Winter Tea Feed

Advent Tea, Week 2: Plants & Peace

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Hello my friends, and Happy Friday!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Oliver thought this was a GREAT idea.

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

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

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

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

Soon I'll be starting fruitcakes ...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

**

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

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

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

See you here again very soon!


Advent Tea with Friends ... December 8th ❤

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

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

If you'd like to join us, please read more giveaway details in this post - but for today, let's pop in at Erin's ... ☕️

"This is my very favorite mug. I gave it to my mother, who was a fan of Polish pottery, as a Christmas gift in 2011. Shortly afterward, in January 2012, she passed away after fighting leukemia for 17 long years. So the cup fell back into my hands. I use it every single day for tea and coffee and always think of my mother ...

Peace tea erin

Warm wishes to your and yours this Christmas."

**

Erin, thank you so much for sharing your beautiful mug and memories of your mother, and I'm so sorry to hear of her passing. Leukemia is such a terrible disease - my maternal grandfather died from acute leukemia 19 years ago. His birthday is tomorrow and as I remember him in my prayers, I will remember your dear mother as well. <3

This picture is so pretty and cozy, Erin. The basketweave angel is beautiful glowing beside your treasured mug. I just adore Polish pottery - it's lovely to behold and wonderful to HOLD. These mugs just fit so nicely in one's hand! Thanks so much for inviting us into your home and sharing a bit of your Advent with us ...

And friends, thanks so much for joining us at teatime ... I hope these posts are a little bright spot in your day. :) I'll be back tomorrow with my own Advent Tea post ... talking about this week's theme of "Plants and Peace" and sharing some of the things we've been getting up to around here lately (crafts, stories, kitchen tasks). There will also be another peek at those Winter Comforts Basket goodies!

Hope you all have a wonderful Thursday evening! See you here again very soon ...



Advent Tea with Friends ... December 7th ❤

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

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

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

If you'd like to join us, please read more giveaway details in this post - but for today, let's stop to take tea and smell the roses at Cathy's ... ☕️

"Yes, I too cannot believe the first week of Advent is gone! Today I spent the morning cutting out holly, berries, candles, and flames for tomorrow's 1st grade ccd students - to construct an Advent wreath for their refrigerators ... along with a manger which they are to fill in with straw symbolizing their good deeds ...

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I chose the cup with the lid to keep my tea hot and it still got cold! Busy hands, I forgot to drink. The rubber parts can not be microwaved so I think I'll just grab a favorite mug, heat up my tea and return ...

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There, much better. I choose COURAGE today because there is not a one room that is in order! I have been making changes in every room! KM'ed all hubby's clothes and redid his closet ... now daughter's room holds all the extras overflowing into the hallway, book cases being moved, extra blankets to be washed and given away, much of his clothing should be sold! Like new! There are boxes need going through .... Yes, more like major overhauls taking place in order to declutter - in the mist Christmas season has arrived - what a mess! I do have a few things up in my kitchen, but again, as usual, it's not the Advent journey I envisioned (is it ever?) and it's going to take lots courage to continue!

 On the Feast of St. Nicholas...

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... drinking tea, making lists ...

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... eating cookies and enjoying roses ...

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... doesn't get much better than this. 🎄
     
It will be fun to continue this journey with you all and see how we progress with our planning. Yes, that is a leather Travelers Note book system that is to help me plan life and life I want to live. No looking back with any regrets! Doing so does mark my days and allow me to see that I do make progress and I do have goals that I am accomplishing! It's a good thing ... I've even baked cookies twice this year and have plans for a few more kinds. I have created a family exchange of handmade Christmas ornaments, and I will be spending a few nights with Hallmark Christmas movies, candles, popcorn, and Christmas cards and letters...

So may all your Christmas desires and wishes happen! Let us begin! (Yes, that white haze was steam coming off the reheated cup. LOL, it's still too hot!)

May God bless your day 🌹

 **

This was just lovely, Cathy. Thank you so much for sharing a bit of your home and your Advent thoughts with us! I think many of us are right where you are ... there's so much going on around us, so many things we want (and need) to get done ... yet we crave the sweet comfort and joy that comes with taking a moment to sit down and truly savor this beautiful season. I'm so glad you did just that ... and shared it with us!

Well friends, thanks once again for joining us at teatime! I'll be back tomorrow with another reader's lovely cup and thoughts to share ... hope you all have a wonderful Wednesday evening!

See you here again very soon ...


Advent Tea with Friends ... December 6th ❤

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

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

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

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

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

Advent Tea with Friends ... December 5th ❤

Advent tea with friendsHello and Happy Monday, my friends!

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Have a blessed season!"

**

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

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

Enjoy the rest of your Monday, my friends! See you here again very soon ...


Winter Weekend: Warmth & Wonder

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Happy Weekend, everyone!

Now, you may have heard about the gigantic blizzard that is hitting certain parts of our country - parts that aren't used to this kind of thing! I do hope everyone who is in the storm's path is staying safe and warm. We're only getting a couple of inches overnight here in New England, though the winds will be high. Remember, stay home and "weather the weather" as best you can! It's the safest way ... and enjoy all that snow! :)

So I'm just popping in quickly this morning to share a few photos and say "hi." Above you see my cheerful mug which is holding a gallon or so of hot tea - sitting on top of two things that came in the mail yesterday which made me so very happy: my Isabella catalog and Green Parent magazine. I have a lot on my "to-do" list this weekend, but I will be making time for perusing these two publications at some point! (Over a giant cup of tea, of course.)

And how about a slice of this, too ... ?

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Dark and spicy gingerbread - a result of our Friday baking. A Trader Joes mix, easy-peasy to make with the kids, and it made the house smell amazing! (Even better with a dollop of freshly whipped cream ...)

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And this sweet little book is one of Little Bear's favorites right now. We pulled it from our Winter Book Basket and have been reading it over and over through the week ... as you can see below, we have a lot of animal tracks in our yard at the moment!

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Before the snow hits this afternoon, I plan to take the boys out so we can figure out just WHO ALL has been traipsing through our yard! I have lots of books on my nature shelf for doing just that - filled with great illustrations of the various prints. And while we're out there, we'll refill all the bird feeders so our feathered and furred friends will be well fed through the storm. If they don't have to search so hard for sustenance, they can conserve a little of their precious energy!

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Also on my weekend agenda - if I can eke out a little spare time - is to work in my big seasonal planning binder. I aim to finish up the Deep Winter section (cover page shown above), so I can turn my eager thoughts to Early Spring. Why am I doing this now? Well, it is the second to last weekend of the month and that is when I do a little forward planning: calendar updating (in this case, February) as well as seasonal planning (in this case, early spring). One of those planning "tasks" that really need a spot in the schedule to call their own ... otherwise they never "fit" in!

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And finally, another peek into a favorite vintage book of mine, Round the Year with Enid Blyton ... this one was a gift from my dear friend, Kimberly ... and I just treasure it. Especially as I plan out nature activities for the upcoming seasons. This is a page from the Winter section, all about "Foot-Writing in the Snow." How lovely!

Well my friends, I will be off now, but I hope you are all doing well and that your weekend will be a good one for you - with some rest and refreshment perhaps, and a little "recharge" of the batteries. What's on your plate this weekend? Are you in the path of some "weather"? Are you hunkering down or heading out? If you have a moment, please leave me a comment and let me know how you are doing ... I would love to hear from you!

But for now, I will leave you all with my fondest farewell and a hope to see you here again sometime soon!


Tea with Friends ... ❤

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What are your favourite things about winter?

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

Hobbies?

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

What foods do you like serving over winter?

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

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

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

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

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

What are your favorite things about Winter?

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

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

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

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

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

What refreshments are you enjoying this week?

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

What are you reading this week?

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

What are you listening to this week?

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

What are you working on this week?

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

What's happening in nature this week?

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

Any projects with the children this week?

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

~ Helena

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

Vintage teacup black and white

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

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

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

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

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

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


My Christmas Tea Journal, 2015

Christmas tea 4

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

Firstly, how was your Christmas?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

:) 

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

My Christmas Tea Journal

Vintage christmas bells and birds

What refreshments are you enjoying this week?

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

What are you reading this week?

In my stocking I also found: 

Illuminations

Illuminations: A Novel of Hildegard Von Bingen

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

And with the younger boys:

Christmas tea 6 (1)

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

What are you listening to this week?

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

What are you working on this week?

Christmas tea 2

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

What's happening in nature this week?

Christmas tea 7

Winter has finally arrived ...

Christmas tea 8

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

Any projects with the children this week?

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

Any quotations to share, some words to inspire?

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

Vintage holly sprig

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

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

I will see you here again very soon ...


My Advent Tea Journal ~ Welcome Winter!

Advent tea winter 24

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What are your favorite things about Winter?

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

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

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

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

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

*☀️*

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

What refreshments are you enjoying this week?

Advent tea winter 2

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

Advent tea winter 14 (1)

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

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

 What are you reading this week?

Advent tea winter 18

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

Winter is Coming

The Shortest Day

Wintertime

Grandmother Winter

Winter Waits

Winter Lullaby

Dear Rebecca, Winter Is Here

Waiting for Winter

Winter

When Winter Comes

The Yule Tomte and the Little Rabbits

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

What are you listening to this week?

Advent tea winter 20

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

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

What are you working on this week?

Advent tea winter 1

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

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

A couple of projects:

Advent tea winter 10

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

Advent tea winter 11

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

Advent tea winter 13 (1)

(The eggs are painted whole nutmeg!) 

What's happening in nature this week?

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

Advent tea winter 4

Advent tea winter 3

Advent tea winter 7

Any projects with the children this week?

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

Advent tea winter 6

Advent tea winter 25

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

Advent tea winter 23

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

Advent tea winter 21

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

(and finally)

Any quotations to share, some words to inspire?

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

Advent tea winter 12

**

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

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

>> bysunandcandle AT gmail DOT com <<

(Pics are always welcome!)

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

See you here again very soon ...


Advent Tea Journal ~ Lighting Our Candle

Advent tea light 1

Good Tuesday evening, my friends ... I hope your week's going well! Thank you for joining me for another (our last!) Advent Tea. Today's topic is "light."

For at this time of year the nights are long and dark ... and the days are short and gray. By 4 p.m. the sun has set, and our homes are engulfed in the dim aura of a winter's evening. Weeks pass and it seems we hardly see the sun ...

Many people dislike the darkness of the season, and I can understand that - I think as humans we are "wired" to desire the sun - but I myself really enjoy the contrast of dark and light. Maybe it's because I'm usually at home (where it's warm and relatively calm) and I can relish the soft lamplight, the candles in the window, and our lovely Christmas tree. Or the post down by the driveway, wrapped in a string of lights ... the copper snowflakes lining the kitchen shelves, small votives tucked inside cabinets ... a reminder that when we find ourselves in darkness we can always make our own light. And with just a little effort we can spread it to those who need it as much as, if not more than, we do.

But then, I also love sunlight. In fact, I adore it. If you look back over my blog you'll see many if not most of my photos are taken in natural light and often my subjects (the living and non) are basking in the rays of the sun. I love light, in both forms - "real" and "manmade" - and this is perhaps why my blog is named as it is. That line from Browning's poem has always resonated with me ...

"I love thee to the level of everyday's most quiet need, by sun and candlelight."

My love for my family knows no set time or date. It is for always and ever ... for big and for little ... in darkness and day. I strive to be a light for my loved ones and serve them as God compells me to do.

What is it that lights up your life? What stirs a fire inside you? And (or) ... how do we bring light into our life at this dark time of year?

☀️

These are the things I am mulling over as the New Year draws near.

It's no secret my life revolves around my family. My faith is deeply important to me, as is my love of nature and home. I have been working on a personal weekly guidebook entitled, Living the Seasons ~ at Home, in Nature, with Faith. A kind of planner/journal. This a huge undertaking for me, one that I hope leads to that book I've always longed to write. (One that I will ultimately share with all of you.) I have always had a fire inside me to write ... since childhood it has been my fondest hobby.

I feel I am finally at a place where I'm able to write this much-imagined book. Even if my time is not always my own, I have become creative about carving it out where I can. My family is so good about helping me out in that way. And these days I am deeply immersed in motherhood - I have children ranging in age from 19 years to 19 months! On top of that, I am a special needs parent, and I know what it means to be grateful for the small things. I thank God for those small things because they sustain me when I grapple with the Big Things. And I do - grapple - just like anyone else. And I am growing in my faith everyday ... opening myself up to God and where He is bringing me. What He is asking of me.

I am also taking the time to think about myself ... what do I need in order to maintain balance? I give all I can to my family, but I must remember to take some time for myself. What do I need to be at the top of my game? Good health, surely, in order to be there - here - for my loved ones as long as they need me. Energy and strength ... and bright spirits. :)

As for physical light - as I described above, I like to set up lights through the house during the late autumn and winter. Soft and warm, cheerful, welcoming light ... while we wait for the return of the sun. And last Sunday evening, as Winter arrived, the sun began to grow in strength once again. I love how this ties into our sacred time of year ... with the birth of Christ,  our world grows bright once again.

Here is the Solstice cake I made ...

Solstice 3

And our traditional Solstice supper, a rustic cottage pie, topped with butter and thyme ...

Solstice 6

As well as some wassail to toast the new season!

Solstice 4

(Simply organic apple juice with floating apple slices!)

Solstice 5

Welcome back, oh wonderful warm sun!

~ My Tea Journal ~

In the natural world ...

Rainy and cool, but not cold. It will be a green Christmas here, and unseasonably mild (like, over 60 degrees mild). Oh well, there's always next year! And I'm sure snow will be coming our way before long.

What I'm drinking/eating ...

Today I'm taking tea in my favorite mug - I've shown you it before, I'm sure. I love it's shape and feel, the soft green and the festive stars. It holds coffee and tea equally well. This week I'm enjoying some "Holiday Tea" (Harney & Son's) and a delicious molasses-clove cookie - which I may or may not have snuck out of a holiday package that arrived today ... ;)

I took my tea out in the sunroom today because it was where I could grab a quiet moment. I watched the birds flocking to the feeders (they know a storm's coming!) and admired the soft lights all around me. :)

What I'm reading ...

No time to read this week, other than Christmas cards of course! I'm listening to carols on the radio, though, and tonight I'll be watching this as I wrap. One of my all-time favorite movies (with a wonderful Christmas scene).

What I'm working on ...

Well, it's all about last minute preparations of course! Baking mince tarts and readying the house for our family gatherings. Wrapping, wrapping, wrapping ... and once we're on the other side, I'll return my attention to the aforementioned planner. I hope to have it ready to bind next week. (Certainly by Thursday!)

Words to inspire ...

"There are two ways of spreading light; to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it."

~ Edith Wharton 

**

And now to hear about light in the lives of two lovely friends ... Mary and Tammie. These are wonderful reflections, so please read on and enjoy. :)

From Mary ...

"This past weekend we were in Dallas to see the ice show at the Gaylord Hotel. One of the pictures below is Mary and Joseph and baby Jesus all carved in ice. It is huge! Just magnificent and all lit up … It definitely brings light into my life in more ways than one. Also, it is my Husband and my Son who bring light into my life every day. They both really light up my life … Always smiling, always there to support me and help me during the ups and downs of daily life. But through it all, they are my constant, my light … My light along the way.

While we were in Dallas, we ate at the Corner Bakery Café. It was so cute with great food. Plus I enjoyed a fancy chamomile citrus tea. The teabag was made of some type of cloth. I was so impressed! And the tea was delicious. Perfect for the cold, drizzly Dallas day. It certainly lit up my day. :-)"

Mary tea light 1

Mary tea light 2

Mary tea light 3

(Oh that tea sounds - and looks - wonderful, Mary!)

And from Tammie ...

"Light has long been one of my favorite themes to ponder. It is such a vital part of our daily lives, yet we so often take it for granted. But if we stop to think about it, light is absolutely fascinating! It provides so many interesting analogies. To me, light represents everything that is true and authentic. Think about it - if you want to get a true picture of what something is really like, you hold it up to light. And it is just our natural human tendency to be drawn to light. Deep down, I think we all desire what is true & authentic. Lights also serve to guide, comfort, welcome, and cheer anyone who is in the vicinity.
 
Above all, God is the greatest source of light in my life. My personal belief is that all truth is found in him. Through his scriptures, he gives us the light we need for each day. Psalm 119:106 says, "Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path."
 
And then God sent his son, Jesus, into the world as a light. John 1:9 says, "The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world." How appropriate it is that we celebrate the coming of Christ during the darkest days of our year! And it just seems fitting to celebrate the season with all kinds of lights. Who doesn't thrill at seeing bright colorful lights nearly everywhere we look at Christmas-time?
 
The lights of our Christmas tree shine through one of our front windows and I've placed LED candlesticks in the other windows, to give a friendly, cheery glow to our neighbors and anyone passing by. And throughout the house, I've placed LED votives in various candleholders. (I've replaced all of my wax-burning candles with flickering LED candles.)
 
I'm sharing some photos of a couple of my favorite spots of light in our home. The Welsh dresser in our dining room is holding our winter dishes, which consists of the colorful Polish pottery and my blue snowflake dishes. The yellow in the Polish pottery reminds me of warmth & light. And there is a photo of the windowsill over my kitchen sink. My daughter Caitlin (who is now 26) made the colorful Christmas tree when she was in elementary school. I love how it reflects the glow of the votives and gives me a warm, nostalgic feeling as I'm working in the kitchen!
 
 God's blessings to everyone as we get ready to celebrate this glorious time of year!"
 
Tammie tea light 1
  
Tammie tea light 2
 
Tammie tea light 3
 
(That pottery is gorgeous, Tammie!)
 
***
Thank you, dear Mary and Tammie, for sharing your thoughts on light at this time of year. It seems we share similar "lights" in our life, and an appreciation for shining light in the face of the darkness! And I love how you each found light's beauty both at home and "out in the world!"
 
 
My friends, I am so thankful for your visit, and I hope as you notice the lights around you tonight, or perhaps as you sit down for tea, you will know that I am thinking of you, and praying that the greatest of blessings will be yours in this most holy season.
 
And a very Merry Christmas, to all ... I will see you here again very soon!

❄ Snowflakes for St. Agnes ❄

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

St. agnes 1

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

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

St. agnes 4

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

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

St. agnes 7

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

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

St. agnes 5

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

:)

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

St. agnes 11

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

St. agnes 13

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

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

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

 

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

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


Advent: Moments of Peace & Joy

 Happy Thursday, my friends! I hope this note finds you well, and enjoying this last week of Advent. Things are fairly quiet on our homefront, and I'm grateful for that. These days I'm trying very hard not to "stress" over the many things left un-done on my to-do list ... trying to re-set my expectations ... and remember that the true spirit of Christmas can be found without spending a cent or stepping outside of my home.

To that end, I continue to find a little joy and peace each day, when and where I can find it ... here are a few recent moments I'd like to share with you:

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Advent calendars - the simple old fashioned kind - one for each child, and a chocolate for each day. (I eat Little Bear's, natch.) With thanks to my brother who surprised the boys with these on Thanksgiving Day.

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The wise men, starting their long journey in a sunny, south-facing window. I find two or three of these guys on the floor every morning. Thanks to Oliver who is oddly fixated on the nativity set.

The three kings will start their trek on Christmas and by Epiphany they'll have made their way 'round the room to the hearth ...

Creche in hearth

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And here are a bunch of winter books for Saturday's solstice. I've been displaying seasonal books on my desk and I love the way they look - even if we don't get to read them, they're so good to see ... like old friends, you know?

Winter tea set

My wintertime "boy-friendly" tea set ... love how it looks in the late afternoon light. I set it on top of a hand-painted tray which is set upon a ruby-red brocade ottoman. It makes me all kinds of happy that I have this little set up in my house. :) Looking at it makes me think of the long winter to come, and afternoons filled with hot chocolate, good books and kids.

Snowmen

And here we have a paper parade of vintage snowmen, perched along the windowsill... I love Christmas decorations that will suit the winter as well.

Bird garland]

A very pretty garland featuring softly painted, slightly glittery Victorian birds - strung along the mantel on an ivory ribbon. This is a gift from my parents, another wonderful "Vermont" find. It looks so, so pretty in this room - my library. :)

Tree candle

A beautiful window at dusk ... on these short, dark afternoons, little lights like these are so comforting. The tree candle is energized by a battery and it turns itself on at the same time each day. I think that's neat - when I see it on, I know it's "that time" of day.

Snowy lamppost

Our lamppost all covered with snow - a Narnia moment, don't you think?

Peace candle

Another candle - this one smells of peppermint and I've been burning it on the kitchen windowsill as I work towards supper. I find the smell of peppermint invigorating, and yet calming at the same time - it reminds me of Christmas treats, winter snow and my summer herb garden. (Because I love to grow mint!)

Heart ornament

And finally, this lovely ornament is new this year - I bought it as a gift but loved it so much I bought a second for our own tree. I think it's so pretty, and a perfect reminder for those days when I'm rushing about trying to make Christmas something more than it needs to be.

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Well my friends, I wish you all a pleasant evening - or day if you're across the sea! Thank you so much for joining me here, and finding a little peace and joy alongside me. Take care of yourselves and your loved ones ... I'll be back again just as soon as I can!


Tuesday Tea ~ and Valentine Treats

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Happy Day, my friends!

I hope you've all had a nice day. Do you have any Valentine traditions? Is it something you celebrate with your sweetheart, or with your kids in some way? Or maybe you do something special for yourself? Perhaps a nice cup of tea and some time just to 'be?'

Well, I like to do a little of all those things, but unfortunately, since we were sick over the weekend, I was unable to pick up a few treats for my fellas. So I thought I might do some extra-special baking today - because, as silly as it might sound - it is one small way I show my love for my family. :)

So first Earlybird and I made a banana bread this morning, and since my recipe makes two loaves, I used half of it to make some strawberry-banana muffins.

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Just to be a little "fancy" I topped half of them with cream-cheese frosting and a conversation heart. (These will serve as tonight's dessert.)

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And then for Bill, I made up a batch of chewey oatmeal-raisin cookies.

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His favorites. :)

And as you can see at the top of my post, I took my Tuesday Tea in true Valentine's style. I used the lovely cup and saucer plate set I received from Emma, a dear friend and reader, on my birthday. I made some decaffeinated vanilla tea - weak, with a bit of sugar and a lot of milk. For my "treat" I took an oatmeal-raisin cookie and a couple of chocolate-and-sprinkle-dipped strawberries.

(Now, truth be told, I only ate the cookie ... my tummy was just not up for the berries. But they looked so pretty on my plate, I left them there for the purposes of this post. ;))

And now the boys are done with lessons and dispersed throughout the house. One is reading, one is building Legos, and another is drawing planets while watching TV. (I bet you can guess who's doing what, lol.) So I'm going to savor a few more sips of tea - a few last quiet moments - and then head back to the kitchen to start supper. (Supper = cheeseburger calzones, sweet potato fries and salad. Simple and homey - but good. ❤)

As for our Valentine night viewing? Well, we missed this when it aired over the weekend, so we'll watch this instead. We're all big Peanuts fans, so that will be fun. :)

And there's our Valentine's Day in a nutshell! 

So I'll leave you now, my friends, with my thanks for stopping by, and a wish that you have a nice night ... I'll be back here again very soon!

Hand-with-my-love ~ Dawn


Tuesday Tea ... and Crafts with EB!

Good evening, my friends - and Happy Tuesday!

I meant to get this post up much earlier - and I did sit down at 4 (albeit briefly) - but then one thing led to another and I just had no time to work online. So here I am now, to share tea with you all ... as well as a few notes and photos from our day. :)

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So my beverage of choice this week was Earl Grey, and as a snack I peeled myself a blood orange. Are you at all familiar with blood oranges? To be honest, I'm not all that fond of them - they are striking to look at, but I find them rather bland as citrus fruits go. And yet I get all kinds of excited when I see them at the market. They appear for a short time in the dead of winter (otherwise known as February) and for me, it's like a little ray of hope that we're moving closer to spring. So I always buy a few to bring home to my family. The boys' reactions are worth the money spent anyways - "Blood oranges? Why are they called that?!" Lol. (Note ~ I bet the segments would be good in a winter compote blended with other citrus fruits and spices.)

And my mug today is part of a set of mugs and bowls made by my cousin, Marty. She's actually my mum's cousin so I'm not sure exactly what that makes us, lol! But she's a very lovely lady, and one summer we bumped into her at a craft fair; we were on the spectator side, she was a vendor. She had some beautiful pottery for sale, and I snatched up these blue and white speckled mugs. They're all shaped a bit differently, but they are all well sized. Excellent for tea or coffee. :)

Now, the big news for tonight is the rising of the Full Snow Moon - and actually, it's already done just that! Take a look in your sky right this minute! Isn't it gorgeous? 

And since Crackerjack had to miss my Mum's Superbowl cupcakes Sunday night, I decided to splurge and make the boys a special cake for tonight's dessert. 

EB and I call it "The Full Snow Moon Cake."

Full snow moon cake

He was ALL excited to make this with me, and honestly, it was more about mixing the colored frosting than actually eating the final results!

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I had already frosted the cake with plain buttercream frosting but we set some frosting aside for the colors. (And by the way, as most of my readers know, EB is on a special diet - we avoid most artificial things like colors, flavors and preservatives. So for tinting frosting I use India Tree Nature's Colors. He seems to tolerate them well.)

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Crackerjack - who is still on the mend - came over to take a peek at the proceedings. (And I must point out - in consideration of my morning post - that my sink, as you can plainly see, was a REAL hot spot today! *blush*)

Here's EB sprinkling our February full moon with snowflakes ...

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Now, this was not so much a craft, as it was an impromptu science/nature study lesson. Bookworm and Earlybird "investigated" the state of the water in our yard. :)

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And while they did their outside stuff, CJ rested and I started in on some candlemaking. (I think it's becoming an addiction, this candlemaking, lol.)

Now, EB and I had discussed making a "night sky" candle, one that we could light when the moon is full or if something really neat is happening in the sky. (Such as meteor showers or a planet appearance.) 

Unsurprisingly, I got a little carried away, but here's what we did ...

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This side is the sunset - see the red sun at the very bottom?

(And see the extra help I had while doing this project?)

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While EB painted his own project, I worked on the glass - but we chose the tissue paper colors together. (Trying to decide in what order the colors appear as the sun sets.)

He then decided the candleholder needed stars, so I let him have at it.

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And here's the finished result!

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See how the stars float up from the sun and into the sky? That was EB's idea. :)

And here's the moon side:

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EB was quite proud of our creation!

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Now, since I was in a real crafty mood, I decided to continue on and I whipped up this nifty little candle:

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I am working on setting up a liturgical corner for the learning/sitting room and I thought it would be nice to have a candle just for this spot. So I used another battery-lit candle (like the one I used on Candlemas) and just glued on bits of tissue paper in liturgical colors - white, green, purple, red, pink and even blue for Marian feasts. I also added a small wooden cross (purchased in the wood section of my craft store) and embellished it a little with a golden doiley.

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And ... voila!

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:)

Well, friends, that's all I have for now ... and I've certainly kept you here long enough! So I'm going to say goodbye ... But I do hope you all had a nice day ... and please let me know if you had a chance to "take tea" today.

Next week will be a "Valentine's Tea" theme, so keep that in mind! I'd love to have you all join me on that special day ...

In the meantime, please have a good night ~ Be well and God bless!

I'll see you again sometime soon ...


Tuesday Tea ... and Soup!

Good afternoon, my friends ... I hope you all had a nice day!

TT1:31:8

Tuesdays are generally a quiet day for us, and happily today was no exception. I always get the baking bug on days like this when I feel I can spend a little time and energy on a few homey activities. My first impulse was to bake some oatmeal-raisin cookies (Bill's favorite) but alas - I had run out of eggs! So instead I opted to make some break-apart chocolate chip cookies. They were easy, that's for sure - but they were a nice treat for the boys after lunch - and for me too, at tea! :)

(Along with that cookie, I also had a little clementine and a cup of orange-spice tea. And this "town library" mug is one of my favorites to drink from - particularly my morning coffee. Also, if you notice, I "took tea" at my new desk today, rather in my comfy reading chair. It was a nice change - I watched the birds through the windows and looked at the computer ... but this was most likely a one-time thing. It was just not quite as relaxing!)

So it was a nice day overall ... quiet on the home front, and quiet on the weather front as well. In fact, it was mild enough that the boys clamored to take "recess" outside, lol. Therefore, fueled on chicken nuggets and the aforementioned cookies, the younger two headed out back after lunch ...

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... while the cats watched from the door ...

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... and I got started on the evening's soup!

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I'm following a recipe found in this fantastic cookbook for "superb squash soup with parmesan croutons." I prepped all the vegetables and herbs while making lunch and set the rest of the ingredients out on the counter. I also readied my pot. (I know we've talked about this before, but it makes things so much easier when we set out the supper-prep - or even do some of the supper prep - earlier in the day.)

So I am very excited to serve soup tonight! It's such a wintertime staple ... soothing for the soul and all that. In addition to the soup - which, let's be honest, the younger boys may or may not eat - I'll make grilled cheese and turkey panini as well. Now, on a health note, the soup has no dairy, which is good for my Bill, who is lactose-intolerant.

{And if anyone would like the recipe, just let me know ...}

So friends, here's a random little question for you ... if you have the time and inclination to answer ... what is your favorite kind of soup?

I'm on a real kick this year (so far anyway!) to include more fruits and vegetables in our family diet, and to that end, I want to make more soup. I think soup is a very comforting, yet healthy meal - high in nutrition, low in cost. (Generally speaking.) I truly love the whole idea of soup ... and I'm forever clipping out soup recipes ... but for some reason I just never get around to making it!

So I'll have to let you all know how this squash soup turns out ... but I'm going to log off now, drain my tea and head to the kitchen to get things going. I hope you all had a nice Tuesday, and that you found some time today to take tea - or cocoa or a latte or whatever suits your fancy ...

What I'm really trying to say is, I hope you found time for you!

Have a good night, everyone ... I will see you again sometime soon!

:)


Hot Cocoa, Handcrafts and a New Command Center!

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We enjoyed such mild weather today! It was so sunny, and the air felt soft (if that makes sense) and smelled almost like Spring. Even so, the boys and I thought it was a good day for cocoa! So my "Tuesday Tea" this week was hot chocolate with a dollop of whipped cream and a small shake of cinnamon sugar. This mug was a gift from another homeschooling mom years ago ... it was made locally and I just love its earthy colors and texture. :)

And speaking of gifts, I'd like to show you some lovely things made for me by two kind and thoughtful friends ...

The first is this pretty tea towel, hand-sewn by Elizabeth:

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Isn't it beautiful? The colors are just perfect with my kitchen! And the nostalgic pattern reminds me of my new set of mixing bowls:

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:)

And Theresa crocheted these sweet kitty toys for my Archie and Ollie:

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As you might expect, the kittens are simply smitten with them ...

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 I am so grateful to Elizabeth and Theresa for their lovely and thoughtful, gifts. I will treasure them always! ❤

Now, before I go I must give you all a peek at my new desk - aka "command center!"

Here's how it looks from my "tea corner" where I'm sitting at this very moment ... that's Bill figuring out the wiring underneath.

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I think it fits the corner very well!

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(My "corner office," lol.)

I will do a follow up desk post (more than one, most likely) once I have all my 'stuff' arranged. I love how clean and clutter-free it looks, and I'll try to keep that in mind as I arrange. ;)

Well, my friends, thank you so much for stopping by today! I hope you all had a nice Tuesday, and I hope your night brings you much comfort and rest. Tomorrow is a busy day for us ~ we're hosting Bookworm's Brit Lit group here in the morning, so I may not "check in" till after lunch. So if I don't make it on early - have a good Wednesday as well!


Winter Tea Tuesday ...

 January 17th, 2012 

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Well, it's raining here now ... the morning snow has mostly melted, and now it's just a dark, drizzly afternoon. Yes, the weather is lousy, but I've decided to just romance the whole thing and pretend I'm living somewhere in England ... Winters are wet and chilly there, yes? 

Weather aside, it's easy to pretend such a thing with the beautiful cup and saucer set shown above. This was a very thoughtful and generous gift from my friend Emma from Norway. She and her children picked this set out for me and had it sent to me for my birthday - and it did indeed arrive on my birthday! (As I said to Emma, it's always fun to receive packages, but never moreso then on one's birthday!)

And isn't it just lovely? The cup is just the right size and delicate shape (reminiscent of my Gram's Irish china, the cups I drank tea from as a child) and the wide saucer plate allows for a sizable snack. Which is just what I did - I allowed myself a sizable snack. ;)

And my snack today (besides the Earl Grey tea), is some lavender-scented shortbread from Dancing Deer, a Boston-based cookie company. We send our non-local relatives gift packages from this company at Christmas, and we have always been thrilled with their service. And of course, the cookies are delicious! (They make brownies, too.) You can find them at Whole Foods - I recommend the molasses clove cookies, especially.

Now, I have to show you a couple of things before I wrap up ... one, is the "new" secretary we now have in our dining room. This is where I keep my new teacup set - along with some other special items:

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This handsome piece of furniture (and I'm not sure it's actually a "secretary," maybe its called something else) belonged to Bill's grandmother, and it's long been residing in our basement storage. (For shame, I know!) But with our new dining room coming together we finally have a place for it. It looks especially nice with our dark dining table, and I just love how it looks set against all that yellow!

And something else really quick - here's the pile of books that are thoroughly distracting me from what I should be reading: 

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Most of these are Christmas and birthday gifts, but one is from the library and one I've owned for years. (You can probably tell which one that is - the one with the creased binding!) All are tempting reads on a quiet winter's day ... and links will be found under "Mama's Reading" - a sidebar list I'll get up soon.

I also must point out the glowing angel candle in the righthand corner. My parents gave her to me for my birthday - she turns herself on when it gets dark, and then shuts off again after five hours. I find her light so soothing!

Well, my friends, I hope you've all had a nice Tuesday but I must be off. (I bet you knew I was going to say that, didn't you? ;)) My tea break is over and next on my agenda is ... starting the dishwasher, popping a lasagna in the oven, and then jumping into a nice hot shower - I have a new soap to try out!

So have a great night, everyone ... I'll see you again soon!



Tuesday Tea ~ Snow Angel Mug

Just before sunset, I snuck in my tea!

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As well as a lovely little Linzer cookie. :)

I just love this snow angel mug, a gift from a friend years ago. It's my "Happy Winter" mug - I take it out of storage each year, just after Christmas. I love the shape, size and feel of it - perfect for a cup of cocoa (with plenty of room for extra marshmallows!) or a big mug of hot, milky tea. ("Earl Grey" was my choice for today.)

There's not much snow in the forecast I'm afraid, but we did have a dusting this morning:

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Snowongrass

Snowonshrub

It was gone by midday, much to my gang's disappointment.

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Also disappointing is my inability to leave comments here at my own blog! I'm not sure what the problem is, but I apologize for not responding to recent comments and questions. Thankfully, my readers' comments are posting just fine - as far as I know - please let me know if you have any trouble. I did submit a "Help Ticket" to Typepad and hopefully I'll hear back from them soon.

I would like to say that I absolutely LOVED reading all of your Downton Abbey comments! How fun to enjoy this show all together, and to share our theories and impressions. I will do a "morning after" post through the rest of the season, which, according to this schedule, runs through February 19th

And I think it's so wonderful that some of you have special clubs and gatherings focused on this show! In fact, you have inspired me to do some "English" cooking for our Sunday suppers this Winter. Maybe not a whole meal, but one or two dishes that are distinctly British. I'd love suggestions on this subject, but in the meantime, I will consult one of my favorite British cookbooks - Jamie at Home. (His "Steak, Guiness and Cheese Pie" has long been a culinary goal of mine!)

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Well, my friends, I hope you are all having a nice week so far ... for some reason I keep feeling like it's further along than it is, but alas it's still just Tuesday. (Not that I should wish away the week - every day is a gift, after all - the Tuesdays as much as the Fridays.) And speaking of days ... I took lots of pictures of the "Daybook" today, so tomorrow I can write up that post ... it will be a busy morning, though, so I'm not sure how early I'll have it up. I will do my best, however!

Have a good night, everyone ... I'll see you again very soon!

:)


Tuesday Tea ~ A Moment of Peace

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My parents gave me this mug for Christmas - so I have yet another awesome cup for my "tea and coffee" collection! In case you can't make out the script on the front of the mug, it reads:

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

I've shared this quote here before, at least once or twice. I keep it up on my fridge, and for years now, it's been a kind of motto of mine. It's not something I always manage - inner peace, that is - but I do try. And I pray daily for extra help on that matter!

So for tea today, I'm drinking Vanilla Comoro again. I find vanilla a very soothing flavor (and smell). It's also a decaffeinated tea which for me, at this time of day, is a must ...

And the tree is down as you can see - there are no sparkly lights in the background of my tea picture. :( In a perfect world, we'd keep the tree up till Little Christmas but - in the interest of keeping me "calm in my heart" we had to get that tree out of here! It was shedding like mad and the cats were really ramping up their daily ingestion of needles and sap. So now I have a well-swept, well-lit, wide-open corner ... and just wait till I tell you what's going in there next! (A birthday present for me ... ordered by Bill ... and due to arrive later this month!)

Other ways I find peace? Aside from (or in addition to) tea and prayer, there are many activities I find soothing ... watching the birds at our feeders, playing with our cats, taking a warm bath, working in my journal, sitting by candlelight, watching a sunrise (or sunset), listening to the rain and the wind, talking with Bill after the kids have gone to bed, and even occasionally indulging in a nice glass of ...

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... wine. :)

(My brother gave me this bottle for Christmas - and I'm sure it's a very nice wine - but I also think it's a brilliant marketing strategy, lol!)

Well my friends, I hope you all had a nice day, and I hope you were able to find time to "take tea," or whatever it is you do to reboot. I'd love to hear about your day - and your tea - or whatever you might have on your mind. For now, though, have a nice night, and as always, thanks for stopping by ...

And of course, PEACE to you all!

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