Welcome Spring Week!

(A peek at how I plan my seasonal homeschooling!)

IMG_7283

A few days ago I shared a picture on Instagram which shows the primary picture books I'll be using with Little Bear this week. Our seasonal homeschooling theme is "Welcome, Spring!" (in honor of the Vernal Equinox this Wednesday) and so I chose five favorite books that highlight the spirit (and science) of the new season ahead. I also promised to follow up with a breakdown of how I used these books to create an easy and enjoyable lesson plan for the week. So today I'm here to describe my proposed plans for the week, and chat a bit about our style of homeschooling in general.

Now, the heart of our seasonal homeschooling is really found in embracing annual traditions, observing subtle changes in our habitat, acquainting ourselves with local flora and fauna, and enjoying our large collection of seasonal picture books. Reading the same stories at the same time of year, year after year, reinforces family memories while connecting us with the cycle of seasons.

So the books I chose for this first week of spring are:

Monday: And Then It's Spring by Julie Fogliano

Tuesday: When the Earth Wakes by Ani Rucki

Wednesday: The Spring Equinox: Celebrating the Greening of the Earth by Ellen Jackson

Thursday: The Seasons: Spring by Nuria Roca

Friday: A New Beginning: Celebrating the Spring Equinox by Wendy Pfeiffer

I keep the current season's books in a special basket, but I like displaying the "books of the week" on a separate shelf ...

IMG_E7290

When I started formulating my seasonal lessons - and this all goes back MANY years seeing as how my oldest is now 23 years old! - one of the first things I did was to begin collecting high quality books that reflect the seasons and natural phenomena. I buy as many books as I can, but I also make note of titles we can reliably borrow from our local library. All these books (divided by season into bins) provide a wonderful base for our seasonal homeschooling. These days we have a rather large collection,  but I am always happy to add a new book if it has a meaningful message and lovely illustrations. For instance, I just purchased this book because we so enjoyed the winter tale by this same author!

Equally important to my planning is our established weekly rhythm and pre-selected weekly seasonal themes. With all of this in place I am able to organize my ideas more efficiently and realistically.

You can find a list of my 52 weekly seasonal themes in this post from 2016, and below is the weekly rhythm I pin our home lessons around:

  • Monday: Nature Walk
  • Tuesday: Crafting
  • Wednesday: Storytelling
  • Thursday: Cleaning
  • Friday: Tea
  • Weekend: Family Time

Once I've chosen the stories for the week's theme, I flip through each book to get ideas for follow-up activities. I write things down on sticky notes and then arrange those notes in my planner (see photos below). Here's what I jotted down for each book this week:

And Then It's Spring - observing the brown all around, planting seeds

When the Earth Wakes -  wooden bear mama & cub, drawing of four seasons

The Spring EquinoxAnglo-Saxon legend of Ostara, goddess of spring and dawn

The Seasons: Spring - making a weather chart

A New Beginning - special food celebrations including eggs

Next I expand on each day's activities, giving thought to our schedule, as well as the holidays and events that will shape our week.

🌱Take pictures of backyard; repeat each Monday throughout spring. (Mon)

🌱Bake donuts for St. Joseph's Day, an annual tradition. (Tues)

🌱Sing a sweet "Winter Goodbye" song (found in this book) on the last day of Winter. (Tues)

🌱Carefully pack away our winter books. Bring out the Spring Book Basket. (Tues)

🌱Make a pretty spring wreath for the front door. (Wed)

🌱Sweep and clean up our front entryway, in anticipation of spring visitors. (Wed)

🌱Tidy the nature table - make room for spring treasures. (Wed)

🌱Prep vegetables for Pasta Primavera (our traditional spring equinox dinner). (Wed)

🌱Use my story apron and wooden animals to retell the story of "The Rabbit and the Carrot" (as found in this book). (Wed)

🌱Create a paper chain countdown - just one month to Easter! (Note: I keep a list of daily activities in my planner for this countdown.)

🌱Paper chain day 1: Make birdseed eggs to hang in our garden (Thurs)

🌱Begin spring cleaning! Start by organizing our natural cleaning supplies. (Thurs)

🌱Paper chain day 2: Let's have an Early Spring Tea. Perhaps invite nana and papa? (Fri)

🌱Bake seed bread/cake and mix up honey butter. (Fri)

🌱Slice boiled eggs. (Fri)

🌱Brew Spring Tea with Mama. (Fri)

🌱Listen to Vivaldi's "Spring" during teatime. (Fri)

🌱Paper chain day 3: Set up greenhouses in sunroom with Daddy (Sat)

🌱Paper chain day 4: Do yard work with Daddy; rake the yard clean! (Sun)

If you notice, many of these ideas involve the whole family or parent and child working together. I feel these kinds of learning/living activities are every bit of important as more "child-centered" things they might do on their own. This instills a sense of how important the season is to the household at large and the family's sense of togetherness and well being.

Here are some pictures of my planner page showing how I organize my week:

IMG_E7406 (1)

Left side of the weekly spread shown above - where I make note of weekly events, theme, dinner menus, homekeeping, crafty/comforting ideas and to-dos.

And then on the right-hand side ...

IMG_E7406 (1)

I have the week's agenda in a vertical column and next to that, a lined note-space. I added a bit of washi tape just for fun. :-)

Now, this week I am using my homemade planner for lesson plans. Recently I've shown you how I use the Erin Condren teacher's planner as well as my bullet journal for lesson planning. The EC planner is very specific to academics while my bujo is a rather free-form kind of planner/journal. The planner shown above falls somewhere in between. It's less structured than the EC planner, but it also has more writing space than my bujo. Needless to say I'm still trying to figure out which platform works best for my planning!

Well my friends, I hope you've enjoyed a peek into our "Welcome Spring" week, as well as a breakdown of how I work out our seasonal homeschooling. Let me know if you have any questions! Drop a note here or email me at drhanigan AT gmail DOT com. And if you are interested in my homemade seasonal planner, check out this post for my 2019 printable planning sheets. 

As always I thank you all for stopping by! I hope to see you here again very soon ...

HAPPY SPRING!


Post-Its, Planning and Very Full Plates!

IMG_6962

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

I've posted about planning here for many years now (13 years next week in fact!) but that in no way makes me an expert on the subject. I often struggle with time management and staying on top of it all - especially when I have a lot going on and/or our status quo is changing. But it is a topic that keeps me thinking and strategizing and striving for improvement - so today I'd like share a (hopefully) helpful idea for when you're feeling overwhelmed by all the things for which you are responsible and are perhaps struggling to keep on top of it all.

For instance, right now I feel like my current planning system is just not adequately meeting my current planning needs - and so I've been shifting back and forth between one planning platform and the next. At times, I'm juggling several planners (all meeting different needs) and at other times I try to rely on one single planner to meet all those same needs. Hoping that by simplifying my planners I will somehow simplify my life ...

If only it were that easy, right??

So I decided to take a deep breath and step back and take a look at just WHAT ALL I am attempting to manage. I've done this before so this might look familiar to some of you. It might seem like overthinking things, but I find the exercise truly helpful when I'm feeling a little off balance. It's a bit like a brain dump for planning ... getting it all out there and then looking at it all with (hopefully) new eyes.

Now, as most of my readers know, I am the mother of four sons and each of them are in completely different stages of development and have widely varying needs. Our oldest (23) is out of college and juggling the new demands of adulthood, while our second oldest (19) is a freshman in college and adjusting to a more independent lifestyle plus more challenging studies. Our third son, Earlybird (17), has autism, and has been homeschooled all his life with the support of a wonderful in-home ABA team these past five years ... but this very week - tomorrow in fact - we are putting our Earlybird in school. Yes, I just wrote the "s" word, and yes, that's the big change I've been alluding to in recent social media posts!

Certainly this new educational "adventure" will be the topic of an upcoming post, but I can tell you all that this is a good thing, and that we made this decision very mindfully and cautiously. We are still homeschooling our EB, but he will be attending our local high school for a few hours each morning so he may take part in a special needs life skills program. We are praying this will be a good fit for our boy whose needs have changed and increased in recent years and will only continue to become more challenging in the future. It is our dearest hope that we can find support, community and guidance for our son as he nears and enters adulthood.

Every parent has to face the hard truth at some point that we can no longer "do it all" for - and be everything to - our child, but this is perhaps especially so for a special needs parent. This realization in part is what led us to explore other options for EB ... but I'll get into more details in that forthcoming post. I just wanted to mention this new development because it's a big part of why I feel I am at a point where I need to re-evaluate my routines and take stock of all my plates in the air! Kids change, parents change - and our planning must always be flexible!

(Note: Of course our homeschooling continues not only with Earlybird, but with our youngest son, Little Bear who at five is still in the midst of his kindergarten year! I am in the process of taking stock of where he is at and what our educational goals are for the spring and summer. In September he'll begin first grade at home.)

But back to the post-it notes!

Now, this activity might not work for everyone, but for me, it's a good way to slow down and simplify. I start with the very basics of planning and that is by asking myself ...

Just WHAT ALL do I need to PLAN?

IMG_6969

I love using post-it notes when I'm working out a project of any kind. The tiny ones (like these) are especially helpful for organizing individual steps or ideas.

Here's a brief rundown of my method:

IMG_6969

This will be different for everyone of course, but here's how mine shaped up:

IMG_6969

Categories:

  • personal matters
  • family matters
  • bloggy business
  • household matters
  • to-dos (and projects)
  • time management (calendars, agendas)
  • financial and security issues
  • routines and house cleaning
  • homeschooling (education)
  • nature and faith

I then started thinking about all the things I need to focus on and how pressing they might be. Big or small, I wrote it down, and here's how my post-it page ended up ...

IMG_6962

As I outlined three pictures above, I tried to group the post-it notes according to how often I need to access each kind of information. So the notes on the far left are things I need to think about or look at the most often (every day), while the next column to the right is for items of a more weekly nature and so on.

Now, this is as far as I got, to be honest! But I wanted to post while I had some time today at my computer. 😊

My next step will be to add more post-it notes as I think of other activities/responsibilities. As strange as it may seem, sometimes it's hard to think of all these categories! I think we parents often go on auto-pilot when it comes to caring for our home and family but when we stop to think about it, there really is a LOT to manage. For example, most of us enjoy travel and fun family outings, but without a little (or a lot) of forethought and planning, this kind of activity is not bound to happen - at least not in my family!

(Feel free to use my ideas pictured here but also check out Pinterest for more ideas. Use a search time like "home management binder" or "planner contents.")

Next I will be figuring out WHERE DO I KEEP ALL THESE PLANS?

Which of these post-it notes work best together and what kind of platform would serve each type of planning best. Binder, folder, bullet journal, formal planner, phone ... there are so many platforms to consider.

Ideally, I'd like to keep my planning system as streamlined as possible. Currently I seem to have too many parts in play! (And this is, of course, impacted by my *ahem* ongoing planner addiction. I know many of you can relate to this struggle!)

Once I have my platform(s) in place, I will give some thought to planner maintenance - aka WHEN DO I DO ALL THIS PLANNING?

It's great to put things on paper, but I need to find time in my schedule to actually do all this planning!

Where in my daily routine do I make time for writing in my domestic diary, jotting down nature notes, reviewing lesson plans, looking over our family calendar, popping onto social media, sitting down to think and pray?

What day of the week do I devote to meal planning? Budgeting? Catching up with correspondence? Going through my "slush pile?" 

I'll check back in as I make progress on this project so I hope you'll stay tuned! I'd also LOVE to hear from you and how your own planning "system" is working for you these days. Have you found something that works really well? Are you dissatisfied with your current planner(s)? Are you feeling overwhelmed by all the "to dos" and "to remembers" in your life? Drop me a note if you have a moment and we'll catch back up in my next post - you can leave a comment here or send me an email at drhanigan AT gmail DOT com.

And yes - I'll be back to tell you more about how Earlybird is doing on his new "learning adventure" ... please keep him in your thoughts and prayers if you would!

For now though, thanks as always for stopping by and have a great week, my friends!

See you here again very soon ...


Blending Curriculum + Seasonal Lesson Plans

IMG_6073

As I mentioned in my last post, I have not been using my Erin Condren teacher's planner on a regular basis this year. It is a beautiful planner to be sure, but sometimes it's just a little TOO much planning for me, if you know what I mean! Some weeks I appreciate the freedom of working off a big "brainstorm" list - no plans set in stone, just working within our own happy weekly rhythm. And honestly, some weeks I just don't have enough time to fill in yet one more planner!

All that said though, I feel like our homeschooling has been off-track since the holidays - those big lists aren't translating into productive days - so I thought perhaps I'd return to a more structured planning format and see if that gets our weeks running a little more smoothly.

So since it was a very pretty, sunny weekend, I took pictures of my lesson planner as I worked, and popped over here to share! I also am including pictures from my seasonal bullet journal where I began our weekly planning with a little seasonal brainstorming!

(Reminder - we are doing kindergarten this year with our youngest (5yo Little Bear), while our 17yo Earlybird (who has autism) joins in (with support from his ABA therapist) as he can. Big news on the EB front however, there are some very big changes for our boy coming up in a few weeks and I will share more on that very soon!)

Ok, here is my planner spread, alongside our battered and beloved Oak Meadow Kindergarten syllabus. (I think it's about 15 years old!) As you can see in the top picture, as I worked here at the kitchen table I was joined by the ever-helpful (yet, napping) Archibald Fred.😸

IMG_6073

Left-hand side of the spread ...

IMG_6073

I love how this planner shades its pages in correspondence with the month - eg., blue for January, pink for February and then green for March, etc.

Right-hand side of the spread which I "gussied up" a bit with some stickers. I don't usually do this but since I knew I was going to post my spread this week I was inspired!

IMG_6073

I do love seeing all those plans all neat and tidy. The lined boxes and smooth paper make for a very nice writing experience. As the week goes along I will check off lessons as we complete them, ✅ cross things off that we skip ❎ and put an arrow next to those items we'll push forward.➡️

Close up of how nice the blocks look all filled in!

IMG_6073

As you can see, I also like to incorporate seasonal homeschooling activities into our weekly plan. This week's theme is "winter citrus," and I hope to balance our Oak Meadow lessons with some activities that let us explore this particular theme.

Here are some pics to show you how I organized those ideas late last week ...

IMG_E6016

1. Gather resources: storybooks, recipes, verses, playthings, craft materials, snack ingredients and instructions.

IMG_E6016

2. Make and organize photocopies for activities.

IMG_E6016

3. File photocopies into weekly lesson plan folder.

IMG_E6016

4. Write out seasonal ideas in my "Deep Winter" bullet journal.

IMG_E6016

5. Request books we'll need from the library. (I did this late last week. Orange in January is "in transit" as I type!)

Once I had my seasonal homeschooling ideas in order, I checked our schedule for the coming week and any "events of note." Then I
looked through our current Oak Meadow lesson, identified individual actions and jotted them down on small sticky notes. 

(I know this seems like maybe a bit of extra work and even a waste of paper, but it really helps me fill in my planner when all I have to do is sort those sticky notes!)

Referencing both the citrus ideas and OM lessons I then filled out the EC teacher planner.

And then I took pictures, natch, and threw everything in my teacher tote. Next week I will launch into our plans and do my very best to keep up with them!

🍃🍊❄️🍊🍃🍃🍊❄️🍊🍃🍃🍊❄️🍊🍃🍃🍊❄️🍊🍃🍃🍊❄️🍊🍃🍃🍊❄️🍊🍃

Well my friends, as always I thank you for stopping by and hope you are all doing well! I have a tour of my "planning spaces" coming up ... as well as a peek at some of my plans for our early spring living and learning, so for now I will say goodbye ...

... but hope to see you here again very soon!


My Bi-Monthly Bullet Journals

DSC04445
Hello my friends, and Happy Wednesday! 
How is your winter going? How about your new year??

I'm so sorry it's been so long since I last posted! I have in fact had a draft open on my computer for the past couple of months (months?!) but free time has been thin on the ground lately. All that said, I'm sitting down today in the mid-afternoon, to do my very best to get that darn post up at the blog before nightfall! (Or bedtime - whichever comes first!)

Anyhoo - how are you all? I hope you are all well! We are doing just fine here if perhaps stretched a wee bit thin lately from busy schedules and non-sleeping children - but that's a post for a different day! Today I'd like to give you a little tour of my seasonal bullet journal system. I actually have several planning (and tea!) posts percolating, but I'm going to keep things as short and simple today as possible. (Longtime readers know I love long posts - but I also tend to overcomplicate things which keeps me from finishing!)

Ok, onto the bujos ...

So I've posted about my journaling habits here many times before, but "bullet journaling" is a happy little hobby (some might say, lifestyle) I've been exploring just recently. Do any of you keep a bullet journal? Or any kind of journal? I'd love to hear about it if you do! (I'd especially LOVE to hear about bujos you use as self-made planners!)

I'm really still feeling my way around with this concept, but I do LOVE the idea of a bullet journal. And the way other people's journals look on Pinterest. Oh my gosh, i could waste spend so much time on Pinterest drooling over other folks' spreads!

Journal envy aside however, the "bujo" format appeals to me personally for so many reasons - it's creative, flexible, comprehensive and unique! Plus as a life-long DIYer, I just had to give it a go!

Basically, bullet journals meet more than a few of my most pressing planner needs:

I need my planner to be portable - easy to grab and take with me.

I like my planner to be comprehensive - all aspects of my life-planning are in one place.

I enjoy being different. I like for my planner to look like MY planner.

I desire for my planner to be intensely seasonal, a tool for connecting with the rhythm of the season at hand.

I have a few other planners as you all know: a devoted daily planner, a pretty little weekly planner, a binder "household" planner, and let us not forget my own homemade seasonal planner! I have not yet let go of any of these other planners but have instead just set them aside - just for a bit. I've been feeling the need to simplify lately, and use my limited free time as wisely as possible. I bet many of my planner-junkie friends here know what I mean when I say, it's hard to find ONE system that really ticks all the boxes. But it's also hard to truly give a new planner a fighting chance when you have a few other "systems" already in the works!

So I'm on a little planner "diet" while I delve into my bullet-journaling and see if I can make it work all on its own.

(Naturally I immediately broke my "keep it simple" bujo rule, and came up with the idea of a "system" of six journals instead of one. But bear with me - there is a method to my madness!)

As you see in my top picture, there are six journals, and each one is focused on two months, or one season. I keep the current season's journal with me (or close at hand) while the others reside at my desk.

DSC04480

(They fit very nicely in this rack set inside a rolling cart. Isn't rose gold so pretty?)

DSC04480

Top shot. Love the look of fresh notebooks!

DSC04480

This handy rolling cart is situated right next to my "corner office" - a tour of which will be coming next week! (Finally getting it deep-cleaned and re-organized now that Christmas stuff is safely packed away.)

And now for a quick walk-through of my current bullet journal for "Deep Winter" (January & February).

DSC04452

Front cover. As you can see, I haven't done much with the cover(s) yet - I'm still deciding if I like them kind of plain or if I'd like to "collage" them a little. I did use a set of pastel adhesive labels to color-code each seasonal journal. I chose a soft snowy blue for Deep Winter.

That soft snowy blue is followed by a light spring green, then deep blossom pink, sunny golden yellow, warm harvest orange, and finally, a crisp frosty lavender.

IMG_5266

(Note: I found these notebooks on Amazon. They come in a pack of two for $12. I ADORE these notebooks! They are a nice size, the paper is wonderfully smooth, the dotted grid helps me keep things neat and the whole kit-and-kaboodle is spiral-bound. Spiral-binding is a must for me when it comes to journals, so this one really hits the journaling spot for me!)

DSC04452

Title page - pretty self-explanatory!

DSC04452

January and February, at a quick glance. Dated calendars above, events of note below.

DSC04452

❄️Exploring Deep Winter nature!

On the left, I listed our weekly seasonal themes and devoted a little space to seasonal brainstorming. I just jotted down any thoughts that came to mind when I pondered the season of Deep Winter ... what we do, what we notice, things we eat, etc.

On the right-hand page I have phenology wheels for the months of January and February, along with a temperature chart. I found the wheel templates on Pinterest. I shaded in the moon phases and every day I draw/write in the weather icon, high temp for the day as well as the sunset time.

DSC04452

(A note on my pens and pencils. In all my planners I use, exclusively, Frixion Erasable Fine Point Pens in black. For the temperature shading I use Raffine Colored Pencils.)

DSC04452

I find using practical tools like paper clips, binder clips and adhesive tabs and flags not only increases the efficiency of a planner but also adds some visual interest! I like using the flags and tabs in the midst of my journaling - sometimes I like to pause and create a list or plan and it's handy to have a way to find that list when I need it! The paper clip's job is described a bit further down in my post.

(Note the next spread was a bit personal, having to do with personal New Year's Goals, so I am skipping that part of the tour. What I did was to write out some personal "Year 50" goals as well as some Winter Wellness ideas and break them down into simple actions to insert into my schedule. That might be a post for another time!)

Ok, next comes the monthly calendar spreads:

DSC04457

And it's as basic as it looks! I just drew in the grids and wrote in the dates, etc. I added washi tape to the edges of this calendar section so it's easy to find it when making appointments or plans. In the leftover white space I added in seasonal quotes and information ... something I have yet to do in my February spread!

(Note: I use Frixion Erasable Highlighters to color-code activities. Green - I'm going somewhere. Blue - the boys are going somewhere. Pink - happy things/self care. Yellow - home-based entertainment/projects. I also have a lavender highlighter for feasts and faith-related activities but I've lost that darn pen!)

DSC04457

Another thing that helps me find sections quickly - paperclips!

DSC04457

I use a large metal paperclip to connect the monthly calendar wth the current weekly spread. This makes it really easy to flip back and forth between my two most used page spreads!

And directly after the monthly calendars comes the weekly planning section. I used three pages for each spread ...

DSC04464

The page on the left side is for the first half of the week. In the top corner I noted the week's dates (always a Monday start) and seasonal theme. I highlighted the month in blue highlighter, indicating it's a "wintry" month. The week-at-a-glance begins with a To-Do column - which admittedly is a little narrow - but since I'm comfortable writing tiny it's no trouble for me. 

I wrote the agenda's hours alongside the spiral binding, and left space at the bottom of each column for pertinent daily notes.

DSC04464

I like that these columns allow for timely planning - it lets me see how full a day might be, and where there is "white space" for other tasks and activities.

The very next page is used as a "middle insert." I think it's kind of like a "dutch door" concept but I don't make any cuts. Instead, I keep it folded so I can see both sides of a weekly spread. I keep it flat in off weeks so as not to add to the journal's bulk.

DSC04464
DSC04464

The folded middle page allows for four sections of notes: seasonskeeping, home lessons, homekeeping, general notes.

The right-hand side of the weekly spread is for the rest of the week, Thursday through Sunday. In the upper righthand corner I have the week's dates and month again along with the current lunar cycle. (As you know, I'm such an "Ooh, look at the moon!" kind of person.🌝)

There are nine weekly spreads in this bullet journal, the very weeks that make up the season of Deep Winter. (Next season's bullet journal, Early Spring, begins with the week of 3/4-3/10.)

At the end of the weekly planning section I have a two page spread for a reading log, then another spread for my thoughts on Winter Homekeeping and connecting with the season of Deep Winter (a time for resting, rejuvenating).

Next comes a journal index page where I will note anything pertinent at the end of the season - information I'll need again and where to find it.

And then begins the true "journal" section of my seasonal bullet journal ... :)

DSC04471

I chose a pretty image from a New Year's card I received from my cousin. (I took a photocopy and taped it onto the page.) 

And the rest of the pages are just being slowly filled up with my thoughts and any clippings I like! These are just a few examples ...

DSC04471

DSC04471

DSC04471

I'm not very strict with my journaling - I don't even do it every day, though I really wish I would. I start with the date and the weather icon/temp. and then I just ot down whatever comes to mind. Things we did, people who visited, observations of nature, ideas for seasonal meals, etc. I want my journal to be something that when looked back upon years from now, there is a sense of me, and my family and home ... and time of year! They're certainly not very exciting and perhaps not all that interesting, but I do love looking back at my journals. It's such a great way to preserve memories and inspire seasonal awareness.

I've kept journals like these since high school, but I've mostly kept them separate from my planners. In recent years however, I have tried keeping my journaling notes inside a three-ring binder, along with planning forms. While I like that idea very much, it's just not very portable ... and so I tend to work in that platform a little less than I'd like. I'm finding this small book is fun and easy to carry with me and work in whenever mood strikes.

Here is my current journaling spread:

DSC04471

I added that pretty February note page but have yet to use it! Not sure if it will be a list of goals for the month or a catch-all of monthly folklore and storytelling ideas. The blue post-it note was for monitoring yesterday's daily to-dos. (I know ... I KNOW. I used this simple little sticky note instead of using a page in my Day Designer and I felt ... well, a little guilty! But a little relieved, too.)

The right -hand page has clippings to be added and you can see the little binder clip I use to mark my spot in my journal. Another handy-dandy tool that helps me find my place fast!

DSC04471

Back cover - the end! :)

Well, I hope you enjoyed this tour of my little seasonal journals! I will revisit them in a future post and let you know how I'm doing with them. I will also post again to update you on how all my other planners are faring. But for now - as the darkness descends out my windows and the ovens come to temperature ... it is time for me to move away from the computer and get my family's supper started!

Thanks as always my friends, for stopping by ... and thanks too, for your patience, when I'm unable to blog. I will always return no matter how long my "breaks" ...

See you here again very soon!


Holiday Tea at Dawn's: Merry Christmas!

IMG_E3872

Hello my friends and Happy Christmas Eve! I'm taking a little break from all the wrapping and baking to share a spot of tea with you all and to wish you the happiest of holidays! Blessings to all of you and your loved ones ... I hope you are all enjoying this beautiful day. You probably can't tell from the picture above, but it's snowing so very lightly here ... just a little Christmas snow to set the stage! Tomorrow's forecast is for sunshine and 30 degrees. 🌞

My tea today is an old favorite - Bigelow's "Constant Comment," a spiced orange tea that tastes just like Christmas, to my mind. It's still steeping in this pic, but I am now sipping it in my grandmother's lovely Royal Albert "Yuletide" teacup. It's an annual ritual for me, to savor a cup of Christmas tea in this teacup ... and to think of Gram and how special she made our holidays every year. ❤️

Now, before I go - because I have a cheesecake to bake with my oldest son in a few! - I wanted to share my family's holiday card with you all:

IMG_E3858

Can you believe how big our big boys are getting?? This picture was taken on the 4th of July at my cousin's annual party. Such a fun day and a very special memory. Here's a peek at the back of the card, too:

IMG_E3859 (1)

Our littlest man ... already five and a half years old! How time flies when you're having fun ... and goodness are these boys a lot of fun!

Well I'm off now, but I will see you all back here for Tea again "next year!" The winter season stretches ahead of us and we'll have much to talk about and lots of tea to explore and enjoy together! 

Take care of yourselves and your loved ones, my friends ...

MERRY CHRISTMAS and see you again soon!


❄️ Picture Books in Winter ❄️

Winter scene crop

Hello my friends, and Happy Wednesday-before-Christmas! It's a bright and chilly day here and I'm taking a little break from my holiday prep to think about winter homeschooling. The new season begins this Friday at 5:23 p.m., although our winter lessons begin after New Year's. 😉

Not to rush things, but after Christmas Day (which is now less than a week away - not that I'm panicking or anything) I plan to re-organize our learning room, revise our resources and basically, refresh our little homeschool for the new year. That is, in fact, my word for 2019 - REFRESH!

But more on that soon ... for today I thought I'd share some of our favorite winter resources. :)

IMG_3537 copy

Books for celebrating the season itself:

The Shortest Day: Celebrating the Winter Solstice by Wendy Pfeiffer

Let's Look at the Seasons: Wintertime by Ann Shweninger

Winter: A Collection of Poems, Songs and Stories for Young Children by Wynstones Press

Winter by Nuria Roca

Winter by Eva-Maria Ott-Heidmann

Winter by Gerda Muller

(Not shown, but on request from the library: The Winter Solstice by Ellen Jackson ... and another great title we own - but can't find at the moment! - is Goodbye Autumn, Hello Winter by Kenard Pak.)

IMG_3537 copy

Cozy, happy, homey tales ... and as you can see, Jan Brett is a BIG winter favorite!

Over and Under the Snow by Kate Messner

Flannel Kisses by Linda Crotta Brennan

Annie and the Wild Animals by Jan Brett

Peek-a-Boo Bunny by Mary Melcher (a favorite greeting card illustrator!)

The Hat and The Mitten by Jan Brett

AND ... the newest from Ms. Brett: The Snowy Nap

IMG_3537 copy

I love these fairy tales with a wintry feel ...

The Snow Queen illustrated by Bernadette Watts

The Elves and the Shoemaker illustrated by Bernadette Watts

IMG_3537 copy

And this beautiful hardcover storybook is a longtime favorite - as you can see from the spine, it's been well read through the years!

The Story of the Snow Children by Sibylle von Olfers

I'll be back later this month with more about our winter homeschooling plans, and of course, I will also be back this coming Monday (Christmas eve), for our weekly tea. Until then I wish you all a nice week and thank you for stopping by!

See you here again very soon ...


Holiday Tea at Dawn's: O Christmas Tree!

DSC02501

Hello my friends, and Happy Monday! Welcome to our third week of Holiday Tea - and today I'd like to talk about Christmas trees! First though, a quick word about my beverage-of-choice this week ...

As you can see, my mug is pretty big - and also, very pretty! I bought this last year at HomeGoods (for all of $5!) and loved it immediately for its generous size as well as the lovely seasonal images. It has a big sturdy handle, too!

Inside my mug today is a wonderful hot tea I "discovered" this year, made by Twinings:

 

 

Twinings tea

This delicious Christmas Tea has a smooth and lightly spiced flavor - and for me, "lightly" is a very good thing, when it comes to spices - because I get heartburn very easily! And sometimes, as much as I like the idea of a spiced tea, the flavor can be too reminiscent of cinnamon gum. Like I've steeped my tea with a stick of gum, lol! Weird, I know ... but once I had that impression from a previous tea, it just stuck with me! So clearly I'm a bit persnickety when it comes to flavored teas, but happily this one is smooth and subtle. :)

Now, I'm afraid I don't have any goodies to share today - the past few day have been busy and I just didn't have time - though honestly, if you were coming to visit, I'd be sure to have a few tempting things to offer! In case you were wondering, here's what's on my baking to-do list this week ...

DSC02606

Do you have any special baking planned this week?

Well, how we talk about Christmas trees now? Here is ours ...

Our christmas tree 2018

This is the first year we've had a tree in our family room and I must say I love it here! This is an 8-foot Frasier Fir and I think it fits the room nicely. Would you care for a quick tour?

We use all white lights, two different garlands - one made of red wooden beads and another made from a golden ribbon festooned with festive red squirrels - and a red punched tin star as a topper. Many of our ornaments are "woodland inspired" and lots of them were made by my kids through the years.

DSC02523

The glittery pinecone was made by one of the boys - the softly shaded maple leaf was hand-painted by my mum. She gave us a collection of them last year, and I just love them! They remind me of my favorite season (fall), my favorite state (Vermont), my favorite colors (soft orange and gold) AND of course, my love for nature.

DSC02523

I'd wager many of us have popsicle stick crafts on our Christmas trees!

DSC02523

Another leaf and a cute little pinecone-y hedgehog.

DSC02523

The star was made for me by a sweet girl in our homeschool co-op years ago, while the moon was something I made myself. There's a little verse on the back, and a matching (or contrasting, I should say) ornament just around the corner ...

DSC02523

I don't do handcrafts nearly as often as I'd like to, but I'm thinking of making that a goal for the New Year - to indulge more of my favorite hobbies.

We have LOTS Of cardinals all over our tree, one of our favorite winter songbirds.

DSC02523

Birds in general enjoy a strong presence on our tree!

DSC02523

This is one of the few "fragile" ornaments we have on the tree - made of porcelain, it's a bit "clinky" (as Little Bear calls it). 

DSC02523

This is a very special ornament - a gift from Crackerjack's girlfriend, Jen, to our Little Bear who just this year discovered the excitement of "Minecraft."

Last year it was this guy ...

DSC02523

Little Bear's never even seen Star Wars, but somehow - youngest of four boys that he is - he just "gets" it! "That's BB8 Mama! He's a good guy robot!"

We have name ornaments here and there and as uncommon as my name is, my mother-in-law found this one for me last year:

DSC02523

And one last ornament which I just treasure, a gift from my boys:

DSC02523

I'm sure many of you mamas can relate! (p.s. That's a hand-painted sand dollar in the back ground. Well, painted with glue and then sprinkled with glitter! I made that one several years ago when we were celebrating National Poinsettia Day.)

And here's the cozy corner where I'm enjoying my tea today ...

DSC02584

We have no snow to speak of here in New England, but the skies seem to hold promise - thick gray clouds, a chill in the air. That said however, the forecast is not looking promising for a white Christmas! (It always pains me when we miss snow at Christmas ... and then spend the next three winter months absolutely inundated!) But boy do the days get so dark now, and so early!

And yet - we must take heart, my light-loving friends - the sun makes its triumphant return this Friday! In teeny-tiny increments perhaps, but each day going forward we'll have  just a little more light than dark each day. So, Happy Winter Solstice, everyone!🌞

Right now I'm all curled up on the family room couch, admiring the tree lights, enjoying a moment of quiet (while the boys are all occupied elsewhere in the house) and on my tv screen ...

DSC02584

Show of hands now - who loves The Great British Baking Show??

Our local PBS station ran a marathon this weekend of TGBBS's Holiday Masterclass series. This is not the same as the ABC special airing each Thursday night this month - this is not a contest, but rather a cheerful and cozy hour's worth of holiday home baking with show hosts, Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood. It is so much fun to watch Mary and Paul recreate their own family favorites! If you're looking to get in the "holiday baking mood," look no further than this program ... I especially recommended it for Anglophiles like me. :)

You know what else I'm doing right now as I enjoy my tea? I am looking through old December journals, remembering past Christmases and holiday ideas I've gathered over the years. Journal-keeping is another hobby I'd like to make time for in the new year ... it's something I've done since I was a young girl, but have seemed to let drop recently. 

Here's a peek at a few page spreads ...

DSC02575

DSC02575

DSC02575

DSC02575

DSC02575

As you can see, I fill my journals with clippings from magazines and random notes about our home, our family, craft ideas, recipes and just about anything that comes to mind! It's such a pleasure to look back over these journals - the plainest little spiral-bound notebooks but they serve their purpose! - and reconnect with my self and my thoughts on various things. I especially love seeing things like this ...

DSC02580

This journal was from December, 2012 - the year I was pregnant with Little Bear. I remember that ultrasound on New Year's Eve, vividly. A particular blood test had come back elevated and we were having a level two ultrasound to check on our little guy's development. They were going to do it after the holidays but we insisted on being seen as early as possible. We had to drive into the city mid-afternoon on New Year's Eve ... and oh, the nerves! Thankfully, everything was just fine with our wee one and we found out that night that our fourth born would be a fourth BOY! We gave him his name that night and celebrated the new year feeling immense gratitude for our blessings, most especially the health and well-being of all our children.

(And all that came rushing back from those brief cryptic notes!)

Well, my friends - that is all I have for today but as always, I thank you for joining me and wish you all the very best! I hope this next week is one of peace and joy for you and your loved ones ... I will see you again NEXT Monday, December 24th, for a cup of Christmas Eve cheer!


Holiday Tea at Dawn's ~ Cozy Nests (Pt.2)

IMG_E2801

Hello my friends, and Happy Monday! Welcome to part two of last week's Tea post! (Yes, I am a  bit "off-schedule" here - but that's the way of things lately! Please see my updated Tea schedule at the bottom of this post.)

Now, to continue with our conversation on "cozy winter nests," I thought I'd share some pictures of my own special spot as well as some thoughts on how to go about creating your own! I'll get to the nest photos in a moment, but to begin with, a quick word about the tea set shown above ...

Some of you might remember this pinecone tea set from the days when my older boys were little. I came across these darling dishes at the Christmas Tree Shoppe for a song and just knew immediately they were perfect for our nature-loving, woodland-based homeschool! My boys and I had "seasonal tea" regularly throughout their childhood and this basically involved milky tea or cocoa (or maybe hot cider) and something yummy (and hopefully homebaked) as well as read-aloud or puppet story. This sweet set began with bowls and plates, but those are long gone! I still have a small set of mugs, the charming tea pot and one little bowl which I use to hold tea bags. Happily nowadays both my younger boys love tea, too - and so the homeschooling tradition continues!

In the above photo we were enjoying a special "candy cane" cocoa for St. Nicholas's Day, our traditional treat on this feast day. I usually hook candy canes on the mugs of hot chocolate (aka bishop staffs), but had forgotten to pick up some natural ones at Whole Foods. (You may recall we have EB on a special diet free of artificial colors and flavors.) So instead, I just added some organic/natural peppermint extract to the simmering milk and mixed it with our homemade hot cocoa blend.

I've been keeping this pretty tea set on a high shelf in my kitchen but have decided to bring it down and keep it handy - it won't get used otherwise! And so our pinecone set has found a home in my "cozy winter nest ... I'm keeping it on a tray so it can be moved about as needed. 

DSC02170

(Notice the little Lego on the corner of that table? That would be a Minecraft pick-ax, in case you didn't know.)

Ok, now back to our NEST discussion!

I'd like to first talk about a list I made for myself when I began setting up my nest. I first asked myself some questions about the concept of "keeping cozy" and then brainstormed some general ideas. My first list just appeared rather randomly in my doodle notebook ...

IMG_2720

This is my brain dump, and as you can see it's a bit of a mess! I use it for writing out weekend plans and shopping lists ... and lots of odd bits and bobs, too!

I then refined my list to be clearer and more "presentable," lol ...

IMG_E2938

I'll keep this list in my December planning pages. :)

Here's my own Cozy Winter Nest breakdown. I would encourage you to ask yourself the same questions!

Why? Because there's a long cold winter ahead and instead of dreading it, let's make the best of it. Why not feather a cozy little "nest" for ourselves - a spot exclusively for comfort and joy - where we can hunker and hibernate till spring?

Where? This will be a space where we can rest and replenish our winter "stores" - ideally out of the way of the general household hubbub.

What? What will make this spot comforting? What items will bring joy? This list will be different for everyone!

When? How often can we actually BE in our nest? Will we roost here daily or will it serve as an occasional retreat?

Now, I think I've probably addressed the "Why" question pretty thoroughly by now so let's skip to the "Where." It is my firm belief that your nest can be ANYWHERE ... from a whole separate room to the end of a couch and/or bookcase ... even a dedicated window space can serve to enhance your level of winter coziness.

(I think it's helpful to start by brainstorming WHAT your ideal nest looks like and then look around your home for a fitting spot.)

Personally, my nest needs to be somewhere a little apart from family "traffic," but still close enough that I feel I'm handy to my kids if they need me. So I've claimed a portion of our living room for my nest, and here are some pictures I took the other day ...

DSC02170

DSC02170

DSC02180

This is the epi-center of my nest - Mama's Reading Chair!

DSC02180

It's a bit old, it's a bit squishy - but I love it! I keep a small table next to it for my tea mug (etc.) and I use an ottoman on the other side for planners. There are also plenty of baskets about for books!

DSC02170

(The basket beneath the ottoman holds catalogs and coupons.)

DSC02173

DSC02173

DSC02173

Cats are a nest must-have - even when they're being naughty!

IMG_2862

A birdfeeder outside the window is another must ...

DSC02170

And plenty of natural light plus cozy lighting!

IMG_2792

Library loans are kept nearby - it's handy to keep them all together.

DSC02180

I like to fill the coffee table with seasonal reading materials ...

IMG_2610 (1)

And there needs to be special spots for the cats to snuggle in, natch.

IMG_2569

Cats are natural-born nesters ... :-)

IMG_2847

And blankets are always a draw!

Nesting kitties

And they too love sunny spots ... in the winter, a south-facing window provides soul-soothing warmth and light.

Other essential nest items not shown include:

journal-keeping supplies: notebooks/binders, pens, scissors, tape, clippings to add

children's storybooks: my nest is a GREAT spot for read-alouds!

music: I like the Pandora app; currently I'm listening to old English Christmas carols.

video: I use my computer for watching DVDs - now showing, "Take Peace: A Corgi Cottage Christmas."

correspondence: notecards, stamps, address book, etc. I'm working on Christmas cards at the moment!

candles: I have scented candles here and there but I like battery-lit ones for every day use.

hand lotion: I keep Curel at my kitchen and bathroom sinks but a tube of lovely rose-scented cream in my nest!

What would you add to my list? :)

As for the "When" question ... well, for myself, I enjoy "nesting" every day. Because I'm up so early, I start my day here (I'm talking 4 a.m.), and I also sit here at least once a day to read with Little Bear and/or Earlybird. On the weekends I try to have a block of time devoted to keeping "office hours," and here is where I like to work. If you're used to being in your nesting space you will naturally gravitate there, but if it's a new idea to you, you may have to create an actual nesting schedule! At least to begin with. Begin by feathering this space as you like, and then consider how often you can indulge in a little nesting behavior. Let your loved ones know this is important to you, and if you have to write it on the family calendar then do just that!

Because a nest of our own is a help as much as it is a haven. It's a place where we might battle winter's darkness and soothe our world-weary spirits. It's a place to cultivate creativity and bask in the comforts of home. Even if all the space you have is a kitchen window-sill, arrange a few special things there (a pot of herbs, a picture frame, a nourishing lotion, a scented candle) and let that be a place you go for a moment of mindfulness each day.

There's so much more to say about the benefits of "nesting" but I will wrap up for now. That said, I would love to revisit this theme after the holidays - say mid-January. The next month is busy for most of us, with Christmas coming and all, but once Epiphany's come and gone, I will take a fresh look at my nest and see how I can spruce it up for the "deep winter" months. I think for many of us there is a sense of melancholy when the festive season has passed and the pretty decor of the holidays has been packed away. But let's not let that happen! We'll come up with a wonderful winter plan and see ourselves through the long cold weeks ahead ... 

Now, about my Tea schedule going forward! I have to be honest with you all and myself - I had hoped to sneak in another Tea post mid-week, but instead I will stick to my original schedule and be back on Monday with our next Holiday Tea. Our theme will be "O Christmas Tree" and I will share pictures of our home's holiday decorations, plus we'll talk about the upcoming Winter Solstice.

For now I will say goodbye and thank you all for joining me ... I'd love to hear your thoughts on Cozy Winter Nests so please drop a comment if you have the time! I'd also love to see YOUR Christmas trees, so please consider sending me a picture if you are able: drhanigan AT gmail DOT com.

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


Holiday Tea at Dawn's ~ Cozy Winter Nests (Pt. 1)

IMG_2578 (1)

Hello my friends, and Happy Monday! I hope you all had a nice weekend and that your December is off to a great start! ❤️

Well, I just had so much to share with you today, I decided to split this post in two! More on that in a bit, but first of all, WELCOME! Thank you so much for joining me for another weekly tea. Today we'll chat about crafting a little "cozy" for ourselves before winter sets in. We'll also talk about my favorite tea, my homemade planner and few of our Advent plans for the week!

But let's begin by talking about tea - which for me, is pretty much synonymous with "cozy" - so let me ask you this if I may:

If you could conjure up the perfect, most comforting and appealing "tea" you could imagine (with or without goodies), what would that tea look (and taste) like?

Well for me it would be a big mug of a preferred and special hot beverage, accompanied by just a little something sweet and homemade, such as a plain cookie or biscuit. I usually just drink black decaf (tea) through the day, but lately I've been indulging in an extra special evening tea that - though it requires a little more prep - is entirely worth the extra effort!

So, have you ever heard of a London Fog Latte?

< Now, here is where I would have posted a picture of this very special and preferred tea beverage of mine, only - real life got in the darn way! So today's afternoon tea became a less "special" affair, though certainly no less satisfying. Earlybird had a physical this afternoon at 1:30 and, as many of you know, our autistic son has some BIG anxiety when it comes to doctor's appointments. Happily, the appointment itself went really well ... but unfortunately, Bill got called into work, so he had to miss the doctor's visit (we usually go together to the kids checkups) AND so, he was not on hand this afternoon to make me my very special beverage!! (He's quite involved in the prep work, and it's just not the same without him!) Anyhoo, the appointment (though great) went long, we had some food shopping to do (natch), and we just got home now (at 4:13 p.m.), so I've made myself a very "regular" cup of tea - my old standby - and this is what I'm having right now as I type ...

IMG_2704 (1)

It's so dark at this time of day!! I know that bothers a lot of people, but I don't mind so much. The sun was going down as we finished up our errands, and it just felt SO GOOD to get home ...

IMG_2687

... I might have had to slow down and take a dashboard pic of this sunset! For me, whatever the season, watching the sun set is always a cozy moment - but perhaps all the more so in late autumn.>

Ok, let's get back to our tea discussion now! In my NEXT post I will show you what my favorite drink looks like, but for now you will have to just take my word for it: it's a very pretty drink!

I stumbled across a London Fog Latte - on Pinterest maybe? - but the first time I ever had one was at Starbucks. They don't list the drink on their menu, but I heard it through the grapevine you could ask for such a thing, and so that's just what I did! Admittedly, I might have felt a little silly asking for something off-menu (much as I did the time I requested a "Franken Frappuccino" or some such nonsense one Halloween) but the barista barely blinked at my request and got right to work. It was a very good and memorable drink - but I like the ones we make at home even better!

Here is how I make this comforting and delicious hot beverage:

I first prep a cup of Earl Grey tea just as I usually do. I use Bigelow's decaf version with one sugar and a good splash of milk. As my tea steeps, Bill starts steaming some whole organic milk. He uses a Breville Milk Frother to steam and froth the milk (a gadget we've had for years but I've never used myself). You could just heat some milk in a saucepan but then you wouldn't get those lofty peaks of dairy delight!

Once the tea is prepared, I add a splash of vanilla, and then I top it off with the delicious and creamy frothed milk Bill has prepared ... and it is just so, so good! It would perhaps be really nice to make some lavender sugar to dust on top sometime ... but I am a little hesitant to mess with perfection!

Now, I don't drink this every night but maybe once or twice a week. I started drinking it a few months ago, when I found myself needing more of a "ritual" for unwinding in the evening. It's soothing and just a little sweet, and it just presses a button in me somewhere that says, "slow down and settle yourself." :)

Also, fyi, I recently found a loose tea blend from Harney & Sons called "Victorian London Fog."

London fog

I have yet to try it but will let you know once I do!

Now, let's talk about the cookie portion of my "tea" and for me, I can think of no "cozier" cookie than shortbread. I made these little "bites" on Friday, in honor of  St. Andrew's Day. They are incredibly easy to make and keep really well!

IMG_2443

Shortbread cookies have long been my favorite - to me they are an absolutely perfect treat: small, simple and suffused with a soft buttery flavor. I use a recipe I found online and it is just so super easy! Just three ingredients: butter, flour and sugar. What's not to love??

I usually cut the baked dough into simple rectangles (with the iconic fork marks) but I decided to try star shapes in light of the first week of Advent. (As many of you know, we follow a nature-based Advent tradition, and this week our theme is "seeing the light of earth & sky." For more on our family traditions, please see my Advent Crafts and Plans archive and in particular, for this week, this post.)

Now at this time of year, it's all too easy to spend time inside, where it's warm and bright and ... yes, cozy! But there is something to be said for getting outside when we can ... and creating a little light of our own to hold fast against the gathering darkness. So the other night we took advantage of dry conditions and had ourselves a little "Welcome December" bonfire ...

A-charlie-brown-christmas-abc-11302015

A-charlie-brown-christmas-abc-11302015

A-charlie-brown-christmas-abc-11302015

A-charlie-brown-christmas-abc-11302015

(Pop on over to this post to see a quick bonfire video!)

You all know I love to talk weather, so I must ask: how's the weather where you are? Is it chilly and gray, inspiring you to seek your comforts indoors? Or is it mild and bright, luring you outside? It's been up and down here in New England. As I began the draft of this post, it was a very dark and rainy Sunday ... but as I finish up at Monday teatime suppertime, the day has been sunny and unseasonably mild!

Speaking of weather, one thing that can be tricky when planning out an Advent Countdown is, in fact, the weather. Sometimes I have a particular activity in mind, but if the weather turns foul a change in plans becomes necessary. So one of the things I like to do when I sit down to plan out our week - any week of the year - is to consult the Weather Channel app on my phone. 

IMG_2612

Not that the weather can't change, but usually the weekly forecast gives me a pretty good idea how easy it will be to get the kids outside! (Happily the week looks great for finding nests, gathering branches, and taking an evening "lights" walk!)

On that note, since we're now talking about plans, here is a better look at this week's spread in my homemade seasonal planner ...

IMG_E2588

This week's seasonal theme: "Cozy Nests." Our first week of Advent theme: "sticks, stones, stars."

IMG_2591

The left-hand page is an overview of the week ...

IMG_E2607

While the right-hand side is set up for the week's agenda (schedule) and homeschooling notes ...

IMG_2591

It was important to me to include a section in my planner for seasonal crafts & comforts ... 

IMG_2591

(We don't do it all, but I do keep the plans from year to year!)

This corner shows where I write out all the "events of note" for the week, as well as our dinner menus plans.

IMG_2591

And finally, here is where I write in my little weather notes!

IMG_E2607

All these pages shown here are in my spiral-bound planner, but I have been experimenting with keeping these pages in a three-ring binder instead. Each planning platform has its merits - I just need to figure out which works better for me!

Now before I go (for now) ... I feel I need to tell you about some really wonderful holiday programming on this Thursday night!

First, at 8 p.m. ...

A-charlie-brown-christmas-abc-11302015

A Charlie Brown Christmas ... :)

It's family tradition to all sit together and watch this show WHEN it is airing on national TV. Sure we could watch it anytime on DVD, but that's just not the same.

Amiright?

And then, immediately following ...

The-great-american-baking-show

The Great American Baking Show: Holiday Edition!

I'm very much looking forward to watching both of these shows. The Baking Show is on after my bedtime, so thank goodness for that DVR!

Well my friends, I'll be off for now since I've kept you here for so long. We have more "cozy" concepts to discuss, so I hope you'll join me later this week in a follow up post. I will share thoughts on enhancing the comforts of home, as well as some pictures of my own "winter nesting spot." And if anyone would like to share their own nest, please feel free to email me your pics (with a brief description) and I will include them in my post!

drhanigan AT gmail DOT com

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


Advent Countdown: Stories & Simple Activities

IMG_E2182

Hello my friends and Happy Thursday! I know we're but a few days away from the 1st of December, so you probably have your Advent plans already in place, but here I am anyways, to share what my Advent project looks like this year ... :)

In addition to a few treasured traditions, I really enjoy coming up with something new for my boys every year! (Check out my Advent Plans & Crafts archives if you'd like to see past projects.)

So this year I decided to revolve our Advent countdown around picture books - meaningful and beautiful stories we've enjoyed as a family for years. As I've blogged about before, we have an awful lot of books - longtime homeschooling family that we are! - and though they are indeed spread out all over the house, I do like to organize them by subject and season.

Case in point - here's our Christmas book bin:

IMG_2230

True confession: there are more books now than can fit in this pretty rolling bin ... and yes, those are my slippered feet in the bottom of the pic!

So, as you can see, we have many, many Christmas books  ... so what I did first was to go through the WHOLE stash and pull out the ones we (ahem, I) love best. Then I looked over our December calendar, considered our weekly seasonal themes and then organized the books into separate piles ...

1st pile: WEEK ONE "cozy nests, stars/sticks/stones" (St. Barbara, St. Nicholas)

2nd pile: WEEK TWO "seasonal spices and Christmas trees" (OL Guadalupe, St. Lucia, EB & Papa's B.day)

3rd pile: WEEK THREE "welcome winter & advent animals" (Winter Solstice, Full Yule Moon)

4th pile - WEEK FOUR (which is just 12/24) "O Holy Night" (Christmas Eve)

I realize this all sounds rather complicated, but there is a method to my madness, I promise! Here is the low-tech spreadsheet I made up for myself as I worked it all out ...

IMG_2230

And here's a corner of my December month-at-a-glance calendar, showing how I note our weekly themes ...

IMG_E2235

Next, once I had my 24 books all assigned to their dates, I placed them in a basket so I could get down to work ...

IMG_2229

Naturally, Archibald offered to help ...

IMG_2230

I went through each book and chose an illustration to photocopy, something that would hopefully be rather easy to identify ...

IMG_2264

Then I gathered the rest of my materials: poster board, washi tape, stickers, post-it notes, glue stick, pen. All items I already had on hand!

I figured a post-it was a good size for a small illustration, so I first made sure I could fit 24 on the board and then I started cutting out my illustrations! 

IMG_2264

(Remember - these are photocopies!)

Once I had all my picture squares, I placed them in order and then decorated the edges of the poster board.

IMG_2264

I used an Elmer's glue stick for this and it worked just fine adhering the copy paper to the poster board ...

IMG_2264

I used Christmas-y washi tape to jazz up the poster board a bit. I also used up some old stickers I had on hand as you can see below ..

Next I placed a plain white post-it note over each illustration ...

IMG_2264

And then ... I placed a log slice sticker on the bottom edge of each post-it. The post-it notes hide the illustration and the stickers keep that post-it note from flipping up and revealing any hints!

IMG_2264

Close ups of the poster/post-it/sticker situation ...

IMG_2287

IMG_2287

Festive, yes? :)

Lastly, I used a red pen to number each sticker ...

IMG_2287

And secured Archie's approval, natch ...

IMG_2287

And that's it!

Well, actually ... there is much more to it and I will now get to all that. :)

Honestly though, this was a super easy project to pull together this morning. The photocopying took the longest time I think.

Here's how (I hope) my plan will unfold ...

Each day the boys will pull the day's post-it off and, using the revealed illustration, will head to the Christmas Library to try to find the book of the day. (I may also stick a number on the day's book to make it easier for my boys who are pretty young and might need help with this. Little Bear is not yet so familiar with the Christmas book collection and Earlybird may not recognize the illustrations.)

We will then all read the book together! (Please see my book list below.)

I am taking it a little further by planning a simple activity to go along with our Advent reading each day. I am not sharing this "Advent Agenda" with the boys beforehand however, because, as I've learned in the past, it's best to determine first if an activity will work - given the time/energy/weather/mood of the boys - and their mama! I have included my ideas below, next to the book titles.

I hope you enjoy the list and maybe can use an idea or two!

The PDF: Advent Countdown: Stories & Simple Activities

❤️

December 1st

Celebrate Christmas: With Carols, Presents and Peace by Deborah Heiligman

*Set up our Advent Garden.*

❤️

December 2nd

The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg

*Watch The Polar Express and drink hot chocolate!*

❤️

December 3rd

The Light of Christmas by Richard Paul Evans

*Make beeswax candles for Advent Garden.*

❤️

December 4th

An Early American Christmas by Tomie dePaola

*Nature walk: gather twigs and other natural craft materials.*

❤️

December 5th

Angelina’s Christmas  by Katharine Holabird

*Take an evening stroll around neighborhood  - deliver holiday cards.”

❤️

December 6th

Santa’s Favorite Story by Hisako Aoki

*Saint Nicholas Teatime: mulled cider and speculaas cookies.*

❤️

December 7th

Song of the Stars by Sally Lloyd-Jones

*Make twig stars and other natural-material ornaments.*

❤️

December 8th

Night Tree by Eve Bunting

*Go to The Farm and get our Christmas Tree!*

❤️

December 9th

Country Angel Christmas by Tomie dePaola

*Cookie Baking Day with Nana!*

❤️

December 10th

The Animals’ Santa by Jan Brett

*Decorate a Solstice Tree for the backyard Animals.*

❤️

December 11th

The Golden Christmas Tree by Jan Wahl

*Make golden glitter tree ornaments.*

❤️

December 12th

The Legend of the Poinsettia by Tomie dePaola

*Visit the Nursery to see poinsettias. Make cinnamon-sugar tortilla stars with fresh pineapple-mint salsa. Tacos for supper!*

❤️

December 13th

Gingerbread Friends by Jan Brett

*Bake and decorate gingerbread folk.*

❤️

December 14th

My Wonderful Christmas Tree by Dahlov Ipcar

*Write and perform  a Woodland Christmas puppet show.”

❤️

December 15th

Christmas Farm by Mary Lyn Ray

*Take a nighttime Christmas lights drive.*

❤️

December 16th

A Wish to Be a Christmas Tree by Colleen Monroe

*Watch the bird garden at sunrise while sipping hot cocoa.*

❤️

December 17th

The Christmas Bird by  Bernadette Watts

*Set up our children’s creche.”

❤️

December 18th

The Christmas Cat by Efner Tudor Holmes

*Make moon ornaments for Solstice Tree; watch moonrise tonight.”

❤️

December 19th

Corgiville Christmas by Tasha Tudor

*Bonfire night! Make magic pinecones to burn in fire.*

❤️

December 20th

Pussycat’s Christmas by Margaret Wise Brown

*Make homemade gift wrap.*

❤️

December 21st

Bear Noel by Olivier Dunrea

*Family Solstice Supper with hot wassail, cottage pie and sun cake.”

❤️

December 22nd

The Friendly Beasts: An Old English Christmas Carol by Tomie dePaola

*Go caroling!*

❤️

December 23rd

Christmas in the Stable by Astrid Lindgren

*Visit an outdoor nativity scene at night.”

❤️

December 24th

The Night Before Christmas illustrated by Douglas Gorsline

There will be new pajamas and slippers and steamed almond milk before bed!

*

I hope you enjoyed my Advent ideas! Please remember - my goal is not to do every single thing on my list, but rather, to use the "plan" to create an atmosphere ... a slower, peaceful and happy time of anticipation. The 24 days of Advent pass very quickly and I sincerely hope every one of them brings you much comfort and joy!

Well my friends, as always, I thank you for stopping by and wish you all a pleasant day ... see you here again very soon!


Holiday Tea at Dawn's ~ Thanksgiving Memories

IMG_2144

Hello my friends and Happy Monday! Can you believe in a week's time we will be starting the very last month of the year??

Well, I hope you all had a nice weekend, and if you celebrate, a Happy Thanksgiving, too! Ours was lovely, but before I launch into holiday memories, I want to say I am so excited to return to my weekly tea series! My goal is to host afternoon tea here at my blog every Monday, beginning today and continuing throughout the holiday season ... I will include the usual disclaimer of course, that as life often gets busy around here, there may be a week or two when tea is a bit late!

Now, as before, each week's Tea will have a theme, corresponding (more or less) to my family's seasonal homeschooling themes. This week, for instance, our theme is "hibernation" and so for the next several days we will be immersing ourselves in Earth's natural rhythm. We'll spend time outside (weather permitting) and inside (through windows) observing changes in our local habitat, the decreasing light and increasing dark, as well as the local fauna preparing for the cold weather to come. We'll take notes in our nature journals and read books about how different species adapt to the change in seasons - humans included! Some of us hibernate and some don't ... but why?

As we head into next week, the theme will morph into "our own cozy nests," and we will undertake our own family hibernation - turning inwards as we prepare our home and hearts for the dark and dreary (but beautiful) days ahead. The weeks leading up to Christmas are well known for their "hustle and bustle," but in our family we try to keep a quieter and more peaceful Advent. Preparing for such a "hibernation" from the holiday "madness" takes a little forethought and some days, even fortitude!

Which brings us to this week, the last in November, which I feel is a kind of "break" between one holiday and the next. After a super busy November, I am currently catching my breath and preparing to take stock of what lies ahead. These are the days to create a plan that will allow us to feel cozy, comfortable, well prepared and ready to sink into the cold days ahead ...

When hibernating, I think it's as important to fill our emotional larders as well as the practical ones. The year's golden memories bring us such warmth and light no matter how dark the coming days may be. Such is the lesson in a lovely little picture book called, Three Pebbles and a Song. A mouse family bustles about gathering what they need for the winter - nourishment and nesting materials, for example - but little Moses brings something special to their family's hibernation. Memories and laughter are just as necessary for comfort and joy!

So in that spirit, what memories will you carry into the winter with you this year? How do you keep preserve those bright happy times for yourself and your family?

I'd love to hear about your Thanksgiving ...

What was your favorite part of the holiday this year?

What do you remember most fondly from your childhood holidays?

The best part of my own holiday was having so many dear ones here with us - many for the first time in years, and a few for the very first time! I also loved the feeling of having all four of my boys home together ... there's nothing like a "full nest" to ensure a mama bird's good night's sleep!

From my own childhood I would say I remember most fondly my grandparents' home - filled up with loved ones and such wonderful smells. I always loved watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade as well ... 

But one memory sticks out above all, when I was probably seven or eight years old ...

After dinner my dad and my uncle took a bunch of the kids on a walk, just a little ways down an old railroad bed. I am the older of two children in my immediate family (big sister to my little brother, Matt) so I was always thrilled when we were surrounded by cousins - some of them older than me! But what was particularly thrilling about this late afternoon "adventure" was when it started to SNOW. Just lightly, but still - it was like magic! (To this day, I always hope for a Thanksgiving snow!) We all headed back to the house which was all aglow and the desserts were set out and everything was just so wonderful and warm. The grownups might not have been too happy to see it, but we kids were CERTAIN the day's flurries meant we'd have a white Christmas for sure!

Fast forward 40 some-odd years and we had another lovely Thanksgiving Day, with many, many cousins catching up with each other. Here are a WHOLE bunch of photos from our day ...

DSC01768 (1)

DSC01768 (1)

DSC01768 (1)

DSC01768 (1)

DSC01758

DSC01758

DSC01768 (1)

DSC01768 (1)

DSC01768 (1)

DSC01768 (1)

DSC01768 (1)

DSC01758

DSC01758
DSC01758

DSC01830
DSC01830

DSC01830

DSC01830
DSC01865

DSC01865

DSC01768 (1)

DSC01865
DSC01865
DSC01865
DSC01980
DSC01980
DSC01980
DSC01980

As you can see it was a bright and sunny day ... but so very cold. The coldest Thanksgiving on record, I believe! (22° was the day's high.)

Another record of sorts - we were a party of 25! Hosting a dinner for that many people can be tricky - mostly because you need to find places for people to sit! Also, timing a large number of dishes to complete cooking at the same time ... well, that's another real challenge! I am grateful for my family, especially my dear mum, who help me pull it all together ...

And speaking of my dear mum - today is her 75th birthday! Here's a photo of the two of us from earlier this month ... 

Mum and me

As I said on IG this morning, this beautiful lady is my best friend, my guiding light and I am so blessed to say, my own dear mother. We have such fun together and I look forward to planning many more parties in our future!

So that's a look back at our Thanksgiving, but here are a few more photos from the past few weeks ... 

Tom turkey in snow

46270584_1423688624429534_5903280815747366912_n

46270584_1423688624429534_5903280815747366912_n

46270584_1423688624429534_5903280815747366912_n

Tom turkey in snow

46270584_1423688624429534_5903280815747366912_n

Tom turkey in snow

Tom turkey in snow

DSC01451 (1)

Tea with a warm slice of gingerbread, baked in celebration of the season's first snow!

Oh my goodness, and speaking of tea!! My top photo shows you how I'm taking my tea at this very moment ... it's English Teatime (black decaf), served in a big sturdy mug. I was tempted to drink full-test, because we had a bit of a rocky weekend - Little Bear has a rotten cold and has gotten very little sleep - but I kept it simple (and non-stimulating). As I type up this post, I'm sitting at my desk, the day is dark and wet, but my home office is bright and warm. Currently I'm gathering up all my holiday resources - books, magazines, cocoa, candles, planner - but we'll chat about all that next week!

And so, tea will be served here again on Monday, December 3rd, roundabouts 4 p.m. You are welcome to pop by - sip, read, comment if you wish, and/or send me your own pics for inclusion in my post! Just send me an email at drhanigan AT gmail DOT com.

Next week's theme is creating "Our Own Cozy Nests." We will also talk about managing our hopes for the holidays

Feel free to grab this button if you'd like to post about the Teas at your own site:

IMG_E1581

For now though, thanks so much for stopping by ... I will see you here again very soon!


❤️Looking Ahead: Tea & Christmas Planning!

IMG_1666

Hello again, my friends!

Well, it's a rather dreary November afternoon here - sleety, cold, and DARK - so I'm taking a break from our Thanksgiving prep to sit down for a cup of tea and to share a couple of quick things with you all. The first thing is what you see above ... this year's Christmas Planner is ready to go!

🎄 Dawn's Christmas Planner for 2018 🎄

Now, I'm really excited to dive into holiday planning - but I do like to live in season, and be mindful of our present blessings - so this week is all about thankfulness - and preparing turkey for 25! I also, however, like to get my ducks in a row asap, so I printed out a fresh copy - updated for the new year with a new, pretty cover (and back) page - and added it to my planning binder. There it will wait for me until Friday morning when I'll be raring to go! (Over a cup of mulled cider and leftovers!)

Okhere is a little sneak peek at the inside pages ...

IMG_1670

IMG_1666

IMG_1666

IMG_1666

IMG_1666

IMG_1666

IMG_1666

IMG_1666

IMG_1666
IMG_1666

I hope this 16-page booklet will be helpful to you as you plan out your holiday season, but more than that - I hope it helps you think about HOW you want the season to feel. Christmas is about so much more than just the nitty gritty details - not that there's not a lot of things to do and keep on top of in order to make everyone's holiday  happy - but it's really about creating an atmosphere, crafting a vision, cultivating and carrying on with traditions that make the season so special for everyone. It is also, if I may be so bold as to suggest, a time for making time for ourselves. A time to connect with the true spirit of the season - whatever that may mean for YOU - touching base with the memories and values you hold dear. These weeks go by so fast, let's give this special time some real forethought and plan a Christmastide that will bring not only happiness, but harmony - inside and out.

Well ... more on all that in posts to come, but on that note ... the other thing I wanted to tell you all today is that I've decided to bring back my WEEKLY WINTER TEAS!

IMG_E1581

And so ...

Tea at Dawn's will commence next Monday, November 26th and continue (fingers crossed) every week throughout what I like to call, "nesting" season.

I am still hammering out my thoughts on this special project, as well as my weekly Tea themes, but come next Monday we can start by sharing a little of our Thanksgivings as well as our hopes for the season ahead - not to mention, of course, a lovely cup of late autumn tea!

Guests are always welcome at Teatime - to simply read, or share thoughts, or to participate with pictures - so I hope you'll consider joining me! Grab that Teacup image above if you'd care to spread the word, and if you'd like to send me a picture, please email me:

drhanigan AT gmail DOT com

Our 1st post:

November 26th: "Thanksgiving Memories and Holiday Hopes."

Well friends, I will be off now as dinnertime has approached and I am actually now typing these last words with a five year old in my arms who is complaining of a bellyache! So for now ...

Thanks so much for stopping by, have a nice evening, and I'll hope to see you here again very soon!


My 2019 Planning Sheets: Printable & Free!

IMG_1514 (1)

Hello my friends and Happy Sunday! With just a little over a month left to the year, I would like to share my 2019 planning sheets with you all!

Please find all the PDF links below and read on for more information on how to print and assemble your own planner. (With more posts to come on planner "maintenance" as well!)

I believe this is my third (or fourth?) year sharing these planning sheets here at the blog and though I am getting a little more comfortable with the tech side of things, I always seem to scramble to make the sheets "post-able" just before year's end!

This year I'm happy to say I am able to share them in a much more streamlined way - and I hope this makes them easier to use!

Please let me know if you have any trouble printing the sheets or if you come across any typos or incorrect dates. As always, these sheets are very much a homemade affair - a rather personal project I create for myself first, and then make public in hopes others might find them useful. I'm a self-confessed planner addict for sure, but I really enjoy making my own planner because it allows me to create something with my own "mother and homemaker" needs in mind. There are so many gorgeous, wonderful planners out there - and yet I have not been able to find one that not only meets my specific needs but also suits my taste for a planner that's a little old-fashioned, specifically home-centered and has true seasonal "flair."

(To that end, in addition to seasonal quotes on each weekly page, you will notice that font colors change monthly to reflect the time of the year.)

These sheets are certainly not perfect but they do come straight from my heart and it is my dearest hope that they are fun for you to use and maybe inspire you to find a little more "comfort and joy" in the year ahead. 💛

Now as I mentioned last week, as much as I'd truly love to, at this time I'm not able to offer prepared planners for sale. I'm afraid I just don't have the kind of time I'd need to take on such a project. (Folks who have "won" a giveaway copy before can attest to how long it takes me to make it for them!) I'm definitely not saying never - just not this time around!

What I can do though, is share my planning sheets in PDF form, and make them available to readers for free! I can also give you an idea how to go about printing and assembling these pages into your own personal planner, in a form that makes sense. I myself have gone back and forth between using these sheets in a three-ring binder and having them spiral-bound at the copy shop ... but I'll talk more about that in a bit!. :)

Ok, without further ado, here we go! Each link is a printable PDF file and is free for your personal use.

💛 The By Sun and Candlelight Seasonal Planner for 2019

Front Section

January, February, March, April, May, June, July, August, September, October, November, December

Extra Blank Pages

 (Please note the November and December files are larger due to holiday planning and might take a little longer to load.)

And now for more details ...

I use HP ink and Staples brand "Premium Bright White" paper:

IMG_1493

The paper is smooth and has a nice weight to it. :)

Other materials I use when making up a planner:

IMG_1504

The planner includes title pages for each month of the year, but I find it handy to insert a thicker piece of paper to set apart the monthly sections. I like to use pretty patterned paper that has the thickness of card stock for this purpose. These papers tend to come in a larger "12x12" inch sheet so I just cut them down to size. I buy mine through Amazon or at the craft store.

As you can see, I really like "vintage" images ...

IMG_1514 (1)

(Note - if you have trouble finding paper you like, you could also use card-stock for your monthly dividers. I made up a separate PDF of my 12 monthly title pages in case you'd like to use those title pages as dividers. Just print the PDF file on white card stock so the pages have a thicker weight.)

IMG_1511 (1)

I also like to choose an especially pretty piece of paper to serve as my planner cover page:

Planner cover

I sometimes use alphabet stickers for "monogramming" the cover. I'm not a big sticker gal really, but they can be fun and add just the right touch of whimsy.

Now for a very important piece of the planner assembly, especially if you are binding your sheets at the copy shop ...

Chipboard

This is sturdy 50-point chipboard which will give your planner a very firm back cover. I got a package of 20 for $17 at Amazon. (In case you are wondering, a three hole punch does go through this material!)

Speaking of which ...

Three hole punch

If I'm going to keep my planning sheets in a binder, then I use a three-hole punch! The one I have is quite old, but I'm linking one that seems similar: Swingline Three-Hole Punch.

And as for a binder ...

IMG_1514 (1)

My favorite binder is a Martha Stewart 1-inch, 3-ring binder. It holds 275 sheets and is wonderfully sturdy and the rings work so smoothly. I honestly have not found another binder that works as well! They are all too stiff and the rings can be lethal! You can find this binder at Amazon but I buy mine at Staples for a much better price!

Last but certainly not least (because they give me such joy!) ...

IMG_1495

I use adhesive tabs for the monthly divider pages. I love these pretty pastel tabs made by Erin Condren. I buy them at Staples but they are also available Amazon and through www.erincondren.com.

Basically I just print out all the sheets and paper clip each section to keep all those pages in order. 

IMG_E1531 (2)

I add the cover, monthly dividers (with tabs attached) and chipboard backing ... then I either bring the whole thing to the copy shop and ask for it to be "spiral bound" or I hole punch the sheets and file them into a binder. 

A note on spiral binding ... I take my planners to Staples for binding. They offer this service for about $5.00 and depending on how busy the store is, it's a pretty quick job! The spiral binding is made from plastic but recently I was told that they can send out the planners to be bound with a metal coil instead. I have yet to try that but I think metal coils would add a nice sturdiness and a touch of "elegance" to the planner!

Here are a few glimpses of planner construction, but as I mentioned at the start of this post, I will be back with a follow up post to talk more about using the planner once it's all put together!

IMG_1494

planner assembly ...

IMG_1541

ready for the copy shop ...

IMG_1514 (1)

the first month of the new year ...

IMG_1514 (1)

menu planning and overview ...

IMG_1520

extra planning pages ...

IMG_1520

monthly review and holiday planning ...

IMG_1520

the weekly spread ...

IMG_1520

January shades of brown, blue and rose ...

IMG_1523

the month-at-a-glance ...

IMG_1523

color-coded events ...

Well my friends, that is all I have for today! I would love to hear your thoughts and any questions about my planner and/or planner-making process. As I said, I will be back with a follow-up post to talk more about how I use this planner - my "system" if you will - and I will be happy to address any questions in that next post.

In the meantime, thanks so much, as always, for stopping by - I wish you all well and will hope to see you here again very soon!


🍂My Thanksgiving Planner: A Free Printable!🍂

Thanksgiving vintage 2

Hello my friends, and Happy Tuesday! I meant to post this last week (or really, earlier this month!) but here I am today, with just a little more than a week to go, sharing my Thanksgiving Planner with you all ...

I hope you enjoy it!

🍂 Dawn's Thanksgiving Planner 🍂

It's eight pages long and has space for ...

  • planning the meal
  • organizing a gratitude project
  • making time for holiday baking
  • incorporating family traditions
  • noticing November nature
  • managing hostess duties
  • cleaning ahead of the gathering
  • setting up a holiday timetable

Even if you're not hosting Thanksgiving at your house, there are plenty of ideas and activities to consider as we celebrate this beautiful time of year.

If you are interested in my planner, you are free to print it for your personal use!

IMG_1456

Note: It might take a bit to load the PDF, so if you have any trouble please let me know. You could keep these pages in a binder, on a clipboard or even inside a holiday folder.

Let me know what you think if you have a moment - about this planner and/or your own Thanksgiving plans! I will also be sharing an updated Advent/Christmas planner with you all just as soon as I can - but certainly before the first Sunday of Advent. :)

Ok, that's all for today, my friends ... hope to see you here again very soon!

p.s. My 2019 planning sheets will be ready to print by the end of the week!


One-Pan Harvest Chicken: Recipe Share!

Harvest chicken 2

Last night Bookworm made us an absolutely delicious (and wonderfully seasonal) supper and I thought I'd share a link to the recipe here!

One Pan Harvest Chicken - a bit of prep work, but quick to cook. Chock full of tasty, late autumn vegetables (plus apples!), smokey bacon and economical chicken thighs ...

Harvest chicken 2

Everybody loved it! Next time we might try using boneless/skinless chicken, because for one thing, they're just easier to eat and for another, they may cook more evenly matched with the veggies. (We ended up taking the vegetables out and broiling the chicken to finish up.)

On tonight's menu ... Crockpot Chicken Cacciatore! It simmered in the crockpot all day yesterday and tonight we'll serve it over linguine. (Along with salad and crusty bread.)

What dishes have you been making this autumn? Any new recipes to share?

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


It's a Working Weekend!

Planner puttering 1

Hello my friends, and Happy November! 

I just wanted to pop in to say I have carved out this whole weekend to work on my homemade planner! So that means I will be sharing updated planning sheets for 2019 with you all very soon!

Planner puttering 1

Hope everyone is doing well and enjoying their weekend, wherever they are ... it's blustery and bright here in New England!

Blessings to all,

~ Dawn


Hello, my friends, hello ...

... and long time no see! :)

I can hardly believe it's been TWO MONTHS since I last posted here. I'm very sorry I've been away so long, but I do hope you are all happy and well and that your autumn has been going along nicely so far. We have been busy here (as I'm sure you have, too!), and I have a few different posts percolating, but for today I'll just share a few quick things with you all.

First off, in case you missed it last week, It's the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown is on again tonight!

920x920

8:00 p.m. on ABC. And sure, you can easily watch this beloved show any old time you wish nowadays, but there's just something special about watching a special the night it is aired nationwide. Don't you agree? 

You might be wondering what we've been up to the past two months ... and well, we've been busy with all the usual things ... except Crackerjack is now off to college! We began our homeschooling year right after Labor Day and that is going well with both Earlybird and Little Bear. EB's daily home therapy hours have increased greatly which is wonderful (for him AND us) but it does mean less "down time" for me. And by down time I mean reading-writing-computer-slash-blogging time! Still trying to find my groove re ~ that part of my life, but if you are on Instagram I do post to my account there just about every day. (I also have a Facebook page for the blog and though I post there a little less frequently, it's usually at least once a week.)

How is Autumn unfolding where you live? Have you had any neat nature adventures recently? Today I took pictures of the pretty foliage around our yard since we are expecting a big Nor-easter here tomorrow so my guess is most of our foliage will be "gone with the wind," so to say!

DSC00342

I am also working on a post about my current planning system ...

DSC00317

But it's been slow-going for the usual reasons - ahem!

Which leads me to the topic of my planner and planning sheets. At the end of the summer I mentioned that sometime this fall I would have my 2019 planning sheets ready to share as well as possibly some news about making my planner available for sale. Well, the good news is - I will absolutely have those sheets ready for you all soon! Definitely this fall, and hopefully sometime within the next month! (Planning sheets through the end of 2018 are available in monthly PDFs found in this post.)

The bad news I'm afraid is - as much as I would love to say I will be selling my planners in some manner, I've decided that's just not possible right now. Because right now I just don't have the time it would take to devote to such a project, though I do think it would be fun and I'm thrilled some of you have expressed interest in buying a ready-made, spiral-bound planner from me. I'm not saying I won't ever open the planner shop I've envisioned, but for now I'll have to "keep things simple" and devote myself to our boys, our home and our homeschooling. 

That said ... I DO plan to share (as usual!) my free printable planning sheets here - and for the foreseeable future! Because I love using them and so I'm always creating more and tweaking them to work a little better. (Plus, to reflect the new year's dates.)

I am also planning to to share more detailed information on how to go about printing and assembling my planner, and how I use the planning sheets myself, particularly as they pertain to our seasonal homeschooling. I know I keep promising to do this in a video format and that is still my plan ... but again, that will come in a bit, but hopefully well before the end of the year.

What's that you say? We ARE near the end of the year already?? 

Goodness time flies much too quickly these days! As does my time for sitting down and computing!

So my friends, that is all I have for today, but I will be back here again just as soon as I can with those 2019 planning sheets, some pics from our fall and a few thoughts and plans for the upcoming holiday season! I am also in the midst of revamping my "themes and plans" series and hope to have those ready for the start of the new year.

Thanks again for your patience, everyone, and as always, for reading ...

I'll see you here again very soon!


My Seasonal Planner Giveaway: The Winner!

Hello everyone, and Happy Friday!

IMG_6764 (1)

I am very happy to announce that ...

JENN LEWIS

... has won a copy of my homemade seasonal planner!

Congratulations, Jenn! You will be hearing from me very soon so we can sort out the mailing details! I am so excited to share my seasonal planner with you!! I hope it will be helpful to you and your family. :)

Thank you to ALL who entered my giveaway, and for your very kind thoughts and questions. Many of you have inquired about whether or not I plan to sell this planner and my answer is still ... yes, I hope so! I am doing my best to work out the kinks and "set up shop," if you will. I am aiming to have 2019 planners available to you all whether they are being offered for sale or available to print here at the blog. I will have news on that front sometime early this fall, and I hope you will all stay tuned. I will definitely keep you all posted!

(Please don't hesitate to let me know if you'd be interested - the more I sense interest, the more sure I am of publishing!)

Now one of those aforementioned "kinks" is a dilemma concerning my monthly divider pages. As I've shown you all before, I like to use a very charming set of "vintage" look scrapbooking paper for my planner ... it's honestly been one of my very favorite things about this planner! But, here's the thing ...

If I am selling my planner,then I run into copyright issues when using someone else's work! (Also, that particular paper has recently gone out of print!) So, I've been wracking my brain trying to come up with something else that would be fun and pretty and charming in its own right - plus, seasonal of course!

So here's my idea ...

IMG_6701

This is a "mock up" of a potential monthly divider page. I'm taking photos I've posted at my blog through the years, and using them to create colorful "seasonal" collages. Printed on sturdy ivory cardstock, I think these could work as handy dividers - setting apart each monthly section! (Though I sure will miss those vintage papers - they were unique and delightful, and I know many of you loved them too.)

More to come on my seasonal planner - including lots of "How-To" posts here at the blog. Please bear with me for a couple of weeks while life gets quite busy here - we're enjoying the last couple of weeks of summer, seeing Crackerjack off to his freshman year of college, and getting started on a new year of homeschooling (our 19th!) with Little Bear and Earlybird. I feel like I need to hit the "pause" button right now, but goodness knows life keeps on moving!

So I'll be back again just as soon as I can, but you can always find me on Instagram and Facebook! Also, feel free to email me if you'd like, though I will confess, I'm slow as molasses when it comes to e-correspondence, lol!

drhanigan AT gmail DOT com

Have a wonderful weekend my friends, and congratulations again, Jenn! Wishing you all peace and contentment ...

See you here again very soon!


Seasonal Homeschooling: Using a Lesson Planner

IMG_6720

Hello my friends, and Happy Wednesday! 

Today I'd like to talk a little more about my seasonal homeschooling routine, specifically - how I plan out an individual week. addressed this issue to a degree during last Friday's Inspire webinar (the replay of which you can watch here), and the short answer is: there are lots of layers to seasonal planning! But since I'm not known for my short answers, here is the long answer ... :)

I start with the big picture, dividing a year into thoughtful segments. And by thoughtful I mean ... well, they make sense to me! So for this New England girl there are not four, but six seasons in a year, and two months per season. (September and October are "early autumn," for example.)

Next I brainstorm ideas to capture all the nuances and blessings that return to us again and again. This takes some thinking and imagining and reviewing of nature notes, retired calendars and favorite seasonal resources. (I made up printables for doing this, and they can be found here.)

Finally, I assign the most interesting ideas, or themes, to the weeks themselves and then I work said themes into the individual days of the week! All according to our weekly homeschooling rhythm ...

Phew, right? Lol. Well, it sounds more complicated than it really is and I will talk more about it in future posts, but for today I'm showing you how today I planned ONE week of seasonal activities, revolving around an assigned theme, and using a (really cool) lesson planner to do it!

Best of all - and the point of this post! - I found this particular planner spread allowed me to easily merge our Oak Meadow Kindergarten curriculum with my own seasonal homeschooling plans! So without further ado, here's a look at week one:

IMG_E6711

This was the first time I put paper to pen! It's such a big lovely planner, I was a little intimidated to start writing in it to be perfectly honest. I am using my preferred Frixion Erasable Pen here in bright blue ink. Plus some Frixion pastel highlighters (also erasable!).

I sat down with my OM Kindergarten syllabus, open to Lesson One, and my seasonal planner (the one I'm GIVING AWAY tomorrow, as you might remember!) open to my "corn and crows" notes.

Then I set about filling this baby in!

IMG_E6711

True confession: I wrote all of this information out on sticky notes first - moved those around where they belonged - and then wrote on the paper itself. I don't think I'll do that each week - 😜 - but it gave me a little flexibility while I figured out where I wanted certain information to "live."

First thing I did was write our weekly homeschooling rhythm along the left hand side of the planner:

  • Monday: Nature Walk
  • Tuesday: Crafting
  • Wednesday: Storytelling
  • Thursday: Out & About
  • Friday: Home & Garden

Then I wrote in our activities for each day in the first column:
IMG_E6711

I used a highlighter to designate the type of activity, something I do in all my planners. So here, yellow means a special activity at home, blue is for EB's therapy, and green means we are going somewhere. 

The planner spread features six columns for planning subjects. Our homeschool subjects this year are as follows:

  • Language Arts
  • Math
  • Social Studies
  • Nature/Science
  • Arts & Crafts
  • Other

IMG_E6711

These pertain to our OM curriculum as well as our seasonal living/learning, and I utilized the far right column for specifically seasonal notes!

IMG_E6711

I listed notes here for ...

  • Circle Time
  • Book Basket
  • Home & Family

Circle Time will be done each morning and this is influenced by our Oak Meadow curriculum, with a little music and movement, a fingerplay to learn and some calendar and weather discussion. We will also begin our day with a short blessing, not listed here.

Reading from our seasonal Book Basket can happen anytime, but I like to have a designated reading time in the afternoon, after lunch. It tends to happen when Mama gets her first cup of tea made! The titles listed here are ones we own (√), ones we can get at the library (L) and ones I plan to purchase (+).

A lot of people ask me how to involve older students in seasonal learning/living and one way to do this is to plan activities that the whole family can do together. (That's not to say seasonally-inspired academics can't be done at a higher level, but obviously there is just so much more that can be done with younger children in the family!) Celebrating the seasons as a family can be such a meaningful and rewarding lifestyle - making memories and encouraging our kids to slow down and savor the simple things in life. To look for the little gifts that return to us every year, while keeping our eyes open for new discoveries! These kinds of activities bring a family together, and fill a home with a touch of comfort and joy ...

So under Home & Family I included things like - foods we can enjoy, places we can go, seasonal decorations to put up, fun activities we can all do together:

fresh corn from the farm stand • popcorn balls  • corn muffins at Sunday breakfast • the cornfield or corn maze • tying up cornstalks at the front door • how about a taste test! which tastes better: boiled or grilled? • watching a favorite movie with a batch of freshly popped popcorn

Honestly, I think too many families stop doing things together as the kids get older and busy with their friends. But to my mind, our older kids should always feel welcome to join in - but not pressured. It might not be easy to get an older kid to come along on an outing, but they will probably enjoy sharing a special meal or snack, or seeing favorite decorations go up around the house. It's important to keep these kids in the loop in even the smallest ways. 
IMG_E6711

Shown beneath the planner here is a folder for my weekly seasonal materials, mostly things I've printed out: directions for making a corn husk doll, a corn maze printable, library request sheets, etc.
IMG_E6711

Here's a close up of one square (Language arts on Wednesday, our storytelling day):
IMG_E6711

Our morning circle time will include oral exercises and a little nature writing (on the chalkboard). I then chose one suggested OM language arts activity as well as a seasonal/rhythm activity of my own.

OM offers several language-related activities to spread throughout the week and many are wonderful examples of creative, active, outdoor learning. I figure the boys can work on their stick/yarn letter As while a crow finger puppet shares some news from our woods. This story will be part of an ongoing nature tale, taking cues from our backyard critters and the current weather. I enjoy using my storytelling apron for this activity as well as the lovely nature mailbox my mother painted for our learning room.

I added afternoon and bedtime reading selections to my language box - some are filled in, for example, we'll be reading The Popcorn Book on this particular afternoon because on this day we are also doing "popcorn math" and making popcorn balls for a family snack. :)

By the way, if you are not familiar with the Oak Meadow School (located in Vermont), it is a wonderful, Waldorf-inspired curriculum - one we've used for many years, at all grade levels, and this is my fourth time cracking open this Kindergarten syllabus! OM really works well with the addition of my seasonal homeschooling plans - the trick will be trying to have realistic expectations!

This spread here is for one week - and as most of us know, five days fly by very quickly! During this first week of September, if all (or most) goes to plan, we will be reading the Tale of Peter Rabbit and learning to recognize and write the letter A. We'll be remembering Summer and setting up a Nature Corner with which we can welcome upcoming seasons. We'll learn a body-parts song and a sweet finger play and set up a Science Scrapbook. As a family we'll discuss chore division and allowance, an annual Labor Day tradition! We'll learn the difference between crows and ravens, and listen to Native American lullabies. We'll brave a corn maze and soak in the particular allure of a whispering cornfield in late summer. There will be reading and playing and baking and plenty of time spent in nature ... 

All in all, a great start to a brand new homeschooling year!

(And it might sound/look like a lot, but when you view my lesson planner spread, you can see that most days have a pretty good balance of activities. This is not to say that each and every day will go smoothly or to plan! But this is what I have prepared, and will have ready for my Earlybird and Little Bear, and hopefully we will not only learn a lot of interesting things together - but also have LOTS of fun!)

Now, don't forget! This Friday I'll be announcing the winner of my Seasonal Planner! I will be posting sometime later in the day - roundabouts teatime - so there's still plenty of time to leave me a comment and throw your hat in the ring. (Please see this post for all the details!)

Enjoy the rest of your evening, my friends - and as always, thanks so much for stopping by! Take care of yourselves and your loved ones ...

I will see you here again very soon!


My Homemade Seasonal Planner: Time for another GIVEAWAY!

IMG_6539

Hello once again my friends, and Happy Thursday! 😊

As you might guess from my post title, I have some exciting news to share today! In celebration of the new school year upon us, and in honor of my "INSPIRE" talk tomorrow with Mary Ellen Barrett and Homeschool Connections (@ 2:45 p.m. EST - sign up here!), I am ... drumroll please ... 😉

GIVING AWAY ANOTHER HOMEMADE SEASONAL PLANNER!

IMG_6557 (1)

Now, I've done this before so many of you already know the drill ...

Please leave your name and a comment below if you are interested in winning a copy of my (homemade) 2018-2019 academic "seasonal planner." (And to learn more about the planner interior, please check out "My Homemade Planner" archive.)

On FRIDAY, AUGUST 24th I will randomly choose a name and announce a winner!

While I have you though, here's a peek at a weekly spread in my planner. (The weekly spreads are really the heart of this planner!) I'd like to give you all a better idea how I use these pages to plan out our seasonal homeschooling ...

Planner spread

⭐️ 1.  OF NOTE: Here is where I list any events or activities "of note" for the week. For example, this might include birthdays, holidays, feast days, important appointments and social obligations.

⭐️ 2. THEME: I list our "seasonal homeschooling theme" in this space. (A list of all 52 can be found here.) This particular week shown here will be, "crows and corn."

⭐️ 3. MEAL PLANNING: That's pretty self-explanatory, I think! I use the bottom "notes" section for foods that tie in with the theme and season. (Example, fresh corn on the cob, corn bread, etc.)

⭐️ 4. HOME & GARDEN: Here is where I write down any extra housekeeping tasks and/or any home/garden projects we have going on. (Not our normal weekly housekeeping routine, but other things I'm/we're working on.) Currently we are tending and preserving our garden, organizing our son's supplies for college and cleaning the learning room, top to bottom!

⭐️ 5. QUOTE: Each weekly spread features a poem or quote that connects us with the season and in some cases, our weekly theme.

⭐️ 6. CRAFTS & COMFORTS: Here is where I list the ideas that support our weekly seasonal theme. For this particular week (September 3rd-9th) our theme will be "crows and corn." I will be listing things like "visit a cornfield," "corn from the farm stand," "listen for and observe local crows," "read "Raccoons and Ripe Corn." As it is also Labor Day on the 3rd, as well as our back-to-school week, I will list other "niceties" here like "make picalilli with Mum," "serve alphabet soup and gingerbread letter cookies," "make back to school gifts for the boys." (Important note: I do not ever fit all these things into one week! It's just fun to brainstorm possibilities, include what we can and save some things for next year!)

⭐️ 7. TO DO THIS WEEK: It is what it says it is! A place to list things I need to get done that are timely to this particular week.

⭐️ 8. WEEKLY RHYTHM: I use this space as an agenda - a place to write down our schedule (activities, appointments, etc.) - as well as for writing out "rhythm" activities. (For example, Monday is nature study day, Tuesday is for crafting, Wednesday for storytelling, etc.)

⭐️ 9. NOTES: I've been using this space for "free-form" lesson planning and record keeping - BUT - I just purchased an Erin Condren Teacher's Planner (!!!) because I think I might need something a little more detail-oriented for this coming year. I am not entirely sure yet how I will revamp this part of my planning page - I might use it for journaling and memory-keeping - but more to come on all of that!

Also, if you also notice, the colors I chose for the design of this spread are unique to September. Each month in my planner has its own color scheme and to my best ability is done with shades that reflect that particular time of the natural year. September's color scheme seen here, to my mind, evokes the changing landscape of late summer: the golden fields, the ripening rose hips and apples, the crisp blue skies and fading green leaves. 

(Now see, this is why I was so compelled to make my own planner! I have very specific needs when it comes to "seasonal planning!")

So there's a fairly thorough tour of a weekly spread in my homemade seasonal planner. I will be sharing more posts about my planner - the set up, the system, and how I will be sharing my 2019 planning pages with you all sometime later this fall. 

Next month (after we've settled into the new school year) I will also share a "how to" video, walking you all through the steps for assembling your own planner (it's honestly not as hard as it looks!), should you want to make one for yourself.

(All my planner pages are available in my "Printables" archive. Dividers, covers, backing and binding is done separately and I will talk about all of that, too!)

Well my friends, I thank you for stopping by and I hope to hear from you if you have an interest in my homemade planner! I wish you luck if you enter the contest and I hope to hear from some of you tomorrow at the INSPIRE webinar! Mary Ellen will be taking questions as we chat so let me know what's on your mind!

Have a wonderful evening and see you here again very soon ...