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November 2006

October 2006

Sweets, Treats and Fun on All Hallow's Eve

We have had such a beautiful day filled with friends, family and fun! Our Halloween tradition is to keep things low key but there are still plenty of autumn treats in store for our kids! I thought I would share some pictures with you ...

First off, we rustled the kids up early and headed over to the farm where we enjoyed a delicious breakfast of pumpkin muffins and cider! The autumn landscape was sooo lovely - the air was warm, the crows were calling, the fields were barren and the wind was whistling through the dried foliage. Just before we left, we watched a huge vee of ducks fly over us - a reminder of the winter ahead. Before we left, I took a last look around the farm and wished I might somehow pocket these last autumn moments. Here are a few pictures we'd like to share:




(Click on this image to see the enormous vee of ducks!)


Here are the boys heading out; we may not visit the farm again till next spring!

Then it was back home with our own "pumpkin moonshine" for some carving outside on the deck. This is always a Daddy job. (Mama stood back a safe distance and took pictures!)



Roasted seeds made a great late morning snack:


After lunchtime, we made some caramel apples:



Because Earlybird cannot eat apples or caramel, we made him a chocolate covered pear! He was napping through all the apple-prep and we could hardly wait for him to wake to see his surprise! We set aside a few to take to Nana and Papa this evening.

As the afternoon waned and the Halloween sky grew milky and mild, we set about organizing our costumes. I think the boys seem to be the same things every year, LOL! Crackerjack was a knight, Bookworm was a pirate and Earlybird was Buzz Lightyear!


I couldn't get Earlybird to stay in the picture, but I promise you, he was a very cute Buzz!

As we do every year, we brought the boys to visit my grandmother and then to my parents'. After a quick supper at their Nana and Papa's, it was back home for tricks or treats round the neighborhood. Happily, we are joined every year by dear friends who live just a mile away. Our whole gang returned to ginger cookies and cider as well as the requisite candy swapping!


So another Halloween passes - but it leaves in its wake some wonderful family memories. I am so grateful for every year that passes just as the last - and we have a lot to be thankful for this year!

I hope you all had a safe and happy Halloween! Good night and God Bless. :)

And Speaking of Loveliness Fairs ...

The next one will be here!Loveliness_logo_3

Since I posted that prayer journal craft last night, I thought this would be a good opportunity to mention that I am hosting the next Loveliness Fair here on Monday, November 13th!!

I am very honored to host the Loveliness of Homemade Gifts on that day - and I hope you will join me!

There is still plenty of time before Christmas to work on your homemade gift projects! Let's use this Fair as inspiration to get our projects started! It always helps to hear what others are doing, so please share your thoughts on any one (or two or three!) of the many aspects of holiday gift giving.

Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Why give homemade gifts?
  • What are your project ideas this year?
  • What have you done in years past?
  • How do you involve your children?
  • Show us your projects (Even those still in progress!)
  • Do you have some neat gift wrapping ideas?
  • What about gifts of time, love and self?
  • How do you make the time to work on your projects?
  • Favorite resources - online, books, catalogs, etc.?
  • How do you get inspired? Where do you get your ideas?

Please send me your submissions for the Loveliness of Homemade Gifts by Sunday, November 12th. (Don't forget to grab the Fair button above!) And as always, you don't need a blog to join in the fun! Everyone is welcome to participate! Non-bloggers, you can send me your thoughts, ideas and/or pictures by e-mail. (My link is below my picture on the upper left corner of this page.)

Creating gifts to give to our friends and loved ones is a wonderful ongoing autumn project. Pour yourself a cup of cocoa or cinnamon tea and give it some thought - and then please share with us here!

I can't wait to hear from you!

A Quick & Crafty Prayer Journal

Leonie's Loveliness Fair is up, and it's just beautiful! Thank you for hosting, Leonie - and thank you dear friends for sharing your thoughts!

I was so inspired by the many reflections and reminiscenses of prayer, I made up a brand new prayer journal for myself this afternoon. I've been wanting one for some time - something pretty to tuck in my reading basket next to my Magnificat. I even looked at some beautiful (but expensive!) fabric-bound books at the mall this weekend - but in the end I'm glad I went with homemade. It is humble, perhaps, but pleasing to me all the same - and I know I will always remember this afternoon -the way the boys ran all around me while I wielded that glue gun, and the way Bill helped me with the ribbon and pocket. :)

Anyway, it was very easy to do! I thought you might like to see how it turned out.

First of all, the materials were all things I had on hand:


Pictured here: a basic composition notebook, scrapbooking paper, plain library pocket, ribbon, holy cards. (Not shown - glue gun and tape.)

All I did was cover the notebook cover with the floral paper and the inside with a complementary shade. I glued a plain library pocket on the inside cover, and, to dress it up a bit, I wrapped it in a sheer violet ribbon. Inside this pocket I will keep favorite holy prayer cards. Finally I cut a length of thin blue ribbon to use as a pagemarker. I adhered it to the inside back cover and then brought it forward into the journal; it hangs down just a bit.

Here it is all finished:


And here it is open!


The whole craft took me less than an hour. I think a book like this, done in a different style, would be nice for a child to keep. A place to write down their thoughts, or perhaps drawings for God. They could tuck in a few prayer cards for the season. This craft would be very easy for an older child to do, and might even make a nice gift for just the right person!

The Loveliness of Prayer

Leonie is hosting the next Loveliness Fair; today's theme is the lovelinessLoveliness_logo_2 of prayer.

Prayer means different things to different people, and that's as it should be - for we all have a unique and personal relationship with God. And though I believe God knows what we hold in our hearts, sometimes it's nice to say it out loud. Not just for His sake, but for ours. :)

Prayer might be private - a few words before sleep or deep thoughts in the shower. A prayer might be shared - a family's grace before a meal, a whole church filled with musical praise.

Sometimes prayer is comprised of carefully chosen and arranged words - words we've known by heart since we were little. Words that bring us comfort and roll off our tongue when we need them. While other times, prayer is simply our own words - tumbling or straggling out - just us talking with God, as we would talk to a friend - to someone we love.

And sometimes, prayer is just a breath, a thought, a moment of grace, when we feel the presence of God and say thank you.

The beauty of prayer is, we can do it anywhere - in the car, in the shower, in the woods, in bed. I like to think God wants it this way. He longs to hear our thoughts any and all times of day. And whatever we have to say, his ears are always ours for as long as we need them.

And for me, that is part of the loveliness of prayer -  that it is available to us any time of day or night, whenever we need it. I love the way it changes according to our needs, or our mood, or even the time of year. And what's more, there are so many beautiful ways to do it.

It is my fond wish to bring more prayer into my life, personally, as well as for my family. I had hoped to write a post about our evolving prayer habits and how we practice and process our faith at home, but for now, I would very much like to share with you a passage from a lovely book I am reading, The Family Cloister: Benedictine Wisdom for the Home:

"Wise families develop a habit of prayer and worship through the year. No matter what the season, we fill our lives with prayer and worship. Just as we regulate the temperature in our home through the year, we adjust our devotional life as a family through the year. We find that in every season we're participating in spiritual life together with God as a family.

During the winter, family prayers warm the home and heart. Light a candle every Sunday in the evening and gather in a circle around the candle to sing, pray and celebrate God's gift of light and warmth.

During the spring, prayer brings new life to the family. Plant new devotional habits into your family life. Let the sunshine of Christ's love shine upon your family, enabling these habits to grow into fruitful daily practices.

During the summer, our life of prayer bears the sweet fruit of godliness. Share creative ways of knowing God. Go on prayer walks together. Draw pictures of favorite Bible stories and hang them up in the family art gallery. Sing songs of praise to God for the goodness of his creation, such as the Irish blessing hymn, "Morning has broken."

During the autumn, God's fruit is harvested for all to enjoy. As you return to the fall schedule after the summer, return to the familiar patterns of spiritual disciplines, such as morning prayer and family devotions. Find practical ways to serve one another in the day as an outward sign of God's fruitful way of life."

Such delicious food for thought! This passage really resonated with me, as our Catholic faith teaches us the lovely rhythm of the liturgical year. Prayer is exciting! We can express it in many different ways.

Thank you Leonie for hosting the Loveliness of Prayer. I have learned so much from these ladies about so many things - as always, I am eager to hear their words and learn from them today.

Thanksgiving Plans

"November now has come again, Thanksgiving day is nigh ... with turkey and plum pudding and delicious pumpkin pie ...

Our most beloved American holiday is nearly upon us ~ did you know that Thanksgiving Thanksgiving_card is less than four weeks away? Yes, just four weeks! Though, really, that boils down to three weekends ... and if you're hosting a gathering, you probably know what I mean!

Have you thought about your holiday plans this year? Will your oven play host to the bird? Or will you be piling the kids (and the pies) in the car and making the annual trek to Grandma's? I would guess most of us do the same thing every year - tradition is such a big part of this day.

This year we will be hosting dinner at our house again, and we'll be blessed by the company of 20 relatives and friends! Some might say that's a lot - I say, the more the merrier! :)

I absolutely love Thanksgiving. I think I can say it is my favorite holiday of the year. As much as I love Christmas and Easter, Thanksgiving brings with it such peace and fulfillment - there are no presents to worry about, there is relatively low stress, and hardly any consumerism tied to it. No, for the most part Thanksgiving is all about family, food and, of course, giving thanks to our Lord for all He provides. All across America it is a day of joyful but quiet pause ~ a moment to reflect on our blessings ~ before the busy Christmas season begins.

I started making my assorted lists this afternoon - things to do, things to clean, things to bake, etc. But instead of writing my notes down here and there, I decided to make up a Thanksgiving planner. The winds were howling outside and the fireplace was crackling merrily away, so I popped in some Martha Stewart, and pulled out the scissors and tape.

At first I thought I might use a binder, but I have found them inconvenient to write in. If I'm going to be doing a lot of writing, I really like something that lies flat. And while a spiral-bound notebook fits the bill, its appearance is quite dull. So for fun I embellished a plain 3-subject Mead notebook with autumnal designs and inspiration:


It really didn't take much time, and for me, all the list making will be that much more fun because I have this nice little notebook to use.

Inside the front cover I made up a November calendar (to keep the timing in perspective). In the very back of the notebook I have paper clips for things I'd rather not tape in.


Whether you have the time, need or desire to make up a Thanksgiving notebook, I thought you might like to know what I'm putting inside. So far these are my lists:

  • Guest list (including who's bringing what)
  • Readying the house (room-by-room cleaning and decorating)
  • To-do pages for weeks one, two, three and four
  • Thanksgiving Day timetable
  • Menu
  • Marketing list
  • Other shopping and errands list
  • Setting up the bar
  • Table settings (including linens, china, etc.)
  • Centerpieces
  • Favors
  • Crafts with the children
  • Thanksgiving book basket
  • Music (to sing and to listen to)
  • Grace
  • Traditions and activities, including community service
  • Recipes index (cookbook reference)
  • Clothing and Grooming (hair cuts, etc.)

After my lists the rest of my notebook will be adorned with random notes and clippings from magazines (ideas, recipes etc.) As I have mentioned before I read a lot of magazines. Well, do you know I saved every November and December issue last year? I've had them in my closet and I just pulled them out. I've been looking through them and tearing out ideas to possibly use this year. Just as I do with my daily journal, I tape anything of interest right onto the page - and instead of a closet full of magazines, I have a notebook full of Thanksgiving ideas!

Here's a page spread to give you an idea.


My plan is to round out the notebook with pictures from our day and reflections. Then I'll retire the notebook till next year. Come next November, I will make up a new notebook, but look back at this one for reference and inspiration.

It's all a bit silly, I admit, and it probably seems like a lot of extra busy work to be diddling with when there are carpets to shampoo, windows to wash and linens to press. But I really enjoyed putting it all together - and it really got me in the Thanksgiving mood!

These next four weeks will fly by and before we know it we'll be preparing our hearts and our homes for Christmas. This time of year is so special, and I hope to focus on the simple grace and beauty of Thanksgiving ... Though while I was at it, I made up a notebook for Christmas, too:


This week we'll be hanging our paper chain countdown (brown and yellow strips till Thanksgiving, red and green till Christmas Day, white and gold till Epiphany). And of course we'll soon be filling our November book basket (which I'll post all about once we get it assembled).

So as October draws to a close, we cast our eyes on November and all the delights it brings - blustery weather, cozy hours at home, wonderful feast days - and perhaps the most beloved American feast day of them all - Thanksgiving Day itself.

What fun we have at Grandma's house, we laugh and romp and play ... we always have such happy times upon Thanksgiving Day! (from We Sing and Dance)

Fall Back ...

I was explaining to Crackerjack just now about Daylight Savings Time and how it is now 5:00 when he wakes instead of 6. (Don't even ask about Earlybird's rising time; suffice it to say it was Early with a capital E.)

I tried to explain about the farmers needing more daylight, the routine we follow of "Fall back" and "Spring forward," and about how we change the clocks to change the amount of light in the morning and at night.

Crackerjack was nodding, but he looked concerned.

"So, God knows everything, right?" he asked.

"Yes he does," I replied.

"And He makes it light and dark, right?"

"Mm-hmm. That's right," I assured him.

"Well, does He know we're fooling around with the clocks?"


Light, Color and Joy

I have been enjoying the blog kept by our Cardinal Sean O'Malley, and in tonight's post he shares photos of several beautiful stained glass windows belonging to the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Boston. At the Archdioscese's website I found a wonderful online tour of all the Cathedral's windows - including the stories behind them.

Aren't stained glass windows exquisite? I have such fond Stained_glass_windowmemories of watching the windows during Mass as a child - I loved seeing the colors come alive as the morning sun filtered through. I remember one Christmas morning the light was so bright, I was sure there were angels waiting outside. :)

One evening Mass last spring, I smiled to hear Bookworm remark on this very phenomenon, as he watched the western windows glow in the setting sun. He looked around our church, then turned to me and said:

"Mama, the whole church is lit up!"

And indeed, it was, but by more than the windows. It was lit from within by happy faces, beautiful music, wonderful smells and blessed anticipation.

A while ago I had an idea to begin a small notebook (or lapbook) about stained glass windows. Unfortunately we didn't get too far with it - but I am determined to revive this project again. It would be a perfect complement to our Middle Ages study this year.

I would like to start off by taking a few extra minutes each week to look at the windows in our church. Sometimes we take their beauty for granted  - just now at supper we tried to name as many as we could and it was a challenge! How nice it would be to linger a few minutes after Mass, to stop and admire one window a week and then learn more about the story behind it.

Before I get too far though, I will return to this wonderful thread at 4Real. When I first thought of this project last winter, I knew right where to turn for advice. As usual, all I had to do was ask, and these lovely ladies came to my aid with plenty of ideas and information. I think this will be a fun and meaningful project and I hope to begin it this Sunday. I'll keep you posted. :)

A few initial ideas:

It occured to me as I wrote this post, that in a small way, stained glass windows symbolize what my faith brings to my life - light, color and joy. I feel each of those blessings in so many ways and on so many levels ... but that's a post for another time. :)

In the meantime, God bless and Good Night!

Autumn Baking: Cornbread!

I just love, love, love to bake ~ although I don't do it nearly often enough (as my family would heartily agree). There's something about this time of year, though - the cooler autumn weather, the cozy afternoons spent inside - that brings out the baker in me.

Recently, Bill asked me to make a side dish for his office "Chili Cook-Off" today, and I was very happy to do so! I decided to make cornbread and I thought you might like to see how the muffins turned out:


I found this recipe online; it is supposed to be close to the kind Boston Market serves. We've never eaten there, so I can't be sure. I will say this is a very sweet cornbread so I hope it tastes good with the chili. It did make a very nice breakfast muffin ~ wonderful with a cup of tea!

(Makes 36 muffins ...)

  • 2 (8 1/2 ounce) boxes Jiffy corn muffin mix
  • 1 (18 ounce) box butter recipe cake mix
  • 5 eggs
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 1 1/3 cup water
  • 1/2 cup butter softened

"Preheat oven to 350 degrees and mix all the dry ingredients together. Add in remaining ingredients and mix well. Pour into greased muffin tins or mini loaf pans. Bake 30 minutes until golden brown on top and a toothpick stuck in the middle comes out clean. Allow to cool slightly until the sides pull away from the pan and serve warm."

Now, I have to confess - though this is an easy recipe, my muffins were almost a disaster! I was too tired last night to bake so I started in on them early this morning. I should have made certain that I had had more than a half-cup of coffee in me before embarking on any kind of project - let alone one involving measurements and hot ovens!

I realized almost too late I had forgotten an important ingredient - the water! This occured to me as I tried to stretch the sticky clunky batter into 24 muffin tins (never mind 36)! By now, Bill was awake, and he generously offered to help me. While he gently scraped the batter back into the bowl, I was able to fold in that forgotten extra liquid.

As we popped the muffins in to bake (30 in all) I crossed my fingers and uttered a small prayer to Saint Elizabeth ... and thankfully, they came out very nice!

In the end, Bill got to serve a fresh batch of cornbread to his co-workers, and I have my baking hat perched firmly back on my head. And you can just bet I've made a note of Saint Elizabeth's feast day next month! ;)

(ETA: The muffins were a hit! In fact, they won the "Unsung Hero" award at the Chili Cook-Off. Bill was so happy he signed me up for December's challenge - the Christmas Cookie Bake-Off!)

Autumn is for the Birds!

These late autumn days are the perfect time to entice local and migratory birds to your yard. I have it on my calendar to clean out the birdfeeders this weekend and re-stock our supplies. And while we might get a better deal at Petsmart, we're heading to the local, family-owned Wild Birds Unlimited. The service and knowledge there is unbeatable. (I remember Elizabeth wrote an amazing post on this company last summer - including all kinds of excellent bird study ideas.)

Today it all started with some stale toast. I was thinking about tossing it out for the birds, when I thought - why not make it a bit more interesting?

So just after lunch, we set up our spread:


Here we have peanut butter, wheat toast, raisins, black oil sunflower seed, and sliced almonds. (The pretzels were for us - they  make great dippers - though not in the seed, of course.) The shaped objects are comfort-grip cookie cutters. (True confession: I am addicted to cookie cutters.)


After cutting the toast into shapes with the cutters, we spread it generously with peanut butter. (I think you could use jam or fruit butter instead, if peanut allergies are an issue.) Then the boys set to work decorating the toast shapes with all the bird friendly fixin's. Lastly, I poked a hole in the toast (using the business end of a meat thermometer - you may opt to use a wooden skewer or toothpick) and then threaded a pipe cleaner through the hole.


Our treats all prepared, we bundled into our sweatshirts, slipped on our sneakers and headed outside. It was an especially nice day to be out in the brisk autumn air - dark clouds racing across the sky, brightly colored leaves falling all around us. Gosh, do I love homeschooling ...

Anyway! We brought the goodies out to the feeding area and hung them from branches and feeders ...



And we've been glued to the windows all afternoon, camera in hand, waiting to see who the first takers will be. (I can almost bet it will be a bold little chickadee.) If we do get a picture, we'll be sure to post it!

This was a quick and easy project - no forethought was necessary - everything we used we had on hand. Birdwatching and feeding is a favorite pastime of ours, especially during the long cold winter - when we rely on the birds for their beauty as much as they rely on us for their food!

Too much is ... well, too much!

In other words, sorry about the double post!

I thought I had set up the Faith & Family post to publish later today since I had only just put up Eggnog, Pumpkins and Tea last night. You know - so I'm not throwing too much at you at once, LOL?!

Well, I just checked in and I see I actually posted both posts within a few hours of each other! I could unpublish the F & F post but it has already showed up on Bloglines, so ....

If you are looking for the eggnog results (and I'm sure you are!) they are in the second (well, third, now) post down.

Have a great day and I'll try to restrain myself from posting for a while! :)

Faith & Family: A Quick Review

I promised a while back that I would do a review of my favorite "faith and family" resources - and I will - though I find I'm not very good at reviews. I think I'm too easy to please, LOL!  The truth is, I Faith_family_1find them all useful in different ways; it's hard to hold one book above the other. But it is good to know what kinds of information and ideas a book offers before purchasing it.

As I am in the process of gathering ideas for next month, I thought I might write a post describing what each book says about (and the ideas it presents for) one particular feast day - for instance, All Saints Day. But, while I work on that post, I wanted to mention a fabulous monthly resource for living the liturgical year in our homes and in our hearts ...

Faith & Family: The Magazine of Catholic Living. As you can see above, it its absolutely beautiful in is presentation. Let me assure you, the content is equally beautiful - Catholic faith, reviews and information, as well as an exciting layout to rival the likes of Martha Stewart! (And I love MS!)

I have never seen this magazine in the bookstore, but you can order it online. (And you can order a free sample, btw.) I would also mention there are lovely people in the Customer Service Deparment ... I spent a good 20 minutes on the phone with them yesterday.

You see, I was in a mild state of panic that I might have missed out on the Advent/Christmas issue; I had heard others talking about it and yet, mine had not arrived. I feared I had somehow overlooked renewing my subscription, so I placed a call to customer service and was told that my subscription was valid through the Winter issue and that I should have received my Advent/Christmas copy last week. When I explained my distress at the apparently missing issue, the kind young lady immediately put in a request for a replacement issue to be mailed out. Only - she warned - the issue was on backorder and could take some time to arrive.

Of course, as these things happen, I found my copy waiting in my mailbox yesterday afternoon! I can hardly wait to carve out an hour of time when I can sit and peruse the issue, cup of hot tea by my side. :)

To give you a better idea of the magazine's substance, I thought you might like a quick rundown of this month's table of contents:

  • 10 Ways to Transform Your Home from Mundane to Merry
  • The Best Catholic Christmas Gifts
  • Pirate Party Ideas
  • Video Game Addiction
  • A Kid's Christmas Craft Party
  • A Bride's First Tree
  • Nurturing Children's Talents
  • When Holly Met Ivy (an article on author Rumer Godden)
  • A Calendar of Feasts and Traditions
  • Book excerpt: A Fairy Tale Christmas
  • Arabian Coffee and Sugar Plums (recipes)
  • Interview with Jon Voight
  • Christmas Dinner Menu
  • Entertainment Reviews
  • Fun and Faith-filled Stocking Stuffers

Perhaps you've known this magazine for years, or maybe this is the first you've heard of it. It is still relatively new to me, but with each issue that arrives, I love it more and more. :)

Eggnog, Pumpkins and Tea

So! We've discussed autumn leaves, great pumpkins, the first frost and now, as we hinted at earlier today ~ eggnog is the latest sign of the season!

Pumpkin_eggnog_1Every year, come the end of October, we eagerly anticipate the return of our favorite holiday beverage to our grocer's dairy shelves. Usually it appears just after Halloween, so I was quite surprised to find some at the store last night! I was even more surprised by all the new flavors! As it's still only October, I restrained myself and bought just a quart of each blend. (This is all pre-Thanksgiving research, don't you know?)

So let me first reveal the results of our preliminary taste test!

Happily, my mum stopped by just as we were preparing the test. This meant we had four testers and four eggnog contenders: Golden, Vanilla, Pumpkin and Cinnamon. This is the order we tested in, going from what we assumed would be mildest, to strongest in flavor. This turned out to be a great math lesson too! We rated each variety with a number between 1 and 4 (1 for not so hot, 4 for the best). Then we tallied and averaged the results, and drum roll jingle bells please ...

Golden Eggnog, with a winning score of 3.25 came in first! ("Pure and old-fashioned flavor.")

Tied for second at 3.125 were Vanilla Eggnog ("Like a melted vanilla milkshake.") and Pumpkin Eggnog ("Like liquefied pumpkin pie!")

Coming in last with a measly 1.375 was the Cinnamon Eggnog (Crackerjack summed it up best - "Cinnamon doesn't rock!")

While I preferred the Golden and my mum, the Vanilla, the boys definitely liked the Pumpkin the best. It is a very novel flavor I admit, and I think I would enjoy it on occasion. Actually, it would make a tasty eggnog cake. I've made this cake every year (using plain eggnog) and it is delicious! It makes lovely mini-bundt size tea cakes - perfect for gift baskets.

My idea for Thanksgiving Day (and if you're coming to dinner, stop reading here!) is to bake these little cakes with pumpkin eggnog and then drizzle the tops with an icing made with confectioner's sugar and more of the pumpkin eggnog. A sprinkling of green sugar would make them look just right - like sweet little Thanksgving pumpkins! There are even more eggnog recipes here.

Now speaking of eggnog, and considering how much we love child-friendly tea aroundEggnog_tea_1 here, I have to mention a fun tea we tried last winter. Just after New Year's, when the heady days of eggnog availability had passed, we were SO excited to find an eggnog flavored tea called what else, but Eggnogg'n: An Eggceptional Winter Tea. Do you know, I still have that box of tea? (Tea doesn't go bad, right?). I would not hesitate to imagine a "playful penguin tea" - maybe kicking off a South Pole unit study. These cookies would be perfect, don't you think? March of the Penguins comes to mind, as does Happy Feet, a new movie premiering next month - returning home to a cup of this tea and some frosted cookies would be a delightful pre-holiday treat!   

You know, I think I could tie tea in with anything!

I also wanted to mention that when I went to get the above link from Bigelow, I discovered a tea I'd never heard of before - Pumpkin Spice Autumn Spiced Tea. This sounds intriguing. I'm wondering if I can order this online, because I don't think my grocery store carries it. It appears I have to order it by the case, however. Hmmm ... that's a lot of pumpkin tea. Maybe I could find some recipes for that, too. :)

And while we're on the topic of pumpkins and spice, ever since Jennifer mentioned making her first cup of Pumpkin Spice coffee the other day I've had it in my mind to try some. At first I could not find any such coffee, so what I bought instead was some of that International Coffees Pumpkin Pie Spice non-dairy creamer. It's not too bad, but it might be better a la mode. Last night, just after finding the eggnog, I came across some Green Mountain Coffee Pumpkin Spice blend. I'll let you know how it tastes. :)

Getting back to tea, Celestial Seasonings makes three delicious Christmas-y teas that we stock up on each year - Nutcracker Sweet, Sugar Plum Spice and our all-time Candy_cane_teafavorite Gingerbread Spice. Oh and be still my holiday heart - there are a few new flavors this year! I can hardly wait to try Sugar Cookie Sleigh Ride! (Can't you just hear that music playing in the background? Can't you just see the afternoon of cookie decorating unfolding?) :) And I'm getting ahead of myself, but how about sipping some Candy Cane tea (with a dollop of of chocolate, perhaps) while reading a special book together?

You really can plan all kinds of fun children's parties and projects around all these teas. They're so festive and fun! (I am hoping to do a post for O Night Divine on this very topic, in fact.)

And finally! Since we talked about Constant Comment (that delicous spiced-orange tea) the other day, I have to link to this these Constant Comment Muffins! Yum!

O.K., I think that's all for the beverage report today, LOL! But, whether it's hot tea, coffee or cider (or a cold glass of pumpkin eggnog!) I hope you find the time to make yourself some and sit for a while. For as much as we love sharing tea with our children, it's so nice to find a few minutes to ourselves - to flip through a magazine, read a good book, remember our blessings or just sit and dream about all the fun we'll have these next few months.

Thanks for joining me - have a great night!

The Saints Came Marching In!

Yesterday, Crackerjack's CCD class held an All Saints Day Party - and boy was it fun!

This was such a lovely time. As Catholic homeschoolers, our CCD experience has been limited thus far ... We study our religion at home, right alongside our academic subjects. We've read Bible stories to our children since they were babies. We prepare for and attend weekly Mass. We mark and honor the liturgical calendar. In short, our faith is so interwoven in our everyday life, I have not felt CCD necessary for my boys. It can be a very nice social opportunity, though, as we have come to find out!

In most parishes, participation is required during sacrament years. (CJ makes his First Holy Communion next May.) When Bookworm made his FHC years ago in our old parish, he went to the class - and it was nice, but a big surprise to me was that they didn't encourage family participation. For instance, they would not allow the chidren's books to go home. That (as I'm sure you can imagine), drove me batty.

Crackerjack started his CCD program last month at our new parish, and on that first day I asked if we could bring home his book. How pleased I was to hear the happy and emphatic response "Yes! Please do!" I knew we were in a good place. :)

And now for a few - oh, who am I fooling - many words about the party!


Crackerjack chose to dress as Saint George, who is his favorite saint (due to the whole knight-dragon-sword-and-shield status). He was *thrilled* when Sister, who greets all the students at the door, exclaimed as he walked in:

"A-ha! And here we have Saint George!"

CJ beamed and turned to me with a whisper - "She knows who I am!"

Surprisingly, not all the children dressed as saints - but those who did were a delight! At the beginning of class, each costumed child was asked to step forward and talk a bit about whom they were dressed.

Crackerjack brought up his sword, book, holy card and slain dragon (he left his shield at the table with a friend). Fully prepared, he looked up at his teacher and said,

"I'm Saint George ... and I don't know anything else."

Other saints of the day included:

~ Saint Agnes, dressed in a pink sheath and carrying a lamb ~ "I died when I was 12 and I liked God better than boys because I never got married."

~ Saint Anthony, who insisted he was also Saint Agnes, because he misread his mother's handwriting.

~ Saint Francis, dressed in a brown robe and carrying an armful of stuffed animals (which were certainly not his but bleonged to his sister should anyone wonder).

(And overheard at the table: "Hey, that robe looks like the ones they wore in Star Wars! They must have been monks!")

~ Saint Joseph, dressed in an oversized graduation gown, who had a similiar repsonse to Jack's ("I'm Saint Joseph and that's all I know.")

Anyone who dressed up got a prize. Here is Crackerjack and a few friends trying to decide which to choose - plastic bug or tootsie roll? The plastic bug won out.


Next it was on to the craft of the day ~ a Pumpkin Carving Prayer! This was really a very nice idea (see the prayer at the end of the post). We read aloud the prayer through each carving step. The kids mostly enjoyed pulling out the seeds and insides(and running back and forth to wash their hands in the restroom).


Crackerjack, however, kept a safe distance from those "pumpkin guts."


Finally he decided to help by making the nose. You can tell he's really concentrating because of the tongue. (Bill calls that "a Michael Jordan" - who apparently did this when making a shot.)


Voila! The finished pumpkin!


And here is the lovely prayer, with instructions:

Dear God,

As I carve my pumpkin, help me say this prayer:

Open my mind so I can learn about You;

(Cut off top of pumpkin.)

Take away all my sin and forgive me for the wrong things I do.

(Remove pumpkin insides.)

Open my eyes so Your love I will see;

(Cut eyes in heart shapes.)

I'm so sorry for turning up my nose to all You've given me.

(Cut nose in shape of cross.)

Open my ears so Your words I will hear;

(Cut ears in shape of Bibles.)

Open my mouth so I can tell others You're near;

(Cut mouth in shape of fish.)

Let Your light shine in all I say and do.

(Place a lit candle inside.)


The children made these little prayers into bookmarks; here is CJ coloring his. After he finished, he folded the paper in half and glued the two sides shut. The teacher punched a hole at the top and tied on a piece of raffia. What a nice autumn memento!


Ooh, and I must mention the neat snacks that were served:


I missed what they were called, but as CJ's kind teacher explained them to me, they sound very simple to make (and they were delicious to eat):

Preheat your oven to 200 degrees. Lay pretzels on a baking sheet and place an unwrapped Hershey's kiss on top. Place in oven for 5 minutes. Remove from oven and gently press an M-n-M candy on top. Yum!

And while the group snacked and finished their bookmarks I was asked to read Crackerjack's book aloud to the children - Saint George and the Dragon. This has long been Crackerjack's favorite book - and it's battered and bent enough to prove it - but the other children had never heard it. If you know this book, you know the story and the pictures are riveting. I think CJ was proud to share his book (and his mom) with his friends. :)

As always, thanks for sticking with me for such a long post, (one of these days I'll write a short one) and for taking this peek at our day! We have a whole week till the real All Saints Day and we're already quite excited!

Saint of the Day

Crackerjack had a BLAST at the All Saint's Day party today!


Can you guess who he is? :)

It probably comes as no surprise I took an enormous amount of photos at the party ... but it's getting late and I have children to tuck in, a husband to catch up with and a book that's calling my name ... so please come back tomorrow for the rest of the story!

Have a wonderful night!

Cat on a Cold Asphalt Roof

We're starting a club, care to join us? Ace Wildlife Defenders we'll call it. I think we have enough experience under our belts by now. Turkeys. Chipmunks. Cats. Furred or feathered, we save them all.

Our latest wildlife adventure unfolded just a few minutes ago. I was heating up a cup of coffee in the kitchen when Bookworm called me to the window:

"WHAT is THAT?" he exclaimed.

A large orange tabby cat was stuck on our family room roof.


A few essential facts before I continue:

A. This is not my cat.

B. I have no idea how he got up there. (Though it probably involved birds.)

C. I had no idea how I was going to get him down.


What else could we do but help this poor cat? So we launched into action, and after a few frantic moments, and lots of crying (by the cat, who was terrified), we managed to help him get down. I pushed a picnic table closer to the edge of the roofline and the cat made a huge leap (yowling the whole way down), made it safely onto the deck (missing my face by a few inches!) and streaked from the yard into the woods.

And, you know, he didn't even stop to say thank you? ;)

But at least I have no injured cats to rush to the vet, we had a nice break from our math, and I have a good story to blog about, too.

So how's your morning been so far?

Now THAT's a Homekeeping Notebook!

I posted the other day about the homekeeping notebook I am working on, but HOLD THE PHONE ~ wait till you check out the one Kim has put together!!! I am so inspired by her post and I'm already re-doing my whole notebook in my head! I need more pretty paper! I need nicer looking dividers! I need Kim to come here and help me with my notebook, LOL!

Fortunately, and  very kindly, Kim is sharing details, pictures AND downloads with us! I can hardly wait to hear more about her system.

Beautiful work Kim - you bring such beauty and honor to our homekeeping lives. :)

Happy Birthday to Us!

As we do every year, we celebrated our anniversary - also fondly known as our family's birthday - with what else but a delicious CAKE!



Naturally, the boys got the honor of blowing out the candles!


These three happy faces are the very best gifts we'll ever receive!

We meant to watch our wedding video tonight, but we didn't finish supper till after 7:00 and then we all got caught up in that Alton Brown show on the Food Network (our boys just love his show). Tonight he was talking doughnuts and we just could not tear ourselves away. Perhaps we'll watch the video tomorrow. :)

Life is so sweet, isn't it?

The Loveliness of Babies

Please stop by Elizabeth's today, for the beautiful and much anticipated Loveliness of Loveliness_logo_1 Babies Fair! Ooh, you can almost smell those sweet little bundles of love. (Does anything in this world smell as good as a baby?) :)

If you have a baby in your house - tiny or fully grown - you will love to read this collection of posts!

Thank you, Elizabeth - I am honored to have taken part in your Fair - you are a model mother for us all!