post. Anyone who participates will be entered in my "Winter Comforts Basket" giveaway ... and on New Year's Eve I will announce the basket winner!

p.s. Each Friday I give a little peek at something that will be tucked inside that basket! So far there's been soap, body butter, a pocket calendar and a pretty mug as well as a tin of cocoa and a small blue notebook ... wonder what this Friday's post will bring? :)

If you'd like to join us, please read more giveaway details in this post - but today we have the opportunity to join FOUR of my readers for tea. Let's pop in at Tammie's, Shelly's, Mary's and Andrea's, shall we? :)

 

Tammie: Here is a mug that is not particularly Christmas-y, but I wanted to share it with you anyway because of your affinity for all things British! My husband surprised me with this mug earlier this year and I just love everything about it! It is obviously a lovely mug to look at. The coat of arms is very formal and majestic. But the blue roses and sweeping ribbons gives it a friendly air. And the tiny little gold flowers are just so sweet!

Tea tammie 1
 
If you look closely, you will see that they are the flowers that represent the United Kingdom. But my favorite part of the mug are the words inscribed on the back.  These are from a speech that the Queen gave on her 21st birthday. They are particularly touching to read, now that she recently turned 90 years old and is still honorably serving the Commonwealth! And I find these words to be very inspirational ... although I'm not a queen (!), I am devoted to my family and want to serve them as best I can. As for the tea that is contained in the mug, it is Newman's Own Royal Tea, which is a nice strong black tea.
 
Tea tammie 2
 
Thanks again, Dawn, for inviting us to share tea with you! May God bless you and your family.
**
Shelly: Here is a photo of my new favorite mug! I recently got it from a friend and I love it because it is much larger than a standard mug! More room for hot cocoa! I am not a coffee drinker, but I love cocoa and tea ... 
 
Tea shelly
 
Merry Christmas to you and your family!
**
Mary: About my favorite mug: It is a Spode “Christmas Tree” design mug, made in England; one of a set of six given to my family and me by my parents. We get them out each year right after Thanksgiving, and they remain within easy reach on our kitchen island for a couple of months. So, they are very special mugs that we look forward to using seasonally. The children use them for hot cocoa or apple cider; mine is usually filled with blackberry cobbler flavored coffee or caramel cream flavored coffee.
 
Tea Mary V
Peace to you during this final week of Advent, and blessings to you and your family for a very merry Christmas! 
**
Andrea: I wanted to pop in with our tea time. My 8 year old daughter has her snoopy mug with her "honey tea" which is just honey and water. I am taking my tea in my little honey bee cup given to me by my sweet sister-in-law. The candles are an early Christmas present from my 14 year old son. We love our tea time. It's daily for me and my daughter joins me often ...

Tea andrea
 
Merry Christmas to you all!
 **
 
Oh ladies, thank you SO much for all your happy pictures and lovely thoughts! It was wonderful to visit with each of you and I hope the rest of your Advent unfolds with much peace and joy. :)
 
And thanks to all for stopping by today! I hope you enjoyed our teatime. I just love hearing from you all and seeing your mugs ... imagining we're truly sitting down together, chatting over a cup of something warm and comforting. And I'd love to have you join us! Please drop a note if you have a moment and send me your own favorite cup when you have a chance ...
 
(drhanigan AT gmail DOT com)
 
I'll look forward to hearing from you ... 
 
There will be more "Tea with Friends" posts this week, each day at 4 p.m. And then on Friday I will be back with my final Advent Tea Post ("Happy Hearts at Home") ... only to pick right up again the following week for a series of Christmas teas! We'll continue right up until the day before New Year's Eve ... just before I announce the winner of that basket!
 
Enjoy your evening, my friends, and I will see you all here again very soon!

Advent Tea with Friends ... December 20th ❤

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

All throughout Advent I'll be sharing readers' favorite cups and mugs, every weekday at 4 p.m. ... and returning on Fridays with my own special Tea post. Anyone who participates will be entered in my "Winter Comforts Basket" giveaway ... and on New Year's Eve I will announce the basket winner!

p.s. Each Friday I give a little peek at something that will be tucked inside that basket! So far there's been soap, body butter, a pocket calendar and a pretty mug as well as a tin of cocoa and a small blue notebook ... wonder what this Friday's post will bring? :)

If you'd like to join us, please read more giveaway details in this post - but for today, it's Charlotte's turn to host Tea! And happily, she's sharing not just one mug ... but four!

(A girl after my own heart!  )

 I am loving your daily Teatime Posts! I thought I would share my favorite mug(s) with you. :) I know it's a bit of an overload, but I truly love a fun mug to drink from!

Tea charlotte 1

I use this through the year - it says it all!!

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My daughter bought this for me two years ago from NY...

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This is my winter mug - cold, snowy days will find this guy filled with yummy hot chocolate piled high with cream!!!

AND ...

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My Christmas mug!! I have had this for many years and I have so much fun using it during the Christmas Season.

Thank you for allowing me to share!

Blessings to you + 

 **

Thank you so much for sharing your mugs, Charlotte! They are all lovely. :) One of the things I love about collecting mugs is that they don't have to be very expensive. They're a fun indulgence and what delight that small purchase brings over time! Because if you're like me (and I know many of us are on the same page here!) those mugs get used a lot! I start my day with my coffee mug then switch up for tea in the afternoon. It's a treat to have several (ok, dozens) to choose from. Just a tip - if you have a Home Goods store near you (I'm not sure if they're regional?) they sell wonderful mugs for generally under $5. There's a HG next to my Stop N Shop and I have a very hard time NOT popping in every week to see what's new!
 
Well, thank you all for stopping by today! I hope you enjoyed our teatime. I just love hearing from you all and seeing your mugs ... imagining we're truly sitting down together, chatting over a cup of something warm and comforting. I fear I fell a bit behind these last several (busy) days with my replies so if you've sent me a submission and haven't heard back, I apologize! I will be catching up this week ... :)
 
Dear friends, I'd love to have you join us ... please drop a note if you have a moment and send me your own favorite cup when you have a chance!
 
(drhanigan AT gmail DOT com)
 
I'll look forward to hearing from you ... 
 
There will be more "Tea with Friends" posts this week, each day at 4 p.m. And then on Friday I will be back with my final Advent Tea Post ("Happy Hearts at Home") ... only to pick right up again the following week for a series of Christmas teas! We'll continue right up until the day before New Year's Eve ... just before I announce the winner of that basket!
 
Well, thanks so much for stopping by, everyone. Enjoy your evening and I will see you all here again very soon!

Advent Tea with Friends ... December 19th ❤

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

All throughout Advent I'll be sharing readers' favorite cups and mugs, every weekday at 4 p.m. ... and returning on Fridays with my own special Tea post. Anyone who participates will be entered in my "Winter Comforts Basket" giveaway ... and on New Year's Eve I will announce the basket winner!

p.s. Each Friday I give a little peek at something that will be tucked inside that basket! So far there's been soap, body butter, a pocket calendar and a pretty mug as well as a tin of cocoa and a small blue notebook ... wonder what this Friday's post will bring? :)

If you'd like to join us, please read more giveaway details in this post - but for today, let's push the pause button on our day and enjoy a little refreshment together. Happily, today we have not just one friend to visit ... but three! Let's pop in at Melyssa's, Shaquanna's and Kelly's ... :)

Melyssa: I just wanted to thank you for inspiring me to dig out my old teapot and put it to use with a monthly tea subscription I signed up for recently ...

Tea melyssa

I am making a daily ritual of it and really enjoying it!

**

Shaquanna: I have so many favorite mugs, many being pop culture. Here is my newest one, not necessarily pop culture, but if you look carefully there is an Easter egg in this photo. This is a smaller frame of my larger set up when I was watching the last episode in the new Gilmore Girls series. 

Tea shaquanna

I LOVE this polka dot mug. It's so heavy and thick and just makes me happy. I was drinking sparkling apple cider, which when I noticed it was almost empty in the photo poured some more.

Cheers!

**

Kelly: I really wanted to pretty up my picture but it is more real to let it be plain and simple because that is just how things are right now. The Christmas mug is from my 11yo son who purchased it for me a few weeks ago at a white elephant sale - he said it was for our tea times! And the blue mug belonged to my grandma (who just passed away right before Thanksgiving) and I have been enjoying drinking from it ...
 
Tea kelly

I also inherited three lovely tea cups from her as well (maybe I can share those some other time). The good news is that after trying for a long time, I have finally learned to like tea! (As long as there is enough honey in it!). As someone who loves British literature and enjoyed Downton Abbey, I simply *had* to figure out a way! :) It has become a nightly ritual lately that I fix a cup for my husband and for myself.  

** 

Thank you so much for sharing your tea (and cider!) with us ladies. Your cups are lovely as are your thoughts on the ritual of tea. I hope you each of you are enjoying your Advent. :)
 
And thanks to everyone for stopping by today! I hope you enjoyed our teatime. I just love hearing from you all and seeing your mugs ... imagining we're truly sitting down together, chatting over a cup of something warm and comforting. I fear I fell a bit behind these last several (busy) days with my replies so if you've sent me a submission and haven't heard back, I apologize! I will be catching up this week ... :)
 
Dear friends, I'd love to have you join us ... please drop a note if you have a moment and send me your own favorite cup when you have a chance!
 
(drhanigan AT gmail DOT com)
 
I'll look forward to hearing from you ... 
 
There will be more "Tea with Friends" posts this week, each day at 4 p.m. And then on Friday I will be back with my final Advent Tea Post ("Happy Hearts at Home") ... only to pick right up again the following week for a series of Christmas teas! We'll continue right up until the day before New Year's Eve ... just before I announce the winner of that basket!
 
(Hard to believe we're now talking New Year's! But goodness, it's not far away ...)
 
Well, thanks so much for stopping by, everyone. Enjoy your evening and I will see you all here again very soon!
 

Advent Tea, Week 3 ~ Finding Joy in Creation ❤

Animals advent 39

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

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

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

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:)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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So glad we made sure to fill our feeders yesterday!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Good morning, pretty girls!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

drhanigan AT gmail DOT com

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

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

I will see you all here again very soon!


Advent Tea with Friends ... December 15th

Advent tea with friendsHello my friends, and Happy Thursday! Thank you so much for joining me for 4:00 teatime. I can hardly believe we're nearing the end of another week! :)

All throughout Advent I'll be sharing readers' favorite cups and mugs, every weekday at 4 p.m. ... and returning on Fridays with my own special Tea post. Anyone who participates will be entered in my "Winter Comforts Basket" giveaway ... and on New Year's Eve I will announce the basket winner!

p.s. Each Friday I give a little peek at something that will be tucked inside that basket! So far there's been soap, body butter, a pocket calendar and a pretty mug ... wonder what tomorrow's post will bring? :)

If you'd like to join us, please read more giveaway details in this post - but for today, let's pop in at Elizabeth's and see what she has brewing on this blustery afternoon ... ☕️ 

Here is my 13-year-old son's favorite tea mug! 99 cents from Goodwill ... :)

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And this mug, as you can see, holds a lot of tea! Trader Joe's Spiced Chai is Aaron's favorite. :)

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Oh, I love this mug! Earlier in Advent we talked about the simple pleasure of a glass mug - it's such a nice way to enjoy one's tea doubly! (Seeing and tasting all that goodness!) I like the measurements on the side, especially - that's a clever design. And that Trader Joe's tea sounds yummy! (I find TJ's has the best kinds of seasonal beverages - both hot and cold.) My own boys enjoy tea, too - especially my youngest who basically will drain my (decaffeinated) tea mug if I let him. I learned my love of tea alongside my grandparents - Grama took hers in a fine Irish teacup, while Grampa drank his in a tall sturdy mug. Irish Breakfast blend was their drink of choice!
 
Thank you so much for sharing tea with us Elizabeth - and Aaron! I hope you are enjoying your Advent. :) And friends, thanks to all for stopping by today! I hope you enjoyed our teatime. 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! Our theme this week is "Joy in the Woodland: Animals at Advent."

Advent Tea with Friends ... December 14th ❤

Advent tea with friendsHello my friends, and Happy Wednesday! Thank you so much for joining me for another teatime. :)

All throughout Advent I'll be sharing readers' favorite cups and mugs, every weekday at 4 p.m. ... and returning on Fridays with my own special Tea post. Anyone who participates will be entered in my "Winter Comforts Basket" giveaway ... and on New Year's Eve I will announce the basket winner!

(p.s. Each Friday I give a little peek at something that will be tucked inside that basket!)

If you'd like to join us, please read more giveaway details in this post - but for today it's time to make ourselves comfortable at Kimberly's ... ☕️

It is a cool, rainy Saturday afternoon here in Texas, perfect for enjoying a few reflective moments over the Country Living Christmas Edition (UK) with a cup of my favorite Harney & Sons Holiday Spice tea and some yummy cookies ...

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I love taking moments like these during the holidays to unwind from all the going and making and planning. The coffee cup is one of a set of four with matching dessert plates, a Christmas present from my step-daughter a few years back. I save this set specifically for this time of year and special moments like these. It's always nice to have these simple personal traditions to look forward to this time of year! 

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I agree completely, Kimberly! This picture is just everything I love about this special season ... December days can be so dark, but our inner lights keep things bright and cozy. There might be something warm to drink, something special to eat, something to inspire and refresh our tired minds ... "simple personal traditions," as you say, Kimberly, that bring such comfort and joy. I love your china and that particular tea is a favorite of mine, too! And I think everyone who reads here regularly knows my feelings on British Country Living! :)

Now because I know Kimberly and I share a love of "vintage" things, and because I'm a little bit nosy, I poked around a bit and came upon this lovely display ...

Kimberly's victorian cards

Isn't that gorgeous? I absolutely love to collect greeting cards (especially vintage and seasonal ones) and this would be a great way to enjoy them! I'd love to know where you find yours, Kimberly - I know of one nice resource, the Victorian Trading Company. Readers, do you have any other "vintage" paper suggestions?

Thanks so much for sharing a bit of your Advent with us, Kimberly! And friends, thanks to all of you for joining us here at teatime ... I hope these posts are a little bright spot in your day. ❤ 

I'll be back tomorrow to share another friend's Tea and then on Friday, it will be time for my own weekly post, the "Animals' Advent" Tea ... :)
 
Have yourselves a wonderful Wednesday and ... see you here again very soon!