Winter Feed

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!


More Q & A: Storing Seasonal Ideas

Binder love 1

Hello, friends and a Good Wednesday, to all!

I have a great journal question from Emma today:

Hello, Dawn ... If you find a craft idea or recipe for, say St. Patrick's day in mid-January, do you glue it in your daily clip book now and then file it away to use for March? Or, does it stay in your darling book and you read back to find it later? I truly love these posts! Sincerely, Emma

 Oh, Emma, one of my favorite things to discuss: finding and saving (with hopes of using) seasonal ideas! Thank you for your kinds words - I am so glad you are enjoying these posts. :)

Now, I must be perfectly honest and first say that, although I am quite diligent about the finding of information - information junkie, right here! - I'm not always so organized about the storage (and retrieval) part of the equation. My problem is that - as I've confessed previously - as much as I love adding stuff to my journal, I'm a bit loosey-goosey about the endgame procedure. I do read back over my journals quite often, but the indexing of information does not happen as consistently as it should.

So you've inspired me, Emma! I am going to get better at this, starting now. I'm thinking of our recent conversations when I say: my journals are beautiful to me, but they should be useful, too! :) I recently re-vamped my seasonal planning binders (shown above) and re-ordered their insides a bit ... added new tabs and weeded through the miscellaneous (messy) papers and whatnot. I will go into greater detail about all this in my (forthcoming) "Binder Breakdown" post ... but here's a glance at my "Deep Winter" planning binder:

Journal binder 3

The front cover features a January inspiration page ...

Journal binder 5

... while the backside shows February's page.

(These are the decorative monthly pages I made when creating my binder - but ended up leaving out, lest the planner become too bulky.)

Also Emma, you inspired me to bring my old journals out of storage - because I am going to go back through them, one season at a time, and find all that "saved" information! I have not looked at my old journals since we moved here (two years ago this summer); as of now, they are in storage boxes in the garage. So I went down there yesterday and picked out the ones that are timely for Winter and will start combing through them ...

Journal binder 2

Here are a few ... I can't wait to dig in and revisit all those Winters from years ago!

(Note: These small books are quite different from the large Yearbook system I use now! But for many years I used these basic little notebooks and was perfectly happy with them. I would choose a patterned paper for the cover and then I'd tape my Mary Engelbreit daily calendar page on top to denote the start date. Lastly, I'd add a pretty ribbon as a pagefinder. There was usually a couple of months' worth of journaling in each notebook, but I could never write past the mid-point because they'd get too bulky from all the clippings! And this is why I moved on to the loose-leaf system I use now.)

Oh, and speaking of pretty journals, I want to share a link with you all for Shirley Ann's lovely blog, Under an English Sky, where recently she shared a bit about her own domestic daybook.  Our journaling style is very similar, and what a pleasure it is to be on the same page - so to speak - with Shirley! Today's snow pictures are not to miss, either ... :)

But to get back to your question, Emma - in the scenario you described, what I would do (ideally) is add that St. Patrick Day craft or recipe to the journal and then make a note of the idea in my seasonal planner (Early Spring: March-April) index. If the idea was not suitable for my journal I would add it directly to the planning binder OR to the Food binder under "Seasonal." (I currently have hanging folders with recipes that need to be sorted this way!) I don't keep seasonal recipes in my seasonal planning binders, simply because there are too many of them!

So here are a few examples ... these are pages from last year's journal (now stored away in my 2014 Yearbook):

Journal binder 7

On this page there is a moisturizing soap craft that I thought would be nice for the wintertime - the sweet almond fragrance, the dry winter skin issue ... I'd add that to the Crafts/Activities tab. (With a note to dry marigold petals next summer!)

Journal binder 8

This shows a cute plastic cup snow-globe craft. I'd also note this in the Crafts/Activities tab.

Journal binder 10

 Above is shown a baked grapefruit donut recipe - which sounds perfect for citrus season! I'd note this in the Food tab.

And here's one last example, because I just added this one today:

Purple jars in journal

These gorgeous purple Ball jars ... oh, MY! My lovely friend Tanya linked them for me on my Facebook page because we share a love of Mason jars, and immediately we thought of how they might work nicely in Lenten (or Advent) crafts and activities ... Friends chimed in - Mary Ellen, Jennifer and Donna (who also linked solar-lantern lids which make the whole thing EVEN more intriguing!) - and we all oohed and aahed together ...

So that I would remember this - not just the jars, but the fun, friendly interchange too - I opened the image in a new tab, printed it out, cut it out, and added it to today's journal page. It's a fond memory and a potential activity at the same time!

So what I will do is this - I will make note of this product/potential ideas in my Early Spring binder (under the Lent tab) and the Late Autumn binder (under the Advent tab). I will also add "order ball jars" to my "to-do list" because they are already sold out at Amazon and I feel they might be difficult to find elsewhere!

*** 

Well!

As usual, I have gone on long enough, I think! But I hope this rambly post answered your question, Emma - please let me know if I can describe things more clearly. It really isn't a perfect "system" at all, but I do enjoy it and hope to make it work better for me with a little time and effort!

:)

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


Friday Photos ~ Happy & Homey

Happy Weekend, my friends! :)

Here are some photos I took over the past few chilly days here at my house. (Chilly outside, I mean. Thankfully, it's been fairly warm and toasty inside.) A few post notes at the bottom ...

O with hand in tea mug

Somebody experimented with a monster truck (not seen) and his Mama's half-full tea mug. :) This was late one dark afternoon, post-nap, while we rocked and read in the chair by my bed. It was such a sweet moment - ruined tea notwithstanding. ;)

Archie in sunny bowl

My Archie's favorite napping spot these days ... the fruit bowl on the kitchen table. I think the sunshine - though technically "less than" at this time of year - is truly worth more, seasonally speaking ...

Winter Sunshine > Summer Sunshine

Oliver in window 1

And a picture of Oliver, to be fair, because Archie's always hogging the sunlight spotlight. I just read that "Oliver" is the #1 cat name in America. Any other Olivers out there reading? You know, over their owners' shoulders? :)

Red squirrel on deck in snow

My sweet red squirrel, braving a fierce -5° morning to grab a little breakfast under the feeders.

Cardinal at feeder 2

And the lovely Lady Cardinal - a rare sight at the feeders. (Below our front bushes is where we usually spot her.)

Bird tracks in snow

What I spied upon stepping out my front door this morning! Wee bird tracks left in an overnight dusting! Not a clue which feathered friend they belong to, but lovely to see all the same ...

Bit of tree in sunny votive

My bright (yet absolutely filthy!) window above the kitchen sink - that's the last little bit of our Christmas tree, a reminder to take with us through the year ...

January page

A few pretty things on my kitchen counter desk ...

Pretty tape on page marker

I'm in absolute LOVE with this floral washi tape. (Purchased at the Paper Source last month.) I will use it wherever I can find room as I spruce up my planning binder ...

Tasha tudor package 2

Lovely early birthday gifts from my beloved. <3

Sunburst paper

The loveliest scrapbooking paper - a sunburst for the cover of my domestic journal pages. "Celebrate the everyday" (an affixed sticker) ... that's what it's all about, isn't it? 

Chicken books

And, yes. This is happening. Soon.

:)

Post notes ~ I've just realized that "National Clean Off Your Desk Day" is not today, but MONDAY and all I can say to that is PHEW. Lol. I'm not ready to get my desks post-worthy yet! And by desks, I mean the kitchen counter where I do 99% of my work, the computer desk where Crackerjack does his (+ hours and hours of Minecraft), the pretty writing desk that is used for seat lessons and the good-sized craft desk I am setting up in the library/living room.

I will be posting about my myriad desks and a bit more on my journal and some other stuff like that over the next week or so. I hope, in the meantime, you all enjoy your weekend. Is it as cold where you are as it is here?

(Siri says it's 27° Farenheit right now which is positively balmy compared to yesterday. Warming into the 30s with snow coming on Monday!)

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


Looking for a Hearty Winter Meal?

Good Monday evening, my friends!

Well, I am so excited to see so many comments under this morning's Downton Abbey post! I'll be catching up there soon, but right now I want to share a really lovely recipe with you all - Beer-Braised Beef & Parsnips! Doesn't that sound so wonderfully wintry? We had it for our Monday supper and it was just perfect on this brutally cold and wickedly windy January night. (It's Twelfth Night, in fact!)

12th night stew 1

Beef, parsnips, beer, brown sugar, thyme, mustard, allspice ... it all blended and cooked down into a sweet and lightly spiced stew. I adore parsnips and I loved the idea of the mustard, brown sugar and beer, so I knew I had to try it. I also figured my home-on-break boy would enjoy it very much! (And he did!)

I first saw the recipe in the December issue of Rachel Ray Magazine - and I was going to pin it on my "Feeding My Family" board, but could not find the recipe on the RR website. So I'm typing it out here - for you and me both! :)

By the way, you could do this in a crockpot, but I wanted to use my Dutch oven instead. It cooked the dish right in the oven and did a beautiful job! Also, it is an economical dish - less than $3 per serving! I spent a bit more on a few of the ingredients at Whole Foods but it was still reasonable and I think it made more than the four srevings suggested.

Beer-Braised Beef and Parsnips

3 slices bacon, diced

1 large onion, halved and sliced

3 tsp. dark brown sugar

1 bottle (12 oz.) dark beer

*Note - I used some leftover Christmas beer we had in the fridge - I have no idea if it's considered dark or not!

1 lb. boneless chuck steak, trimmed and cubed

1/4 tsp. ground allspice

1 lb. parsnips - peeled and cut into 3-inch pieces, thicker segments halved

4 bay leaves

1 tbsp. Dijon mustard

2 tbsp. chopped fresh thyme

Preheat the oven to 300° Farenheit. In a large, heavy ovenproof pot or Dutch oven, cook the bacon over medium, 5 minutes. Stir in the onion and 2 tsp. sugar. Cover and cook over medium, stirring occasionally, until the onion is deep brown, 12-14 minutes. Stir in the beer, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan.

In a bowl, combine the beef, allspice, 3/4 tsp. salt and 1/2 tsp. pepper. Transfer to the pot along with the parsnips, bay leaves, mustard, 1 tbsp. thyme and the remaining 1 tsp. sugar; bring to a simmer over medium. Cover, transfer to the oven and cook until the beef and parsnips are tender, about 1 1/2 hours; remove the bay leaves and season. Divide among bowls; sprinkle with the remaining thyme.

***

(If using a slowcooker, cook the bacon, onion and sugar on the stovetop, stirring in the beer to scrape up any browned bits. Transfer to a slow cooker with the remaining ingredients. Cook on low until the beef and parsnips are tender, about 6 1/2 hours.)

***

I took the pot out of the oven at about 1 hr. 15 mins. and it was done. I served it over rice pilaf, but I think a bed of small, roasted potatoes would be even better! And crusty bread to sop up the soupiness is a must!

Well, I hope that recipe sounds intriguing to some of you - I'm going to add it to my Winter Meals section in my Family Food Binder. I think a post all about Winter meals would be a great idea ... I bet we can share lots of ideas for recipes cold, dark nights. I love using seasonal foods, especially - and even Winter has its share of humble, earthly delights.

Well, the wind is still howling out there, and the Full Wolf Moon is rising in the sky ... time to get these kidlings off to bed! (Or at least some of them, the ones who keep their Mama up, that is!)

See you here again soon, my friends ... enjoy the rest of your evening!