Saying goodbye to our beloved Ollie ...

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Dear friends, this is an incredibly difficult post for me to write, but I feel I must ...

Not even a month after we said goodbye to our sweet Archie, our beloved Oliver passed away this past week.

It seems unreal - that both our cats are gone, and the pain is just ... overwhelming. I know you all know how much our cats meant to us. How big a part of our family they were (are). How much a part of my every single day (and night - with sleeping cats at my feet) they were. And now there is such a huge, raw hole in my heart and our home just does not seem the same ...

It's so hard to talk about this - to even think about it - but I'd like to share what happened if I may. I don't feel I could post here again without doing so.

So unbeknownst to us, Oliver most likely also had cancer inside him as did Archie. Several years ago Ollie had been diagnosed with severe gastrointestinal issues, but his symptoms were manageable with special food and daily medicine. When Archie got very ill around New Year's, Oliver showed signs of stress which only got worse after Archie passed on January 21st. Ollie was pulling out fur and losing weight, but in the past week and a half had also started vomiting frequently. By Wednesday, Valentine's Day, he lost interest in eating and was finding out-of-the way spots to rest. I knew this was not good and so I brought him to our vet that afternoon. He received fluids for dehydration and an antibiotic for possible infection, but they warned us he didn't seem well at all. They told us if he got any worse that evening to bring him immediately to the local emergency vet. 

Even with that warning, I just didn't think things would go downhill so fast. I really didn't suspect that Oliver was actually failing. I was thinking that whatever it was, he would rally and recover.

But unfortunately, later that evening Oliver became extremely ill and collapsed. We immediately brought him to the emergency vet where we'd had Archie just a mere 3 1/2 weeks before. The vet on duty informed us of the severity of the situation - he felt Ollie had cancer and was bleeding internally. He also felt the cancer (which was most likely genetic) was growing slowly inside him but the stress of losing his brother exacerbated the situation. As with Archie, there was no other choice to make but to end our sweet boy's suffering and so we held him and loved him and said goodbye.

And now here we are. In the space of a month we have lost our two beloved kitties. They were only 12 years old and that just wasn't old. I know they say that forever wouldn't be long enough, but this feels so unfair ...

They were the best, absolute best cats we could have ever hoped to call ours. That we were their special people will remain one of the great honors of my life. When they were tiny they seemed indistinguishable - but then Archie's fur became more orange and white and Oliver became more buff and white. Archie was slim, Oliver was a squishy marshmallow. Archie was bold, while Ollie was shy. They were different in many ways, but so close as brothers. Born in an alley, two of nine, mother gone ... we adopted them when they were four months old. Just shortly after we lost the last of our first set of cats which I know some of my longtime readers will remember.

We hope they are together now. And we hope their spirits are resting comfortably, somewhere not too far from us because we know that's where they'd want to be.

Well, I guess that's all I can think to say right now but I thank you all for reading and if I may ask, please pray for our family as we grieve our beloved boys. Writing this post was a tough and teary process, but in way has been cathartic as well. Because when I tell people what happened - people who know me and my cats over the years through the many posts and pictures I've shared - I feel surrounded by comfort and compassion. It soothes the heartbreak a little.

I do hope to be back fairly soon with a Tea post - one I've had half-written for a month or more - and once I feel a little less low, I plan to return to blogging regularly. Thanks so much for your patience and understanding - and as always, for your kindness and support.

Take care, my friends and I'll see you here again sometime soon ...

Love,

~ Dawn


Rest in Peace, Dear Sweet Archie ...

(Archibald Fred, 4/11/11 - 1/21/24)

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Hello my friends, I hope you are all doing well ...

To be honest I dread writing this post. I feel like I'm all cried out and yet I can't seem to stop crying ... But I want to share this news, as sad as it is, with people who knew and loved our wonderful cat, Archie. And I know many of you did, because I've shared all about my kitties from the time we brought them home 12 - nearly 13 - years ago. But sadly, yesterday we had to have our sweet Archie put to sleep. It was such an awful decision but really, the only one that we could make.

Over the past month Archie had been having some significant medical issues, and we'd been trying to figure out what was wrong. He was losing a lot of weight and vomiting pretty often. We had many tests done and for the most part those all came back ok...

Then over the past week or so he really declined rapidly - he was hardly eating at all and sleeping or hiding a lot. An x-ray last Friday showed his intestines were filled with fluid and our vet was concerned there was a blockage. So we scheduled an ultrasound for Tuesday of this week, only yesterday (Sunday) he was so ill and lethargic we brought him to a local emergency vet. And there, after many hours of waiting, an ultrasound showed that Archie actually had a very large cancerous mass blocking his colon, and his lymph nodes were swollen suggesting that the cancer had spread. There really was no viable way for him to survive this terrible thing and we had come to understand that he was absolutely miserable. And we were absolutely heartbroken.

As all pet owners know, there will probably come a time when we have to make this kind of difficult decision. And that as hard as it is, it is our responsibility as loving owners (parents) to put our beloved pets first. Bill and I briefly thought about - even asked about - bringing him home so the kids could say goodbye, but the vet gently suggested that would only prolong Archie's pain. She was right of course, and so we suddenly found ourselves saying goodbye.

The vet and staff were wonderful and I was able to hold Archie as he was euthanized. He was alert and knew he was with Bill and me. He was purring and I was loving on him as hard as I could. He passed quickly and peacefully.

Saying all that should make me feel better - and it does on some level - but right now, I just can't get past the pain. Archie as you all know was SUCH a big part of our family. He was always around, wherever we were, keeping tabs on his fam, and feeling like the alpha he most certainly was. He was smart, proud, funny, feisty, and bursting with personality. And he was MY cat, most of all. Always near me and aware of my comings and going ... reminding me when it was time to go upstairs to bed, following me up and staying until lights were off before heading back down the staircase to where his special mat was. This is where he could keep an eye on everything.

In the mornings as I creeped down the dark stairs roundabouts 5 a.m. in blind search of coffee, his little face would be sitting right there, waiting for me. Always. Every morning. Without fail.

But not today, and not again. And I just don't know how I'll move on from here.

Oliver (his quieter brother) spent the whole night sleeping by my side - not something he usually does. Fenway, our 2 year old Labrador retriever is looking around for him and looking to us for reassurance because he knows something's not right. The kids are all processing differently - but all of us are just utterly devastated.

It will take us a while to feel normal again. Right now, we're just missing our Archie fiercely, and wishing things had been different for him.

Thank you friends, for letting me share all of this. And thanks so much for all your kind comments, interest in, and love for, our pets through the years. I've so enjoyed sharing Archie's antics with you and will continue to share about Oliver and Fenway in the days to come. Once things feel a little lighter.

But for now - please take care of yourselves and your loved ones and I will see you all here again very soon ...

Love,

~ Dawn


A Birthday Brunch & Winter Blessings

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Hello, my friends and happy mid-month! How is your January going so far?

Now, I know January can be a tough month for a lot of people. It is, in fact, considered the most depressing month of the year if you can believe it - and I do. I mean, I myself don't find it depressing, but I understand why many would ...

The holiday parties are over - whereas the holiday bills have come due. The days are short and the weather is often uncomfortable (if not downright brutal). It's a long month of readjustment and melancholy as we return to "reality" after several weeks of warm greetings and good cheer.

As a January baby, however, I can hardly find fault with my birthday month! I happen to really enjoy the wintertime - with its frosted windows and frequent snowfall and quieter days spent hunkered at home. I need the downtime that winter provides between the busier seasons of the year.

When you stop to think about it though, there really are some lovely blessings that are enjoyed best in the wintertime ... such as sledding on a cold, bright day...

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... and tending houseplants in sunny windows. (Such as our lemon tree which has finally blossomed after three years!)

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And although they come early, the sunsets in winter are breathtaking ...

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Surrounded by woods as we are, we only catch fiery glimpses of the setting sun. Still, I find it every evening through my kitchen window and it's always a magical moment. 

Not to be forgotten of course, there is the wonder and joy of watching birds at the snowy feeders ...

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*Mourning Dove*

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*Northern Cardinal*

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*Carolina Wren*

Fyi, the Carolina wren was my "first bird of the year!" Have you heard of this birding tradition? On January 1st the first bird you see may be considered "your" bird for the year. We do this every year and it's always a fun way to spend our New Year's morning. It's neat to look up the symbolism of the species and learn a little about its specific habits and needs. The Carolina wren, for such tiny bird, has the loudest and most beautiful song. I will link it below for you so you can hear it too:

Carolina wren birdsong

Ok, so by now I have rambled on for so long you're all wondering what in the heck that top photo was all about!

Well as I mentioned above, my birthday is in January and last weekend my family gathered for a lovely birthday brunch. I had fun setting the kitchen table and buffet with my wintry pinecone pottery ...

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... while my mum cooked up a wonderful meal.

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Best of all though was my birthday cake! A dense and delicious butterscotch cake topped with homemade penuche frosting. Without a doubt, my favorite flavor combination! 

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Here are some pictures of my family on Sunday. I feel so blessed to have each of them in my life. (Sorely missed was Crackerjack who was too sick to come to brunch. We're hoping to have him up this coming Sunday instead.)

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(Can you believe how big this little guy is getting?!)

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Aw, poor Pups didn't get any cake!

Mum surprised me by brining some of my grandmother's recipe card collection for us to look through ... 

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Some of these are in my grandmother's handwriting, some were written out by my mum, and a few were penned by me. As you can see in my Gram's note at the top of the pile, she had asked me to copy some of these out for her. I remember when I was young I absolutely loved poring through my mother and grandmother's overflowing recipe boxes. I keep saying I'll set one up for myself, but I have yet to do so. Pinterest may be efficient and, let's face it, addictive - but it really can't compare to a collection of handwritten recipe cards.

Family favorites in this pile include peach cobbler, poorman's cake, cherries jubilee pie, lobster bisque (an old Boston Globe recipe my grandmother improved on), blue cheese dressing (so yummy on my grandfather's homegrown garden salads), and perhaps best of all - picalilli, typed out on a card several decades ago. It shows the battle stains of many years of use!

And here's another lovely birthday surprise - this beautiful drawing was mailed to me by my darling niece, Amelia. 

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She and I share a love of rainbows! I think of her every time I walk into the kitchen - which on any given day is about a hundred times. ;-)

And lastly, I spent a little time (and birthday money) at the bookstore and craft store, and found a few goodies!

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Just some pretty "vintage"  stationary supplies, a slim calendar booklet, and the latest issue of MaryJane's Farm.

And lastly, I felt like a dork but I took a car selfie, anyway ...

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This was 11:45 a.m. precisely - the very moment I was born, 55 years ago! Gosh it's strange to type that number - how on earth did that happen? Wasn't I just a young homeschooling mom with three little kids under 10???

Sometimes it feels like those days were soooo long ago, and then somedays I could swear they were just yesterday. Life is funny that way isn't it?

(Side note: I absolutely love this scarf. It admirably combines two colors that wouldn't seem to go well together - the burgundy of my vest and the butter yellow of my favorite cardigan.)

So, another year gone, and another year to come - the best gift of all to be sure!

Thank you so much for allowing me to share a bit of my life with you all. And thanks especially to the very kind readers who have reached out in different ways to say hello, share a bit about themselves and let me know they're happy I'm blogging again. (I am too!)

I hope you all are doing well - keeping healthy and happy and enjoying your winter days as best you can. Thanks again for joining me here and I will hope to see you here again very soon!

Love,

Dawn


2024 Planning: My Lesson Planning System

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Hello, my friends! I hope you are all doing well. 😊

I thought I'd kick off a series of "2024 Planning" posts by giving you a peek at my lesson planning system. I've been using this particular system since September of 2022, and it's really working well for me!

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As you can see in the above picture, I am using two notebooks for my '23-'24 lesson planning: a 5x8 quad-ruled bullet journal and an 9x12 (or thereabouts) discbound notebook.

I chose a sunny golden yellow this year and I really love it so much. (Yellow just happens to be my favorite color!) And the super cute apple stickers were from this Happy Planner "Seasonal Whimsy" sticker set. That link goes to Amazon where it appears it might be sold out - but I wanted to give you a good look. I think there will be a 2024 version of this set at some point, but in the meantime, if you happen to have a Joann Fabrics near you, you could check their planning aisle. That is where I purchased my set (on sale!) and I'm pretty sure they still had it in stock last time I was there. Oh, and also - I replaced the plastic discs that came with the notebook covers with a set of slightly larger, red aluminum disks. I liked how the color looked, but more importantly I find metal discs enable the pages to turn much more smoothly. The larger size also allowed me to keep more papers in my notebook. I also purchased these at Joann Fabrics!

Allrighty, moving on ... 

So let's look first at the discbound notebook. I use this large and flexible notebook for holding my weekly lesson materials. I like to photocopy my Oak Meadow teacher's guide pages and then highlight information of note. I have several sections in this notebook, simply made with colorful card stock and adhesive tabs.

1. Nature/Seasonal Activities

2. Oak Meadow English & History 

3. Oak Meadow Science

4. Saxon Math 

5. Other Subjects

6. Weekly Reviews

(I also use small binder clips to hold loose papers inside the front cover. These include spelling worksheets, writing projects and mapwork, etc.) 

In the first section I keep seasonal activity ideas and nature-education information. For example, the January Almanac published by Mass Audubon ...

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... as well as an animal tracks field guide:

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After that first section I have the academic sections as well as some pockets in the back for math recording papers and tests.

Every weekend I go through this notebook and take out what's been used (file it in a monthly folder shown in top pic) and then photocopy and add in next week's materials. I've found it so helpful keeping all the papers we need for the week together in one place like this!

Now, for the bullet journal ...

If you follow me on Instagram then you might know that I've shared a lot of pictures of my lesson planning journal (this year's and last's). In September 2022 I did a post about the general setup, and for the most part this year's journal is structured in the same way.

What I'd like to share in today's post is a peek at my most recent pages, created for the mid-year, as well as the current season of Deep Winter.

I have three spreads like the one shown below: Deep Winter through Early Spring (1/1-3/24), Early Spring through High Summer (3/25-6/16) and High Summer through End of Term (6/17-7/28).

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I try to look ahead and plan out the remaining lessons in our curriculum, lining them up alongside seasonal themes and weekly activities. This spread I filled in only through the end of Winter term, so I can adjust as needed before going on to plan out the spring.

Next, I have a Deep Winter Overview ...

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On the lefthand page, activities and academic topics. On the righthand page ...

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... all the weekly seasonal themes for the season and some events and potential activities.

Next we have the current month's vision board and title page:

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And following that, the January calendar spread: 

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I actually haven't finished this spread! I might add some more poetry or monthly correspondences like flower/gem/tree/bird of the month, etc.

Next, each week of the year gets its own spread with one page for photos and one for a breakdown of the seasonal theme: poem or quote, activities, books and a tea.

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This week we are exploring the concept of wintertime comforts and joys. When it's cold and dark (and the holidays are over) how can we create an atmosphere that is happy and cozy and content? What are our needs in the winter? Physically and psychologically? And the same goes for the wildlife that call our yard home - what would make their lives easier at this time of year?

We also happen to be reading a wonderfully illustrated version of The Hobbit and of course, nobody knows "comfort" like a hobbit! I'm sure we'll be trying out some new recipes for "elevenses" this month - using this lovely cookbook, a gift from my brother-in-law, Greg.

And because we usually have our seasonal teatime on Fridays and this Friday just happens to be my birthday, I'm planning on making a cake I've long wanted to try - a London Fog Tea Cake

(Our seasonal teas are pretty low-key - a fun beverage, a yummy snack and a craft that coordinates with the seasonal theme. It's a really nice way to wrap up the "work week!")

Note: the photo page is only half filled in because we're only halfway through the week! We had a big Sunday snowstorm so Little Bear and I enjoyed two days in a row sledding with friends! The rest of our week will be fairly quiet - catching up on schoolwork and ending with a long-anticipated, and oft-postponed, family brunch on Sunday.

And finally - at last! - we have our lesson plan proper -

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It's a pretty basic lesson plan grid - blocks for the days of the week and each of the subjects. I used to have a separate planner for this kind of planning, but then I decided to keep it all in this one journal. Yes, it takes a little time to set up, though really, not very much. And I'm showing you last week's grid because truth be told I haven't yet finished setting up this week's! (And here it is Wednesday already!)

I keep all of the lesson planning tools at my desk in a handy wooden organizer. This is the left side of my computer desk and off-camera to the left, not shown, is Little Bear's desk. It's in this cozy corner where we do much of our homeschooling.

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And that my friends, is a wrap! I hope you've enjoyed this little lengthy tour of my lesson planning system. The journal in particular is something I absolutely treasure and find very satisfying to create and then later look over. I love how it tracks, not just Little Bear's academic progress, but so many nuances of our homeschool journey. To my mind that's the perfect kind of planning tool - something that works well AND makes you happy.

So for now I will say goodbye and wish you all well - and I will plan to see you here again very soon!

Love,

~ Dawn


Tea @ Dawn's ~ Lattes, Leftovers & Family News ❀️

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Hello my friends and Happy New Year's Eve!

I wanted to pop on and share a post before the new year begins ... in a matter of about 10 hours now! How are you spending the holiday? Do you enjoy going out to celebrate or is staying in more your style?

Back when Bill and I were in our 20s we loved going into First Night in Boston with friends, but we haven't done that in years decades! Nowadays on New Year's Eve, you will find us at home, with our kids, and most likely asleep before midnight! We say our "cheers to the new year" with our younger kids at bedtime, and then do our true celebrating in the morning. πŸ₯³

When we first wake, we try to remember to say "rabbit-rabbit" before anything else. Saying "rabbit-rabbit" (or "white-rabbit" as some folks do) is an old British custom that's supposed to bring you good luck πŸ€ - and we've done this with our kids on the first of every month since they were born! πŸ‡πŸ‡

Typically on January 1st we have our family over for a New Year's Day Lunch, and that was the plan this year ... only Earlybird and I have started yet another darn cold - #tistheseason I guess - so we'll just be keeping things quiet around here, with lots of hydrating fluids and rest!

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Now, in today's post I'd like to share a few pictures from our Christmas last weekend (it was lovely, hope yours was too!), some recent journal pages and the links to my planning sheets for the first half of 2024.

I also have some family news to share - something I've been wanting to talk about for a while now, but just have not really felt wholly comfortable doing so. The time has come, however, for me to be open and *real* and I know this is a community that will listen with equally open and loving hearts ...

So what I want to share is that a few years ago, Bookworm came to us and shared that he was pretty sure he was transgender - meaning that he felt he identified more as a woman than a man. He said he'd been unable to pinpoint what exactly felt "off" for many years (and especially since puberty), but with the support of dear friends he'd come to this issue as the answer. He was anguished, yet resolved, and - God Bless him her - she had notes in her shaking hands so she could remember all the things she wanted to say. She also asked to be called "Alice," along with the corresponding pronouns.

My friends, as you can imagine, my heart just broke ...

Now, Alice had already come out to us as bisexual the year before, so I'd like to say this did not come as a huge shock to Bill and me - but it did. We were afraid of what this would mean for her and we worried how hard things would be for her moving forward. And at first we didn't understand exactly what it all meant, but what we did understand above all - is that our precious child was hurting badly and needed help; in fact, she was severely depressed. So we immediately embraced her - physically and spiritually - and let her know we would be there for her however and whenever she needed us.

Right away we helped Alice find a relevant therapist who worked with her over the course of a year or so, up until the pandemic hit. The therapy definitely got her started on her path to healing, but I think once she came out, the stress over not knowing what was wrong, or how to fix it, seemed to lift a weight off of her - and slowly but surely she has emerged from that dark time - safe, strong and well.

Now, this is not really my tale to tell, and I do want to keep her journey private, so I will just say that Alice is doing so much better today. Most importantly, she is no longer depressed - thankfully, she is happy and healthy and fully accepted and embraced by her family and friends. She has a wonderful support system and a fantastic job she excels at. This is not to say she won't face challenges and who knows how things will change over the coming years. As her family, we can only hope and pray she will continue to thrive and find joy.

I know this will be a shock to many of you who have read my blog for many years ... and as I said, I just had such a hard time finding the words to share all of this. It's been such a weight on my heart, and I think, in a way, I was waiting to see if things might change. It seems ridiculous now to have thought that ...

But it was so hard for Bill and I to accept this, and it took us a long time to figure out our family's new reality. We worried and prayed and we stumbled over the pronouns, and we refused to use the new name - at first. We were so anxious over how Little Bear and Earlybird would react, and yet - wouldn't you know it, they adjusted so quickly and easily it honestly put us to shame. (It was Crackerjack in fact, who sat us down two summers ago and gently reminded us we were not fully loving Alice if we weren't respecting who she was.) And goodness do we love her, just as we love all our kids. And each of our kids have had challenges, some greater than others, and we've somehow found the way to be the parents they've each needed ...

 It just all seemed so very private and easier to keep to myself, and yet, over time, Bill and I have adjusted (mostly) and accepted (fully), and now it's just part of who we are, as a family. We are so thankful that our whole family has been accepting and loving and I know that has meant everything to Alice. For example, right after she came out to the rest of our family, Bill's dad, God bless him, passed away. But thanks to the sensitive and loving hearts of our family, Alice was included whole-heartedly in the service; even the deacon saying the homily used her preferred name. I was sitting with her at that moment and the look on her face is not something I will ever forget. It might not have been a moment I ever imagined but I was deeply grateful for it just the same. 

The bottom line is we could not be prouder of Alice and just as we do with all our kids, we want only the best for her. And we don't get to decide what that "best" is - that's for her to figure out. It's been one of the hardest things we've learned as being parents. Above all we want her to be happy and healthy and live a fulfilling, authentic life.

What's been important for us too, as parents, is connecting with other parents who also have transgender kids. Some were friends we already had (whose kids came out recently or years ago) and some are new friends we've met over the past couple of years. All are so dear to us and their support and fellowship have been life changing for us as a family.

Well my friends, I feel like I'd better wrap this up now because I have a suspicion I'm rambling at this point. But please know I am very grateful for all of you - your steadfast kindness through the years has meant so much to me. So I thank you very much for "listening" and if you'd say a prayer for Alice, for her health and happiness, I'd be so very grateful.

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Ok, now - let's move on to Christmas!πŸŽ„

Well, Christmas was a whirlwind, but wonderful as always. Our family tradition is to host two separate Christmas gatherings - Bill's side of the family on Christmas Eve day and my side of the family on Christmas afternoon. Here are a few snapshots of our home ...

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The tree just after Santa's visit!

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The dessert table filling up ... that's my grandmother's tablecloth. :-)

And in the middle of the table ...

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A lovely pair of reindeer candlesticks, a gift from my brother, filled with real babyberry tapers from my mum and dad! They smell soooo good.

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Speaking of Mum, above is shown her two signature Christmas recipes: triple layer brownies (on the bottom)and penuche fudge (above). Have you heard of penuche fudge? It's a New England thing, I believe, and my FAVORITE holiday goodie of all! It's made with brown sugar, vanilla, powdered sugar and cream ... I mean, who needs chocolate when you can have penuche??

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Above are my cousin's sugar cookies - a family tradition and must-have every year! She always makes a few plain for Earlybird since he can't have artificial food coloring.

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A tray of homemade treats, including Aunt Anne's candy cane cookies, our neighbor's gingerbread men and spritz cookies, plus Bookworm's peppermint pretzel sticks ... and my brother's (Trader Joe's) peppermint sandwich cookies. YUM. So very much YUM.

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And here we have the coffee, tea and cocoa bar! As you can imagine, I have so much fun setting this up. :-)

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And of course, it wouldn't be party at our house if there wasn't a punch! (This one was a blend of orange, cranberry and pineapple juice with ginger ale and fresh fruit. Refreshing!)

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Ok, so how about a peek at a couple of my journal pages?

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Above is a page I set up for jotting down thoughts about this Christmas and what I want to remember for next year's holiday. The trick will be remembering to look at this next autumn!

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And above here is a page I really enjoyed creating, "Goodbye 2023." I did this last year and it was so much fun! I went through my journal(s) and just jotted down little snippets of memories - events, movies, family happenings. It was surprisingly easy to fill up the page! 

The journal shown here is my Wonderland 222 notebook, the accompaniment to my W222 planner. I keep them both in a canvas cover. This is the notebook I write in every single day. It's not always super neat, but I capture it ALL in these pages! I also keep daily to-do lists in this notebook. The "planner" is separate from the notebook, and I use it for monthly and weekly planning.

Here are the January pages - overview and monthly calendar:

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And speaking of planning ...

I wanted to (re)share my 2024 planning sheets for those who might find them helpful. I had hoped to have July through December ready to print by today but unfortunately, that just was not in the cards this month! 

Cover/beginning pages

January

February

March

April

May

June

End Pages

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I'd like to finish up my post by sharing a picture of my new mugs from Bookworm because there is a bit of a neat story to go with them. You see, years ago I bought a set of three mugs at Stop 'n Shop (of all places) and they quickly became my favorite mugs of all. I loved the shape and size - just perfect for tea or coffee - and if one of them was clean in the cupboard, I always reached for it first.

Well, the yellow one broke several years ago (I forget how) and I was down to only the orange and the green star-patterned mug. You can see the latter here in this pic ...

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... and I used it all the time, but especially at Advent!

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, however, that pretty mug recently was broken (by my puppy) and I was so bummed. Bill said it was beyond gluing back together, so I gave a half-hearted try at googling the brand wondering if somewhere they might still be sold ... but alas, I had no luck!

So, on Christmas morning when Bookworm handed me her present, little did I know that inside the box, wrapped in layers of shredded paper, were two ORIGINAL mugs from that line! One yellow and one green! She had somehow found them on eBay.

I was so moved and excited! I use them every chance I get.

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And here in the above picture I am enjoying a hazelnut latte (green mug), while Bill is having an iced Americano (yellow mug). We recently were gifted an espresso maker (my folks won it in a raffle!) and Bill has been making me the most delicious lattes this Christmas season. I confess though, Im a little bit addicted! (I just ordered decaf beans so I can enjoy them without the excess caffeine.)

(The very top pic shows my vanilla decaf tea from Friday along with a plate of delicious cookie leftovers!)

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Well my friends, I'm going to (finally) let you go, because I know I've kept you here even longer than usual. Thanks so much for reading - especially if you've made it to this last bit! I hope you all have a wonderful New Year's, however and wherever you celebrate. ❀️

Goodbye for now then - and if you are over on Instagram, please join me for my January photo challenge! I have a theme for each week of the month, and hope to post as often as I can!

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See you next year, my friends! 

Love,

~ Dawn


Advent Tea @ Dawn's ~ Animals at Advent 🦌

Hello my friends and Happy Yule! Merry (almost) Christmas! And cheers to the (imminent) New Year! I hope this post finds you all well as we head into the long holiday weekend. I can hardly believe how quickly this month has flown by and here we are sitting down to our very last Advent tea!

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So I'd like to begin my post with a little chat about the delicious tea I'm enjoying today - and boy, am I enjoying it! I so wish I could pour you a cup. This brew is a lovely new holiday blend called "Gingerbread Festival" and it's made by Harney & Sons, a company I've mentioned a time or two before.☺️

Here's the description from the website:

Sweet, spicy, and full of holiday flavors, our Gingerbread Festival tea summons up the familiar tastes of old-fashioned gingerbread. We begin with a base of mild yet full-bodied black tea, then swirl in pieces of ginger root, cinnamon, and a touch of molasses flavor. A final layer of sweet vanilla flavor and spiced cloves finishes the brew for an easy-to-drink cup that sparkles with richness.

Ok, full disclosure - it is almost a little too spicy, but that opinion is coming from someone with chronic heartburn, so take it as you will. I enjoyed it all the same - with a little sugar and a generous splash of whole milk it tastes just like a fresh slice of gingerbread. As for the goodie I'm indulging in today - and keeping in theme - this, my friends, is a frosted gingerbread donut ...

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I've baked donuts for my family many times over the years, a tradition that began when I was looking to replicate a "Halloween decorated" Dunkin Donut for Earlybird. He so wanted one of those beautiful treats, but couldn't - and still can't - tolerate artificial colors and flavors very well. (They increase challenging behaviors and can trigger neurological tics.) Anyhoo, I actually baked the donuts shown here as gifts for Earlybird's therapists, but I managed to secure a few extras for tea. πŸ˜‰

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Now, this week our Advent theme focused on the third kingdom of creation - the animals! So we thought about our JOY for the animal friends in our lives - including our pets, our friends' and neighbors' pets, our backyard birds and squirrels, and going even further, the creatures that are local to our area as well as endangered species around the world. Our activities centered around this theme and in our homeschool this week we learned about how animals in our region prepare for the harsh winter ahead. 

And on that note, here are some pictures from Little Bear's Audubon program titled: "Gather, Gorge and Store." The kids (and parents) learned all about hibernation and some facts were rather surprising!

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This kid just loves to be outside!

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Our Audubon teacher, Miss Lisa, setting up a presentation for the kids. These finger puppets represent local species and each one has a unique way to prepare for and weather the winter season.

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And did you know that only three mammals truly hibernate? The jumping mouse, the bat and the groundhog!

During the program the kids looked for signs of animal activity ...

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On this log we found a red squirrels cache - spruce cones that had been nibbled on and black walnut shells.

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Here the kids and Miss Lisa were looking under logs where insects and invertebrates (and some amphibians) hunker down for the winter. We were hoping to spot a salamander but all we found was a pill bug of some kind.

At the end of our hike we tossed pebbles onto a semi-frozen river.0-56 (1)
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It was a chilly day, but not uncomfortably cold. A great day to be outside exploring the nuances of a mid-December day!

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But back at home, inside my warm and sunny kitchen, things have been busy this week as both Bookworm and I get out Christmas baking on! I didn't end up making as many cookies as I would have liked - but I say that every year. I mean, can you ever make enough cookies? And then usually friends and family give you cookies too, and so there are always plenty of cookies to go around!

The first ones I made in honor of the Winter Solstice last Thursday were these Yule Crescent Moon cookies ... 

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So delicious - a ruch buttery cookie livened up with some lemon zest and glazed with a vanilla icing. I also dusted them with some sparkling sugar.

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Other cookies on our Christmas menu include: lemon thumbprints, gingerbread folk, pistachio wreaths, peppermint sugar cookies, eggnog logs and some more of those orange-cranberry shortbread cookies I made last month!

Bookworm will help me with the baking, thank goodness! Other things I'll be making this year include mince tarts, a Christmas cake (easy, store-bought, made with EB) and a no-bake pumpkin cheesecake pie. (Again, very easy! But so darn good.)

You know what else we baked in honor of the week's theme and our beloved pet friends?

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Carrot-bone broth biscuits! 

I used a King Arthur Flour package mix and it was so simple. The kids got a kick out of it - and yes, Fenway was our taste-tester! (Unsurprisingly, he approved.)

We bagged up these cookies and gave them to neighbors and friends with beloved dogs - tag signed "from Fenway," natch.

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And in the midst of all this baking, I did squeeze in a little crafting, of course! 

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Another Yule craft, honoring the return of the sun at Winter Solstice - these dried orange "suns" are so pretty! I found the craft idea on Pinterest and it was so simple - you stick wooden toothpicks around an orange slice, then bake it in a 200 degree oven for 3-4 hours, flipping every 30 minutes. I think the suns would look pretty in a winter window after the tree comes down!

I also tried making some wooden ornaments using pretty napkins ...

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I just coated an unadorned wood slice ornament (found on Amazon) with Mod Podge and pressed a single ply napkin onto it. (I had centered it first, cutting out the desired area with craft scissors.) 0-48 (1)

I applied another coat of Mod Podge to the top of the napkin and then let it set.

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I trimmed the rough edges ...

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... and all that's left to do is drill a hole for a twine loop. I used napkins I've been saving because the designs were so pretty - almost too pretty to use!

I really didn't craft as much this Advent as I usually do. I'm not entirely sure why - I think some years just lend themselves to more "homey" time than others.

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Another fun outing last week was a Solstice hike we did with our homeschooling friends ...

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It's been an unusually mild December here in New England - but I was still quite surprised to see skunk cabbage growing in the bog!

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And mullein growing in the protection of a great big tree!

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The hike provided so many gorgeous views

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... and at the very top of the hill there were solstice stones to tell the time by!

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What was especially nice about this hike was Bill took the day off from work so he could join us!

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More family time - a lovely cup of holiday coffee at a local cafe with Bookworm and Little Bear. (White hot chocolate for LB, Iced Chai Latte for BW and an Eggnog Latte for me!)

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And before I wrap up, since this is Animals week, I must share some photos of my favorite animals of all - our pets. 

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'Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house not a creature was stirring ... 

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Well, my friends, I will let you go now as the sun is setting and there is still much to do before morning! Thank you so much for joining me this Advent and sharing a special cup of tea with me each Friday - or Sunday as the case may be! I have more Teas planned for the future so please stay tuned! I will be back soon to share more ...

And from my little corner of the world to yours, I wish you all the best for a wonderful Christmas - I hope you have a day full of peace, and joy and contentment.

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Happy Holidays from the Hanigans! See you all again very soon!

Love,

~ Dawn

 


Advent Tea @ Dawn's ~ Season's Greenery πŸŽ„

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Hello, my friends and welcome! I'm so happy to have you here with me today, sharing in our second cup of Advent tea! It's hard to believe how quickly we are marching towards Christmas - as I type up this post, we have but 10 days left till THE day!

Now, as I mentioned in my last post, our family follows a Waldorf-inspired, nature-based Advent journey in which each week is assigned a different "kingdom of creation," and the second week is devoted to the Plant Kingdom. So over the past week, we have been exploring the many wonderful plants (herbs, trees and spices) of Yuletide - in our homeschool activities as well as our holiday cooking and crafting!

As for my "tea," well, today I'm enjoying a version of a German Christmas drink called, "Gluhwein." As I sip, I envision this might be the very hot mulled beverage I'd enjoy if I were to one day visit a European Christmas Market. Our blend today however is child-friendly, so we skipped the traditional red wine and opted for fruit juices instead.

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The recipe I followed is one I found online, with a base of grape juice, pomegranate juice and orange juice. If I were to make it again, I think I would tinker with the spices a bit. This time out I used a cinnamon stick, some cloves, star anise and a single bay leaf. (Im actually not a fan of anise, as pretty as its star-shaped pods look!) I loved the orange and lemon zest however, as well as the addition of a cup of gently-brewed black (decaffeinated) tea.

I served our Gluhwein - or Kinderspunch as it is known in its non-alcoholic version - in mugs I've had for YEARS and dearly love. The pattern is "Berries" made by Harstone Pottery. Nowadays I believe it is only available on eBay or perhaps Replacements.com.

I bought these mugs before I was even married, back when I worked in the home department of a large department store. I remember seeing these mugs in the stock room and immediately squirreling a set of them away for myself! They are a bit heavy in the hand, but worth it - they feel so nice and sturdy and hold a large serving of a hot beverage beautifully.

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These mugs are so special to me because I remember fondly tucking them away in my hope chest, thinking that maybe one day I would share a special cup of holiday cheer with my children ... and here I am doing just that!

Now as for my cookies, well - this week they are unapologetically store-bought because this week has just been NUTS! After a couple of quiet weeks at home while we fought off a nasty virus, we found ourselves back in the busy homeschool saddle again ...

On Monday, I took Little Bear to his Food Art & Science class which then became a little more involved due to a dead car battery  ...

On Tuesday we attended our homeschool group's weekly gathering where we made homemade candles (the moms) and holiday cards for foster children (the kids). LB and I brought one of our favorite party dishes to this event: a cheesy, pull-apart Christmas tree!

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This is so easy to prepare and is always a hit! Our group loved it and it paired nicely with my friend Jess's crockpot Wassail!

Ok on Wednesday, I got my hair cut and colored! Which is always a treat to be sure - a little ME time - but it takes so much time out of my day! As soon as I got home which was just after lunchtime, we caught up on lessons and Bill headed to his office holiday party. All told, we had a much later supper than usual!

On Thursday - Earlybird's 22nd birthday! - we took EB and his therapists and my folks to a local toy museum, which is one of EB's very favorite places to visit because they have gorgeous model train layouts!

And today, Friday, we had our last Audubon nature class of the year (so much fun!) and while we were supposed to go out to lunch afterward, we ended up coming straight home - because our sweet and lovable, yet highly mischief-prone dog got into a trash bag yesterday and then spent all morning "throwing and going!" So we headed home directly from our outing, and put a call into the vet ... and now Fenway will be enjoying a diet of chicken and boiled rice for a few days!

(Just to sum up the week - tomorrow is cookie baking and (hopefully) wrapping while Sunday is a birthday brunch for EB and my dad! Next week looks to be pretty quiet though ...)

ANYHOO! Let's get back to today's cookies because I'm now getting wildly off-topic!

So these yummy little wafers are Bill's favorites, and you can find them in any supermarket's cookie aisle.

I found this lovely description online Anna's Swedish Ginger Thins :

Some things you just do not change... like Anna's Thins. A lot has happened since Anna baked her very first Swedish Thin in her little backstreet bakery in downtown Stockholm. Since 1929, Anna's secret family recipe has used all natural ingredients to create a cookie that is perfectly thin and deliciously crisp. A traditional symbol of love and goodwill, Anna's Thins are also known as "Swedish wish cookies." To make a wish, place a cookie on the palm of your hand and tap it gently with your index finger. If it breaks into three pieces, your wish will come true. Lycka till! Today Anna's Swedish Thins are known all over the world.

 How charming!

βœ¨πŸŽ„βœ¨πŸŽ„βœ¨πŸŽ„βœ¨πŸŽ„βœ¨πŸŽ„βœ¨πŸŽ„βœ¨πŸŽ„βœ¨πŸŽ„βœ¨πŸŽ„βœ¨πŸŽ„βœ¨πŸŽ„βœ¨πŸŽ„βœ¨πŸŽ„βœ¨πŸŽ„βœ¨πŸŽ„βœ¨πŸŽ„βœ¨πŸŽ„βœ¨πŸŽ„βœ¨πŸŽ„βœ¨πŸŽ„βœ¨

When arranging my tea pic, I added a pretty vase of dried hydrangeas from my parents' front garden (I just LOVE the colors in these blooms!) as well as a pitcher of hemlock branches gathered from along our driveway ...

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We have so many of these handsome evergreen trees in our yard and I just love their cute little cones! They start out in the spring as these smooth, bright green ovals and then slowly over the growing season they turn brown and unfurl. They are absolutely perfect for crafting!

And speaking of crafting ...

This week's tea and goodie - as well as a few recent crafts - were all inspired by our homeschooling this month,  as we learn about Christmas customs and legends around the world. This past week we focused on Germany and Scandinavia. (Spoiler alert: next week we'll be focusing on Great Britain!)

I also thought it would be fun to learn about the myths and cryptids of different cultures, because Little Bear is fascinated by all things relating to monsters and mystery. So last week we read about the fearsome old German legend of Krampus, who arrives on "Krampusnacht," (the night before St. Nicholas Day), to take a switch to naughty children or perhaps drag them off to (presumably) his lair ...

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And since Krampus makes his dreaded switch out of birch branches, I decided to use some birch-patterned paper straws we had in the craft cabinet to make a couple of ornaments for our tree:

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And as I worked on the log pile and the popsicle stick tree shown above, Little Bear read from an interesting, seasonal chapter book called, Krampus and the Thief of Christmas by Eldritch Black. It's quite an absorbing tale!

This week we also read an old favorite picture book, Peter & Lotta's Christmas by Elsa Beskow. In it, the children learn about the Swedish legend of the Christmas Goat and so of course, I had to find a craft to go with that ...

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... and happily, I did at One Mama's Daily Drama - some easy instructions (plus free printable) for making a yarn-wrapped Yule Goat!

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As I worked on the Goat, Little Bear got to work making some air-dry clay ornaments. I recently bought some alphabet stamps specifically for this craft ...

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... and boy oh boy did he have fun with them!

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Honestly, it's all about poop with these 10 year olds ...

On a finer note, and in keeping with the Scandinavian theme, we enjoyed our traditional St. Lucia's Day breakfast on Tuesday morning ...

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And one of these years I will try making St. Lucy's "Lussekatter" - aka saffron buns - but for now, Pilsbury cinnamon rolls do the trick. ;-) Here I used three star candles to represent the seasonal "star boys," but maybe a few longtime readers might remember this picture from the very first year I blogged?

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If you can believe it, these two precious kids are now 28 and 24 years old! And that was the year Crackerjack tripped over a chair and landed head-first on a Lego. No stitches needed but it sure did bleed a lot ... and he still has that scar!

Ok, moving on...

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Every year during our Plant Kingdom week we make a stop into a local nursery - to pick up some plant-related craft supplies as well as to absorb all that lovely warm greenhouse air! This year we just could not get OVER the zillions of poinsettias for sale! An enchanting purple one really caught my eye - though sadly we cannot have poinsettias in our home because we have pets. (And there are mixed reports on whether poinsettias are toxic to pets and as mine could make a career out of eating greenery, I'd rather not take the chance!)

So instead we enjoy the silk version such as the ones gracing our front door wreath ....

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(It gets a little more crushed in the attic every year, but this wreath has lasted us a good long while!)

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And now for a few pictures from a recent outing with two of my kids - my "evens" I call them, #2 and #4. These photos were taken at a local event called "Winterlights" and as you can see the atmosphere was just magical!

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So as I mentioned, this week we had a special family birthday - Earlybird turned 22! Here are a few pictures from our visit to the Wenham Toy Museum with my folks and EB's amazing ABA therapists ...

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We're having a brunch on Sunday to celebrate these two special men who share a birthday. And they not only share a birthday but a deep love for all things TRAINS!

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Now, EB is also a great lover of sweets, but his favorite of all is that old Colonial American classic - the whoopee pie. So yesterday Little Bear and I decided to make some! This was my first time making whoopee pies and I was so pleased with how they came out ...

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We followed this recipe and I will definitely be making them again!

Happily it just so happened we learned this summer that our beloved Audubon teacher also loves whoopee pies, so we made up a batch for her too! And for the two lovely volunteers who accompany us on many Audubon outings, LB and I potted paper white bulbs in mason jars: 

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A perfect project for celebrating Plant Kingdom week! I really love when crafts make pretty and useful gifts!

And you know what was especially nice about today's Audubon class, the last of 2023? Dad got to come, too!

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βœ¨πŸŽ„βœ¨πŸŽ„βœ¨πŸŽ„βœ¨πŸŽ„βœ¨πŸŽ„βœ¨πŸŽ„βœ¨πŸŽ„βœ¨πŸŽ„βœ¨πŸŽ„βœ¨πŸŽ„βœ¨πŸŽ„βœ¨πŸŽ„βœ¨πŸŽ„βœ¨πŸŽ„βœ¨πŸŽ„βœ¨πŸŽ„βœ¨πŸŽ„βœ¨πŸŽ„βœ¨πŸŽ„βœ¨πŸŽ„βœ¨

Well dear friends - have I kept you here long enough, lol? I fear I have ... I got awfully chatty this week, but I guess I just had a lot to share with you! I hope you enjoyed hearing about our week and our Advent activities. And I hope you enjoyed sharing a cup of virtual tea with me - I so wish we could do this in person!

But for now, I will wish you all a peaceful and restful weekend which is the LAST ONE BEFORE CHRISTMAS - BUT DON'T PANIC!

I will see you all here again very soon!

Love,

~ Dawn

(At the very latest - next Friday with my third Advent tea of the year!)


Advent Tea @ Dawn's ~ Heaven & Earth 🌟

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Hello my friends, and Happy first week of Advent! A very Happy Hanukkah to those who celebrate as well!

Well, the holiday season is now underway and as usual, it seems to be FLYING by.(For example, I just realized we have only TWO solid weekends left before Christmas - and by that I mean THIS weekend and the next. Because a week after that it's CHRISTMAS EVE weekend, and, well ... YIKES. 😳

So how are you feeling these days? Are you getting in the spirit of things? Feeling a little behind? Maybe you're wishing it would just hurry up and get here already, lol? 

I myself do not feel quite ready, and I'd like Christmas to slow its roll a bit! I still have many things left on my to-do list (cards to mail, gifts to buy and wrap, cookies to bake etc.) and without some careful strategizing, there might not be enough time to do it all! #isaythiseveryyear

I am however, in the holiday spirit - that's for sure!

Take my new mug shown above for example. Isn't it festive? I got it on sale at Joann's last month. My usual mug for the first Tea of Advent (a soft green with white stars) is an old standby which, sadly, was broken by he who shall not be named - but who answers to "Fenway" - last month. So I splurged! And this one holds a nice amount of tea, or coffee as the case may be, and has a smooth, solid feel to it. (Still miss my old mug though!)

Anyhoo, my seasonal beverage today is Harney & Sons Holiday Tea. It's been my favorite holiday blend for years now, because it's a strong black tea with subtle Christmas flavors ...

From the H&S website:

Holiday Tea, spiced with citrus, almond, clove and cinnamon has become a year-round favorite black tea. Delicious hot or iced, it's a wonderful addition to a holiday table, served piping hot on a cold winter morning, or anytime you crave a holiday-inspired brew.

Ingredients: Black tea, cloves, almond flavor, orange flavor, vanilla flavor, safflowers, three types of cinnamon, orange pieces. Contains natural flavors.

I really love a bit of citrus in my holiday blends. I feel it pairs perfectly with the traditional holiday spices - keeping them from being too spicy, if you know what I mean, while adding a fresh and bright note.

(Do you have a favorite tea for this time of year? Please let me know in the comments below if you do. I'm always on the lookout for new blends to try!)

As for my "baked goodie" this week I'm enjoying a batch of shortbread that I made up last week. (I've kept an extra log of dough in the fridge just for this occasion!) I always make Scottish shortbread on the last day of November, in honor of St. Andrew's Day as well as my family's Scottish heritage ... but this year I decided to try a new recipe, one that featured fresh chopped cranberries and - yes, a bit of orange zest!

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They are truly delicious - definitely, a new favorite! I love how they look too, so merry and bright. :-)

Now, you might notice in the background of the above picture a whole bunch of numbered paper stars. Well, the other thing I do on the last day of November (or hopefully a few days before) is to get the kids' Advent countdown project ready!

As with most annual traditions, I like to try something a little different every year, but always I look to nature for inspiration. This year I decided to use the branches we had on our Thanksgiving table (from which our family's grateful leaves hung) as a base -

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- taped (much to Bill's chagrin) to the kitchen door.

Now, as I've mentioned in previous posts, I love the rhythm of a Waldorf-inspired Advent, with each week focusing on a different "kingdom of creation" (1st - mineral, 2nd - plant, 3rd - animal, 4th - humankind). I use these themes to create a specialized, family-friendly, nature-based Advent calendar.

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In this first week of Advent then, we explore stones, crystals and shells as well as bare branches or sticks (which are the "bones" of the garden). I also include sand, salt, sun, moon and stars in our first week's activities, hence the theme, "Heaven & Earth." 

Ok, let's get back to our branches! 

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I used some pre-cut Kraft paper stars I had on hand and on each one I wrote a number (24 in all). I used red and green crayons for this and you'll see why in a bit ... 

I then taped each star onto the door (using decorative Washi tape) around the bare branches. This made such a lovely visual!

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(And miraculously Fenway has only tried to down them down once!)

Each day the boys remove a star from the door, and we enjoy a special (yet easy) Advent activity. My thought was that Earlybird and Little Bear would take turns coloring in the day's star (with the aforementioned crayons) which would then be hung on a branch as decoration. They're also sharing a chocolate-a-day calendar and I figured one could color while the other could eat the candy ...

As it happens however, my kids are not as excited about coloring as I am - so it's Mom who's doing the coloring, decorating and hanging, lol. (Funny how I don't get any chocolates though!)

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Anyways, it's still a wonderful visual for them, seeing all those plain stars slowly disappear to be transformed into festive ornaments. Because the more the stars disappear from the door and reappear on the branches, the closer to Christmas we get!

As for the activities ... well, I've learned a thing or three in my 22 years of (special needs) motherhood - and that is to keep expectations REALISTIC, be FLEXIBLE and don't OVERPLAN! But as a somewhat idealistic, semi-rigid, very type-A planner this is a lesson I need to learn again every day! 

So instead of writing the activities on the back of the star tags (as I've done in the past only to have something not fit right - whether it be the weather, our energy levels or the logistics of the activity itself) I leave the stars blank. Instead, the kids bring me the numbered star and I consult Mom's "Advent Calendar Key" to see what's in store for us that day.

The Key is basically a page in my master home planner (an A4 discbound notebook) where I jotted down potential activities for the days leading up to December 25th

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It might look like a lot, but I work on it in increments. I start by brainstorming simple individual activities, writing them on small sticky notes, and then organizing them by weekly theme. (For example, painting rocks would go in minerals week, while drying orange slices for decoration would take place during plants week.) There are also activities tied to special events - such as Earlybird's birthday on the 14th and the Winter Solstice on the 21st.

I then sketch out a schedule and, using ERASABLE ink, match activities with days. This is only for Mom's eyes!!

I already had to make a change to my schedule when I came down with the cold that Little Bear and Earlybird had been fighting and a "nighttime star walk" just was not to be. Instead we made star-shaped sun catchers! 

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Had the kids read a tag promising a nighttime stroll, they would have been sorely disappointed when told it couldn't happen! The craft - though admittedly, less flashy than the stroll - was fun, took all of 10 minutes (with a bit of easy prep by me) and the stars look so darn pretty in our living room window!

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So our first Advent star revealed a familiar but super exciting activity and that was to put up the Christmas tree! And this year we had a big reveal for the kids - because Bill and I decided to purchase an artificial tree! To be perfectly honest I do prefer a live tree. Unfortunately though, it's just not practical for our family. For one thing, we really like to put the tree up very early and no matter how hard we try our trees always end up near death come Christmas morning. A very ugly and depressing (not to mention potentially dangerous) situation. Also, we have two cats and a dog who absolutely LOVE to drink up that pine-needle-enriched tree water. Then get sick under said tree.

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Archie sampling the new plastic needles - he was (thankfully) not impressed.

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Here we have Bill and Little Bear working the branches, by "fluffing" out the tips to fill in the empty spots ...I have to say we were pleasantly surprised by just how "real" our new tree actually looks!

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Let there be peace on earth ... and, fingers-crossed, under our tree!

Finally, on Sunday I set up our Advent Spiral. I have done some variation on this idea for years - using apples, salt dough, acorn caps, stones, or pine branches etc. Usually I set it up inside, but one time we had it outside! That was so fun - Little Bear was a toddler and it was just magical. :-)

Maybe we'll do that again one year, but this year I'm trying to keep it - yup, you guessed it - simple. Recently though, I saw this beautiful craft on Pinterest, and knew I had to try making it!

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I started with a wood slice I had on hand and painted it with celestial colors, then added a silvery star path with a metallic marker. In the center I glued a small wooden star. This would represent the Christmas star, where our Advent journey ends!

Next I took a small wooden candleholder and painted it in matching colors. I then found an image online of the holy family and traced it onto very thin paper. Once I had the outline how I liked it, I colored it in with black ink and then cut it out using fine-tipped scissors. I attached the image to the candleholder using a coat of Mod Podge.

Final touch - a blue beeswax candle the boys and I made last year!

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I placed the Spiral in our front window, and every day we move the candle one star further along the path, with the idea that on Sundays we'll bring it to the table to light at Sunday dinner.

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(I was in bed most of the day this first Sunday so we'll start the dinner lighting this weekend, I hope!)

I also placed a cool little geode that Little Bear cracked open some time ago, in the middle of the Spiral as a representation of our current kingdom. (Next week there will be a pinecone, the week after that a small wooden animal and in the final week, a felted heart shape.)

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Well, my friends - I am so happy to be back here again and especially to be sharing some tea, cookies and crafts with you all. I feel I must apologize that I have basically abandoned my blog this year. I truly had all intentions of getting back into the blogging "groove" this past year and then, well ... life happened. And as you might know, Earlybird had a rather serious injury requiring multiple surgeries and a prolonged recovery. (I'm happy to report he is back to his normal cavity level and feeling great!)

And while I hesitate to promise the frequency of posting I once managed (HOW, I wonder - how on earth did I manage that??) I do hope and INTEND to renew my blogging habit once again, even though I know blogging has become somewhat passeΒ΄ ...

It's been so fun to sit down and share a little bit of what we've been up to and chat about the season at hand. Thanks SO much for joining me and I will see you all here again for TEA next Friday afternoon!

Our Advent theme next week will be: Season's Greenery. :-)

Take care, everyone!

XOXO,

~ Dawn


Advent is here! Please join me for tea ...

Unnamed-1 (2) Hello my friends and Happy Advent! I hope this post finds you and your loved ones doing well.

I'm stopping in today on the Feast of St. Nicholas to let you all know I will have some Teatime posts coming up over the next few weeks! (And if you follow me on Instagram you may already have heard about this!)

To the left is the schedule I have in mind for my Advent Teatimes ... and that means the first one will be THIS Friday - in just two days!

I have a bunch of things to share with you, including of course, a special cup of tea and a freshly baked holiday goodie! Some crafts and some family updates and some plans for the season ahead ...

I hope you will join me! Look for my posts around Teatime (aka 4 in the afternoon).

But before I go, I have to tell you that as I type up this little post, I am watching the sun come out from behind a thick blanket of snow clouds ... and indeed, we woke to a light dusting this morning! It really is so lovely when it snows before Christmas. We don't always get a white Christmas here, but every year we hope for it just the same!

Speaking of hopes - the theme for my first Advent Tea will be HEAVEN & EARTH, which our seasonal focus of the week, in accordance with our nature-based Waldorf-inspired Advent. And the questions we are pondering are. ... what is our HOPE for this Christmas season? And what HOPES (and/or goals) do we have for the new year?

Well, I do hope you will consider popping by on Friday - here or over on Instagram - and sharing in a cup or two of Advent comfort and joy. I know my blogging has been basically non-existent for several months now, but I felt so compelled to revisit my Teatimes here at the blog. It just wouldn't be Advent (for me) without them! 

Take care my friends, and see you here again very soon!

Love,

~ Dawn

 


My Homemade 2023-2024 Academic Planner (Free PDFs!)

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Hello my fiends, and long no time see!

I hope you've all had a good year so far. I can't believe how time just got away from me this year and my poor little blog has not had any updates in so many months. But! I'm here today to share some new planning sheets with you all. I have an academic set ready to go - September 2023 - June 2024. I had hoped to get new sheets up for the start of the year, but then ... well ... LIFE happened.

So yes, it's been a challenging year to say the least. If you don't follow me on Instagram then you may not have seen my posts about Earlybird's injury. The morning after Christmas 2022, Earlybird fell in his bedroom and broke his knee. No one was upstairs when it happened so we don't actually know how he did it, but the result of this fall was a patella broken clean in half! The next six months were filled with multiple surgeries and a grueling recovery (including a metal frame surgically attached to his leg) and then many, many weeks of physical and occupational therapy. EB was so brave through it all and I'm very happy now six plus months later to say that he's walking again and physically back to baseline.

(His anxiety issues are a whole 'nother story however!)

Anyhoo, that's a big post for another time - for today I would like to share my updated planner pages with you all in case anyone still enjoys using them! As always they are free for your personal use and if you'd like to share them please tag me (here or on Instagram). One of these days I may get them to a place where they're done well enough I feel comfortable selling them as ready-made planners - but today is (still) not that day!

To set up a planner using these sheets, simply print each PDF link in the order listed below and then assemble the pages as you wish (3-hole punch, disc-bound or have them spiral bound at Staple as I do). I will suggest using a high grade printer paper (98 bright/32 lb. is my preference), because it makes such a difference in the feel of the pages!

I will do a follow up post to show you how I use these printable to create my own pretty planner (in the meantime you can find more info in my homemade planner archive.)

Ok, now for the links!

Beginning pages (these include title page, yearly, weekly and monthly/seasonal overviews)

September

October

November

December

January

February

March

April

May

June

End Pages (extra note pages)

 

And for now I will say goodbye and hope to see you again here very soon! In the meantime, please consider visiting me on Instagram - I post there nearly every day!


Happy New Year, a PDF & Some News ...

Hello, my friends and Happy New Year!

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Well, I'm afraid I've been MIA recently (after promising all kinds of posts) and I apologize for that. I do hope to get back to posting again sometime soon, but Id like to fill you in a little on what's been going on and ask for your prayers and positive thoughts ...

So, it had been a challenging time since roundabouts mid-December with the kids getting sick in tandem (not Covid, most likely flu) and next there was Earlybird's broken tooth, and then of course we had the holidays (which were very nice and I hope yours were too!) and then everything really turned upside down ...

Because on Boxing Day morning, Earlybird fell in his room and seriously injured his knee. Due to the nature of the injury and the challenges that come with his autism, it was really hard to figure out exactly what happened (everyone else was downstairs when he fell) and precisely what he actually did to his knee. It swelled up enormously, bruised brilliantly, and it hurt him so badly he couldn't bear to stand on it - but whether this was due to pain or fear of trying we couldn't be sure. EB has a hard time expressing himself and anxiety always rules in any scary &/or painful situation. He could bend his knee, and didn't seem to mind it being felt -  in fact, after the initial shock had worn off, he seemed to be weathering the injury fairly well.

Of course we immediately called the doctor and upon his advice, tried to get EB to urgent care for a looksee - but unfortunately we just couldn't get him down the stairs. EB's now way bigger than Bill and I and when he really doesn't want to do something - well, there is NO budging him! We thought about calling an ambulance but were told they could only take him to the ER, and that would be no place for EB. He can hardly wait 20 minutes let alone hours! (Plus the ER is a hotbed of illness these days.)

So we got him a Telehealth appointment while we worked on helping him with pain management (ice and motrin) and mobility issues (a no-go on the walker but a rolling desk chair helped him cruise to the bathroom and back).

Then finally - just last Thursday - we finally got him downstairs! 

(Via a very slow "bum shuffle" down the staircase - following my example - into a wheelchair and then out to our van, ultimately making it over to see the doctor ...

... who was SO super nice and really took her time with EB. (It's such a blessing when you find health care professionals who "get it" and treat your child to a gentle and positive approach with much patience and understanding. I know other special needs parents know what I mean by this!)

(And let me give a hearty shoutout to our BCBA (our ABA supervisor) for much needed help and support throughout all of this. She's known EB for YEARS and really knows how to calm him and guide him when he's feeling scared and being inflexible.)

Anyway - after examining his knee and asking EB some questions about the pain (which he answered rather ambiguously, as is his way), the doctor decided to do an x-ray - and thank goodness she did! Because the x-ray showed that Earlybird actually FRACTURED his patella - right clean in half. One part is wedged up above where his kneecap should be and the other piece is floating somewhere below. The middle part is spongy because there's nothing there ...

I know ... the damage could not have been worse!

The doctor said EB must have an incredibly high tolerance for pain (which we've seen in the past), but everyone was just gobsmacked by the extent of his injury! Our poor boy!

Ok, to sum up - 

EB will be having surgery to repair his fractured patella this Friday. Anytime a child needs surgery it's a time for stress and worry, yet the situation for EB is a little more fraught. For one thing, he is extremely afraid of needles and to get an IV in him is nearly impossible. To be honest this is what I'm worried about most! EB will fight the IV and in the past has been pretty resistant to sedative meds. (The sleepy drink for example - does NOTHING for EB.) Anyhoo ... I am not going to borrow worries just yet. Today things are calm and EB is not in pain at all. He's taking this all in stride, honestly. He's all chipper and comfy on his bed, tv clicker in hand, mom and dad at his beck and call, and no chores whatsoever! He's careful with his knee - but he does understand it needs to be fixed ... it's the only way he'll get to go to his favorite places and ride his bike come spring!

(Yes, this is a continuous topic of conversation: why we fix bones when we break them ... because we want our bodies to be strong and healthy and we want to live our best life!)

So we're taking it one day at a time and pulling in as many resources and support as we can. I know we'll get through this and I feel really hopeful this will all go smoothly - still, I would cherish your prayers and any positive energy you can send on his behalf. I pray Earlybird's surgery is easy and safe and that his recovery is quick and comfortable. And that we ALL find the strength we need to get through whatever hiccups might happen.

Now, here are a couple of pics I shared recently on Instagram:

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(Shared last Thursday morning, the first time was able to come down the stairs.)

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(Shared later that afternoon when we found out the extent of his injuries!)

So for the time being, I'm going to be taking a semi-break from my social media. I say "semi" because I might post every once in a while, but my focus will be on being completely available to our son as he goes through all of this. After the surgery he will have weeks of recovery and rehab and I'm very grateful we'll have a daily ABA therapist to help us - help him!

I do hope to post a Midwinter Tea at some point, once we're on the other side of this situation. I'd like to check in and let you know how he's doing and share some of our winter adventures with you, too - such as they'll be this year!

Now, before I go - a quick note for my friends who enjoy using my homemade planning sheets:

I'm really sorry that I was not able to get my 2023 planning sheets posted (or even finished) for you all. It's the first time in years I've missed it! What I was able to do though, is create a blank (undated) monthly planning PDF that includes a monthly calendar and six two-page weekly spreads. I hope this is helpful and I welcome you to use it as you wish! :-)

Undated Planning Sheet PDF

Ok, friends, I will let you all go now, but I do hope you are all doing well and I also hope your new year is off to a healthy and happy start. Thanks for checking in and take care ... I'll be back here again very soon!

Xoxo,

~ Dawn


Advent Tea Week 3: Holiday Cleaning and Crafting!

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Hello my friends, and welcome! I'm so happy you could join me for another cup of holiday tea in this third week of Advent. :-)

But before I get to this week's tea, I must apologize to you all for missing last week's tea entirely. We've had some family challenges lately, and I won't bore you with the all the details, but let's just say the past week involved a nasty cold virus, a broken tooth, a broken computer AND a broken teakettle. And then Earlybird's ABA therapist (who provides daily support) quit unexpectedly.

*ack*

Thankfully though, things are getting back on track. And so what we have here is two-fer-one kind of post, fairly jam-packed with pictures and notes on what we've been up to lately, despite all the setbacks! I hope you enjoy ...❀️

So my friends, may I offer you a cup of "spiced orange mulled tea?"

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I found this recipe on Pinterest as I searched for a signature Christmas cocktail. Every holiday we host features a signature drink (so fun!) but I like to offer something special that's non-alcoholic too. And this tea just looks so pretty in my little red cups, a set of 12 (with a matching punch bowl), that once belonged to my grandmother. With cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, fresh oranges and black tea this made my kitchen smell like the Christmas season itself as it brewed!

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Now as I've mentioned many times before, our annual Advent journey is heavily influenced by Waldorf tradition as well as the natural world. In the first week of Advent (as detailed in my prior post) we explore the concept of "heaven and earth" - crafting with and celebrating this first layer of creation: minerals, stones, stars, shells and earthly foundations like soil and sand. The second week has us embracing the blessings of the plant kingdom, most especially the Christmas tree itself! We also learn about Christmas plants and one of the things I like to do at this time of year, in this specific week, is to clean out and organize my baking pantry. This is a great way to become familiar with the herbs and spices of the season!

Ok, so this is the before pic ... yeah it was bad.

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And here are the in-betweens and afters!

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Gosh, was it a mess in there! And so many expired things ... I'm kind of ashamed. Well, we hauled everything out and wiped down the shelves, which were sticky with who-knows-what and dusty with random seasonings, etc. Then we went through all the stuff - smelling as we went - and consolidated, organized and then - rearranged!

The bottom shelves still need some work - boxes of oatmeal and tea and cocoa are in need of better storage. And I've started a pantry list in my planner in hopes of keeping better track of what I have on hand and what needs replacing. (Somehow I had four jars - all opened - of molasses, and three separate, half-empty containers of cornstarch. Of course, this is not all that surprising considering the state of affairs in that first pantry picture!)

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Now how about a tour of the rest of my kitchen? That too was a bit of a mess, so on one of the days we were staying home with kids feeling under the weather, I devoted myself to a thorough late autumn cleaning. It's nice to have the kitchen clean before I really get into the holiday baking!

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(Store-bought star cookies - so good with a cup of decaffeinated tea!)

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(I just love how the window stars form pretty shadows on this wall of cabinetry.)

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(Couldn't resist a picture of Fenway - one year old now! - basking in the afternoon sun. He loves to be underfoot in the kitchen, or anywhere really!)

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Here are a few pictures from plants week, which had us exploring not just the pantry, but the yard as well. We found hardy rosemary, crawling mint, plenty of evergreens ... 

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And frosty rose hips in the front hedgerow!

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And this little guy will be our solstice tree, as yet undecorated. We'll hang lights and edible treats for the wildlife here next week.

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Last month we busied ourselves gathering pine cones for holiday crafting. The Eastern White Pines in our yard are extremely tall and drop humungous cones! For this craft we first arranged the cones on a cookie sheet and baked them at 200 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes (to kill any bugs). Then we coated the tips of each petal with a mixture of white acrylic paint and school glue ...

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So easy to do! And with such pretty results!0-7

A sprinkle of glitter made them really festive, and especially lovely hanging in a sunny window ...


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A few cones were further decorated with tiny felt balls. I just love how these came out!

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Another craft that was simple to make and sweet with the fragrance (and taste!) of fresh peppermint:

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Instructions found on Pinterest: Place greased metal cookie cutters on a parchment-lined cookie sheet and fill them loosely with starlight candies. Then bake for 5-6 minutes at 350 degrees F. You really have to keep an eye on them because some will melt faster than others depending on the size of the cutter and the amount of candies in each.

Ready for the oven!
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And here's how they turned out! :-)
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And, as promised, here's our Christmas tree for 2023 ...

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Note the playdate around the bottom of the tree! This would be to keep the puppy and the cats out of the tree water!

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A closer peek at the Advent "wreath" on our kitchen table:

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Four little red lanterns, one for each week of Advent, each holding an LED tea light. The lanterns stand around a Christmas tree candleholder and the whole set up is surrounded by a tangle of tiny golden bells, (fake) red berries and fairy lights.

It's so beautiful at night, especially!


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Ok, two more simple "makes" starting with these sweet wooden bead snowmen:

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I saw this on Pinterest and knew I had to try it! You basically just thread twine through three plain wooden beads, knotting it at both ends, leaving a loop at the top. Then use sharpie markers to make a snowman face and tie a little baker's twine around the "neck" for a bit of extra color.

Thank you to "Creating Me" for the idea! You can find the full instructions at her post.

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Final craft: a little pumpkin leftover from Halloween, transformed into a pretty woodland friend ... 0-38

Again, something I found on Pinterest! The book shown in this picture is one of our favorites to read in the week leading up to the winter solstice: Goodbye Autumn, Hello Winter by Kenard Pak.

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And last pics I'd like to share are from yesterday, which was Earlybird's 21st birthday. (I KNOW - how did EB get to be 21?!?!)


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My folks and I took EB to a local toy museum and then to lunch at Wendy's.

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It was a really nice day!

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Well my friends, I hope you are all doing well and enjoying these last weeks of the year. I hope you are staying healthy, too! Thanks so much for joining me for tea and I will keep my fingers crossed I'm able to be with you here again next week!

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


Advent Tea Week 1: "Setting the Stage"

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Hello my friends and Happy December! Are you as startled as I am to find ourselves in the last month of the year? Where did the fall go? Where on earth did 2022 go?! And where did all those posts I had planned since this past spring go??

Well, I'm very happy to be here with you all after (yet another) very long and unintended hiatus. I'm afraid it's really been challenging finding my blogging groove again (not to mention, the time to blog!), but if you are over on Instagram, I do post there pretty regularly. And I do still intend to do more with my website, and - though I say this every year - I hope THIS year I find my way back to connecting here (and elsewhere) more consistently.

But all of that is fodder for another post (perhaps one closer to New Year's), so for now, I will look forward to these little holiday teatimes and hope that you will join me when you can. :-) 

Now, if you do follow me on IG, then you might have seen my recent monthly photo challenges. Here is the schedule for the month of December:

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As I said in my post, I can't promise I'll post *every* day, but I will do my very best. And honestly, I just like using this list (the same as last year's) to inspire a fun holiday β€œmood” in our home, as well as in our daily homeschool activities! ✨

I'm really excited to revive my weekly Advent Teatimes - I have such fun putting them together. As always, all are welcome to join me, and if you do post about your tea, please send me a link so I can read and share it!

 Here is the schedule I made up for these teatimes:

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But now let's move on to my very first cup of 2022 Advent Tea, which is pictured at the top of this post. Yesterday was St. Andrew of Scotland's day, and it is tradition in our family to bake a batch of shortbread on this day. This year I decided to try baking it in my new cast iron skillet ...

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And I'm delighted to say, it came out just lovely! Thick and soft with crisp edges and a solid bottom. Shortbread is just so easy to whip up, and to my mind, the perfect kind of cookie to enjoy with a cup of hot tea.

And speaking of today's tea ...

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Nevermind that this is a "Bedtime" brew - I love to drink it on winter afternoons because the flavors are so cozy and comforting. Also, I don't do caffeine after 9 a.m.! And I love to find really good-tasting, full-bodied decaf tea blends.

What tea are you enjoying lately? Or are you more of a coffee or cocoa kind of gal?

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Now, the theme of this first tea of Advent is "setting the stage," and that's because for me, the time between Thanksgiving and the first of December is is a time to prepare a welcoming environment and cultivate an atmosphere of quiet joy and anticipation. This is something I give a good bit of thought before we find ourselves immersed in the bustle of the season. I like to write out my ideas and possibilities, perhaps create a collage of images that convey the kind of feeling I hope to create in our home.

Here is a spread I made in my bullet journal along these lines:

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Every year we follow a Waldorf-inspired, nature-based Advent journey. This means that during the four weeks leading up to Christmas we explore a different aspect of creation: minerals, plants, animals and humankind. We've been doing this for many years now (ever since Bookworm was little and we first discovered Waldorf education) but every year I like to tweak our Advent countdown a little bit.

This year I decided to create a cozy window nook where we could hang some daily activity cards and prepare an Advent spiral garden ...


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In this first week of Advent, we enjoy activities inspired by things like pretty rocks, shells and crystals. So on Monday, the kids and I collected rocks from the yard (as well as pinecones and acorn caps, but I'll get into that later) which we then painted as "story stones."

These four shown here (which I painted using craft rocks) represent the four kingdoms of creation:

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Over the weekend I prepared 24 tags - numbered 1-24 on the front, with a simple activity suggested on the back.

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I also hung some copper star lights around the window frame. These give off just a touch of soft light, keeping in line with our atmosphere of quiet joy. :-)

Yesterday the kids and I made a salt-based dough (first admiring the salt crystals under our jeweler's loupes) and I fashioned it into a spiral. I baked it for a couple of hours in a very low oven.

Today we made acorn cap candles, following directions found on Pinterest!

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(Note: I pressed an acorn cap into the spiral - 24 indents in all - before it hardened, so the caps would nestle snugly into the finished dough.)

I cut a bit of beeswax hemp wicking for each cap ...

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... and then we melted some beeswax in a makeshift double boiler. The liquid wax was then poured very carefully (by me) into each acorn cap, creating a tiny and adorable candle!


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I also made a heart-shaped candle (using a shaped ice cube mold)...

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This one will be lit on Christmas Day!

(Needless to say, the lighting of these candles, surrounded as they are by tiny pinecones and moss, is undertaken with much care and adult supervision. I plan to only keep the candle lit until we've read aloud a verse of the day, then one of the kids can blow it out.)

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I placed the spiral in the window nook, on top of a wooden lazy Susan. Each week we will add items around the spiral - treasures we have on our shelf, or find on a walk - that reflect the beautiful layers of nature ...

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And today we lit the first one!

 

"Winter is dark, yet each little spark

Brightens the way to Christmas Day.

Shine little light and show us the way

To the bright light of Christmas Day."

(Heidi St. John)


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In each of my teatime posts I will share little corners of our home where we are living out our Advent. Shown below is the crafting table I set up in the family room ...

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Here is where we can make, bake, snack, or even do a puzzle -  and watch Christmas videos as we work, play or eat. (Showing here in the background: Stick Man, a holiday favorite!)

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So! The stage has been set and the plans have been (tentatively) made. December can be cold, dark and hectic - but I hope these simple activities encourage my family to connect with the season, kindling a little light in our hearts day by day. 

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Thanks so much for joining me today, my friends! I will be here again next week with a tour of our Christmas tree AND my Christmas kitchen. :-)

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


A Cute Easter Craft & Holiday Plans!

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Hello my friends, and Happy April! I hope you are all doing well. :-)

Today I'd like to share a couple of quick things with you:

~ a cute little craft my mum and I did with the younger kids, and ...

~ a peek at my notes for the upcoming Easter holiday!

First though - aren't these pansies just gorgeous??

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Earlybird and I purchased them at a local nursery yesterday and I just think they are the cheeriest little flowers! Bill and EB will plant them in the pair of black urns that stand on either side of our front door. Those beautiful shades of purple and white and yellow ... they speak to me of spring! And how fun they will be to sketch in our journals this week! 

In fact, this would be a nice poem to memorize in April:

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But now for that cute little candle craft we worked on this past week!

There were two parts to this project - the eggshell candles and the painted wooden egg cups. I'll start with the eggs as I got these ready a day ahead. Basically I just followed instructions I found online to make these candles. I started by coloring fresh eggs with a PAAS coloring kit. (And by "fresh" I mean, I didn't hard boil them or blow out the yoke first.)

If you follow me on Instagram you might have gotten a peek at my eggs the other day ...

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And I must mention these sweet little egg custards made with maple syrup and milk - one of my favorite treats to serve in March, when the hens start laying and the sap starts running! And yes, those are our hens' eggs in that basket on the right. :-)

Now, I did all of this on Wednesday, because my mother was coming over on Thursday to help with the craft. I know Mum loves custards and I also remember fondly all the times she would make them for my grandmother (who found eating difficult in her last years). This custard is just so smooth, comforting and nourishing and my grandmother just relished it. I did too!

Don't you just love family recipes like that? πŸ’•

Ok, now for the next part ...

First Mum and I cleaned out the eggs' innards. We did this by poking the top of the egg with a teeny-tiny screwdriver I found in Bill's hardware drawer and then made the hole bigger with our fingers, scrambling and then dumping out the yolk.

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(Unsurprisingly, the kids did not want to help with this part!)

Next we peeled the shells down so the egg had a small cup shape, and once fully dry, I prepared the eggs for the beeswax ...

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For this craft, I ordered candle wicking from Amazon and it came with stickers for the metal disk at the bottom of each wick (to secure it to the base) as well as wooden sticks drilled with holes for keeping the wick straight as the wax sets.

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We next melted a few beeswax bars in a makeshift double boiler - a clean can with tin foil molded to the bottom sitting in a small pan of simmering water. The tin foil helps keep the can from scraping the pan. (I learned that lesson the hard way, lol!)

Once the beeswax was liquid, we carefully poured the wax into the egg shells. This is very tricky - you need a steady hand! - so I had Bill help me with this part. He used tongs to hold the can because of course, it was very hot!

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Now as the egg candles cooled, we set up to paint with the kids at the table. I had purchased some unfinished wooden egg cups on Amazon for this craft. Mum, the kids - and even Bill! - and I set about painting them in any way we wished. We mostly chose springy colors and themes. The egg candles were ready by the time we finished up and so here's the final results:

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These little egg candles will be set on our dining tables on Easter Sunday. I'm so pleased with how they came out! 

Ok, now for a peek into my planner ... :-)

Pictured here is my go-to, all-around, everyday planner. It is a Wonderland 222 planner plus notebook. I keep both books in a leather/canvas cover and I love the ease of flipping back and forth between my monthly/weekly planner and my daily journaling pages. This particular section shown below is in my journal and as you can see I've devoted a two-page spread to my Easter plans and notes ...

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The floral paper is something I added in myself - I have a whole pad of these lovely papers, but for the life of me I can't remember where I found them! I used a Tombow adhesive applicator to adhere the stationary to my planner page. On this page I simply brainstormed all the preparations I'd need to make leading up to Easter Sunday.

On the right-hand page I jotted down pertinent dinner details (date/time/guests) and added (again, with Tombow) a pretty pastel week-at-a-glance. I always like to plan the nitty-grittiest of details in the final week before any big event!

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Also on this page I've started a list of cleaning tasks. I will obviously be referring back to this spread very often over the next two weeks!

Lastly ...

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I found a sticky note pad with - yes, coordinating colors! I'm using it to work out the menu. It's still a work-in-progress as  you can see!

Well, my friends, I hope you enjoyed this post, and I hope wherever you are and however you celebrate, you are able to enjoy this new season of new life and loveliness. I also hope and pray you and your loved ones are happy, safe and well. πŸ™πŸ»

Thanks so much for stopping by ... I will hope to see you again very soon!

Love,

~ Dawn


How I use my homemade planner ... a tour!

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Hello, my friends and Happy Sunday! I hope this post finds you all happy, healthy and safe. :-)

In my last post I shared the PDF links to my monthly planning sheets for 2022 and today I'd like to dig a little deeper. For those new to my blog, I have been sharing my homemade planner for several years now. In addition to this weekly planner (which includes monthly calendars) I also have shared many seasonal and holiday planning worksheets over the years. (Check out my PRINTABLES archive for more details.)

I absolutely love designing these planning sheets and it makes me so happy to share them here with you all. They are in no way a "professional" product (not at this point anyway!), just a work of my heart ... a "tool" I myself use in order to ...

slow myself down

savor the seasons

focus on my home and family ...

and mindfully prepare for each week of the year!

So today I'd like to walk you through the process of taking these printed-out sheets and transforming them into a personal planner. Then I'll share a few of the completed pages "in action" so to speak!

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Ok, shown here in these first pictures is my final planner. I first printed out each PDF (the front section + each of the monthly sections), and then chose a piece of scrapbooking paper (cardstock weight) for the cover. I used similar paper for my monthly dividers. (You'll see an example of these further down in this post). Lastly, I added a thick piece of chipboard as a sturdy back cover.

I had a little fun creating a unique cover design, using some papers and stickers I had on hand ...

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I absolutely love a vintage aesthetic, especially woodsy, botanical images. These lovely papers are part of the "Nature Notebook Collection" from Graphic 45 - except for the  black and white floral cover which was purchased at Michaels many years ago.

Some years I keep my planning sheets in a 3-ring binder, but I usually have it bound at Staples. In general, it takes about 20 minutes and costs about $6.

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Back at home I added adhesive tabs to the monthly divider pages as well as a clear pocket to the inside cover. I decorated that pocket with some stickers personalizing my planner (just for fun!). Currently I have some note papers here I may want to use in my planner, but have not yet figured out how.

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The front section of the planner includes a title page, a dated yearly calendar (which I found on Pinterest) and some annual planning pages ...


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I used a highlighter on the dated calendar to remind me of our homeschooling schedule. The new year page has some goals written down and to keep them private I just used a pretty piece of scrapbooking paper to cover them. 

Next is an undated calendar for keeping track of ALL the events happening this year ... and then an outline where I can plan out our weekly seasonal themes.

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The following section is for sketching out a weekly and daily rhythm. I have not filled these in yet since we're awaiting a possible change to our son's therapy schedule. Once I have that information I will be able to complete this section.

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The last page in the front section is a monthly homekeeping task calendar. I must stress that this is an IDEA of what should/could be done throughout the year but suffice it to say -  have never EVER done it all. I just use these as gentle reminders as I go about planning out a new month!

And speaking of ... here we begin the monthly planning section and - slacker that I am - I completely missed the first two months of the year by the time I got around to making my 2022 planner! So this time around, I begin with March ...

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I use this divider page as a kind of "inbox"  - if there is some information I need to remember for a certain month, but I'm not actively working in that month yet, I jot it on a sticky note and place it here. Things like - appointments, movie/tv or book releases, random reminders and such. Once I've recorded the info, I remove the sticky - so March (my current month) has no stickies. April, however, is full of them!

(Note: I am always asked about these pretty vintage-style papers and unfortunately they can be hard to find. This particular print is from a collection called "Children's Hour" and while that is out of print, I am happy to report there are many lovely prints to choose from. Just search for "Graphic 45" at Amazon to see what's available at this time. I purchase 12x12 pads and cut the papers down to planner size, which is 8.5" x 11". 

Now, flipping this divider page, we find ...

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The monthly title page!

When I make up my planning sheets I have such fun looking on Pinterest for vintage designs and seasonal quotations! I have decided to use the backside of the divider page as a spot for a monthly nature diary. I have a phenology wheel here attached to some dot-grid notebook paper, which was then attached to the divider using a Tombow adhesive applicator. I plan to add some photos or perhaps sketches here as well. 

And now we come to the first monthly calendar spread!

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I edge each monthly calendar with washi tape so it stands out and here is where I attach the adhesive monthly tab. I like to do a little doodling in the open spaces and maybe add some pretty paper cutouts. In the notes column I create a little almanac - listing things special to each month, such as flower, gem, moon, seasonal themes and new releases to look forward to. (I am a big fan of historical romance!) 

And here's a peek at the next spread ...


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The left page is a monthly vision board - and I just covered it up with some images I found on Pinterest as well as some photos. This is a collage of my March "blessings" ... Irish soda bread on my grandmother's Irish china, pussy willows, melting/mud, maple sugaring, spring teatime, snowdrops, leprechauns and the return of the red-winged blackbirds. :-)

The right page is actually an overview of the month but instead of filling that out, I attached an outdoor almanac here, printed out from our local Mass Audubon website. (I strongly encourage you to tweak the planner to your own specifics! It's easy enough to add special papers here and there ... and I think it adds visual interest, too!)

Ok, and now we have the heart of the planner - the weekly planning spread!

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I haven't really played around with this design too much over the years. It still works pretty well for me, covering the main areas of my life. I know some folks prefer a "Sunday start" but honestly, I just see Monday as the first day of my week. 

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The left side of the spread is where I kind of sketch out ideas and make lists. I signify what's of note for the week (events, appointments, anything outside of the norm), as well as the week's seasonal theme ...

This week (3/14-3/20) we'll be exploring the concept of "Thaw" in honor of Friday's Full Sap Moon. Most of my themes are pretty timely (or seasonal, I should say), but sometimes they're completely spot on! Case in point - it's 30 something degrees today and BLUSTERY as all heck - plus, there is still snow and ice on the ground! But, we are expecting a week of sunshine and temps in the 50s and 60s and so we should see a LOT of melting and dropping and mud and all that comes with it! We'll learn about maple sugaring (which relies on the combination of mild days and freezing nights to get that sap running) and we'll search our woods for signs of spring. (Because of course, as I'm sure you realize - the vernal equinox arrives next Sunday morning!)

I create a meal plan for the week, noting any special seasonal foods to consider making/purchasing ...

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And I list out all kinds of ideas for creating seasonal connections and celebrating special days as a family - for instance, St. Patrick's Day and St. Joseph's Day as well as the ancient spring feast known as Ostara.

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The right hand side of the spread is where I "see" my week at a glance and manage my schedule. I use colored pens to designate when I'll be going somewhere  - or when my husband or one of the kids are going somewhere. And then there is a nice big column for notes ...


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This can be used as an open space or the lines can be separated into daily notes if you wish. I often use it as a space for lesson planning. I haven't filled out this week's plan yet, but here is a peek at last week's ...

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***

Well, there you have it! A little (or maybe a lot) about how I make and use my own homemade planner. Please see this post if you are interested in checking out my planning sheets for yourself. They are free for your personal use! I just ask that if you share about them online you give me a tag or a link back to my blog. Thanks so much!

Now, some folks have asked me about daily planning ... and well, that's a great question, but I think I'll tackle that topic in a future post! I will however  give you a quick peek at a daily planning page I designed for myself ... but more on that (plus that pretty notepad just purchased today) in an upcoming post!

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For now I wish you all a wonderful, late winter evening and thank you sincerely for stopping by to read and maybe say hi. I hope you enjoyed the post and I really hope you enjoy my planning sheets!

Please let me know if you have any questions ... but for now, I will say "bye!" Take care of  yourselves and your loved ones, my friends ... see you here again very soon!


My 2022 Planning Sheets! (FINALLY!)

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Good Monday morning, my friends! Well - at long long last, here are ALL of my 2022 planning sheets!

I am working on a follow-up post with details on A. how I assemble my own planner using these sheets - and, B. how I maintain and utilize the planner itself! That post is still in draft form, and as I didn't want to delay any further in getting these sheets to you all, here they are! (And just a day shy of the new month!)

I hope you enjoy my work, and as always, please feel free to use these sheets for your own personal use. If you share them online, please tag me or link back here to my blog. And if you have any problems uploading the PDF links, please let me know! Leave me a comment here or shoot me an email at drhanigan AT gmail DOT com.

Ok, here we go! Happy New(ish) Year, everyone! Talk again soon ... Love, Dawn

Front Section

January 2022

February 2022

March 2022

April 2022

May 2022

June 2022

July 2022

August 2022

September 2022

October 2022

November 2022

December 2022


Hello, February!

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Hello, my friends and Happy Monday! I'm here - at last! - on this bright and frigid last day of January to share my February planning sheets with you all. I had hoped to post these much earlier today (much earlier PERIOD!), but my 12-week old puppy had a thing or two to say about that ... ;-)

Seriously though, I do apologize for posting these much later than I intended. I want you to know I do not plan to do this every month! In fact, my goal is to get the whole set of my 2022 planning sheets to you all just as soon as I can! Thanks so much for your patience. I know some of you use these sheets as your primary planner!

Ok, without further apologies and explanations, here are my ...

February 2022 Planning Sheets!

As always, they are free for your personal use. If you'd like to share them online, please tag me or link back to my blog. And lastly, please let me know if you have trouble with the links or have any questions!

Sometimes I have these sheets spiral-bound at Staples, and I may still do that once I get the rest of them created, but for now I am keeping them in a 3-ring binder.

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Now, while I have you here, I thought I'd share a few things we've been up to recently! Here is a look at the coffee/tea cupboard I cleared out and re-organized yesterday:

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Oh my GOODNESS was this cupboard a mess!!

I first took everything out and wiped down the insides with a damp cloth. Then I decided what we actually needed on a daily basis. (Extra teas and flavored coffee went to the downstairs pantry.) Finally I found some containers for keeping certain things organized: coffee beans, nut-based creamer, honey and other sweeteners, some flavored syrups, decaffeinated tea bags, loose tea, a tea carafe, vanilla sugar and cinnamon sticks.

I'm working my way around the kitchen - slowly but surely - so stay tuned for more decluttering pictures! :-)

***

Now, as some of you might know, New England had a big snowstorm this weekend and today Little Bear and Fenway and I had a super fun nature walk romp through the yard!

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Meanwhile, the girls were not amused with this deep winter weather!


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***

Back in the kitchen, we warmed up with some hot while chocolate - celebrating National Hot Chocolate Day!IMG_7515And Little Bear helped me make Nana's Penuche frosting ...

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***

For supper tonight: a roast of turkey kielbasa, potatoes, multi-colored carrots and peppers plus a loaf of crusty bread. A wintertime favorite around here!

Well my friends, I'd best sign off now but I hope you are all keeping well and that your winter is going wonderfully so far. I'll be back with more planning sheets - and more late winter comforts - very soon!


Happy New Year, and ...

... can you believe how big these young people are getting??
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The Hanigan Kids, November, 2021

Hello, my fond and faraway friends - long time no see! I cannot BELIEVE it's been an entire YEAR since my last post here!

This was definitely the longest "break" I've ever taken from blogging - unintentional, certainly, but that's just the way the ball rolled around here this past year! As for most of you I suspect, 2021 - much like 2020- was an up and down kind of year for us. (I'll share a family update in an upcoming post.) But for today I wanted to get my January 2022 planning sheets posted here for those readers who like to use them!

My apologies that A. they are so very last minute, and B. I only have the first PDF (January) to share so far. #dontmakepromisesyoucantkeep 😬  I do have the whole year in draft form and I will be adding more PDFs here over the next few weeks. Watch for that pinned post at the top of this page to update soon!

Ok, here is the first in a 12-part installment:

2022 Planning Sheets: January

Please feel free to print and use these at home for your personal use. If you share the sheets online, I'd appreciate a tag or link back to my blog (or IG acct.) and as always, let me know if you have any trouble opening the files! :-)

(Speaking of IG - or Instagram - if you are able to access that platform, I post there almost every day. Do check my feed for a peek at some of our "doings" this past year.)

Ok and now, finally, since I have you here ... I would like to share some very happy news that just unfolded over the past couple of weeks ...

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We have a dog now!!

My friends, please meet, Fenway! This is our yellow Lab puppy who is all of 8 weeks old and just came home to live with us yesterday. Isn't he handsome??

It's kind of a neat story how his arrival came to be, and if you'll indulge me a moment or ten, I'd love to share it!

About a month ago we decided we wanted to get a dog, but it all came about after a few twists and turns! Little Bear (as you know, an avid animal enthusiast) had been campaigning for some kind of pet he could handle (as in, hold, pet, play with) in a way the cats (bless 'em) don't really allow. So that ruled out fish, turtles, birds and lizards (though each were considered, briefly) and then hamsters and guinea pigs also seemed a bad idea (re - the aforementioned cats) ... and then finally we seemed to settle on the idea of a bunny. Bill even purchased an adorable used bunny hutch and we started planning for how to go about getting ourselves a bunny and how (on earth) we would keep and manage that bunny.

Then I had a very important conversation with a dear friend who owns a bunny as well as three dogs, and after that chat I realized A. a bunny was not a great fit for our family (or at least, Little Bear's needs) and B. we might actually be ready for a dog!

What happened next was a very quick and fortuitous thing. We started out looking at many different adoption options. Our priority was choosing a breed that was known to be gentle, good-natured and comfortable with a large, busy family. Healthy, happy and hale, and as easy-care as possible. So we started searching different prospects online, when one day, Earlybird and his therapist bumped into our neighbor who introduced them to her new lab puppy. When she learned we were in the market for a new puppy, she told them there was one still available from her breeder ... soooo we called right away and spoke with said breeder, and because we had the reference of our neighbor she offered him to us!! All the other pups were spoken for ...

So we visited this pup the very next day and absolutely FELL IN LOVE! ❀

Fast forward two weeks to yesterday, the day our pup was ready to be brought home and now - here we are! 

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What do the cats think, you might wonder? Well ... it will be a slow warm-up I think. So far, they are mostly just curious and perhaps a little on edge. Both parties are aware of each other, but we are not allowing any contact yet. All "socializing" is done through gates and crate doors. 

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So we are going to take the introduction slooowly. Fingers crossed, they'll at least learn to tolerate him - and yes, he does match the cats - even the chickens are "buff" colored! πŸ˜…

🐾🐾🐾🐾🐾🐾🐾🐾🐾🐾🐾🐾🐾🐾🐾🐾🐾🐾🐾🐾🐾🐾🐾🐾🐾🐾🐾🐾🐾🐾

Anyhoo - as I mentioned above, I will have a family update for you in an upcoming post (hoping to do some Wintertime Teas), but let me just say briefly, that we are all doing well. Crackerjack actually tested positive for Covid the morning after Christmas, but he has been in isolation since (feeling much better now) and the rest of  us knock on wood are fine. (Little Bear, who has a bad cold, tested negative yesterday.) We are all vaccinated (even LB, who gets his second dose this week) and very careful about where we go and always wear masks in public. But such is the state of things now, nearly two years into this pandemic - breakthroughs are happening and a countrywide surge is upon us again. Let's hope and pray 2022 brings better days!

Be safe and well, my friends and I wish you all a very Happy New Year! I will see you here again very soon ...

xoxo ,

~ Dawn


My Homemade 2021 Planner + Free Printables!

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Hello my friends and Happy New Year! I hope you and your loved ones are all safe and well. :-)

As I announced yesterday on my Instagram and Facebook, I have posted links to all my 2021 planning sheets - at long last! I have them all pinned at the top of this page - which, you might have noticed, has gotten a bit of a makeover ...

New year, new design!

Anyhoo - my apologies for getting my planning sheets up so very late this year. My hope was to post the PDFs last weekend, but computer issues bogged me down ... and then Thursday morning, as I was chugging along getting very close to the finish line, Earlybird became suddenly quite ill. We ended up taking him to the emergency room and then staying overnight at the hospital. Not quite the way we wanted to spend New Year's Eve, but perhaps rather fitting for the infamous year that was 2020!

Most importantly though, Earlybird is home now and doing much better. He'd been diagnosed with a sinus infection Tuesday at the pediatrician's, but by Thursday morning his face had swelled up and he'd developed a high fever. At the hospital he was diagnosed with "facial cellulitis" and immediately put on intravenous antibiotics. As you can imagine, this experience was incredibly difficult and frightening for Earlybird (as well as his parents). Thankfully the hospital staff was excellent - sensitive and supportive - and EB was so brave, a real trooper! Unfortunately, his fear of needles made it impossible to continue the IV treatment on Friday once the first portal became corrupted, so we were sent home with oral medication and instructions to monitor his recovery closely. So far, (two days post-discharge), he has improved quite a bit. I have been begging prayers all around my social media platforms and I will ask them of you all too, if I may. If you could think of my EB and send him positive thoughts and healing energy, and any prayers if you can spare them - that he continues to heal fully and without any further complications ... I would be so very grateful!

Ok, now - enough of all that, let's take look at my planner, shall we? 

This is the fourth or fifth year I've made up a homemade planner like this, and I must say I am especially pleased with the results this time around! And I know I say this every year, but I really do hope to make this planner available for purchase sometime in the near future. I think I've really got the hang of making it now, I just need to figure out the "logistics" of setting up shop! (Watch for a planner mailing list later this winter for interested folks!)

In the meantime however, please feel free to use these sheets any way you wish, as long as it's for personal use. And if you post about them online, please give me a tag!

Ok, so let me walk you through how I put this planner together ...

First of all, I use a higher quality printer paper for printing out my planning sheets. This year I used Xerox "Bold Professional Premium Quality Printer Paper" (24 lb., 98 bright). I purchased it at CVS. I find that if I use a lower quality, "copy" paper, the planner pages are somewhat see-through, a little rougher to the feel and don't take my pen-ink well.

I use this paper to print out the 12 monthly PDFs plus the Front Section PDF and stack them in order.

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I then choose a pretty piece of scrapbooking card-stock weight paper for my cover. I decided to go with a soft bluish-green plaid paper this year ...

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... and I used some glittery, soft-aqua letter stickers as well. :-)

Ok, next!

I then create 12 monthly divider pages using thicker card-stock paper. This is not strictly necessary - you could edge the monthly title pages with washi paper to make them stand out - but I like the extra strength and stability those thicker dividers lend to my planners.

For these divider pages, I like to use vintage-style scrapbooking papers I found on Amazon years ago. The particular designs I used have gone out of print, but Graphic 45 always has lovely collections to choose from! As an example, here is the January divider:

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(Note: as these collections come in 12"x12" sheets, I cut them down to fit my 8.5"x11" planner.)

I also use a sturdy piece of chipboard for the back cover of my planner.

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Just for fun, I made a cozy little date-stamp for the back cover:

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(I can't remember exactly where I purchased that nest sticker but it might have been at Paper Source.)

Once I have all the pages of my planner in order, I bring my planner to Staples to have it spiral-bound. This costs about $5 and is usually a pretty quick service. I was happy to have a choice between black and blue coil-binding this year - and I went with the blue!

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(Note: I have also used these sheets in a 3-ring binder. I love that option for the flexibility, but I find writing in a spiral-bound book much easier than writing in - and carrying around - a binder.)

Ok, here is a look-see through my planner!

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Title Page

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New Year Thoughts Page

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January Cover Page

(Note: I search Pinterest for *vintage "month" images* to use in my planners. As long as I'm not profiting from these planning sheets I believe the images are free to use for personal use.)

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Two-page monthly calendar spread (right side).

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January Notes Calendar

(This was my original month-at-a-glance calendar before I figured out how to make a two-page spread! I've used this in different ways over the years - for dinner menus, nature notes and even as a habit tracker.)

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January Overview: To-dos, Home & Garden Goals, Budget and Seasonal Ideas.

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The weekly spread, left side (overview) ...

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The weekly spread, right side (agenda and notes).

(Beginning with the coming week (1/4-1/10), there is a spread like this for each week of the year. In addition to the monthly pages shown above, there is also a monthly review page as well as a couple of extra lined planning pages for each month.)

In a follow-up post I will show you some of my completed planner pages to give you an idea how I actually USE this planner! But for now I will wrap up, and bid you all a fond farewell on this dark, snowy Sunday night. Please let me know if you have any troubles with the links for my planning sheets - I should mention that sometimes the files can be slow to load. But I do hope you enjoy them and I will look forward to talking "planners and planning" again here with you all very soon!

Take care, my friends! Be well and at peace.

❀


Yuletide Tea at Dawn's ❀

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Hello, my friends and welcome to another spot of Tea at Dawn's! I am so happy you are joining me today, even if it's just virtually. As crazy as it seems, virtual is more a "reality" than ever these days, isn't it?

Coronavirus and other global stresses aside, I'm greeting you on this last Sunday of Advent with a feeling of hope in my heart that better days are ahead. I hope, too, that this post finds you, and your loved ones, all well and safe. How are you faring as this year comes to a close? Are you hanging in there? Are your holiday plans (like mine) very much altered in light of the pandemic?

Well, today I have a few things to share with you, including some festive holiday tea pictures, a peek at a few of our recent Advent activities AND ... the name of the winner of my homemade planner giveaway! I will make my announcement a little further along in this post, but first, let's take a look at today's Tea ...

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Now, if you were coming to my house on an afternoon such as this, I would invite you in out of the cold New England weather to take a seat at my breakfast nook table. I have set it with our favorite "homeschool tea" china - a charming little pinecone set I bought when my boys were very young ...

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(Before you ask - I found these dishes at a local "Christmas Tree Shoppe" many years ago, and it was not only *just* my style, but also, incredibly inexpensive! In hindsight I wish I had bought more than I did because it is very hard to find such woodland-themed china in a reasonable price range!)

On my table is a "colonial blue" woven tablecloth that originally belonged to my maternal grandmother, as well as a barn red braided pad, a gift from a dear friend who knows I adore braided rugs! There is also a pair of blue and cream spongeware mixing bowls holding an assortment of fruits. I just love all these soft cozy colors - the way the blues and soft reds complement the pale gray-green of my kitchen. :-)

And in our little pinecone pot I have a spicy warming brew awaiting us ...

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Trader Joe's Winter Wake Up Tea!

As yummy and seasonally on-point as this tea is, truth be told, I am sticking with a plainer tea these days. (Spice gives me heartburn, alas!) So I also have plenty of that sort available for those who would prefer it, as well as mulled cider on the stovetop - and between the beverages and the baked goodies fresh out of my oven - boy does it smell good in here!

Speaking of those goodies, the treats I baked up for today's gathering are some of my very favorite holiday pastries ...

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Mincemeat-filled, buttery, orangey tarts! Here is a peek at the preparation ...

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The pastry dough is a blend of flour, cinnamon and orange zest ...

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Using a kitchen glass I cut out 3-inch circles of dough, and set each circle inside a greased muffin tin well, gently pressing on the bottom and along the sides. I then spooned a tablespoon of prepared mincemeat filling into each well. (For those who are not familiar with "mincemeat" there is actually no meat at all in most modern blends. The brand I use (Nonesuch) has raisins, apples and spices - plus a wee bit of brandy and rum flavoring.)

Next I used a small star-shaped cookie cutter to make little pastry stars ...

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And then I topped each tart with a star!

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Last step - a light egg wash and they were ready for the oven.

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About 15 minutes later:

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All done and ready for a light coating of "winter snow" - aka powdered sugar!

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The perfect Yuletide confection, these would also be lovely at New Year's or on The Epiphany.

The full recipe can be found here. (Baker's note: this dough also makes a wonderful jam-filled turnover, wonderful for Christmas breakfast!)

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Ok, now for the lovely photos sent to me by my dear readers! I was thrilled to get a peek at your favorite special drinks ...

From Jennifer:

The mug is from a homeschool field trip about six years ago to New Melleray Abbey just outside of Dubuque, Iowa. The Trappist monks were so kind and I loved the peacefulness of the Abbey. This mug reminds me of that peace : )  I had to go caffeine-free about 6 months ago and am really liking peppermint herbal tea for the winter (I like something fruity for the warmer months).

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From Shelly:

Here is a picture of my current favorite mug! In the morning it is usually filled with tea, Oolong or Eggnogg’n. Sometimes in the afternoon I squeeze in a cup of Tazo’s Glazed Lemon Loaf tea. If you haven’t tried it, I highly recommend it! In the evening, after dinner, you’ll find it filled with warm and creamy cocoa.

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From Mary:

My favorite Christmas beverage is - Bonfire Mulled Honey Wine! I tried it for the for the first time last year.  Produced and bottled by Spirit Hills Ltd, in Millarville, Alberta, Canada this wine is delicious! This is what the the blurb says:
"Christmas in your mouth! A warm blanket around your heart!"
I have never like mulled anything before, but this is really, really good!! And it sure makes it easy to support local, when their product is absolutely delicious! And even though I am gushing about this product, really, the only time I drink wine, is when someone brings us wine for a dinner party gift!
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From Penelope:

Black coffee in my lovely mug made by Annie Quigley (you can find her easily on IG), sitting on my desk with books reflected ... The text reads, β€œTrust in God & do the next thing.” 


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From Stacey:

I am attaching a photo of one of my favorite mugs for this season. When I am sitting down with a book, reflecting or planning, I often have coffee. This time of year, I love to have a peppermint coffee with a dash of cocoa. Our oldest, age 11, is on the spectrum and he loves penguins. I have learned so much from him when he shares his knowledge about his interests. Seeing this little penguin brings me joy each time I use it. 
 
I often find seasonal mugs or fancy teacups & saucers secondhand and switch them out, which all of my kids enjoy. We homeschool and often have poetry teatime, so using "fancy" cups make it extra special for them. Our older daughter, age 8, is my crafty one & loves to set a pretty table! In the last year, our little lady (2.5 years) doesn't want to miss out, so we even have a little teacup set for her to use. She's mostly there for the treats and sugar cubes in her tea!
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From @makefeast on Instagram:
 
"A warm cuppa hot cinnamon sunset (from Harney & Sons Tea) and some festive, inspirational fare to browse by the twinkle lights . . ."

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And this cozy scene comes from @blessedandbusy also on Instagram!

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And last but certainly not least, from Holly:

Now my favorite tea ... It is hands down without a doubt Russian tea. When I was little we lived in Houston and all of our grandparents were in Alabama. During Christmas we would drive to Alabama to spend the holidays. Often times my sister and I would have a night with my Mamacite (grand mom) and our Aunt Susan. Mamacite would always make us Russian tea. Now when I make a cup and get that first smell of it, oh the memories flood back. It immediately takes me to those nights drinking Russian tea and listening to Jingle Bell Rock by Brenda Lee on my Mamacite’s record player, tree lights sparkling and my sister and I feeling oh so mature to have a girls night without mom and dad there! I've since introduced it to my two little ones and they love it just as much. I am now making sweet memories having tea with them and reading a good book or some poems.

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There were also several thoughtful comments shared in my most recent blog post - pop on over to read them there! :-)

But now, without further ado, here is the randomly selected winner of my homemade planner giveaway ...

MARY MASON LESKOWITZ!!! 

Congratulations Mary! I am very happy for you and will be in touch soon to arrange mailing details. Thank you to everyone who participated in my giveaway - it was so lovely to "have tea" with you all in this virtual way. To all my friends who are interested in my homemade planner, I will be posting the edited 2021 sheets here for everyone to print just as soon as I have them all finished! (Hoping, fingers crossed, that will be next Sunday!) I will also have a post coming next month about further plans for my planner - but we'll leave all of that for 2021. ;-)

For now, let's get back to Advent and a peek at some of our recent activities!

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Today we added the last bit of creation to our Advent Garden - a tiny tin cabin. Just to recap, the first week of Advent we added the first layer which was stones and shells placed on the bottom of the bowl. The following week we covered those stones and shells with some soft moss from our backyard, as well as planted a couple of pinecone "trees," also from the backyard. Last week, an assortment of wooden animals gathered along the outside of the bowl to wait along with us ... and now finally as we head into this last week of Advent, we focus on the highest of all the natural kingdoms, that of humankind. (I have the candle turned on for the picture, but it won't be lit in reality until Christmas Eve.)

In the meantime, our windowsill Advent journey is progressing along nicely ...

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Every day of Advent, our figures move forward (towards the creche in the far right corner) and a stone is replaced with a star!

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We had some lovely nature experiences these past couple of weeks - including a beautiful blizzard!

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I love watching the birds in the snow, but the absolute highlight for me was getting to feed our own backyard chickadees by hand!

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The kids and I have done this at our local Audubon sanctuary, but the birds there are practically tame. They need no coaxing to hand-feed! Here at home however, our chickadees are much more cautious, but on this snowy afternoon, they decided to trust me ... what a gift! ❀

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How I love this quiet, cold and candle-lit late autumn season. With the Winter Solstice (aka Yule) arriving tomorrow, we are seeing the shortest and darkest of days ...

I just feel this is such a special time of year ... a time to really hunker down and turn homeward ... to respect our natural human instinct to rest and hibernate. To reflect on the rituals of our ancestors as one season blended into the next.

But as the sun finally "returns" tomorrow - growing stronger every day until June - we are reminded to wait patiently for brighter days. To fire up our own inner lights by caring for ourselves and each other ... and of course, as well, the magnificent creation we are surrounded and inspired by every day!

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Ahhh ... this is my little Narnia spot. :-)

And now here a few pictures from our Audubon homeschool nature program this past Friday. We took a wintry seaside trek on a blustery dark day!

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Little Bear and I just love our Audubon adventures ... the one "outside the home" activity we participate in, we look forward to it each week!

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Now of course we got up to some nature crafting which is absolutely my favorite Advent activity! 

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These are ornaments we made using natural materials we found in our backyard (and in our spice cabinet). It was fun to turn personal treasures into meaningful mementos!

I started with tiny grapevine craft wreaths as a base, and found some plain twine for hanging, then sorted through the materials for inspiration ...

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Treasures from nature included: acorn caps of various sizes, hemlock cones (which look just like roses when open), dried lavender buds from the garden, anise stars, cinnamon sticks and whole cloves from the pantry, bumblebees (expired but intact, found on cold early autumn mornings), feathers found beneath the feeders, rose hips, pine branches, and a few wooden snowflakes I had in my craft stash!

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The first ornament is made with an assortment of feathers we've found this year (Oriole, Cardinal, Hawk, Mourning Dove, Owl). I glued an anise star at the bottom and then added Little Bear's picture ...

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For the reindeer ...

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... I just used cinnamon sticks for the face shape, and hemlock cones for the eyes ... a rosehip for the nose (must be Rudolph!) and added evergreen branches for the antlers!

Next I created a "summer memories" ornament ...

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I spread glue on the wreath first and then shook dried lavender buds all over ...

(I used the hot glue gun for all of these crafts, by the way!)

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I added two of our preserved bumblebees to the sides ...

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And finally, a picture of the monarch butterfly who "hung out" with us one lovely August afternoon. :-)

This next ornament was made up very simply with bunches of clove buds ...

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... plus an anise star and a tiny sprig of evergreen topped with a "rosebud" hemlock cone.

To the back of this ornaments we added a picture of the beautiful barred owl who calls our woods home!

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Now this next ornament was actually the one I made first - so inspired was I by the hemlock cones natural rose shape!

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And to this lovely "frame" I added an old photo of my maternal grandparents when they were first married:

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And the next ornament was almost an afterthought - I just had one more wreath to use!

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And lastly, this wreath was adorned with two acorn "bells" made with a double cap, rose hips and evergreen sprigs.

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And this could only be fitted with a precious photo of Little Bear and his cousin strolling along our road hand-in-hand. This photo was taken one day this past summer - the last time we visited as it happens. Boy do I miss seeing our loved ones!

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Here's a glimpse of a craft I'm working on this weekend, little gifts for a couple of special little girls in my life:

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During our second week of Advent, the younger boys listened to a story about an evergreen farm and then painted pinecones for the tree ...

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There was a little bit of glitter involved, too!

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Another day we made woodland candleholders with materials we harvested ourselves and slices of a birch log we had on hand (felled in a storm a few years ago). And while the boys worked on this craft I read aloud another favorite Yuletide story ...

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There was cookie-making one chilly morning ...

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... and on a sunny Sunday afternoon we made a yummy cake for a couple of special fellas' special day!

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Finally, before I go, I would like to share the images from our family's 2020 Christmas card:

Here you see our tree:

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(Plus my goofy husband, lol.)

And here's the picture on the front of our Christmas card ...

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Can you believe how big these kids are getting?!

(Bookworm (25), Crackerjack (21), Earlybird (19) and Little Bear (7))

And not to be forgotten - our cats, Archie and Ollie (9) are on the back of the card!

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Well my friends, at long last I will finally wrap up this rather long post ... but before I go I would like to wish you all a wonder-full winter, the merriest of holidays, and a peaceful and joyous new year ...

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