Winter 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. 

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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!


Our 2016 Advent Calendar ~ Themes & Ideas

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Hello again, my friends! It's a busy posting week here as we get our Advent season underway! This Friday I will host my first Advent Tea - and I am so excited about that! - but right now I'd like to share with you what we're doing for an Advent Calendar this year. (Daily activities are listed below.) I've teased a few pictures on FB and IG but here are ALL the details ... :)

Now, first of all, I cannot take credit for this idea. I first saw it on Pinterest as I searched for "nature-oriented Advent ideas" which led me to this lovely blog post by Kelly Rowe. As soon as I saw Kelly's Advent calendar project - which brilliantly utilizes an over-the-door, 24-pocket shoe organizer - I knew immediately we must do this! I am ALL about interesting visuals and hands-on holiday projects, so needless to say ... this really got my wheels turning!

First I ordered a plain plastic shoe-organizer from Amazon and hung it up in the kitchen. I did this before Thanksgiving to give it some time to air out. (Our guests were wondering what on earth we were getting up to!) Then I got my thinking cap on and started brainstorming our Advent activities.

Just like last year (and in Waldorf tradition - though that's not why I do it) I assigned each week of Advent an aspect of nature. So the weeks unfold like this: earth and sky (11/27-12/4), plants (12/5-12/11), animals (12/12-12/18) and humankind (12/19-12/25).

*Note: if you're wondering why I connect the two concepts - Advent and Nature - my reasons are explained in this post. :)

Next I listed liturgical feast days and natural phenomena such as the full moon and winter solstice ... as well as birthdays and any family/community events. Then I started brainstorming potential activities, going from pages of scattered notes to a more organized grid of 24 post-it notes, one for each day of each week:

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As you can see in the picture above, I also added book titles to each day's note. Some of these we own, but many we request from the library. (Note to self - I've got to get on that!)

With our activities decided, it was time to get those 24 pockets filled! So after Thanksgiving I stopped by the craft store with a hefty supplies list in hand. Thankfully I had coupons, plus there were plenty of sales. It was a MADHOUSE though and about 10 minutes in ... I really just wanted to be done and go home! But I kept going and got most of the things I needed. (A few things will be ordered or picked up at a later date.) As you'll see in my activities list below, we don't really do candy or toys, but rather, simple crafts and seasonal projects. They might take a little more effort and preparation but I feel it's worth it ... :)

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Now I'll admit I'm a bit like a kid in a candy store when I'm at the craft store. Can anyone relate, lol? I try so hard to stick to my list, but then I keep seeing all these neat things and envisioning all these "potential" projects - so I can hardly resist picking up extra supplies "just in case." Sometimes that turns out to be a good thing though, because an original idea might not work out right and something I picked up randomly might work even better. In any case, I am not ashamed to say I have a pretty healthy craft stash - but it all gets used in one way or another before too long.

Ok, enough of my explaining myself ... ;)

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So now it was time to make that shoe organizer look pretty! So I tied a ribbon to each hook and wrote down the four weekly Advent candle themes (with a fabric marker) ...

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And then I decorated and filled each pocket ... 

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On the front of each pocket is a small beige doily with a woodland-themed adhesive chipboard number. (They look like a slice of log with a little holly sprig and a red number.) I found these in the final moments of my HOUR-long craft store expedition! Just as I was about to give up on finding number stickers I liked, I stumbled across (literally) this last package dangling from a hook. And they are so perfect! If they had had a second package I would have bought more ...

Each pocket was then fitted with a small brown treat bag ...

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... and then filled with a few simple items.

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Some bags just have one or two things that will suggest what it is we'll be doing (while the bulk of the supplies are set aside).

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I really, really love how this came out!

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Now admittedly, it will be a challenge to keep my younger two boys out of these pockets! Earlybird (growing like a weed) can peek into most of them and Little Bear is just the right height (and age) to be filching through the lower bags whenever he gets a chance! So far though they are taking it to heart that they MUST keep their hands off ... and wait for it. 

In the meantime, I have a "key" to all these bags and I will check in with it each night. If tomorrow's project doesn't seem "doable" (due to time, energy or weather) I will change things up before morning comes - by either switching bags around or changing a bag's contents for something simpler.

Now finally, here is the description of each pocket - organized by weekly themes and listed by ...

Date: (items found in the bag), activities for the day, the book we will read. :)

Week One: Earth and Sky (Hope)

12/1: (stationary) Write a letter to Santa. What are you hoping for? The Christmas Cat

12/2: (starfish) Make a shell ornament for the tree. Song of the Stars

12/3: (pipe cleaners, colorful beads) Make a star ornament. The Christmas Star

12/4: (decorative items and paint) Decorate a small vase for our St. Barbara's Day branches. Let's hope they bloom by Christmas! The Star Child

Week Two: Plants (Peace)

12/5: (silk poinsettia bloom) Field trip to the nursery to buy poinsettia plants. (gifts) It's so peaceful in the greenhouse. The Legend of the Poinsettia

12/6: (candy canes & cocoa packs) Enjoy a special St. Nicholas Day treat! The Baker's Dozen: A Colonial American Tale

12/7: (mint sprig) Make mint-scented play-dough and small jars of mint-sugar-scrub. (gifts). Mint is a calming, peaceful herb. The Legend of the Candy Cane

12/8: (apple, small star cookie cutter) Enjoy a cup of spiced cider and grind spices for "glogg." The Tomten

12/9: (muslin spice bags, cinnamon stick, lemon) Fill spice bags (gifts) and help make a dried fruit garland. Amazing Peace: A Christmas Poem

12/10: (evergreen sprig) Make salt dough ornaments (with evergreen impressions), make silver pinecones (gifts). Cobweb Christmas

12/11: (red candles): Walk with dad to find our yule log in the woods. Isn't it peaceful out here? Christmas Farm

Week Three: Animals (Joy)

12/12: (polar bear wooden ornament) Let's learn about the arctic! What can we do to help the polar bear? Who's That Knocking on Christmas Eve?

12/13: (reindeer lantern) Field trip to a local farm to see the lovely herd of reindeer. The Wild Christmas Reindeer

12/14: (new train ornament and "15" candles) Happy Birthday, EB! Here's the story of when you were born ... A Night of Great Joy

12/15: (colored Christmas light bulbs) Look outside - our solstice tree is all lit up! We hope the critters enjoy! Night Tree

12/16: (baby food jar, white glitter) Make a snowglobe. Decorate the solstice tree with edible ornaments. The Animals' Santa

12/17: (beeswax) Make candle jars and rolled candles. (gifts) An Early American Christmas

12/18: (mitten-shaped cookie cutter) Bake sugar cookies with Mom. The Mitten

Week Four: Humankind (Love)

12/19: (jingle bell ornament) Watch the Polar Express as a family. Discuss trust. The Polar Express

12/20: (clementine) Bake clementine snowball cookies and watch The Snowman. Discuss friendship. An Orange for Frankie

12/21: (snowflake cupcake liners) Bake "welcome winter" cupcakes. Discuss comfort. Sleep Tight Farm

12/22: (nativity ornament) As night falls, a surprise in the garden (new nativity figures under spotlight). Discuss family. B is for Bethlehem

12/23: (frame ornament) Make a family picture ornament for the tree. Discuss love. The Christmas Story

12/24: (felt heart shape) Make a scented heart tree ornament (stuffed with wool and herbs). Discuss giving. The Christmas Baby

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Ok so that was a very long post! But I hope you enjoyed hearing about our Advent Calendar project this year and that maybe you found a few new ideas for your family. I am really looking forward to giving a little of my time and energy each day this Advent to this project. I think my children will enjoy it - I KNOW I will enjoy it. I know it probably sounds like a lot, but truly, these are all simple activities. They won't take up too much of our day. We have a few other Advent rituals planned and I will discuss them a bit more in my Tea post on Friday ...

What a wonderful season this is! So rich with potential and promise ... a wonderful time to shape how our children view the world. The one they live in at home and the one they face when they step outside their doors. My HOPE is that I bring a little peace, a little joy and a whole lot of LOVE into their Advent journey. So grateful to have these days before us!

So enjoy the rest of your evening, my friends! I will see you here again very soon ... later on Friday ... with a cup of tea and some pics to share ... and more thoughts on this most wonderful time of the year. :)

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


Some Thoughts on My Advent Planning Sheets ❤

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Hello, my friends and a Good Tuesday to all! I hope your new week is off to a great start. :)

In today's post I'd like to share some thoughts on each of the sections in my Advent Planner. I had hoped to get this post up before the first Sunday in Advent, but alas, that was not meant to be. But here I am today ... so I'll get on with my notes before I get carried away rambling!

Note: Green or red text indicates one section (or box) from the Planner. I'm starting with the first sheet ...

Hopes for the Coming Season (Describe our ideal Advent atmosphere ...):

As I said in my earlier post, I think it's a great idea to sit down as a family and talk about the month of December and the season of Advent, in particular. Are we happy with the way the season has unfolded in the past? Were there aspects of Advent we missed that we'd like to include this year? I have pretty strong ideas about this time of year, and as the main family planner, things tend to go my way, lol. But our family plan should be just that - one that reflects the hopes of each family member.

Now, for me, I like a quiet and cozy Advent. I don't mind that there is all kinds of hustle and flash and noise out there ... but in here ... I try to keep things a little simpler. There is still joy for certain - but it's a joy tempered with a bit of restraint. We're building anticipation ... and fostering a quiet peace that is supported even by the nature all around. Darkness is descending outside, but there's a light growing steadily within us. In Winter the earth may slow down, but it's never completely still ...

I like to take my cues from nature when I can and I do feel Advent connects so beautifully to the natural world. I am always weaving nature into our family life, and this includes our faith life as well. I think it's because I see and feel and hear God so strongly when I am feeling a part of His amazing creation. He did this for us! He created this glorious world - every creature and every miraculous, awesome layer of life - and I am thankful for all of it. So for me, an Advent with "a natural feel" is deeply satisfying.

But practically speaking ...

I envision candles in the windows, lighting up dark December afternoons. The tree in the library imparting a similar glow as the sun sets earlier each day. Fresh greenery and old-fashioned decorations - some borrowed from nature, some found in the attic. As much time spent at home together as possible, with good scents in the air and the promise of something special on its way. We're busy, but there's a quiet purpose to our busy-ness. Soft Christmas music as we drive around town ... noticing nature whenever we can with daily walks around the yard, taking care of our animals (both wild and domesticated). A few busy baking and crafting days planned so we can feel part of the season's bustle!

But that's me ... others might want a different feel to their Advent. My kids might want to be out and about a little bit more - their audio selections are probably a little different too! I'm sure if they were asked to think about it, they'd have their own ideas about this beloved season - and I want to hear them!

(Remember this section is for describing our "ideal" atmosphere - not always realistic, but something to work towards!)

This Year's Advent Calendar Project (How will we count down the days?):

An Advent Calendar is a special tradition for a lot of families. We do something every year to count down the days until Christmas. I use this as an opportunity to give my children something meaningful to do that will burn a little energy! Having something small to look forward to each day is a nice way to pace that Advent joy! Because I love crafting I tend to come up with a new idea every year, but it's usually connected with the natural world and special liturgical feast days. (I have a post coming up about this year's project!)

Advent Countdown:

In this box I will be noting each day's planned activity. It takes me a bit to get to this point ... I start with brainstorming themes and general ideas and then I narrow things down into individual activities - a la post-it note planning.

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I arrange the notes under their week - according to theme and any special days of note.

Family Holiday Traditions (What do we most look forward to?):

Another "agenda item" for the pre-Advent family meeting! It's always neat to find out what things really make the holidays for different people. A trip to the Tree Farm ... Secret Santa ... Christmas Breakfast ... Midnight Mass ... watching A Charlie Brown Christmas ... singing carols ... lighting the Advent wreath ... driving around town to see the lights ... Grammie's gingerbread  ... adopting a needy child's Christmas List ... visiting a beloved relative ... displaying cards from friends and family ... ?

These are the kinds of things we might want to work into that Advent plan!

Gatherings:

It is what it says it is! I will use this section to plan our annual Family Christmas Gathering. (Christmas Day, late afternoon.) I might also print a second copy in case we host a second (or rather, first) gathering with Bill's side of the family on Christmas eve. Actually, come to think of it, I might also print a third copy for Earlybird's family birthday party! (Which takes place on the weekend before Christmas.)

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Savoring the Season:

This is where I go a little outside the lines of a traditional holiday planner. These are concepts that are very important to me during Advent and so I designated a special spot for each area of planning.

Creating cozy corners, finding moments of peace ...

I try to envision where it would be nice to have a spot for resting and reflecting. Near the tree, perhaps ... with all the necessary comforts around me. A basket of books and a couple of throw blankets. Maybe a special journal and pen. Then I try to find a regular time for getting myself into this space each day, even if it's only for 30 minutes. I think of this place as my charging spot. :) I also like to place a pretty candle (or candles) in my kitchen window. For one thing, this spot is out of reach of my kids - and for another, the window faces the setting sun. On December days, setting my own little light against the gathering darkness is a wonderful feeling. :)

For the kids, a quiet place where they too can feel cozy and peaceful is such a nice idea. Reading corners are perfect for this, but so too are bedrooms! I like to make up my boys' beds with flannel sheets and ask Bill to add some lights, too. And how about a special Christmas bath time? It's very simple to pick up some seasonally-scented soap or bath gel - pine, clove, peppermint, orange, etc. Or better yet, find a recipe for a natural herbal blend if time allows! (Note to self for next year!) The older kids can use the bath products as they shower and younger children will enjoy a bath with sweet scents and maybe even a little holiday lighting? A candle in the window or a holiday nightlight perhaps?

Special time with the children ...

Christmas is especially beautiful when you have children to join you in celebrating! Our Advent Calendar project will provide the boys with daily "special time," but I also like to plan a separate activity for each of my children. The older boys and I will visit our favorite bookstore for a little browsing and a delicious holiday beverage. We'll also plan a fun family movie night for after the younger boys are in bed. Earlybird and I will be delivering goodies to community friends (the mailman, the postal office, the librarians). And Little Bear (my nature nut) will receive a new Advent story stone every morning ... :)

This is also a good time to consult those ideas mentioned by my kids when we held our family meeting!

 Enjoying Advent in nature ...

This is where I'll jot down ideas for bringing nature into my own Advent. In addition to our Advent Calendar activities (most of which are nature-related), I like to plan some opportunities for sending off autumn and welcoming winter myself. Gazing upon the sunset each evening as I work in the kitchen. Feeding the birds (and squirrels) and sitting by the window to watch them flit about the garden. Taking a walk under the stars with my best fella. Stopping by a favorite pond to admire the quiet, resting habitat. Noticing the frost in the morning. Working with favorite natural materials as I bake and craft (spices, herbs, beeswax, wool, shells, pretty stones, pinecones, etc.).

Baking-making days ...

Crafting and baking (especially making gifts to give) is a big part of the season for us (me especially) but it's one thing to say I'm going to bake a lot and craft a bunch, and another thing entirely to have the time to do just that! So again, looking at the calendar with the family and budgeting in a few days when there will be adequate time at home, a bit earlier in the season, will be key in making it happen. 

Family Attire (Special clothing for special events ...):

Who needs what? What holiday occasions require a particular kind of outfit - something dressy for an elegant event, festive outerwear for a tree lighting or skating party, a funny sweater for a family party, holiday PJs for Christmas morning! 

Outside Decorations (Shining our light ...): 

A space to take inventory of outdoor decorations - lights, wreaths/swags/garlands, garden flag, figurines, creche, etc. What needs replacing or new batteries/bulbs? Also, for us, it's a good idea to pick a weekend to devote to setting up these decorations. We actually don't do a lot but it still takes us some time! (And patience, lol.) Perhaps plan a special warming meal for the hard workers and helpers! Crockpot chili comes to mind ...

Inside Decorations (Adding festive touches here and there ...):

As above - we start by taking inventory. We bring down the Christmas bins once the fall bins have been packed away! Then I work on setting out decorations through the first week (or sometimes two) of Advent. I'm in mid-transition right now, fall to winter ... hoping to add my "festive touches" this weekend while Bill and the boys get the outside and windows all arranged. (And of course, right now we have a 3 year old and a couple of young cats, so breakables are on a "break" for a few years.)

The Tree! (Theme? Notes ...):

Several things to think about here! Real or artificial? Where to get it - farm-fresh or pre-cut? Then of course, where does it go and do we have all the "stuff?" Stand, skirt, star, working lights? Who's in charge of keeping the tree watered? Are we doing a special theme or certain colors or just "anything goes?" Do we need any extra items or replacements? Are there little ones in the house and therefore a "soft" tree is the way to go this year? Is there a special tree blessing we could say as a family? Should we have a tree-trimming party? And we must be sure to leave room for all the ornaments we'll be making this Advent!

Family Faith Traditions (Keeping things real ...):

In all we do throughout Advent, I hope the undercurrent is the sweet anticipation of our most Holy Night - and not just because Santa is coming! I hope to share with my children the wonder and appreciation I feel for the world God has created because He loves us so much. I hope to instill in them a sense of gratitude for the vastness of our blessings. I hope to share with them the joy that is living with Christ by our side. I hope to foster a sense of peace in our family, that it might be our small part in striving for peace among all people. I hope our own inner light shines so brightly the darkness of the world shrinks before us. I hope to kindle a love for all mankind, especially our nearest and dearest. These are my highest goals when shaping our Advent plans ...

But those are lofty goals, aren't they? ;)

I guess what I hope is that our family's faith is lived out in our most common days ... sometimes in the simplest of ways but also in special observances. At Mass or during a quiet, prayerful conversation at home. I hope we achieve a good balance, and I hope I do the best I can by my family. I think it's easy to get caught up in society's view of this season - the candy canes and silver lanes and elves that sit on shelves. And truly all those are special, fun things - but I like to be sure we're remembering what it is we're really celebrating here ...

All that said, our family faith traditions are sacred to us but understandably not for everyone, and that's as it should be. I point out to my children that we all celebrate the year differently and all families are to be respected however they live out this particular season. In other words - whether you wish us Happy Holidays or Merry Christmas or Blessed Yule, we will be honored you shared a smile and a bit of your own faith tradition with us. :)

Town & Parish Events (Special activities, service opportunities ...):

A listing of things we'd like to consider for participation. The Village Tree Lighting or the Angel Tree at Church - things like that. Once we know what is happening we can decide what fits our time, resources and expectations best. (I check our parish bulletin and tri-town newspaper for information and ideas!)

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Errands & To-Dos:

Well, this is pretty self-explanatory! Here I list where I need to go and what I need to do. Stop by the post office for more stamps. Order Christmas cards. Order cookie packages. Clean this-that-and-the-other-thing before guests arrive. I like to keep organized about these kinds of things because it keeps our Advent a little more peaceful. As hard as I try to stay calm about things, I can get as stressed as the next mom when Christmas draws near and important tasks are left undone. Plus, if I have that list handy (and written up early) I can delegate more smoothly!

Recipes & Projects to Try (*find on Pinterest):

I use Pinterest for keeping these kinds of things organized but I am using this section to make note of the pins I really want to remember! If you're interested, here are my pin boards called 2016 Planner: November-December and Happy Christmas. :)

Advent Week-by-Week:

This section can either be used for a breakdown of To-Dos (what needs to be done each week) or a breakdown of themes. The four Advent candles represent Hope, Peace, Joy and Love ... and this could be a place for reflecting on those themes, how each concept might be woven into your family's week. I'm actually writing out notes for my Advent Teas here! ❤️

Gift-Giving:

Also self-explanatory! I'm waaaay behind on this!

Our Season's Greetings:

Another obvious section! :) I've just ordered our cards and will be organizing the addresses over the next few days. Got my Christmas stamps, so that's done! I'm going to set up a little "work" basket at my writing desk in the library. I will share how it all looks in my Week Two Advent Tea. :)

Advent Calendar:

Can I just say I really like how this calendar came out? :) Bill helped me with it and I was so excited to find a way to make those blocks lined! I may be using this template to make up some monthly calendars to go along with my 2017 planning sheets. But that's getting ahead of myself (though not by much!) and off-topic! In this planner I will use it specifically for Advent-related activities. 

And finally ...

Notes:

A space for anything that doesn't fit anywhere else! :)

*❤️ *❤️ *❤️ *❤️ *❤️ *❤️ *❤️ *❤️ *❤️ *❤️ *

So there we have it, friends! My notes on Advent planning and then some! I hope this was helpful or at least fun to read. I can hardly believe Advent is already underway! I have my first Advent Tea planned for this coming Friday (and there will be one each Friday throughout Advent). I would love to see your favorite mug (or cup) for tea (or coffee or cocoa) and if you send me a picture of it I will share it in one of my Tea posts AND enter you in my Winter Comforts Package giveaway. You can send me your pic(s) by sending an email to:

drhanigan AT gmail DOT com

I hope you'll join me for Tea!

Also, I have another post I hope to get up in between now and Friday (I know, I'm setting more of those lofty goals, lol) describing our Advent Calendar this year. I am so happy with how it's come out! Some of you might have seen a little of it on Facebook or Instagram (or both) but I'll share a pic here too ....

IMG_0313

(Speaking of pics, the ones above are from a beautiful book illustrated by Eloise Wilkin. I absolutely adore this book and in particular, those two illustrations. They are so perfectly in line with the kind of simple, homey, natural Advent I aspire to!)

Ok, I've kept you long enough - I'm off! I wish you all a pleasant evening. Please drop a note if  you have time. I'd love to hear from you! :)

BLESSED ADVENT!


A Few Crafts for the Cross ...

But first, Happy Valentine's Day, everyone! Happy Sunday, too! I hope your weekend's going well ... :)

Today I'd like to share some of the pictures I have piling up on my phone, and the crafts we worked on last week. Each one was a suggestion from our purple cross countdown, a chance to spend some time each day doing a little something nice for someone else ...

On Thursday, I began the day with a quick, last-minute craft for Our Lady of Lourdes ...

OL Lourdes 1

A tiny paper baking pan + printed image + craft moss + a few rocks + a paper river + a candle = a little grotto of sorts! I kept it lit on the Lenten altar throughout the day.

(Note: Before lighting, I swapped the beeswax tealight for an LED candle since this whole situation was quite flammable!)

Later in the day we followed the suggestion of our daily post-it to create a donation box for the foyer. Here's how that went:

Donations box 1

I covered an old moving carton with plain white wrapping paper and added some sticker sentiments around the outside of the box (give, help, lift, love). Then I asked the boys to help me draw happy things ...

O project 2016 2-11 1

Since Little Bear's favorite things right now are volcanoes (complete with hot "la-blah") he requested I add a couple of those ...

O project 2016 2-11 2

It's certainly a colorful box!

Donations box 2

It now resides in our foyer where each week we'll add items for various collections in which we're participating.

 

On Friday, we continued our commitment to care for creation, by making some edible valentines for the birds ...

Valentine birds 4

After lunch I asked all the boys to pitch in with this very simple craft. We threaded cheerios onto pipe cleaners, bent them into heart shapes ...

Valentine birds 2

And then looped them all together ...

Valentine birds 5

Even the youngest could do it!

Valentine birds 3

(Well, the cheerios kept him busy anyway ...)

Finally, we hung our valentines outside for the hungry birds ...

Valentine birds 6

(Translated: Mama threw on her boots and her parka and braved the arctic wind to hang the valentines where we could see them from the windows. It really is SUPER cold these days in these parts!)

And finally, yesterday we worked on sharing our love, by making small hearts written out with the reasons why we love each other. I kind of did this secretly - making up the small red paper hearts early in the day and then passing a batch of five to each family member. (Well, except for the 2 yo and the 20 yo off at college.) As the hearts were completed and "turned in" I glued them onto pretty doilies and then - trucking outside in those boots once again - I snipped some magnolia branches for a vase.

Valentine branch 2 edited

And this was our Sunday breakfast centerpiece! I loved watching the boys faces as I read aloud the hearts. :)

Well my friends, I hope you enjoy the rest of your Sunday! We're quite hunkered in because it's all of 8 degrees at the moment (and only because the wind isn't blowing) ... but the sun is shining and the snow is sparkling and our home is warm and full of people I love ... so you'll hear no complaints from me! 

But as always, I thank you all for stopping by and taking the time to read ... take care of yourselves and your loved ones ...

I'll be back here again very soon!


Snowy Saturday ...

Snowy saturday 1

Happy Weekend, my friends! I thought you'd like to see some of the pictures I took just after yesterday's storm. As you can see we got a LOT of snow and the skies cleared just in time to enjoy a beautiful, pink sunset. Alas, our power went out, so we also got to enjoy dinner and bedtime by candlelight. Being Catholic comes in pretty handy at times like these - we always have plenty of candles on hand!

Snowy saturday 6

Snowy saturday 9

Snowy saturday 7

Snowy saturday 2

Snowy saturday 1-

Snowy saturday 3

Snowy saturday 5

That last picture was taken early this morning - a favorite tree in a nearby field. We still have no power, but boy is it lovely out there!

Hope you all enjoy your weekend and that you stay warm and safe ...

I will see you here again very soon!


Winter Weekend: Warmth & Wonder

Winter weekend 1

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 ... ?

Winter weekend 8

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 ...)

Winter weekend  4

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!

Winter weekend 3

Winter weekend 9

Winter weekend 10

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!

Winter weekend 7 (1)

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!

Winter weekend 6

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!


Tuesday Tidbits: Frost, Frosting & Wintry Fun!

Frosty sunrise window

Happy (frosty) Tuesday, everyone! :)

I have just a few quick things to share today ... but first! What is the weather like where you are right now? It is SUPER cold here in my neck of the woods - in fact, I don't think we'll see 20°! Theres snow on the ground (a few inches) and plenty more on the way this weekend ... but such is January in New England!

Now, a few of you asked about my birthday cake frosting - it is a favorite in my family and one my mum is expert at making! It's called "penuche frosting" and it is buttery and sweet and fudgey in texture ... here it is if you'd like to try it sometime:

Penuche Frosting

1/2 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup milk
2 cups sifted confectioner's sugar
hot water

Melt butter - add brown sugar. Bring to boil. Lower heat and boil 2 minutes, stirring constantly.

Add milk and bring to boil. Cool to lukewarm.

Gradually add confectioner's sugar and beat.

Add hot water if too thick.

Also, while I'm here I wanted to mention - for those of you on Pinterest - that I have a few new boards set up. These are each specific to my seasonal planning and I'm using them for links to go along with ideas, activities and special days coming up. So here is the January-February board if you'd like to take a peek. :)

2016 Planner: January & February Links

If you are not on Pinterest, I can do a post with links sometime if that would be helpful. I just added some wolf coloring pages this morning in light of the Full Wolf Moon coming up this weekend! :)

Snowflake lesson 1

This week our seasonal theme is "snowflakes," and I have some fun things planned for the boys - the bigs and the littles! Something I'm working on this week, too - and I meant to mention this during the planning chat last weekend - is the concept of craft bins for seasonal planning and organization. Someone asked me not too long ago (and forgive me for not remembering who) how I keep the craft materials and other resources for the week organized ... and believe me, it's a challenge! I haven't really tackled the craft bins we moved from the old house - nor the craft storage here in the new house! My thought is to have bins for the seasons though - and as I plan and prepare for certain projects I will add those items we'll need to those bins. There should be six bins in all once I'm organized, and you can be sure I will post about them once they're established!

Kitchen window poem

And finally, I had to share this pretty page from a book I have displayed at my writing desk right now. I think I've shared it before, but it's worth another look. It's such a lovely sketch - a mother having her tea and gazing out her kitchen window ... taking such joy in her "lot" in life, days spent at home with the children. The stanza below resonates with me so much ...

***

She has a kinship with the earth
Though busy in her own domain,
And comprehends its noble plan
From just a kitchen window pane.”
(Milly Walton)

Well my friends, I will be off now, but as always, I thank you for stopping by! It's a busy week of lessons, therapy and activity here ...  Bookworm's back to campus and our relaxing holiday routine is well and truly over. I'll be posting as I can, though - and there are lots of planning posts coming up! In my next post, I will show you my planning sheet "in action" so you can see how I'm using it for seasonal planning. And I am currently working on the next set of printables (Early Spring) as well as a big post about making time in your schedule to DO the planning! Giving all the WHAT a WHEN! I also have a couple of "cozy nests" posts in the works ... 

So I hope you'll stay tuned! Enjoy the rest of your day and I will see here again very soon ... :)


Tea with Friends ... ❤

Tea with Friends button 2

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

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

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

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

Vintage teacup black and white

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

Vintage teacup black and white

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

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

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

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

What are your favourite things about winter?

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

Hobbies?

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

What foods do you like serving over winter?

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

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

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

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

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

What are your favorite things about Winter?

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

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

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

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

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

What refreshments are you enjoying this week?

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

What are you reading this week?

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

What are you listening to this week?

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

What are you working on this week?

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

What's happening in nature this week?

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

Any projects with the children this week?

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

~ Helena

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

Vintage teacup black and white

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

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

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

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

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

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


My Christmas Tea Journal, 2015

Christmas tea 4

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

Firstly, how was your Christmas?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

:) 

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

My Christmas Tea Journal

Vintage christmas bells and birds

What refreshments are you enjoying this week?

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

What are you reading this week?

In my stocking I also found: 

Illuminations

Illuminations: A Novel of Hildegard Von Bingen

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

And with the younger boys:

Christmas tea 6 (1)

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

What are you listening to this week?

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

What are you working on this week?

Christmas tea 2

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

What's happening in nature this week?

Christmas tea 7

Winter has finally arrived ...

Christmas tea 8

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

Any projects with the children this week?

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

Any quotations to share, some words to inspire?

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

Vintage holly sprig

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

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

I will see you here again very soon ...


My Advent Tea Journal ~ Welcome Winter!

Advent tea winter 24

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What are your favorite things about Winter?

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

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

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

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

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

*☀️*

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

What refreshments are you enjoying this week?

Advent tea winter 2

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

Advent tea winter 14 (1)

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

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

 What are you reading this week?

Advent tea winter 18

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

Winter is Coming

The Shortest Day

Wintertime

Grandmother Winter

Winter Waits

Winter Lullaby

Dear Rebecca, Winter Is Here

Waiting for Winter

Winter

When Winter Comes

The Yule Tomte and the Little Rabbits

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

What are you listening to this week?

Advent tea winter 20

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

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

What are you working on this week?

Advent tea winter 1

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

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

A couple of projects:

Advent tea winter 10

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

Advent tea winter 11

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

Advent tea winter 13 (1)

(The eggs are painted whole nutmeg!) 

What's happening in nature this week?

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

Advent tea winter 4

Advent tea winter 3

Advent tea winter 7

Any projects with the children this week?

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

Advent tea winter 6

Advent tea winter 25

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

Advent tea winter 23

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

Advent tea winter 21

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

(and finally)

Any quotations to share, some words to inspire?

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

Advent tea winter 12

**

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

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

>> bysunandcandle AT gmail DOT com <<

(Pics are always welcome!)

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

See you here again very soon ...


TGIF

Mama at her office

My friends, I am checking in quickly just to say hi and let you know, I am still here! All is fine - I'm just not finding the time I'd like to post this week. Firstly, Bill was quite sick with what turned out to be, thankfully, nothing worse than a middle ear disturbance. (Water in the ear = vertigo + nausea, which, fyi, does not pair well with strenuous activity like say, roof shoveling.) He's doing much better, I'm happy to report. :) And today we had Earlybird's neurology appointment, which is always a bit of an ordeal. EB is not one for doctor appointments - or long rides into Boston! - but I am happy to say it went very well. My dad accompanied us (taking the edge off and providing EB with comfort and support) and my mum was here to babysit the little guy so we didn't have to drag him in with us. Crackerjack was a huge help to her on that front! So EB checked out fine and was so well behaved at his appt. ... and it just feels so good to have it behind us! As for the weather, we haven't had a lot of snow this week (relatively speaking ) but the temps have been extremely low and we're readying for more snow followed by rain - this weekend. New Englanders are being warned to remove snow from our rooftops (in fear of roof collapse) ... so there's the weekend project!

Goodness, I don't mean to sound like I'm complaining, I just wanted to explain why this week has been a little "off" and it's been difficult to find time to post. I am working on a rather large (ok, very large) post about my new cleaning calendar ... and I really want to post that one next. So once I finish that up (nearly there now!) I'll be back. In the meantime, wishing you all a very nice weekend ...

I will see you here again very soon!

p.s. Photo of "Mama in Her Office with Her Trusty Assistant" by Bill.

:)


On this Loverly Day ...

Valentine tasha tudor

Wishing you all a very Happy St. Valentine's Day!

I hope you all have a nice weekend - we'll do our best here! We are, however, expecting another big snowstorm tonight ... a BLIZZARD in fact, bringing another 12+ inches of snow and extremely high winds. No idea where all this new snow is going to go - we already have about three feet all around us! (As well as on top of us - Bill is going to attempt to remove some of the heavy snow on our roof today - prayers for his safety would be most appreciated!)

Sunday will be a whiteout (and hopefully not a power-out), but Monday brings a lovely national holiday for our country, Presidents' Day. Most schoolchildren enjoy a week off from school in honor of this holiday, but considering how much school they've missed already this year, that might not be wise ... I'm thinking they may still be in class come July!

But we'll plug along here, and "weather the weather" as best we can ... all the while, praying for those poor souls who are without homes or heat or help during this trying time. And for the safety of all who are in the path of such extreme conditions.

***

Be safe and loved, my friends ~ savor your blessings and the comforts around you. I will see you here again very soon ...

(* Illustration from Tasha Tudor's A Time to Keep)


A Wintry Weekend ...

Happy Sunday, my friends!

Frosted window

Well, we're in the early stages of another monster snowstorm in New England ... and boy, do I feel like I've said that before. ;) It started snowing here yesterday as I was running some errands and it will snow continuously today ... tonight ... and tomorrow ... and tomorrow night! Leaving us with about two feet of snow when all is said and done Tuesday morning ...

Yes, you read that right: we're getting TWO FEET of snow. Which will be added to the TWO FEET of snow we already have on the ground!

❄️❄️❄️❄️❤️❄️❄️❄️❄️

(I do love ALL the seasons so much - they all have their charms, after all - I just wish Winter might stop being quite so "charming" for a bit, lol.)

So I just have a few photos to share today, but I mostly just wanted to stop in and say hi. Thank you again for all your wonderful comments, suggestions and encouragement ... I am working on my next Q&A post and hope to have it up soon!

In the meantime ...

Around the year book

I was working on my Lenten plans last evening ... with some tea, natch, in the relative quiet of the dining room. Are you familiar with the above treasure of a book? I'm so happy our new library system has it "in stock!" Just picked it up yesterday and have already dug in. This might be my third or fourth reading, but it's been a couple of years. I think I can renew it enough to last me through Lent!

ME calendar page

 From my ME page-a-day calendar ... is this not so very true? ❤️

O project 38 2

Thinks my bundled-up Little Bear: "It's snowing again?"

Archie in his corner

Thinks my cozied-up kitty: "Wake me when it's Spring."

Wintery weekend

And here's my own cozy spot this morning, as I sit by the kitchen window, watching the birds in a frenzy at the feeders. (Rest assured, there are breakfast dishes behind me but I'm not thinking about them at the moment ... ) I have a couple of lovely British mags that hint at the promise of spring ... my sweet squirrel mug with a new tea to try ... and my new African violet sitting in the safety of a glass cloche. The violet is February's flower. :)

Snowy driveway

Well, my friends ~ from my house to yours, I'm wishing you all a wonderful Sunday. What's the weather like where you live today? Drop me a note if you have the time ... 

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


January Journal Work

January journal 4

Happy Tuesday, my friends! Hope your week's going well ...

So yesterday, as the snow blew and blustered outside - and while the baby napped - I got around to a little domestic paperwork. It being February, I pulled last month's journal pages from my binder and filed them in my Yearbook binder behind the January tab.

I then sat down with a piece of paper and some sticky notes (and a cup of cocoa!) to do some indexing and I thought I'd share with you what I wrote down ... it might give you an idea of the kinds of things I "journal" about and also, some of my deep winter "thoughts and themes" might strike a cord with you! :)

The whole process took me about 30 minutes. I flipped through the journal pages and read over each notation/clipping. If it was something I would want to remember (or return to) I jotted it down on a loose-leaf "index page." (Which would later be added to my Jan-Feb binder.)  If it was something I needed to act on soon or record on another list, I jotted it down on a sticky note ...

So, first, here's a look at my January Journaling:

* spiced white hot chocolate (crockpot)

* first bird of the year (robin)

* blessed chalk handed out at Mass on Jan. 1st

* picked up liturgical wall calendar at Mass

* color of the year announced ("marsala" by Pantone, "guilford green" by Benjamin Moore)

* a scattered list of Jan-Feb themes to incorporate into the season ... (ex. winter citrus, birthday joy, hand-written letters, Burns Night dinner, seed catalogs, snow days, candles/warmth ...)

* book idea: "A Few Nice Things for New Year's Day" ~ a first family walk, first bird, first sunrise, happy jar, pic-a-day, thank you notes, Christmas card review, old-fashioned movies & popcorn, roast dinner ...)

* in the MSL D/J issue: leftover eggnog latte recipe, citrus-spice candle craft

* Jenney C.'s almond milk-gingerbread latte (FB)

* Twelfth Night - beer-braised beef & parsnip stew

* Little Christmas/Three Kings Day 

* Tasha Tudor Museum Newsletter (order back issues)

* craft: wintery jar-candle centerpiece (twine/yarn around ball jar rims, red candles, set in vintage metal cake pan, greenery/berries/pinecones around the jars)

* Downton Abbey "manners guru" interview

* lemon curd recipe for scones (Boston Globe Magazine)

* aggressive coyote noted in neighboring town

* little notes on Little Bear's words and actions

* spied a weasel on next road over

* Boston is the US 2024 Olympic bid!

* "Winter was a time of some leisure on the farm." (quote from Yankee Magazine article)

* book theme idea: "Winter Cheer"

* observed a large flock of robins by library in next town

* spotted a large hawk in tree by mailbox

* heard a woodpecker knocking in woods

* Patriots are going to the Superbowl!!!

* tag-team scribbles by Earlybird and Little Bear

* purple Ball jars idea - Lent, Advent Garden (solar lantern lids)

* Feast of St. Agnes ~ snowflake cake (white with apricot jam)

* National Hot Tea Month

* "Skills Every Child Needs" from Parents Magazine (social graces)

* football-shaped snack ideas (People Magazine)

* National Handwriting Day

* "A Blizzard of Historic Proportions"

* National Catholic Schools Week (1/25-1/31) ~ post idea: how do we weave our Faith into our homeschool/home life? 

* craft idea: paper chain with links for each day in holiday/seasonal papers

* Superbowl goodies (craft/recipe ideas)

* Downton Abbey TV Guide cover

  January journal 3

I filled four sticky-notes with items that need more immediate action:

* info. re ~ a dermatologist to give to Bill

* lesson ideas re ~ American Tall Tales (listening to these with EB) - logging, map of forests in US, tree types, where do legends originate (map), Niagara trip?

* Holy Week Cleaning outline

* Wall-a-Week Cleaning schedule

* summer project: cooking lessons with boys (per BW's request)

* for EB's portfolio - Popular Mechanics for Kids dvd, "Mom, did you know pollution is bad? It comes from cars and buildings ... and it's really bad."

* Ask Magazine, Feb. issue: Fire (Candlemas/February learning theme)

* passwords created recently to record in binder

* a friend's birthday to add to calendar

* weekly news quiz in Globe (for Crackerjack)

* meal rotation idea (4 meals x 7 days = 28 meals/month)

* craft binder - monthly bunting, a "mama" smock for seasons and storytelling

* pick up a beef pie from local farm (per BW's request)

* Great Zoo of China - a book to check out at library (for BW)

*

So now my main binder has just a couple of journal pages so far ... but I'm sure by the end of February it will be filled up once again!

January journal 2

Now, before I go I want to show you this particular clipping (above) that I added to my January journal ... it's from a Paper Source catalog and I just set up this very set of chalkboard squares (rectangles, really) on my kitchen wall! I can't wait to show you how I'm using them ... they look fantastic! I'll tell you more in my next post. :)

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


Happy, Happy February!

Snowdrops vintage artwork

And Happy Monday, everyone!

Well, it's quite a day here in New England - we're waking to another snowy morning (a foot or so expected by dark) and another Superbowl win for my beloved Patriots!! So as you might guess, we're just a WEE bit excited around here! :)

I'm so enjoying the magazine comments in my last post - I'll be in there shortly to catch up - but I'm running on fumes this morning after three late nights in a row (we had a night owl baby on Friday and a college reunion dinner on Saturday) so I'm behind on EVERYTHING. Feeling grateful for well, first of all - coffee! but also - my lists and my habit of planning ahead. It's keeping me a little bit focused as I gather my wits this morning.

Also, it's is Candlemas and Groundhog's Day - and as I understand it, Punxatawny Phil saw his shadow so we're in for six more weeks of winter. (Like we couldn't have guessed that, lol! I'm surprised he was able to dig his way out of his den!) And on Candlemas I like to have a new supply of tea lights blessed at church ... unfortunately I won't be getting out the driveway in time for morning Mass! I bought these wonderful beeswax tea lights that I plan to use in a seasonal/liturgical way this year ... I might stick them in my purse and see if Father can bless them next Sunday. :)

Candlemas 2

Also, February 1st is the Feast of St. Brigid, patroness of Ireland and dairy farmers. We'll be reading the wonderful Brigid's Cloak at some point today, Irish tea, and there may be "shepherdess pie" for dinner. :)

Ok, I'd best be off as the house wakes up around me ... off to grab another cuppa and finish my marmalade toast! I hope you all have a great day, and once again before I go, I must say ...

O in pats hat

HOORAY FOR THE NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS!!!

:)


Happy Things Thursday ...

Carnation day 1

Today is National Carnation Day, my friends! Carnations, in the language of flowers mean: fascination, devoted love and other nice things depending on color. (White as above ~ sweet, innocent, lovely.) I just adore this flower - for one thing it's January's flower (my birth month!) and well, it's just so sweet and unassuming. The rose's less fussy, more economical cousin. :) It smells amazing, too ... I'd love to find a body wash in this scent!

Rainbow papers

A rainbow of lovely seasonal papers, one for each month of the year ... not entirely sure what I'm doing with them yet, but you can be sure I'll show you once I've figured it out!

Oliver in bookcase

My Oliver, such a sweet kitty. He loves to sit on bookshelves and chair backs and in baskets. Well, anywhere really ... out of traffic and near a sunny window if possible.

O project 29 1

Me and my little man. He finally got his mama to join him in the play-tent set up in the sunroom. I fit in there ... just ... and we read books and talked about trucks and took pictures until it was time for lunch. Then we had spaghetti and toast ...

Love days like these.

:)

My friends, a quick question ... I am writing out my new housekeeping routine (new house + new baby = new list!) and I'm wondering ... how did you come up with your own list? Of things that have to be done on a daily basis (or weekly, monthly, yearly etc.). Pinterest is full of cleaning schedules and the like - and you can be sure I've been combing through them - I'm just curious about others' housekeeping methods and thought I'd ask. If you have a moment, please leave me a note below.

And enjoy the rest of your Thursday!

See you here again very soon ...


A Wednesday Winter Wonderland!

Good afternoon, my friends!

Blizzard 15

I'm stopping in to let you all know we are through the blizzard and doing fine - our power has held *knock on wood* and we woke this morning to a bright and glorious day! Many folks are still shoveling out so schools are closed across the region ... and though Boston is back up and running, Governor Baker has asked folks to stay off the roads if at all possible. So happily, Bill is working from home once again today!

I took some pictures on my walk down to get the paper this morning - it was super cold, and I had the little fella with me, so we hurried, but I managed to take a couple of pictures. Most of these photos are taken from inside my windows, however!

So without further ado ... welcome to my snow globe. :)

Blizzard 18

Blizzard 22

Blizzard 21

Blizzard 16

Blizzard 17

Blizzard 20

Blizzard 23

Blizzard 14

***

There are a few more inches coming Friday and another storm in the forecast for Monday ... now this is Winter as I remember it! Little Bear however, had such wonder on his face this morning ... there was just so much white stuff around him! And it was so very cold on his fingers!

:)

My friends, I hope wherever you are, you are safe and warm and at peace today. Thanks so much for all your prayers and concern, and as always, for stopping by to read. I will be back again soon ... with a post that does not have to do with snow. ;)


Snow, snow, snow ... and more snow!

Good Tuesday morning, my friends ...

Blizzard 4

I know a lot of you have heard about the blizzard hitting New England today ... and yes, it is here! I thought I'd check in (while we still have power) to tell you that we are fine. We are having heavy snow and a lot of wind, but so far things are as expected. We have our devices charged and our blankets and flashlights at the ready ... and we got our coffee made very early - a second pot is brewing "just in case."

The top photo was taken out the sunroom doors about 6 a.m. The wind, as you can see, was raging! Those are picnic benches on the left and a picnic table on the right ... here's the same view (sort of) a couple of hours later:

Blizzard 2

This is looking out the breakfast nook window. The deck is buried!

Blizzard 3

 (I'm quite glad I got the birdfeeders filled yesterday ... it would not be an easy task today!)

***

My chief concern: we are surrounded here by very large trees which - in any storm, at any season - makes me nervous. As of now, the air is so cold (14° F at last check) the snow is not sticking on the branches, but I pray no trees or limbs come down. I am grateful to have my house and heat and supplies, but I know not everyone can count those things among their blessings today. My prayers go out to them most of all - for shelter, warmth and help where it's needed.

My friends, I'll check in later today ... thank you for stopping by!

:)


Seeds, Snowflakes and a Cake for St. Agnes

Seed snowflake 9

Well, in the midst of all this journal talk, life at home is marching on to a familiar and happy beat. Yesterday was the Feast of St. Agnes as well as National Squirrel Appreciation Day ... representing two sides of our family's seasonal life - liturgical and natural. For the squirrels we made a seed craft, and for St. Agnes, we contemplated the prayer card handed out at last Sunday's Mass and made a snowflake cake in her honor ...

Naturally, I have pictures to share!

Seed snowflake 12

I had some wooden snowflakes leftover from Advent so, when I was thinking about making  "critter treats" with the kids for Squirrel Appreciation Day, I remembered those snowflakes ... and I thought, hmmm. That could work. And, as it happens (according to one legend anyway), snowflakes are known as "St. Agnes Flowers" ...

So, there you go!

To keep the craft kid- and critter-friendly, I made up some homemade paste. Then we smeared those snowflakes with the paste ...

Seed snowflakes 19

And stuck those sticky snowflakes in a mix of seeds and dried fruits ...

Seed snowflake 11

 (Messy crafts are always a hit with the boys!) 

Seed snowflake 10

A short while later we had a tray full of rather seedy looking snowflakes ...

Seed snowflake 13

Bundled up, we headed outside with the treats and leftover seed mix.

Seed snowflake 8

Little Bear immediately found a leaf to hold onto - lol, he's done this since he was tiny. If we're outside he's got either a leaf or a stick in his hand!

Seed snowflakes 6

Marching over to hang his snowflake in the bush ...

Seed snowflake 15

They kind of blend in, don't they? I suppose we could have tinted the paste with some natural food dye and that would have been pretty. Maybe next time!

Seed snowflake 16

 The birds loved the snowflakes, but the squirrels (including my dear little red shown above) liked the scattered seeds and fruit best!

Back inside it was time to start our Feast Day cake ... my best helper is Earlybird who just LOVES to bake. Someday this boy and I will run a little baking business together!

St. agnes cake 3

I followed a simple online scratch yellow cake mix recipe. We took our time measuring out the ingredients ...

St. agnes cake 7

While my littlest fella clung to my legs, lol. He wanted "Pup!" which is how he asks to be picked up. He wanted to be a baker, too!

St. agnes cake 1

At last we had cakes cooling on the counter ... and just before supper I assembled our cake:

St. agnes cake 5

A glossy layer of apricot jam in the middle, some buttercream on top ...

St. agnes cake 6

And the final touch: a sprinkling of snowflakes - aka St. Agnes's flowers!

Our dinner was yummy and simple - baked ziti ("cheesey-pasta," my boys call it), steamed broccoli with lemon, crescent rolls and then of course, cake. Bill got home a bit late because he was working out of state, but we saved him a plate. :)

These are the quiet, homey days I love best. Not too much "out and about," the bulk of our day spent at home. We got some fresh air, made things, read books, baked stuff, and celebrated our faith ...

And we enjoyed our home, truly. I count that all joy!

Well my friends, I'm off for now, but I will give you an idea of the drafts I have in queue at the moment. Posts I'm working on ...

* binder breakdown

* lesson planning/assignments

* new household chore routine

* magazine love :)

* winter meals

* henkeeping advice

Let me know if there's any topics you'd like to chat about or if you have any more planner/journal issues to discuss. I'm always open to ideas!

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