Previous month:
October 2006
Next month:
December 2006

November 2006

Our Week-at-a-Glance

Here is our bulletin board this week:


I realize this looks very haphazard and more than just a bit cluttered - messy even! But I love it! I like all the colors, text and the very fullness of it all. I love the very hodgepodginess of it. What does that say about me, lol? 

Anyway, I will break down the details a bit later today. We have much to get through this morning over here - and a birthday party later this afternoon! Fun!

Have a blessed day with your loved ones!

ETA (Friday night update):

Here's the board rundown (.i.e what we're studying right now), beginning in our upper lefthand corner:

Saxon Math (natch) along with a tape measure. Crackerjack and Bookworm are keeping record of random measurements around the house.

Geography from A to Z: A picture Glossary ~ We're taking 1-2 terms a week, and writing them down in small booklets. So for instance, we read the definition of archipelago, the boys copied it into their booklets and from there we looked for examples, in this case Rudolph's Shiny New Year. Remember the Archipelago of Last Year? Hey, it worked!

New favorite Christmas book alert! The Little Drummer Mouse. When I have more time, I will write a proper review, but trust me, its a keeper.

We continue with our medieval study - and the boys are thrilled we are finally talking knights and castles - you know, the good stuff! (Barbarians and Vikings were OK, but knights are, well knights!) Currently we are looking at how the peasants and noble families lived - feudalism and the farming life in general. A Farm through Time is an excellent highly visual resource (as is its companion A Street through Time). Since we are also beginning Advent and will be talking about the Nativity story, I thought we would be well-served by a trip to a stable this December to remind us how cold and uncomfortable a place it would have been for the Holy Family. (This idea was from Elizabeth's excellent Tomie dePaola/Advent unit study.)

Earlybird will learn the farm animal names and noises (though he knows them all for the most part, we'll work on pronunciation). We'll play a farm game and look at preschool farm books. Of course, we'll bring out the large wooden barn and carved animals, too. Animal Planet has an interesting site on the Animals of the Nativity. I haven't looked at it too closely but it looks promising.

We'll all read The Hat - a wonderful story about the antics of several farm animals - and we'll tip our hats to its illustrator, one of our favorites - whose birthday it is today! Jan Brett books figure prominently in our homeschool library, in particular her many Christmas and wintery ones.

In the center of the board you see a lovely poem I found in A Year Full of Poems, called Christmas Daybreak. I will post the text soon when I have a bit more time.

Top of the board and cornering right - Knights Castle will be our family read aloud just after the holidays. We have many castle resources to peruse these next couple of months. (Yes, we'll stretch this part of our study out over the winter. I figure we'll hit Robin Hood round abouts February.)

Down the righthand side of the board you see a few plans for honoring St. Andrew's feast day, which just passed this week. Since he is the patron of Scotland we'll look at the country's flag (and find out why this particular cross is used) and we'll also look at the country's flower, the thistle. I happen to have a delicous tea (Sugar Cookie Sleigh Ride) which lists milk thistle as its first ingredient, and Mary's Flowers talks at great lengths about the Marian legend of this flower. We will also make shortbread, a Scottish treat - using the mold I purchased earlier this year - the beautifully carved symbols of the British Isles (Scotland's thistle, a rose for England, shamrocks for Ireland, leeks for Wales). And of course we'll take a few minutes to read what Ms. Comstock has to say about this prickly but lovely hued plant.

Finally you see our angel from The Giving Tree at church, reminding us of our promise to return designated gifts by this Sunday. And lastly a prayer for Dorothy Day whose birthday was this past week.

Well, there are the details in a nutshell! As I said, I'll do some tweaking for next week and post again soon!

A Bit of Housekeeping

Well, you might be wondering where all this RED came from, and you know, I'm kind of wondering that myself, lol!

Last night, on a whim, just before powering off, I decided to peruse the Typepad design palette a bit. (Jennifer and Meredith had me feeling a little itchy!) I thought I would see if there might be a soft taupe or gray for the background, something more subdued - less springy - for the winter season. Well, I did find a shade of gray and I "tried" it on, but instead of hitting Preview, I hit Save Changes!

And, of course, the gray was all wrong, and I immediately wanted my old blue back - and fast! - but when I went to find my old blue, I realized my blue is not the same blue as the one offered in the palette! Ack! To get back to my original blue I would have to strip down back to my original template and refresh the whole kit-and-kaboodle (i.e. remember all the font and design choices I made way back when).

Oh, what a mess. And this was all unfolding mere minutes before bedtime, too, when I have little, if no, patience for such things. So casting about wildly for something more cheerful than the gray, I decided to try on the deep red ... and here it is! And it doesn't look too bad, does it? (You can tell me if it does!) I thought it might be somewhat Christmas-y ... and it does pick up the roses in my banner ... so maybe I'll call this my Winter Rose template and we'll see what I can do about all this in the spring!

In other blog news ... I am slowly updating my booklists and notes along the sidebars. Wow, were those things out of date! I'll be retiring all the Autumn lists and photo albums and posting some Winter and Christmas ones soon.

And finally - last call for Field Day! I will be posting the Late Autumn Edition tomorrow, so if you'd like to enter something, please send me an email today! And many thanks to all the participants so far!

Hope your day is a happy one!

Star Light, Star Bright

We had great fun today making this quick but pretty craft ~ a whole host of colorful stars to adorn our wintertime windows!


  • construction paper
  • brightly colored tissue paper
  • something round to trace
  • star-shaped punch *or* star-shaped template
  • scissors
  • regular tape, double sided tape


This project came to me this morning as I was rooting around in some old craft bins downstairs. Amongst some old scrapbooking supplies I found a star-shaped punch and immediately thought of Earlybird's fascination with astronomy. I also thought about the darkness of winter and how the night sky brings us such beauty and sparkle throughout the bitter cold months. Starry windows would be a lovely Christmas decoration - one that would carry us throughout the whole winter season!

And armed with a few basic supplies, we set out to make our colorful window stars ...

First, we traced and cut out many circles of construction paper (25 in all). For this, I just traced around the bottom of a milk glass. Next, we used the star-shaped punch to create an open star shape in the center of the circle. I did this part myself as the punch is very sharp. (If you do not have a punch, you might trace a star shape onto some thick cardstock, tagboard or cardboard and cut it out to use as a template. When cutting the shape out of the paper in this way, a craft knife works especially well.)


In advance, I had cut up some small squares of tissue paper. From that pile we would choose a color and tape it onto the back of the circle (so that the tissue showed through the star opening). Finally we stuck two small pieces of double sided tape on the back and then pressed the stars into our windows - filling many panes with starlight to shine the whole winter long:



And since no crafting day is complete without a plate of goodies, I made up some "Autumn Star" cookies as a finale. (Shhh - these are Pilsbury slice-and-bake! I need - and would love - a good gingerbread recipe! Let me know if you have one!) We cut the cookie dough with a large star-shaped cutter and then used up the scraps by making tiny autumn leaf shapes. We placed the leaves on the star cookies before baking and I think the effect was awfully pretty:


These last few days of autumn, it's nice to remember the beauty of nature all around us, because whatever the season, there is something to ponder. Stars, leaves, light, dark, warmth, cold - all of earth's elements are blessings to behold and enjoy.

Odds and Ends

This is not a very coherent post, I'm afraid. There were just so many little things today that I wanted to mention - nothing of great importance and yet, I didn't get a chance to sit down and create a post around any one thing. And now it is getting late and we're all getting ready for bed, so I will weave a quick recap of the day - all those little stories gathered up into one rather long and rambly post. :)

Morning in the Garden

Very early this morning I went outside to fill the feeders. I try to get outside for 15 minutes or so before Bill leaves for work every day - and while he's inside shaving and dressing (and keeping one eye on the kids), I putter a little outside. I retrieve the paper from the end of the driveway and then head out back to check on the feeders. It's been kind of dark lately so I don't do much looking, but I do listen. I love this time of day; it's so simple and quiet. I can hear the crows off in the distance, the wind rushing through the woods and the chickadees scolding me to get on with it already and just fill up the feeders. :) I got to thinking about the upcoming Field Day and what this time of year means to me. I kicked around a few of my own thoughts and plans for the winter garden - the one I watch outside my windows and the one I carry in my heart until spring. Here are a few pictures:


Spruce branch - new cone buds, I think?


Tiny, withered but stalwart dandelion.


Eastern sky, from our deck, dawn.

My Christmas Kitchen

I am on a mission to make over my kitchen for the holidays. I'm not talking paint or hardwood or anything like that. I'm just talking clean countertops, baking space, merry music and good smells.

To that end, I spent an alarming amount of time cleaning in the kitchen today. In all the Thanksgiving rush I've kind of neglected a few corners, crooks and crevices of late. So I tore apart the windowsill which had accumulated a number of unrelated items (pencil sharpener, pumpkin pie spice, two marbles and a paintbrush for instance) along with a healthy (make that unhealthy) amount of dust. I polished the woodwork and I even took out the screens to clean them thoroughly. (That never happened however, they are still sitting in our tub!) Once the area was spiffy, I put up a few Christmas candles:


Candle light, burning bright ... help me wash my dishes tonight. :)

Next I tackled the lower corner cabinet - the one with the revolving shelves. This is where I store most of our canned goods and other pantry supplies (as well as, for some unknown reason, the crockpot and toaster). I found a small box of Hodgson Mills Cornbread mix so I cooked up some cornbread muffins for lunch. I also discovered 4 overripe bananas and 3 enormous butternut squash hiding in the baking pan cabinet. (I have no idea how they got there, though I'm guessing Earlybird had something to do with it.) I baked the squash for about an hour or so (split lengthwise, seeds scraped out and flesh lightly buttered). They came out pretty well!


I scooped out and mashed the insides and got quite a bowl-ful of squash! I will freeze it in baggies in 2 cup measures - just the right amount for my favorite quick bread recipe. I didn't get around to the bananas. If they are still viable I will bake them tomorrow - Oatmeal Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins is what I have in mind!

National French Toast Day!

I'm sorry I didn't post this earlier today so you too could incorporate French toast into your menu plan today, although it's possible you think serving French toast for dinner is a rather nutty idea! It is, yes, a bit nutty. But it is also delicious and fun! We make ours with whole wheat bread, organic milk and eggs and a dash of pure vanilla. To round out our meal I roasted chunks of apples and turkey kielbasa. Ooh, it was all so good.

Now you might wonder how I found about National French Toast Day - it being, I would guess, one of the lesser known American holidays. Well, this morning I found in my in-box, a charming e-newsletter from mystery author Susan Albert called All About Thyme: A Weekly Calendar of Times & Seasonings.  It sounded so informative and inspiring, I signed right up! True confession - I have not read any of Ms. Albert's books (though my mum is a big fan). I do have The Tale of Hill Top Farm (from the Cottage Tales of Beatrix Potter) on my bedside table ... where it has sat these many, many months. After the holidays, I will get through that book!

New Blogs to Read

I've been thinking about handcrafts and herbs a lot lately. (Not so much in the doing as in the wishing-I-was-doing.) Here are a few great websites I have been enjoying:

Our Homeschool Bulletin Board

I got our bulletin board all done at last! I will post all the details tomorrow. :)

One Last Thing

Oh and one last thing - little, but definitely not fun and possibly problematic. You remember how my husband is recovering from Lyme Disease? Yes, this would be the man who spent the whole weekend working in the yard raking and blowing leaves and this morning woke me up with the news that he had a deer tick attached to him. Oh, for pity's sake, didn't the frost kill the little buggers off? Apparently not. We removed the tick and he dropped it off at the lab for testing. And do you know he just finished his anbtibiotics course last week? Sigh ... any and all prayers would be most welcome!

And One Last Photo

This has nothing to do with anything, I just love it. I call it Boys in Leaves:


Bookworm (in purple) is underneath all this!

So there's the round up of odds and ends! I wish you all a good night and God bless!

A Christmas Meme!

I saw this at Lindsey's and couldn't resist!

1. Hot Chocolate or apple cider?

Apple cider says "fall" to me, so I'd have to go with the hot cocoa. (Willingly of course.) :)

2. Turkey or Ham?

Ham (as in Honey of a ...) - sooo good with my mother's Delmonico potatoes!

3. Do you get a fake or real-you-cut-it-yourself Christmas tree?

Oh, this is a sore subject for me. For years and years it was always fresh-from-the-farm (or at least the local nursery) but last year we switched to fake. Mainly due to cats who insist on eating the greenery, children with mild allergic reactions, and a new fireplace that makes the house very dry. The tree we chose is very nice, but I really miss that pine smell!

4. Decorations on the outside of your house?

Yes, white icicle lights (like every other house in our neighborhood, lol) and white candles in the windows (which are technically inside but are part of the overall effect). Evergreen wreaths on the windows and door and ... some years garland along the front fence. Oh, and I hang a Christmas flag. I think that's it!

5. Snowball fights or sleddin'?

Sledding on a snowy day is the best. (Especially when a thermos of hot cocoa is involved!) Snowball fights are just bad news in my book. (So says the mother of three boys.) ;)

6. Do you enjoy going downtown shopping?

Once or twice as a novelty - just long enough to soak in the jingling, bustling atmosphere, mail our Christmas cards and maybe stop for a yummy treat - then head home before the crowds get too bad.

7. Favorite Christmas song?

Oh, it's very hard to choose. The Carol of the Bells, Sleigh Ride, and O Holy Night because my late grandfather (who had a wonderful Irish singing voice) sang it every year on Christmas eve.

8. How do you feel about Christmas movies?

I like a few - not the goofy commercial ones, though. I love It's a Wonderful Life, Polar Express and A Christmas Story. Oh and Little Women and Meet Me in St. Louis are two of my all time favorite movies (both fairly Christmas-y).

9. When is it too early to start listening to Christmas music?

Well, it's never too early if you're in the mood! I listened back in August when I started some early planning. But in the fall, I like to wait until Thanksgiving night before breaking out all the CDs and setting the car radio to the Christmas station.

10. Stockings before or after presents?

Stockings first thing!

11. Carolers, do you or do you not watch and listen to them?

I would love to have some stop by and would be glad to offer them some goodies and a hot drink! This year we are going caroling with our parish!

12. Go to someone else's house or they come to you?

Mostly everyone comes here (which I love).

13. Do you read the Christmas Story? If so when?

Yes, all throughout the season.

14. What do you do after presents and dinner?

Sip a cup of coffee and put up my feet!

15. What is your favorite holiday smell?

Mmmm - evergreen means Christmas. I also like a mixture of cranberry, clove and orange. I just got a wonderful candle from Wild Oats called Peace that smells just like those three things!

16. Ice skating or walking around the mall?

I might do one trip to the mall just to see the decorations and pick up one or two things I can't get anywhere else. (And to drool over the Williams-Sonoma windows!)

Not a big ice skating fan, though I like the "idea" of it. If I could sit on a log by the side of the bog (as in cranberry, I would never skate on a lake) and pass out treats and hot drinks I'd be very happy. :)

17. Do you open a present or presents on Christmas Eve, or wait until Christmas day?

The boys open one gift on Christmas eve (usually pajamas or something small) and then the rest in the morning. Growing up, my grandparents always gave me a brand new Lanz flannel nightgown and a stuffed animal on Christmas Eve.

18. Favorite Christmas memory?

Oh to choose just one? I may have to do a whole post on fond Christmas memories! One that springs to mind - the year Earlybird was born just a week before Christmas and I sat up through the night with him, watching the lights, rocking and nursing him and humming carols. That was the most peaceful, joyous night. :)

19. Favorite Part about winter?

Well, I'm a January baby so I just love snow! I also love dark afternoons, a warm kitchen filled with good smells, candles burning, watching the snow fall outside ...

20. Ever been kissed under mistletoe?

I'm not telling! ;)

If you're here and reading this meme, you're tagged! Happy Almost Advent!

This Just In!

Barnes & Noble is holding A Special Holiday Shopping Event Just for Educators this Saturday, December 2nd from 8 a.m. till 12 p.m.! They're opening the doors early just for us!

There will be specials, door prizes and personal shopping assistance and we'll save 20% off books and gifts, 10 % off DVDs and CDs! Bring your Christmas shopping list - and don't forget your educator card!

See you there! (I'll be the one with the Tall Peppermint Mocha!) ;)

Got Nature?

(In the form of a post, picture, thought or idea?)Field_day_late_autumn_4

Field Day: The Late Autumn Edition will run at the end of the week ... are you with me? :)

You don't have to write something new - any nature-themed post (picture, thought or idea) is welcome!

If you'd like to join Field Day, please send me an email with your entry (drhanigan AT verizon DOT net) and/or see this post for all the details.

I hope to hear from you soon! (Or at the very least before Friday!)

       It will not always be like this,
        The air is windless, a few last
        Leaves adding their decoration
        To the trees' shoulders, braiding the cuffs
        Of the boughs with gold; a bird preening
        In the lawns' mirror. Having looked up
        From the day's chores, pause a minute,
        Let the mind take its photograph
        Of the bright scene, something to wear
        Against the heart in the long cold.

"A Day in Autumn" by R. S. Thomas

Our Advent Log

Our Advent Log "took root" this past summer, when Bill found a fallen birch tree in the woods out back. Birch is such a lovely wood, he knew it should not go to waste, so he chopped a few lengths, and stacked the logs next to our potting shed.

We imagined a few different gift and toy crafts, but as the months passed we gave the wood little more thought. And there the logs stood these many months, just waiting for some inspiration to strike ... and thanks to Rebecca and Alice, it did!


This year we decided to place our Advent candles in a birch log rather than a wreath. (We have a very pretty wreath, but for some reason it never holds the candles steady, causing what this timid mother believes to be a certain fire hazard!) So this Advent season, the log it will be!

The morning after Thanksgiving we set to work. Bill and the boys set up the saw on the deck, and brought up the logs.


While I kept a close eye on the boys (in other words, at a safe distance), Bill trimmed a log portion to a size that would fit our fireplace mantel:


Next, he drilled four holes (and thanks to Alice's advice, we remembered to use the candles as a guide).


And that was it! We brought the log inside to the mantel. We placed our candles in the holes, and Bill brought in some juniper greens and holly cuttings for a little festive and natural decoration.

And now our Advent Log is ready to serve us these next four Sunday evenings, as we celebrate this special season at home!


For another variation on the traditional Advent wreath, (a smaller-sized candle set for the children), please see my post at O Night Divine.

Have a good night and God bless!

Today is My Mum's Birthday!

Please join me in wishing her a happy day and many happy and healthy years to come! As you've probably caught on by now, my mother means the absolute world to me. I am blessed to have in her, not just a wonderful mother, but a wonderful friend as well. I am so grateful to my mum for so many things - her love, her example and for all that she does for my family - too many things to count, really.

I remember someone telling me once, you will never understand how much your mother loves you until you are a mother yourself. Well, this is very true - and watching my mum be an amazing grandmother to my sons gives so much pride and joy, sometimes I think I might burst.




To celebrate her special day, after Mass we had a little surprise waiting at home for my mum and dad ~ a yummy birthday cake and ice cream! (9 a.m. isn't too early for cake is it? It did taste great with the coffee!)


This was a new recipe for me - Pound Cake with Maple Glaze - but one I will surely make again. We all loved it! We served maple walnut ice cream alongside (Mum's favorite) as well as vanilla bean and "Vanilla Ginger Spice Chai" - a non-dairy blend made by Celestial Seasonings. (Who knew my favorite tea company made ice cream? How yummy would November_stickers4_1these herbal ice creams be next summer blended into milkshakes?)

The boys pow-wowed a bit the other day about what to give their Nana this year for her birthday. The final decision was a gift certificate to a local art supplies store. Now, this might be a bit self-serving, as we are quite often the happy recipients of beautiful works of art by my mum. Also, the boys will soon be joining my mum in her home studio for some informal art lessons - so I think we will all accompany her to the art store and purchase our own supplies for this new and exciting endeavor!

You know, I believe Abraham Lincoln had it right when he said, "All I am or hope to be, I owe to my angel mother." :)

~Thank you for everything, Mum! Happy Birthday! We love you! ~

It's That Time of Year ...

The beautiful Advent season begins just a week from tomorrow - it's time to prepare to prepare! A lovely time of anticipation stretches ahead of us - and, thanks to my wonderful online community, I have so many ideas this year - well, my mind just boggles! Our December calendar is already filling up, but I am trying not to over-commit, nor over-do.

But, oh, the possibilities! There are so many crafts to make, cookies to bake, books to read, songs to sing, gifts to make ... the list could go on and on! I'll have my work cut out for me keeping a balance for my family - keeping things simple and merry!

With all that in mind, here are a few things we've started working on ...

Advent Star Candle


I found this neat project at the Catholic Mom website. It is a very easy craft that I think will encourage patience and an atmosphere of anticipation. We'll begin with a plain glass votive candle holder and a package of 24 shiny star stickers. Each night of Advent the boys will add one star to their candleholder and say this prayer:

“I pray that my star candle will shine bright
To show me where sweet baby Jesus sleeps Christmas Eve night.
I pray that this star will help me to remember
That we await the birthday of Jesus this December.”

On Christmas eve, we will light the decorated candles for the first time and the boys can carry their little lights over to the creche and discover that the Light of the World has arrived! (Baby Jesus has been placed in his manger!)

For blogging purposes, I made one up in advance (when no one was looking, LOL):


Advent Bulletin Board

As I went to work on our weekly - er, biweekly these days - bulletin board, I decided to give it its own Advent touch:


This is just purple and pink construction paper as a background, and this is as far as I got! I had hoped to have it filled in for this post, but my laundry pile had other plans for me. :)

Advent Garden


Above you see the indoor/outdoor lights I found at Target last week - in perfect Advent colors! And below you see the small live Christmas tree we bought for our deck, complete with its Thanksgiving Day ribbon. After the holidays we will plant it in our side yard.


We'll soon add greenery and ribbons to the deck railings, too. I thought it would be fun to decorate our little "Advent Garden" in purple and pink until the 24th (at which point the lights will all become white).

Below you see the tree as it looks at night. As darkness falls each December eve, this will make for a very merry scene just outside the our kitchen window.


Christmas Cookie Cottage


The boys looove gingerbread houses and after I saw these new graham crackers at the store, and then this craft at Martha Stewart's site, I knew we had found our project for this year! I think Peppermint Place is particularly charming. :)

Afternoon Holiday Tea


As you must know by now (given how often I post about them, LOL) I have a fondness for specialty beverages! For afternoon "tea" (whether it be cocoa, cider or honest-to-goodness tea) I like to keep things as decaffeinated as possible. For the boys sake mostly, but also because by midday I've already had my (4-cup-of-coffee) caffeine limit!

Here is our collection so far this year: Sugar Plum Spice, Candy Cane Lane, Sugar Cookie Sleigh Ride, Mulling Spices, Hot Cocoa Mix, Gingerbread Spice and Ginger Snappish. The boys and I will be having story-and-tea afternoons once a week all through the holidays. (I'm still planning them out, but will post more on them soon. I do know this coming week it will be the Sugar Cookie theme!)

(Completely off-topic, but I have to point out, in the background of that tea picture above, you can see our dear little red squirrel in the tree just outside the window! And since I love little squirrels almost as much as I do tea, here is a closer look for you:)


That afternoon light looks so lovely shining through his golden red fur!

Advent Stories & Narration


I had completely forgotten I had this sweet little book of Christmas stories for young children until I came across it the other day while down in the basement - looking for the Thanksgiving books (of which I only found a few)! (Library of Congress, I'm not, I'm afraid.) These stories are short, simple, lovely tales about the nativity. I plan to read a story a day to the boys and then ask them for their narrations. The notebook on the right is made in a similar fashion to my prayer journal - and this is where I will record their Christmastime narrations.

Well, this is where we are for now! This morning, Bill and the boys worked on our Advent Log - which came out so nicely and is sitting up now on our mantel. I will post about that tomorrow! This week I will also start preparing the children's Christmas corner. I'm trying to keep most of it a surprise, and will hopefully have it set up for the boys to wake up to next Sunday morning.

So stay tuned! And do be sure to check in at two wonderful Advent-themed carnivals this week, hosted by two of my friends, Jenn (Wednesday's Loveliness of Advent) and Mary Ellen (Friday's Carnival of Catholic Homeschooling).

And say ... speaking of carnivals ... don't forget to send me your entry for Field Day at the end of the week! :)

The Full Turkey Day Report!

It is hard to believe I am sitting here at the computer and Thanksgiving Day 2006 is nearing its end! It all went so fast! I just uploaded all my pictures from our day, and, naturally I felt compelled to post. :)

First off, we started the day, like many of you I'm sure, oh-so-bright and early. My mum came over around 6:30 (luckily she and my dad live but a mile away) and after a cup of coffee, we got the 23 lb. turkey (Godzilla Bird as the boys called it, LOL) into the oven. Then, while Bill supervised the boys' baths, I got the pies in the oven. Here is how my pumpkin pie looked just before baking. (I got the idea for the little leaves and acorns on the edges from Jennifer!)


Earlybird helped me with cutting the shapes out of the extra dough. (True confession - this was not homemade crust!) I used Wilton Mini Harvest cookie cutters.


Next I began the cranberry-pineapple relish. I loved the way all the ingredients looked in the pan - I called it my Ina moment. ;)


Here's a link to the recipe, which was very easy to make, and smelled soooo delicious, filling the kitchen with the mingled fragrance of cranberries, pineapple and clove. It smelled liked Christmas itself! Here is how it looked finished:


And here's a quick tour of our family tables (there were 21 of us in all):


We set up two tables in the dining room (one being the round table from the deck). At this table we have my grandmother, my Aunt Marcia, my cousin Kara, my Uncle Karl, my cousin Kate and her boyfriend, Kenny.


At this table we have my cousin Caitlin, my cousin Colin and his wife, Tina.


And here is the rest of our crowd in the living room! My Uncle George, Bill's Aunt Ann, my Mum and Dad, Bill's Mum and Dad, and my brother, Matthew. Bill and I sat in shifts, LOL, tending to the kids and the dinner in turn. And where are the boys you might wonder? Well, the original plan was to seat them around the kitchen island as it is open to both living and dining rooms, but we ended up using that space for the buffet. So instead they ate in the family room with TV trays! (But this room is also open to the rest of the space so they were in full view and earshot of the dining room group.) Dinner was delicious (thanks to my mum's brilliant cooking and supervision) and Bookworm did a very nice job saying grace.

Here is how the dessert buffet looked:


Above: apple pie, pumpkin pie, sugar cookies and coffee ...


And above, we have Indian Pudding, pecan and raspberry tartlets, peanut butter fudge, meringue cookies, pumpkin pie, apple crisp, penuche fudge (foreground), and assorted chocolates ...


AND ... (remember we were a big group!) ... homemade whipped cream, mince pie, triple layer brownies and vanilla ice cream! Gosh, it was it all so yummy! I only provided a few of these treats - my family brought all the rest!

I couldn't resist these Hammond All-Natural Candy Canes I found at Wild Oats. (It's hard to find candy that Earlybird can eat.) I loved the autumnal colors - and the natural flavors - orange, lemon and mint. The boys absolutely relished these treats as the grown-ups sat around and enjoyed coffee and pie.


I also can't resist posting this adorable picture of my cousin Caitlin and Sophie, one of two sweet little pups owned by Colin and Tina. I think this is a good way to end Thanksgiving Day - full and sleepy! (Sophie and her older sister Lily were so well behaved and a huge hit with the boys, as I'm sure you can imagine.)


So at long last, here I am at 8 p.m., the house has quieted down and we are watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade recorded from this morning. (I hate to miss this time-honored tradition, and yet I knew we would not have a chance to sit down and watch it this morning.) Even in the rain, that parade looked like fun! We love all the musicals and the marching bands, not to mention all the fun balloons. Actually, we also love seeing all the Christmas commercials! (I try to avoid them till Thanksgiving night!) We saw the new Hess truck ad and I see Dunkin Donuts is making a Gingerbread Latte this year ... (Is Dunkin Donuts regional or nationwide? They serve a good cup of joe.)


Speaking of a good cup of joe, here is my parting shot - my end of the day coffee - sweetened with a dollop of homemade whipped cream and made a bit more interesting with a drop of Frangelico! ;)

This was such a wonderful Thanksgiving Day. I am so grateful for my family and for another year all together. I am grateful, too, for each and every reader who stops by my blog. Thank you for taking the time to read my posts - this has been such a fun hobby for me these past eight months! I hope you and yours also had a wonderful day ...

And now ... it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas! :)

My Mum's Delicious Fudge!

A few of you asked for my mum's penuche fudge recipe and here it is! This is the mostChristmas_rose scrumptious confection - tender, soft and sweet. Wonderful as a holiday gift and heavenly with a cold glass of milk! The first time I read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe I was positive Turkish Delight must taste just like my mother's fudge.

My mum has made a batch for Thanksgiving and I can hardly wait to sample it! I'll take a picture tomorrow so I can show you how creamy and golden it looks. :)

Mum's Penuche

  • 1 lb. light brown sugar
  • 1 1/4 cup white sugar
  • Pinch salt
  • 1 cup evaporated milk
  • 1/2 cup nuts (optional - we never do nuts)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 tablespoon marshmallow fluff
  • 1 tablespoon butter (softened)

Combine the sugar, salt and milk in a pan. Stir very gently, and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to medium low and boil for 14 minutes. At this point, test for the "soft ball" stage, by dropping a bit of the hot mixture into a measuring cup filled with cold water. Now, add the vanilla, fluff and butter. Beat well by hand until the mixture thickens. Spread in an 8" square or 9x13" pan and let set. Let it cool for a bit, then cut into pieces with a knife.

If you are giving this as a gift, do yourself a favor, and save a few of the edges for yourself! (The crumbs are fabulous over vanilla ice cream!)


A Little Thanksgiving Treat

The days of autumn are dwindling, but winter is fast on its heels! I wanted to share a few recipes that would be perfect for blustery days at home with the children. In fact, we test-tasted two of them yesterday in a little impromptu Thanksgiving tea!

Mini Pumpkin Pies

When I found this recipe in a magazine, the boys oohed and aahed over it! (Anything made with Cool Whip is bound to be a hit in their book.) Instead of making one big pie, however, we poured the filling into six tiny Keebler pie shells - perfectly sized treats for little hands. This was very easy and quick to make. It would make a fun holiday dessert for the kid table!

Ingredients: 1/2 cup cold milk, 6 serving-size package vanilla pudding, 1 cup canned pumpkin, 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice, 2 1/2 cups Cool Whip, graham cracker crust (1 regular sized or 6-8 mini ones - we filled 6 and had filling leftover).


Whisk the milk, pudding mix and pumpkin pie spice for 1 minute with a wire whisk. (Mixture will be very thick.) Whisk in canned pumpkin till thoroughly mixed. Then fold in Cool Whip. Stir well to incorporate all ingredients and smooth any lumps.

And here are the filled shells ready to go into the refrigerator to set.


The directions said to wait two hours but we only made it one! While the pies chilled, we set about making ...

Hot Apple Cider with Caramel

I placed a saucepan of apple cider on the stove to heat and then made up these caramel dippers. (I got this idea from the October issue of Family Fun magazine.) We microwaved (unwrapped) caramels for about 15 seconds, just enough time to soften them a bit, and then we pushed the popsicle sticks into the softened caramel.


When the cider was hot, we poured it into our special winter tea mugs, and used the caramel sticks as stirrers.


And here is our little Thanksgiving tea!


While the boys dug into their pumpkin pies I read from The Pilgrims' First Thanksgiving and Chester Chipmunk's Thanksgiving. All the while the caramels were melting and flavoring the cider. Oooh, was it good! It tasted just like a caramel apple in a cup! (I placed a copy of this recipe in my October file for next year.)

Here are a few other child-friendly cold weather brews I'd like to share:

Caramel Apple Cider (from Family Fun, October 2005)


  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 3 cups apple cider
  • 1/2 cup water

Caramel Whipped Cream

  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar

First bring the cream and brown sugar to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the cider and raise the heat to medium high, heating just until the cider begins to steam, about 4 minutes. Divide among 4 mugs, top each one with 2 tablespooons of caramel whipped cream and serve immediately. Serves 4.

For the Caramel Whipped Cream: In a small chilled bowl, whip the heavy cream with the brown sugar until soft peaks form.

Warm Spice Tea (from Parents Magazine, October 2006)

  • 8 cups boiling water
  • 6 mandarin-orange spice tea bags (we use decaf)
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 red and 1 green apple, thinly sliced

In a large saucepan, combine water, tea bags, and cinnamon stick. Let steep 5 minutes. remove tea bags and stir in honey. Let cool 10 minutes. Just before serving, stir in apple slices.

Spiced Green Tea (from Taste of Home, October/November 2006)

  • 5 cups boiling water
  • 5 individual green tea bags
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 5 cups unsweetened apple juice
  • 2 cups cranberry juice

In a Dutch oven or large kettle, bring the water to a boil. Remove from the heat; add the tea bags. Cover and steep for 8 minutes. Discard the tea bags. Add sugar, lemon juice, and pumpkin pie spice to tea; stir until sugar is dissolved. Stir in apple juice and cranberry juice. Serve warm or cold. Serves 12.

Hot Apple Tea (from Woman's Day, October 3, 2006)

  • 3 cups apple cider
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 cinnamon stickes (each about 3 inches long)
  • 2 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 4 tea bags, regular or decaffeinated

Bring cider, sugar, cinnamon and ginger to a boil in a medium saucepan. Reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes. Remove from heat. Add tea bags, cover and let steep 5 minutes. Strain; serve hot.

Hot Spiced Brew (from Very Best Coffee)

(Note: As this is made with coffee, this drink might be more for you Mamas! You could make hot chocolate for the kids and stir in some of the creamer for extra flavor.)

  • 1/2 cup ground coffee, regular or decaf
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 3 cups water
  • 1/2 cup Cinnamon Vanilla Creme Flavor Nestle Coffee-Mate Liquid Coffee Creamer, divided.

Place coffee grounds in filter basket and sprinkle with allspice and nutmeg. Pour water into coffee maker and brew. Divide coffee into mugs; top each with 2 tablespons Coffee-Mate.

Spiced Tea (from Family, Festivals and Food)

(I love how the book describes this drink as "for cold winter evenings." Wouldn't it be nice to make some up and keep it in a thermos - perhaps to take with you when you run errands on a cold day, or for a day of skating or sledding?)

  • 6 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon whole cloves
  • 1 inch stick cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons black tea (we would use decaf)
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons lemons juice
  • 1/2 cup sugar

Combine water, cloves and cinnamon. Heat to boiling. Add tea; cover and let brew 5 minutes, then strain. Heat orange juice, lemon juice and sugar to boiling; stir and add to hot tea. Makes 6-8 servings. For children this could be made with apple juice instead of tea."

I just love having little teas with my boys, but when I say, tea, there's nothing fancy or frilly - or goodness knows, nothing pink - about it. Our teas are not about manners and formality. (Though I do try to encourage proper behavior and we always begin with grace.) For us, it's just taking an hour or so once a week to sit down to something special and delicious to eat, to enjoy a warm drink (perhaps cold punch in the summer) and read or craft or just talk together. My Christmas wish is to do this once a week - and each week have a little holiday theme. It might be a movie, a book, a feast day or a fun craft. But whatever we "do" we will always be eating something yummy and sipping something warm - to me, that's a perfect way to spend a cold afternoon!

Now That's Wicked Cool

What American accent do you have?
Your Result: Boston

You definitely have a Boston accent, even if you think you don't. Of course, that doesn't mean you are from the Boston area, you may also be from New Hampshire or Maine.

The West
The Midland
North Central
The Northeast
The Inland North
The South
What American accent do you have?
Take More Quizzes

(Hat tip Amy and Michele)

Now, I know people with strong Boston accents and since I can hear their accent I assumed I didn't have one ... but I guess I was wrong! Anyway, the letter R is highly overrated. ;)

Science Fair Day!

Stef is hosting the 4Real Science Fair today and the boys and I happen to be kicking off our winter astronomy study! According to the Handbook of Nature Study, our timing is perfect:

"The natural time for beginning star study is in the autumn when the days are shortening and the early evenings give us opportunity for observation. After the polar constellations are learned, we are then ready for further study in the still earlier evenings of winter, when the clear atmosphere makes the stars seem more alive, more sparkling and more beautiful than it does at any other period of the year."

We've been on an outer space kick for some time, due to Earlybird's intense interest in this subject. (Remember this post?) But now we will officially begin a "study" of the stars, planets, sun, moon and many other aspects of astronomy. We will use many different living science books and hands-on activities to supplement our study. I will follow a portion of Behold and See 3 as a spine (or a framework), breaking the subject down into one section a week. As a fun kick-off we gathered up our solar system resources and set them out on display:


Above you see some of the resources we'll be using - coloring books, field guides, notebooks, fiction and non-fiction materials alike. This display is set up just below the planet posters we borrowed from my good friend Beth, whose oldest son (now 11) was also into space stuff when he was a little guy. We have been the lucky recipients of many wonderful space-related materials from our friends:


No sooner did I have our science fair set up put together when EB caught wind of the plan.


Excuse the belly shot, but I had to show you his much loved, hand-me-down, space shuttle sweatshirt. (More thanks to Beth!) EB loooves his "blast off" shirt and he also loves wearing this backpack, which was handmade by Beth's mother:


EB wears this bag out sometimes, but mostly just around the house! Next, I asked EB to show me some planets in one of his favorite planet books ...


Here is EB pointing out Neptune. (This boy loves his planets.)


Then the older two boys tried a quick experiment to illustrate how the sun can be bigger, and yet look as small as, the moon. They first compared the size of their thumbs to each other's heads. Then they stood apart from each other; it was further apart than shown below, but for photography purposes I had them stand closer. Next they each closed one eye and held up their thumb in front of the other eye. They noticed that their thumb could "cover" their brother's head!

Reason being:

"Your thumb looks the same size as someone's head if the person is far away and your thumb is close. It works the same way with the moon, which is close to the earth and the sun, which is far away and bigger." (Behold and See, p. 76)


And what would a science fair be without a little bit of light saber action? Actually the boys were using them as pointers at that moment - the very next it was all Star Wars again. I think I asked "Which planet is made entirely of gas and if it grows in size would become a sun?"

Answer: Jupiter! Or as EB calls it - Memaju. (If you ask EB which planet is his favorite, he places a finger to his nose and says "Mmmmmm ... Memaju!")


These are so neat - rubber ball planets! Crackerjack got to play with each ball as we read about the planet it represented. These are great preschool science for EB, too (who was napping for this part).


I asked the boys to line the planets up in order - note the asteroid belt in between Mars and Jupiter and the shooting stars off to the left and right. :)


A few of the planet posters up close:


As we read about the planets, I wrote down the boys' narrations and at long last made up fact cards for our planet posters. I'd like to share what the boys said:

Sun: "The sun is just a big star but it is special to us because it helps us see and it helps things grow."

Mercury: "It is so hot it can cook a pizza! It would be a strange place to live - no air, no clouds, no weather, no blue sky."

Venus: "Venus is hotter than Mercury even though it's farther away from the sun. Its clouds act like a heavy blanket."

Earth: "Life can grow here so it is special and perfect. Only earth has continents (there are seven)."

Mars: "It might have once had life. It is very windy and sandy. It is known as the red planet because it is made up of red sand."

Jupiter: "It has a big red spot on it. It is the biggest of all the planets we know."

Saturn: "Saturn has the biggest moon in the solar system, called Titan. The rings are made up of chunks of rocks and ice and moons that keep those chunks from escaping into outer space."

Uranus: "It spins on its side. It fell over because a giant something the size of the earth crashed into it and bam!!!"

Neptune: "It is blue and windy and is hard to see because of a thin layer of fog."

Pluto: "Pluto is made of rock, not gas like the other outer planets. It is no longer a real planet, but a dwarf."


Two more items from Earlybird - above you see his most favorite (and gigantic) space book, open to the page about space exploration.

And below you see the wooden star he decorated with markers and stickers. (These plain wooden stars are less than a dollar at the craft store. Add a package of stickers and EB is all set for some fine-motor crafting!)


And finally, I caught this snapshot of EB just falling asleep - clutching the foam crescent-shaped moon from a craft kit we'd worked on.


A few future plans:

  • visit a planetarium
  • participate in our homeschool group's science fair
  • learn about the history of space exploration
  • put on a planets play
  • set up our telescope
  • set up our astronomy notebooks
  • create a moon chart
  • redecorate EB's room in an outer space motif. (He's getting a huge solar system mobile for his birthday next month.)

I hope you enjoyed our Science Fair post! As we are just starting our study, I am sure we will have more to share along the way. Thanks for stopping by!

And God made the two great lights, the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night; He made the stars also. (Genesis 1:16)

Our Thanksgiving Tree

Thanks to a great idea by Karen, we have been filling up a "Thanksgiving Tree" with colorful leaves of gratitude. On Thursday, we will ask our guests to add a leaf or two of their own. In the meantime, here is how it looks so far:


Each of the boys has made a few leaves. (Earlybird's are the ones with no actual words, just lots of brown scribbles. I was just happy he joined in!)

The shapes all around the tree are the handprint turkeys Bookworm made last night. These were his idea; for each one, he traced his own hand on construction paper, wrote our guests' names on the resulting turkey shapes and cut them out. He thought they would make nice favors.

Thanks again, Karen, for a fantastic idea! This is an easy but meaningful craft - perfect for the kids during Thanksgiving week!

The Loveliness of Thanksgiving

As we head into the holiday homestretch this week, you won't want to miss all the Loveliness_logo_8Thanksgiving reflections, ideas and menus shared in KC's Loveliness of Thanksgiving!

Thank you, KC, for this wonderful tour!

A Prayer of Thanksgiving

We praise thee, O God, for the order and constancy of nature; for the beauty and bounty of the world; for day and night, summer and winter, seedtime and harvest; for the varied gifts of loveliness and use which every season brings.


(from The New England Butt'ry Shelf Almanac, illustrated by Tasha Tudor)