Trees Feed

Woodland Wonders & a Peek at our Week!

Hello my friends and Happy Weekend! In my last post I promised a closer peek at my weekly planner spread so I'm here to share just that! I'm also going to share some pics and collages from "the week that was" in our homeschool ... :)

This weeks spread woodland

First, as I think some or perhaps most of you know, this is a weekly spread in my homemade seasonal planner (the one I talk about A LOT). And as with the rest of this planner I created these pages in what I feel are this month's colors: orange, purple, brown and green. :)

I like a two-page weekly spread so I can really spread out all my writing ... so I placed a general overview on the left, and an agenda with notespace on the right. On the left page I have at the very top the dates of the week: October 9th through October 15th, 2017. I like to begin my weeks with Monday - it's just the way I "see" the week! Beneath that I have two boxes - one for listing the days and events Of Note this week, and one for noting the week's seasonal Theme (woodland).

Moving down the page we have Meal Planning (which I just lifted from October's menu calendar), and beside that are my House & Garden notes for the week. In this box I write any current tasks we're tackling as well as any seasonal chores. Next I have a To-Do This Week box which is obviously pretty self explanatory! I start this list by using last week's list then add to it through the week as things come up ...

On the bottom left hand corner of the page I have a box called, Crafts & Comforts and this is where I plan out my seasonal "living and learning" ideas. Some of these pertain to our homeschooling, some of them are "personal nourishment" activities, and some are home-centered. It was my desire for this kind of planning space - specifically devoted to seasonal activities - that prompted me to make my own planner! I kept looking for a planner design that included such things in its layout and/or had space I could easily convert for this purpose, but I could never find a planner to satisfy me! So ... I just up and designed something for myself! It's certainly not perfect but it works - and it makes me happy. :)

Anyhoo ... this week's "craft and comfort" ideas are "woodland" related and as you can see I check things off as we do them. It is a rare week we do ALL the things - I'm not sure we ever have, lol! - but I love to brainstorm these kinds of activities! (See pictures below for more info on that!)

Moving over to the next page of the spread now ... and here I'm planning out our Weekly Rhythm and Student Goals. I basically use the left-hand column for listing out the agenda, or schedule, for the week - where we are going, what's going on - and the right-hand column for notes re ~ homeschooling my younger boys. (Actually mostly the preschooler because - as I think I've blogged about before, I'll have to check - I have a whole different system for planning out Earlybird's special needs homeschooling and daily therapies. You know, I think I am due for another "special needs homeschooling" post ... it's been a while!)

And as you can perhaps see, I had a little water spill this past week on this planner page - ACK! - and the remaining October sheets got wet ... and wrinkled ... and well, all ugly, lol. You all know how much I love a smooth planner page! In light of all the troubles in the world right now this is very much small potatoes but it does bug me when my planner (any of my planners) gets wrecked in any way. So I added a little woodland washi tape to cover up some of the damage and resisted the rather STRONG urge to make the whole planner over again!

Now you might notice I like to use post-its for my pre-k planning and I really don't have a sufficient explanation for why - I just do. They help me think and move information around and maybe just relieve me from writing something down next to a day permanently that might not fit well. Plus, I just love post-its. I use them ALL the time, all over the place ... really, my post-it note obesssion might warrant its own post!

Ok, getting back to my planner spread - between today and tomorrow I will review these pages to see what can be moved forward and then work on next week's spread (seasonal theme: pumpkins!). I actually gave a little sneak peek of that spread at FB and IG today!

So that's a rather thorough overview of last week's planner spread! Now, how about some pictures of the week itself? :)

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As longtime readers probably know, our seasonal homeschooling in the younger years involves storytelling in a very big way. We mostly make things up, taking our cues from our own seasonal changes and weather events (an owl visit, a hurricane, a snowstorm or a meteor shower, for example), but sometimes favorite storybooks inspire tales and adventures amongst our rather large collection of wooden figures and finger puppets!

So here we have last week's "storytelling" day, when Little Bear found a cast of woodland characters and some leaf-print fabric in his learning room mailbox. I'd been telling LB an evolving story about a silly old bear who - confused by recent summer-like weather - started emptying his cave of all its warm, snuggly leaves, all while his woodland friends tried to persuade him to stop! "Silly old bear, Winter is coming! You'll need all those leaves to stay warm in the months ahead!" Finally, as night (and the temperature) fell, Bear realized his mistake, and sat down to cry beneath the bright crescent moon. But not to worry (and believe me, my Little Bear was worried!), the bear's friends all pitched in to help and filled his cave with plenty of leaves until his den was perfectly cozy once again. :)

(Next week's story takes place in a pumpkin patch, natch!)

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And here we have a little bit of what I like to call, "parkinglotschooling!" Lol, you've heard of carschooling, right? Well, while we were waiting to pick Crackerjack up from class one day last week, we decided to explore the woodsy lot around us. Little Bear found an old rotting stump and we watched all kinds of bugs crawl over and through it (ants, beetle, earwig) ... and investigated a rather yucky looking fungus that seemed to be spilling out of it. (Ew.) Little Bear enjoyed all of this very much - as did I  - and note the Lego contraption clutched firmly in his hand all the while!

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At home later in the week we spent a bit of our morning watching a grasshopper close-up. We have lots of these insects around here - from the teeny tiny springing juveniles of spring to the quick-jumping, wing-whirring adults of summer. But in autumn grasshoppers begin to slow down, especially as the days cool. This fella was on our patio doors, and the sun had not warmed him up yet much ... so we took advantage of the situation and spent a little time observing. One point up for debate - was it a grasshopper or a cricket? We had our suspicions, but needed to do a little research to be sure!

(I wish I had recorded Little Bear and Earlybird having this very debate - it got quite heated!)

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More "woodland" exploring ... our yard is full of trees of course, but the log pile is especially interesting! (Earlybird was doing this with us but wasn't captured in any photos. He actually got a little freaked out by a spiderweb and quickly moved on!)

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And one day we made nature windchimes - a fairly easy and quick craft made with mason jar lid rings, contact paper, twine and things we found around our yard. Truth be told I did most of it myself - the boys liked sticking things on the contact paper and carrying the branch around, but that was about it. (Branches are always a hit.) I found this idea on Pinterest, and this post has great instructions!

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Here's a quick peek in the learning room where our woodland books are assembled along the windowsills, beneath the weekly learning line ...

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And here we have Archie exploring the "bear cave" (an Amazon box turned on its side and draped with soft blankets). And that's Archie for you - never one to pass up a new nook or cranny to explore!

(And to answer a question that might have popped into your mind - no, our learning room is not always this neat! I find though, that having lots of designated storage space, has really allowed for relatively quick cleanups! Each basket seen in these pictures has a particular type of toy assigned to it - and you can read more about that in this post!)

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A closer look at the "woodland" books for last week ... tomorrow I will be re-organizing this display with our books about pumpkins! (More pumpkin week details at my Autumn Tea next week!)

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More woodland fun - including a few things for Mama. ;-) Pretty journals and a calendar booklet as well as the sweetest woodland washi tape I ever did see! (I bought the journals at Paper Source but I haven't decided yet how to use them. The cute little "Woodland Tales" planner I bought at Whole Foods - it's a 17-month calendar, a perfect size to tuck in my purse/tote when I don't want to lug around my heavier (more precious) planners. The washi tape was found at Joann Fabrics but unfortunately I can't seem to find it on their website. And finally, the felt animal masks were SUCH a hit with my Little Bear! He has been having so much fun wearing the masks around the house and pretending to be each of these woodland creatures ... he's especially fond of the beaver mask. :)

(The photo of the scenic view was taken down the street. There is something so lovely about stone walls in autumn ...)

O with milkweed

And finally ... this collage was from last night, and you might have seen it if you follow me on Facebook or Instagram. I titled this: "Milkweed Magic on a Cool Autumn Evening." My apologies if you've already read this - it's a bit wordy, but it really captures how I felt last evening and I want to remember it! :)

We just had another one of those "daily" moments that really felt special - so special in fact, I took pics and made a collage to remember it by! πŸ’›

We've had a milkweed pod sitting on our nature table since early last month, and today - it burst! Much to Little Bear's delight we had little white seed fairies flying all over the learning room!

So LB (and his Daddy and I) scooped up that pod - and as many of the seeds we could round up - and walked the whole kit and kaboodle across the street where the milkweed patch grows ...

Well, I wish I could tell you how positively gleeful Little Bear was during this whole adventure (though maybe you can tell from the photos!) ... you would have thought we were going to Disneyland! LB cradled that little seedpod so carefully - HE had to carry it! - and then heartily blew its fluffy innards all over the roadside ...

And it was such a beautiful evening, too - that autumn light is so lovely, and the leaves are all changing and the air is still just warm enough to walk outside without jackets ...

Inside we went again - time to make supper - the house all warm and lit and full of big brothers' sounds ...

Feeling grateful tonight for this little afternoon adventure ... and for a child who has such a soft heart for nature's wonders! 

✨ 🍁 🌞 πŸŒ²πŸŒ› 🍁 ✨ πŸ 🌞 πŸŒ²πŸŒ› 🍁 ✨ πŸ 🌞 πŸŒ²πŸŒ› 🍁 ✨ πŸ 🌞 πŸŒ²πŸŒ› 🍁 ✨ 

 My friends, I have kept you here so very long, and if you are still here, I thank you! (And if you bailed earlier, I still thank you!) I do hope you enjoyed a peek into our week and hearing about my planning process. Please let me know if you have any questions! I will be back again late next week with an Autumn Tea to share with you all ... and our first official Mitten Strings Book Study discussion!

(And of course, lots of pictures. When you come to my blog you KNOW there will be pictures ... and I'll have a lot to say about them!)

Hope you all enjoy the rest of your weekend ... see you here again very soon!


A Sunny, Snowy Nature Club ... ❀

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Hello and Happy Friday, friends! I have a quick post to share today, because oh my gosh, was it ever a beautiful day! Just perfect for our February Nature Club meeting. This month we met at a local farm to walk some wintry trails ... and were pleasantly surprised to find it was also the first day of their maple season! So before setting out on our walk, the kids got to visit the sugar shack and hear about how maple syrup is made ...

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Now, if you're from New England you are probably familiar with the tale of how sap is turned into syrup, but honestly, it just never gets old! Earlybird especially was absolutely fascinated by the steam and the smell and the miracle that is maple sugaring. (Meanwhile I was furiously composing a maple syrup unit study in my head! Though come to think of it, I have plenty of prior experience with this topic ... I'll have to see which former lesson plan I can "tap" into!)

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Maple sugaring is, for me, one of those happy, hopeful, early spring harbingers ... because the sap runs once daytime temps reach the 50s while the nights stay below freezing. We're just getting there as we round the month's bend - hitting 50 on Sunday! - and hopefully that will turn the tide a bit. Not that I'm complaining too much about our very "February" weather, mind you. The snow is awfully pretty (says she who doesn't have to shovel, ahem) but we have had A LOT of it lately. I mean, I'm romancing the heck out of Winter over here, but I'll admit, Spring will be a sight for sore eyes!

But back to Winter for a bit! I hope you enjoy a little glimpse of our day spent in the New England countryside ... :)

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There is quite possibly nothing cuter than a little one with cheeks all rosy from time spent outside!

So, lessons to learn in February (aside from the history and science of maple sugaring!): learning patience, optimism and trust. Waiting for that which comes next, appreciating the good in the now ... all while knowing our faith will absolutely be rewarded. ❀ That's pretty much a New England winter in a nutshell!

(Fyi, Spring is precisely 31 days away!)

;)

Well my friends, I hope you enjoyed this glimpse of our day! As much as I love being home, it was so good to get out today, mingle with friends and soak up some of that glorious sunshine! I will be back soon with the second part of my planning routine post as well as a progress report for the "52 Weeks Organized Home Challenge"... but ... FIRST!

This weekend I will be posting a little giveaway ... I teased it over on my Facebook page earlier today if you want a sneak peek! I will wait to tell you more but will get that post up as soon as I can - hopefully tomorrow but possibly Sunday. I think you will be really excited about this giveaway - I know I am! 

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


Little Bear's First Autumn Hike πŸ’›

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Happy Tuesday, my friends - and Happy St. Luke's Day! Are you having a "little summer" where you live? Despite a damp and gray start, it's going to be unseasonably warm here today - near 80Β°! Like yesterday was, and tomorrow promises to be ... and I'm just loving this opportunity to get out and enjoy the amazing Autumn all around us. :)

So I'd like to share some of my photos from yesterday, when Little Bear went on his very first Homeschool Hike! It's not his first hike of course - he's enjoyed a few family hikes in the past, with a vantage point from the back-carrier, peeking over his Daddy's shoulder! - but this time it was "feet on the ground" as we joined our homeschool group's "under-eight" crowd in the woods. This was LB's first "solo" homeschool adventure - something just for him and Mama!

I hope you enjoy these pics ... more thoughts about little guys and early learning at the end. :)

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What a glorious day this was! A real "autumn adventure" in the crunchy, muddy, light-filled woods!

I had a strong sense of deja vu, watching my Little Bear - who is SUCH a doppleganger for Bookworm at this age - jump right in and explore with "his kids" (as he calls them, lol). Homeschooling is all about working with multi-ages (and kids learning to befriend other kids no matter their differences - age-level or otherwise) but I'm grateful my support group has some activities just for the young ones. Little Bear does plenty with his older siblings - tagging along when he thinks he's leading the way - but I'm looking forward to more times like this that will be just ours to experience together. Mama and her littlest bear. <3

I've been homeschooling for nearly 17 years, but this time around, "preschool" feels new again. As much as he looks like his older brothers, Little Bear's very much his own unique person - an extrovert and quite strong-willed, endlessly curious, always chatty and VERY active! With experience (if not quite wisdom) behind me, this time around I feel much more relaxed. I'm remembering things that worked with my older boys and the many lessons learned - most of all by Mama! Relax, relish and understand that there is NO RUSH. Do not forfeit the freedom of these early years for unnecessary structure and too many expectations. All the things that need to happen will happen ... when they are meant to. In the meantime, I'm going to set up a rhythm of gentle learning experiences along with daily doses of fresh air, weekly outings, quiet times at home, crafty creating, cooking together, gardening and care-taking, singing and humming along to music, opportunities to practice kindness and develop good habits. As I said in an earlier post:

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

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More on our early learning plans (themes, organization, creating a haven of love and learning) in a future post, but for now I'll let you all go. I know I promised last time that my next post would be my "desk tour" but I just had to share this day with you all. I hope you enjoyed our autumn adventure! Desk pics to come soon!

Enjoy this blessed Tuesday, my friends ... see you here again very soon!


Reds and Greens and Orange and Blue ...πŸ‚

(And yellows and browns and black!)

Happy Friday, my friends! Here's a little bit of Autumn from my home & garden to yours ... πŸ’›

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Autumn is truly settled in around here as you can see - inside and out! The weather has been just glorious, as it tends to be in New England at this time of year: brisk, bright and OH the colors! Although ... we are expecting a brief return of summery weather this week - 80s even! - but since St. Luke's Day is this Tuesday, I'm not one bit surprised. ;)

Why you might wonder? Well, have you ever heard of St. Luke's Little SummerAccording to The Old Farmer's Almanac ...

Lovely, summerlike days that occur around October 18 are called St. Luke’s Little Summer in honor of the saint’s feast day. In olden days, St. Luke’s Day did not receive as much attention in the secular world as St. John’s Day (June 24) and Michaelmas (September 29), so to keep from being forgotten, St. Luke presented us with some golden days to cherish before the coming of winter, or so the story goes. Some folks call this Indian Summer, but that officially occurs between November 11 and November 20.


This brief warmup may be unseasonable, but it will be nice ... because any day we can throw open our windows and spend time outside comfortably is a gift. Dark and gray days are coming, I am ever aware! I can feel my internal clock slowing down, taking its cue from the world around me. The crickets are still chirping but more slowly, and the breeze is a noisy rustle as crisp leaves shake from their branches and head for the ground. I don't mind this slowing down though - in fact, I relish it. It's all part of life's rhythm and, after all, we humans are part of that great cycle, even if we can ignore it with all our modern conveniences! I feel it's a good thing to embrace the season's changes ... I've been turning more of my attention to the inside of our home (and the inside of my head), concentrating on domestic comforts and inner lights - cooking, reading, writing, planning, nesting ... preparing my family for the long winter ahead.

Anyway, speaking of domestic appreciation, here's my dinner menu for the coming week. It's been way too long since I've shared this (and to be honest, it's been too long since I've been consistent with meal planning)!

S - (Full Hunter's Moon) Hunter's Stew (A chicken-sausage/sundried tomato dish served with rice - one of Bill's specialities!)

M - (Practice night) Baked ziti, meatballs, garlic bread, salad

T - (St. Luke's Day) - Burgers on the grill, corn-on-the-cob, farmstand salad, fries

W - (It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown on TV tonight!) - grilled cheese with tomatoes and ham, chicken soup, apple-pumpkin dump cake & steamed almond milk w/spiced pumpkin marshmallows

T - meatloaf, roasted multi-color carrots, stir-fried broccoli & whole grain rice

F - (Practice night & Bookworm home for the weekend!) - crescent dogs, baked beans & brown bread, tater tots

S - (Family Anniversary Lunch) - leftovers since we'll be eating a big lunch!

Well I guess I'd best wrap up now, as this post is getting rather long ... but as always I thank you for stopping by! I hope you enjoy the rest of your weekend and would love to hear how your autumn is unfolding if you have a chance. In an upcoming post (hopefully sometime this week) I will give you a tour of my new desk and chat a little about how I'm keeping organized these days. I am also working every moment I get on the next set of seasonal planning sheets. I'm hoping to have Late Autumn pages available to you well before the end of the month!

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

p.s. Don't forget to watch that moon rise tonight! πŸŒ


Regarding Trees and Tea Notes ... ❀

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Good Friday morning, my friends! Here we are in our first week of December! :)

On this coming Monday I will have another Tea Journal post ready to go, late in the afternoon just as the sun sets ... Our next theme will be: O Christmas Tree! And what I'd like to talk about is tree traditions and preferences, and perhaps we can share pictures of our own trees all decorated for the holidays? It could be this year's tree or last year's tree ... or any year's tree, really!

Questions I'll be posing:

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

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

What is your favorite ornament?

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

Colored lights or white lights?

:)

Remember I'd love to see a picture as well, if you're able! You can email me here:

bysunandcandle AT gmail DOT com

My family will be heading to the tree farm this weekend to cut down our own tree - can't wait to see Little Bear's face! And I hope to make another short nature video to share in my journal as well. Next week our homeschooling seasonal theme is "evergreens" and that ties in nicely with our Advent plans, too.

Also, I will have a little "Nest" assignment for you (and myself!) next week. I was hoping to get to that this week, but my days have been busy and I've had to remind myself to slow down and keep things manageable. Too much mental clutter distracts me from the season's deepest meaning ...

***

Well, I will wrap up for now because we're heading outside to cut our St. Barbara's Day branches! But I will see you here soon - I have some "Tea with Friends" to share with you this weekend! :)

(Oh, and p.s.! I also have some exciting news about an upcoming planning talk I'll be attending! Stay tuned!)

Happy Weekend, everyone! See you here again very soon ...

~❀~

 


Scenes of Spring ...

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

Are you enjoying the unfolding of Spring as much as I am? Oh my goodness, it's just one happy surprise after another ... and yet there's such a comforting sense of familiarity as well. This is what I love about the seasons ... there's so much joy to be found on so many levels! I've been out and about taking pictures like crazy (with my phone, that is - unfortunately my camera is on the fritz) and I'd like to share them this morning if I may ... 

Purple and white crocus

Prettiest little crocus I've ever seen - love how these tough little blossoms push their way through all manner of leaf litter and rocky soil.

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Forsythia branches for the nature shelf ... they keep getting moved as Oliver (the cat) keeps finding them and knocking them over.

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 Some inspiring library books - we're planting lots of flowers this year!

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Remember that lovely rhubarb I showed you last week? I finally got around to using it on Sunday ... Bill was outside chopping wood (a felled tree to make way for an apple orchard!) and I had soup simmering on the stove ... the boys were all around the house and the windows were open and it all felt so homey and good. Just as a Sunday should. :)

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Bill had lots of helpers once the "felling" part was over. :) And I'm busy googling "things to do with fallen trees and branches" on Pinterest. Can't let all that good wood go to waste!

Light it up blue

 This is our blue light for the month of April (Autism Awareness) ...

Bunny chocolate

This is Mama's Easter chocolate, because it's white. :) I finally succumbed to temptation and had a few nibbles with my tea ...

Spring pajamas

Remember those "pretty spring pajamas" I mentioned in relation to the washing machine fiasco earlier this month? Well thankfully they made it out in one piece, and surprisingly none the worse for wear. I love them so much - the print is called, "Dawn Floral." :)

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Final photo - we had a lovely sunrise visit from a pair of mallards the other morning! The Mrs. was quite brave and waddled about the yard while the Mr. enjoyed the temporary vernal pond in our front woods. I rushed from window-to-window snapping pictures and I think I startled her because she very suddenly ran back towards the pond and the pair of them took off into the sunrise ...

Well my friends, I must be off, but I hope to see you here again in a few days. I'll try to have a housekeeping post up later this week ... or maybe a file crate post as I'm working on the new folders right now ... or perhaps something for Earth Day, St. George's Day or Arbor Day? :)

So please stay tuned!

And thanks so much for stopping by ~ Blessings on your day!


Poetry Friday: Trees

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I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth's sweet flowing breast; 

A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray; 

A tree that may in summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair; 

Upon whose bosom snow has lain; 
Who intimately lives with rain.

Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree. 

Joyce Kilmer
 
*
 
Happy Arbor Day, my friends!
I hope you enjoy your Friday.
 
:)

Weekend Journal ~ November Joys

Good Monday Morning, my friends! I hope you all had a nice weekend ~ here are a few snapshots from ours!

Little Bear and his Daddy enjoying the crisp autumn air ...

Owen november day 

We're outside as much as possible these days, while the weather is still agreeable!

And speaking of getting outside, I love this interesting "poster" shared by Oak Meadow recently on Facebook:

Playing Outside

Wonderful food for thought ~ a nature-based curriculum right there in the making!

Back inside, here's a cozy autumn table ...

November lunch

On Sunday I hosted a luncheon for several dear college girlfriends - it was wonderful to see everyone and catch up! The "girls" got to meet Little Bear (who was such a little flirt) and see our new home. I served squash soup, calzones and salad, and we enjoyed several delicious desserts brought by my friends: butter-and-whiskey cake, brownies, cookies, and an assortment of Italian pastries. There was spiced cider, wine and lots of tea of course, too! It was such a delightful day ...

And look at these precious little gems! The tiniest little cones from a bank of evergreen trees along our drive way ...

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They look like little brown roses! Such nice crafts I could make with these!

*wheels turning*

:)

Well my friends, I'm off to get my week going ... a mild, windy and wet morning here in New England, the remnants of a savage storm that blew across the midwest this weekend. Thoughts and prayers for the communities and families suffering in its wake.

*❀*

See you all again sometime soon ...


Lovely Little Hummingbird ...

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Having our lunch at the kitchen table and watching the lovely hummingbirds fly back and forth to the feeder. Some of you may remember how fond we were of the hummingbirds at our old house - one female in particular whom we named "Harriet".

What shall we name our new pair of hummers , I wonder? (The female is pictured above, but there is a male too - he of the "ruby colored throat" - but he's a bit more camera-shy.)

Well, it was with very heavy hearts that we took down our birdfeeders this spring knowing we'd be moving and not wanting the birds to be so dependent on our feeding. I can't tell you how it saddened me to see the little red squirrel sitting on the branches outside the learning room, chewing a spruce cone because all the feeders were empty - and the hummingbird hovering outside our kitchen window most certainly wondering where the nectar she liked so much went ... :(

So I hope the next owners of our old house will feed the birds (I asked the realtor to put in a little plug for birdfeeding, lol - stressing how much we enjoyed a wide variety of birds through the years). But I can't dwell on that ... here at our new place I am over the moon to "discover" so many types of birds and critters in the short time we've been here ...

And flora, too ... very early this morning - before the heat got to be too much - Earlybird, Little Bear, Crackerjack and I walked around the property and started noticing all the different trees, plants and wildflowers (and weeds!) growing all over the place. For science this coming school year we will be studying Botany and we'll be starting our "research" right here in our very own 2-acre yard! That should be all kinds of fun ...

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Ok, I know I promised a "new kitchen" post and that will come very soon, but most likely after tomorrow's holiday. (Is it really the 4th of July already??)

Hope you're all having a good week ... see you here again very soon!

*❀*


A Day for Apples!

According to the Farmer's Almanac, it's Johnny Appleseed Day - the day the American legend died, not to be confused with his birthday which takes place in September. September may seem the more fitting month to celebrate apples - it being harvest time and all - but it's always a great time to enjoy an apple! And though I do enjoy a fresh apple now and then, there's something about cooked apples that really appeals to me ...

Baked apples

They go so well with those homey scents and flavors like cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and clove ... 

I know people can be quite partial to one variety or another, and I have always been fond of McIntosh apples since they were the kind my grandmother cooked with the most. (Her "pink" applesauce was the best!) I think of them as a traditional New England apple, but it is my understanding they originated in eastern Canada. There are several varieties that have been bred from the original Mac - the Macoun, the Spartan, Cortland and Paula Red to name a few ...

So of course, now I'm wondering: Is there an apple you like best of all?

Here's a recipe for the apples seen above, a delicious baked version filled with dried fruit and honey. Wouldn't these make a cozy, nourishing breakfast on a cold March morning? And if you're looking for some more appley ideas, here's a link to a post I did on Johnny Appleseed Day last year.

In the interest of keeping it simple with little ones - why not head to the library to pick up a book or two on apples (there are bound to be lots!) and perhaps stop at the market to buy a few apples? (See how many varieties there are!) Or if the weather is cooperating, visit your local orchard and see how the apple trees are faring. Are they showing signs of life yet?

By the way, this is one of my favorite apple books, a lovely Swedish story:

Our apple tree

Our Apple Tree

Beautiful illustrations, and a sweet imaginative story. It nicely describes the different seasons in an apple tree's life.

*❀*

So there's a few thoughts for this Tuesday, my friends ... but wherever your day takes you, I hope you enjoy it! Thanks so much for stopping by ... I'll see you here again sometime soon!


A Nutty Little Nature Story

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I was wishing I still had my "nature notes" column up, because Earlybird and I observed the funniest little nature "story" yesterday!

It was a lovely afternoon, golden and breezy - and we were sitting in the learning room, with a couple of windows cracked open. EB was at the computer, and I was reading in my chair, when the sound of rustling leaves caught my attention. I thought it might be an animal of some sort walking by, but every time I looked outside I saw nothing. I did notice some rambunctious blue jays hopping around, so I dismissed the "ruckus" at that.

But, next thing I know, I start hearing little "pops" and "bangs" on the roof and windows. Now I'm kind of freaking out because I truly can't figure out what is making all this noise! I'm thinking perhaps some early Halloween "tricks" were being played on us!

Finally I figured I'd best take a closer look ... so I walked out front and when I looked back at the house I immediately noticed a flurry of movement at the top of the HUGE spruce tree that stands beside our house. The branches were swaying like crazy!

Glinting in the sun, and weaving in and out of the branches, was a bright ball of reddish-brown fur, and a closer inspection revealed this:

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A tiny red squirrel was perched way up high in the tree (and let me tell you, that is one super tall tree!) and making quite a business out of "harvesting" spruce cones! He'd climb onto a branch and nibble at the cone till it fell ...

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... and THAT was what we were hearing!

Cone after cone being dropped from the tree by the squirrel. They'd hit the ground, the roof, the windows ... like little bombs, lol! This went on for over half an hour - such an industrious fellow!

Archie was quite taken with the whole procedure:

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EB and I walked out to the feeder area to take a closer look and we were amazed by how many cones were covering the ground!

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So we'll be watching these next few days to see how many cones disappear and who all is spiriting them off. (One squirrel or more?) We often find cones half-stripped looking like this ...

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And these have been quite nibbled as you can see.

On the diet of red squirrels ...

"His food is far more varied than many suppose and he will eat almost anything eatable; he is a little pirate and enjoys stealing from others with keenest zest. In spring he eats leaf buds and hunts our orchards for apple seeds. In winter he feeds on nuts, buds, and cones; it is marvelous how he will take a cone apart, tearing off the scales and leaving them in a heap while searching for seeds; he is especially fond of the seeds of Norway spruce and hemlock."

(From the Handbook of Nature Study by Anna B. Comstock) 

So Earlybird and I are starting the "squirrels and other rodents" portion of our animal study this week. We already have lots of great "field observation" to report! Throughout November we'll be covering the general topic of hibernation as well.

***

Well, my friends, I hope you're all having a good week. I'm almost caught up with Call the Midwife ... made it about halfway through the show last night, and hope to finish up this evening or next. When I do, I'll pop back into Monday's post to catch up with comments. :)

In the meantime, take care of yourselves and your loved ones ... I'll see you here again very soon!

❀


Drumroll, please?

Earlybird and I are very happy to announce the winner of our Arbor Day Giveaway!

It's ... Joan Clark!

And here is Joan's lovely comment regarding her favorite tree:

"My favorite tree is the Redwood. The only place it grows is along the Northern California coast. It is one of the tallest trees but what I think makes it extra-special is it's root system. Unlike a lot of trees, the roots of the Redwood tree are very, very shallow. They don't have tap root growing deep into the ground to help anchor them and help hold them upright in stormy, windy weather. But the Redwood tree stays upright because the shallow roots reach out and intertwine with the roots of the Redwood trees growing nearby. Because of the intertwined roots the trees "help" each other. They remind me of the way family helps each other through the storms of life and the importance of the family connection."

Congratulations, Joan! I will be in touch later today to arrange mailing details, and I hope you and your family enjoy The Happiness Tree as much as we have. You will be pleased to know the Redwood is, in fact, one of the trees featured in this book - indeed, it's plays a starring role. :)

And THANK YOU you to everyone who helped with Earlybird's project! We had 62 replies to our Arbor Day poll! We have not yet tallied the individual tree votes, but our results will be featured in EB's science fair project and my forthcoming newsletter. I really enjoyed reading all your thoughts on trees and why you chose a particular species. Some had to do with a tree's qualities while some were tied to fond memories ... and all were just lovely to read.

Now, a few of you asked Earlybird to share his favorite tree, and when asked, he immediately replied:

A Christmas Tree!

❀

So I thank you again for taking the time to share your thoughts and help out my boy with his project. I've said it before, and I'll say it again ... I have the absolute nicest readers anywhere. Honestly, I appreciate your support and encouragement so much!

Well, have a marvelous Monday, my friends ... I'll see you here again very soon!

:)


Help with a Poll? Enter a Giveaway!

Happy Friday, my friends ... and Happy Arbor Day, too!

The Happiness Tree

So I was gathering up our "tree" books for this week, when I came across The Happiness Tree. It's such a sweet, colorful book - a unique celebration of trees and the feelings they inspire - but, alas, my boys have outgrown it. So in the spirit of Arbor Day, I'd like to recycle our love for this book, and pass it on to another family who will enjoy it as we have. :)

From the back cover:

"So begins the magical journey from seed of hope to forest of happiness. This ode to trees invites readers to discover life's true gifts ~ peace, courage, love, generosity, tolerance ~ as revealed by our precious forest friends. The story and paintings, accompanied by lyrical tree biographies and an index of state trees, sing with reverence of the natural world and everything good in life." 

So here's what I'd like to do!

First, whether you're interested in the book or not, we need your help with a poll!

Earlybird will be participating in his very first science fair next month and the theme we're working with is "The Fantastic Forest." The results of this Arbor Day poll will not only help us with our poster, but they will also appear in my "Spring into Summer" newsletter!

So to partake in this poll, I would ask you to answer the following question for us ... and Monday morning I will pull a name from the comments to win our copy of The Happiness Tree. (If you don't want to be included in the giveaway, just let me know in your comment ... we'd still love your help with our poll!)

So ... Earlybird's Arbor Day question for you is:

~* What is your favorite tree (and why)? *~

And if you'd care to share a happy tree memory, please do! We're very excited to hear your response! We are big fans of trees, for so many reasons. They are beautiful and strong ... they provide for, and even protect us in many different ways. There is a lot to love about trees!

I hope you can help out with our poll, but most of all I hope you all have a nice day. As always, I thank you sincerely for stopping by ... I will see you again very soon!

Arbor day tree

❀

It is not so much for its beauty that the forest makes a claim upon men's hearts, as for that subtle something, that quality of air that emanation from old trees, that so wonderfully changes and renews a weary spirit. ~ Robert Louis Stevenson


Off to the Tree Farm!

Yesterday was a beautiful day here in New England! It was very mild for this time of year (nearly 70 degrees) and the sky was filled with both wintry clouds and shards of weak sunlight. As Bill had the day off from work, it was a perfect time to go find our Christmas tree!

So right after lunchtime, we all hopped into the van and headed to the farm ...

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There are lots of farms in our area, but this one is just so lovely ... In fact, our very first homeschooling field trip ever happened right here - an apple picking hay ride with our (then) new homeschool support group. :)

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After getting the 'skinny' from the farm hands, we drove out to the field to find our tree ...

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Apple trees in late autumn are so beautiful. So withered and wild looking ...

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Now, here's the thing ... we just couldn't find a tree we liked! They were either too short or too spindly. And we wanted a big tree this year!

So we headed back down to the farm to take a look at the pre-cut trees.

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EB can get a little funny about tree cutting - for some reason it unnerves him! So a few times he retreated to the van to watch something fun on his iPad. 

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But the sights and sounds of the farm proved too much to resist ...

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Cute little Santa workshop.

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Cute little guinea fowl!

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Cute - not so little - boys!

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Feeding the beautiful fallow deer.

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Aren't they gorgeous?

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(They kind of remind me of Archie and Ollie in their coloring, and sweet faces.)

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Though EB was certain this was one of Santa's team. ;)

Once we had a tree picked out (a 7 foot Fraser fir, just cut the day before), we headed inside the farm shop to pay ... and peruse.

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At last it was time to take our tree home!

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But first, Bill secured it to the van ...

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... and then we were off!

Continuing our "farm field trip," we stopped at Whole Foods to pick up a few things.

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I could spend gajillions of dollars at this store. It's so fun to shop here!

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We were home by three, with the light fading fast and a cool wind picking up.

Bill and Bookworm brought the tree in ...

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It fits great in the sitting room corner!

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Needless to say, the cats were simply amazed.

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"For me?"

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Checking it out ...

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Ollie's intrigued. Archie's sampling.

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After a quick look around, Ollie - cool, calm and collected - returned to his open window, taking the high road, as usual.

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Archie, meanwhile ... well, he took the low road.

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He simply would not leave the tree alone! He ate some needles, climbed some branches and as you can see above, drunk some of the water. (No additives here - just plain old water.)

(We're hoping once the novelty's worn off, Archie will give it a rest. Lol.)

And now we have our tree, all set up in the sitting froom corner.

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We need to let the branches drop, and then the lights can be strung and the branches can be adorned with all kinds of things.

(Mostly, unbreakable things.)

~**❀**~

Now, I will certainly be posting more on our tree as we go through the week. Hopefully we'll have it all decorated by the weekend!

So I hope you all are having a nice week ... I can hardly believe December 1st is just two days away! Are your Advent calendars ready to go?

Our is not quite ... so I guess I'd best get to work!

Have a great Tuesday, my friends ... I'll be back here again very soon.

:)


Tree Thoughts & Memories

A Happy Arbor Day to you!

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 There is always Music amongst the trees in the Garden, but our hearts must be very quiet to hear it. ~ Minnie Aumonier

It's tradition to plant a tree on this day, but that's not always a possibility. It's nice though, to at least take a few moments to admire one ...

Do you have a favorite? A tree that is "yours?" I have always had trees that were special to me. When I was little, it was the Hawthorne that grew in our front yard. It bloomed twice a year, with the prettiest pink blossoms. I remember I thought they looked like little fairy bouquets. :)

I also loved the Silver Birch that grew beside my grandparents' house. It caught the sunset each evening and almost seemed to come alive, all twinkly and golden. 

Today, I am quite partial to Sugar Maples for their vibrant colors at my favorite time of year. (And of course the sweet syrup they give us each spring.) I'm also a big fan of the majestic Oak Tree - for its great stature, little acorns and lovely leaves. 

The Apple Tree is another tree dear to me ... for its soft, fragrant blooms and of course its fall fruit. Apple trees feel homey and comforting, and they're just the right size for climbing. :)

And finally, the tree that means the most to me these days is the enormous Spruce Tree that grows on the west side of our house. "Birdy," as we affectionately call him, is very tall and very old. He provides wonderful shade and shelter, and is home to the many birds and critters we enjoy watching from our windows. 

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He appears to be crying here, but generally speaking we believe he's quite a content tree. :)

I leave you with one of my favorite pictures of Earlybird - taken a few years ago during a walk through our woods. He was just marveling over the trees, and spent a good bit of time hugging them.

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A boy after my own heart. :)

And now I'll wrap up, but speaking of EB, he had us up ridiculously early today (I won't tell you how early just suffice it to say it was ridiculous). On the upside however, I got to watch the Royal Wedding this morning! How fun. To all my British readers may I say, "Congratulations!" Kate looked absolutely beautiful, William was quite handsome and they just seemed so sweet together. I am so happy for the lovely couple. May God bless them with as many children as their hearts can hold and many happy, healthy years together.

Enjoy your Friday, my friends. I'll be back again sometime soon.

:)

It is not so much for its beauty that the forest makes a claim upon men's hearts, as for that subtle something, that quality of air that emanation from old trees, that so wonderfully changes and renews a weary spirit. ~ Robert Louis Stevenson


For Tree Week: An Arbor Day Centerpiece

Our Tree Week is keeping us very busy these days! Yesterday Earlybird and I made a "tree plant" in honor of Arbor Day. We thought it would make a nice centerpiece for our Learning Room table. :)

We worked out on the deck, since this project was a little messy.

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EB filled a terra cotta pot with potting mix. We could have used stones, birdseed, marbles, seashells, etc., but since our branches are still blooming, we decided to use soil.

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Next we "planted" our tree branches:

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We chose pussy willow branches, since we're particularly fond of a small willow that grows beside the river behind our house. I actually purchased these branches at a the market just before Easter, but any smallish twigs or branches would do. You'll probably find plenty in your backyard at this time of year. A nice activity would be a walk to collect fallen branches to use in your pot. (Very young children might like the concept of "saving" these scattered branches and giving them new life.)

Next we cut out small colorful tags for our tree:

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And on each tag we wrote something that trees give us ...

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The pot now sits in the middle of our learning room ...

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And tomorrow, on Arbor Day, it will be adorned with many tiny tags (tree blessings!), pretty bits of yarn and a few other simple decorations.

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Other activities this week include:

A "Trees of our Backyard Meet-and-Greet."

Arranging tree photos in nature journal.

Making bark rubbings.

Reading favorite tree books.

Researching who lives in a tree.

Making a "Trees of America" map.

Writing tree poems.

*βˆ†*

The weather is so very springy this morning ... soft sunshine mixed with clouds, a steady breeze, mild air, the promise of rain later today. At the moment EB and I are on the couch, watching the wind move through the woods. We can't decide if the trees are dancing or waving, but in any case, they're lovely to watch.

:)

Have a great Thursday, my friends!


Tree Week!

First of all, I hope you all had a nice weekend, and a lovely Easter Sunday. :)

Today begins "Tree Week" in our homeschool ... and that would be because, A. Friday is Arbor Day and, B. we just β€ trees!

I kept our "tree" activity for today very simple (since it was rainy and cold and we were all plumb tuckered from weekend festivities). So after dropping Bookworm at the library (where he volunteers once a week) the younger two boys and I stopped at our local supermarket to search for things that come from trees ... 

To this end we found: apples, pears, dates, oranges, lemons, limes, coconuts, bananas, nuts - ETC. - as well as magazines, newspapers, toilet paper, paper towels, tissue paper, packages of copy paper, cardboard cereal (cracker, cookie, etc.) boxes, paper shopping bags, store flyers, and even my purchase receipt ... phew

Trees give us a lot, we decided!

Here are a few fuzzy photos we (Crackerjack and I) took on my new phone:

These would be the apples and pears.

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This would be me.

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This is Earlybird walking (dejectedly) away from a bin of marshmallows. (And he was so sure there were such things as Marshmallow Trees, too!)

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Pretty sure "Cheese Puffs" don't grow on trees either ... but we still bought a bag.

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And so our Tree Week is off and running! More details to come, but for now I wish you all a happy new week, and wonderful start to the new Easter season!

Have a great night, everyone ...

:)


A Crafty, Cloudy Morning

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Actually, there was weak sunlight for a time, as you can see in some of the pictures. The morning air was mild, and the sky had that April mix of deep gray and soft light. While the older boys dug into geometry and science, Earlybird and I set aside our flash cards and dug out the paints ...

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Because of EB's sensitivities, we use all-natural, plant-dyed art materials whenever possible. The ones he's using above are made by Clementine.

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While EB worked on his watercolors, I set out my own painting project:

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Our word-of-the-month for April:

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I'm in a yellow mood as you can see!

Next we did some paper crafting and I changed up the bulletin board ...

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Our tree this month is an apple tree* (in March it was a sugar maple). I cut tiny leaves from two shades of green card stock, and scrunched up bits of red tissue for the tiny buds ... 

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Then I placed our spring nature discovery cards all around the tree, and added the word APRIL at the top (yellow card stock, small butterfly stickers).

*I have a real soft spot for apple trees in the spring. We live not far from a beautiful apple orchard which we visit throughout the year. In April -  but even more so in May - an apple tree is just breathtaking. This book is an absolute favorite of mine for showing the changes an apple tree undergoes through the year.

Now, this has nothing to do with crafting, but I wanted to show you this:

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The boys picked ^ this ^ out when we stopped by the nursery this weekend. I was looking for pastel pansies and came home with a carnivorous plant instead! We have an overabundance of fruit flies in the house at the moment (thanks to Bill's overzealous composting) so the boys thought "Petey" might be able to help us out. EB, however, is completely freaked out by the "hungry," "bug-eating" plant and wants absolutely nothing to do with it, lol. 
***
Well, thanks so much for stopping by today ... hope your Wednesday is a good one!
See you again very soon ...
:)