Previous month:
October 2006
Next month:
December 2006

November 2006

Kid Cuisine - Earlybird Style!

You may be familiar with the frozen entrees known as Kid Cuisine - at least, your kids Kid_cuisine_3 probably are. If not from personal experience, then, possibly by reputation. I will admit I have, on occasion, bought my older boys these dinners - usually in a moment of weakness. The freezer aisle comes at the end of my shopping trip - I'm tired, the kids are tired, we're all hungry and lunch seems so far way. Then they see them - and how could they not, for they stand out like blue beacons admist the comparatively lackluster chicken pies and frozen spinach. There's always some kind of kid-movie tie-in, too, but the biggest draw is the fact that you get to sprinkle something gooey with something that fizzes or turns color. There's always something silly yet supremely kid-friendly like that. So I break the nutrition rules once in a while, lest my kids feel completely deprived later in life. :)

Well, I am almost always sorry I did break those rules. Not for just for the dubious nutrition, extraneous packaging and exorbitant price - but more than anything for all the wasted food! My boys almost never eat these meals once they're prepared for them. The high point always turns out to be the packaging we chuckled over back at the store, and shamefully, I end up throwing out almost all of their food. Needless to say we don't buy these dinners anymore.

Now, bearing all that in mind, when my Earlybird comes to me, and holds out a magazine with the ad seen above, and with eager eyes and much relish, says to me:

"Mama! WHAT all DIS?"

Well, this mama's heart melts just a little. So we point to each item and name it.

EB: "Um ... what dis?"

Me: "That would be corn, honey."

EB: "Oooh, corn! Um, what dis?"

Me: "That's macaroni and cheese."

EB: "Oh-ho-ho! Cha-cheese! What dis?"

Me: "That would be chicken, EB."

EB: "Mmmm, chick'n ... what dis?"

Me: "That is ... " and before I can finish,

EB: "Chock!!!!" (Chocolate)

Me: "EB, do you like all these things?"

EB: "Yeah! Oh, yeah! Um ... I eat all dis?"

Oh, does my heart melt. I mean, he can't have any of it. He can't have anything with artificial colors or flavors or preservatives, etc. As I've mentioned before, we have him on a special diet - and when he goes off, so too does his balance, both emotional and physical. EB thrives on wholesome, natural foods and he eats really well. There is no room - no need - for Kid Cuisine in his diet. And yet ...

My little boy - my child who is struggling with speech, who loooooves food so much - brings me this magazine and finds the words to say, "Peese, Mama? I eat all dis?"

Because of course, he is a kid, like any other kid, and all that yummy-looking food looks - well - YUMMY to him.

Oh, my heart just melts.

So what do I do? Well, I don't compromise his diet, that's for sure, but I do set about making him his very own "Kid Cuisine" - Earlybird style. :) This was my Sunday project.

Here are the ingredients we pulled together:


Frozen organic corn, frozen natural chicken nuggets, Annie's Macaroni and Cheese, organic pudding mix and organic chocolate sprinkles.

And here is EB's reaction (that's me holding his hands so we could get a picture before he dove in!): 


Up close - I used a sectioned Tupperware dish. The boys like the way these containers separate all their food and I like that they come with lids. When I'm being really organized, I can prepare lunches (or other meals) ahead.


I think it looks as colorful if not as much as fun as a Kid Cuisine! ;) Anyway, EB was overjoyed and I don't think it mattered a whit that there were no cartoon characters to ogle - it was all about the food for him all along.

And yes, he ate every bit.


Each of the boys got a colorful place setting and enjoyed our "homestyle" Kid Cuisine!

What fun!

Little Ideas for a Big Day

KC is hosting The Loveliness of Thanksgiving on Monday and the big day itself is just a Pumpkin_bird_2few days thereafter! Oh, do I love Thanksgiving! As I mentioned a while back, I think it might be my favorite of all the holidays and I am very happy to be hosting our family dinner this year. (I say I, but I really mean we - meaning Bill and myself of course - and my mum who cooks most of the food!)

As we draw nearer to the holiday, however, I find myself stressing just a little - compulsively jotting down notes and lists here and there - watching the Food Network every chance I get, checking in with Martha and Ina, combing through cookbooks and magazines - trying to capture it all, trying not to forget anything, lest another year pass with too many shoulda's and woulda's.

Well, what will be, will be, and whatever is left out (like the pearl onions) or left in (like the giblets) will have to wait for another year and perhaps become the stuff of family legend. Every year there are bound to be a few glitches, but the important things are all blessedly in place. We will all be home, together, joined by our loved ones from near and far. We will share good food and good conversation. We will raise a glass to another year gathered safely together and raise our hearts to God in praise and thanksgiving.

The fourth Thursday in November is a beautiful day on the American calendar. It is a day far bigger and more beautiful than lists, schedules or the Food Pilgrim_girl_1Network could ever make it. I wish I could adequately express how grateful I am come Thanksgiving day for the family around me, the roof over my head and the food on my plate. Words for such big feelings escape me, but I hope my family and dear friends know how grateful I am for each and every one of them!

Well, for now, I'm keeping this post straightforward and simple. (Well, except for that long introduction, LOL!) Here are our plans and ideas for this year - this is where my head is at now. Come Thanksgiving Day my head will join my heart at the table. :)

OK, so front and center, the menu:

Before dinner:

  • drinks from the bar (last year we made "Pomegranate Cosmos" - they were delicious)
  • crabbies (Bookworm's request)
  • stuffed celery (my dad's request)
  • cheese, crackers and grapes
  • red pepper jelly over cream cheese, served with crackers
  • cut-up vegetables and dill dip


  • Asti Spumante (it's family tradition to serve this at all holiday meals)
  • turkey (20-22 pounds) with stuffing (plain, for the traditionalists)
  • baked cornbread stuffing with celery, apples and sausage
  • gravy (I leave this in my mum's capable hands)
  • cranberry sauce (from the can AND homemade relish)
  • mashed potatoes
  • corn
  • peas
  • boiled onions (unless like most years we leave them boiling away on the stove)
  • whipped sweet potato bake
  • rolls from the bakery (I'll pick them up Wednesday)


  • pies TBA - there will be pumpkin and apple for sure
  • apple-cranberry crumble (I saw a great recipe in Family Fun)
  • Indian pudding (a New England favorite)
  • Brigham's vanilla ice cream and homemade whipped cream
  • clementines
  • cider, eggnog, coffee and tea

And over the next few days we will ...

  • make construction paper leaves for our Thanksgiving tree (Thank you for the idea, Karen!) including extras for our guests
  • organize table decorations - miniature pumpkins and gourds, small glass votive candleholders, bittersweet vines
  • watch A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving
  • enjoy a little Thanksgiving tea with the boys - I found some great child-friendly cider drinks and spiced teas recipes - I'll post them soon! - as well as a "creamy" pumpkin pie which will be so cute in those little Keebler crusts.
  • read a few wonderful books
  • sing Over the River and through the Woods ...
  • have Bookworm practice saying grace
  • bake pies on Wednesday
  • finish cleaning (natch)
  • put out special treats for the birds and the squirrels
  • watch the Macy's Parade Thanksgiving morning
  • write letters to Santa (but not before Thanksgiving night)
  • make eggnog pancakes one morning this week
  • make up more pumpkin breads like the ones I posted about yesterday
  • launder and press table linens
  • decide on outfits for us all
  • make sure the camera is ready!


Well, this should keep us pretty busy the next several days! The official Turkey Day report (including pictures) will come later this week. :) Many thanks to KC for hosting The Loveliness of Thanksgiving. I can't wait to "share" in each other's bountiful feasts!

"Not what we say about our blessings, but how we use them, is the true measure of our thanksgiving." ~ W.T. Purkiser

Tea & a Craft for St. Elizabeth of Hungary

Today is the feast of Saint Elizabeth of Hungary. Hers is a very interesting story; you can read more about it here. We were especially interested to learn she is the patron saint of bakers. (You might remember I breathed a quick plea to her last month during a near cornbread fiasco.) And since we enjoy baking very much, we thought today would be a good day to whip up a few mini-loaves of pumpkin bread! (These freeze beautifully and will make nice gifts next week at Thanksgiving.)


Baking and sharing bread is a tradition on this feast day, when "children might follow the example of Saint Elizabeth, benefactress of the poor, and bring bread to their neighbors ..." (Catholic Culture)

Well, all of our neighbors head out pretty early in the morning, but we did send Daddy in to work with a loaf and we brought one to Earlybird's speech therapist, as well.

I had bought a package of mini-loaf pans at the grocery store last week, the aluminum kind that come with clear covers. Throughout the holidays I find these nice to have on hand for impromptu gifts, as well as perfectly sized treats for tea with the boys. (At one time my plan was to follow the seasons and stock my freezer with breads made from the fruits of the land - strawberry, raspberry, peach, zucchini, pumpkin, etc. So far that has not happened on any major - or even minor - scale.)

The recipe I use makes 2 large loaves or 6 mini-loaves. This morning we made 6 small pumpkin bread loaves to eat and to share. We left ours plain, but I've been known to add a cream cheese frosting for an extra sweet touch.

After reading about Saint Elizabeth's legend of bread and roses, we decided to adorn our small loaf pans with stickers of roses:


And below is how it looks with a Thanksgiving sticker.


(You could do this for any holiday of course - what a neat idea to have a ready supply of pans and stickers and you will be well prepared for any special day of the year!)

Since we don't have a Saint Elizabeth holy card in our collection, I searched for her image online. I found several here. We chose our favorite, printed it out to card size, and adhered it to some plain white card stock (with double-sided tape). Lastly, we added a gold glitter border. This was entirely Earlybird's idea -  he got into the glitter when I wasn't looking!


As the boys colored a page about Saint Elizabeth (and munched on their bread) we lit a floating pink rose candle in a small bowl of water.


We also took some time to read about how generous Saint Elizabeth was to the poor. We talked about upcoming opportunities for us to do the same - this weekend's coat drive, the Christmas Giving Tree, the toy drive that Bookworm's CCD class is hosting next month. With Thanksgiving upon us next week it is such a good time to reflect on our blessings and remember those less fortunate in prayer as well as charitable works. The wonderful example of the saints comes from how they lived their lives for and like Christ. There's rich tradition in every feast day as well as beautiful lessons to be learned.

And the tea? Well, this week it was cocoa - with marshmallows!


My mum came by today for a visit and to help me with more pre-holiday tasks.The boys were proud to surprise her with a bread to take home for she and Papa to share. And one last thing! I don't have the time today to make this delicious Hungarian braided bread, but I will use the bread machine later - I hope. :) (But maybe this weekend! And maybe with some Hungarian stew - thanks for the idea, Theresa!) Whenever we do get that bread baking, the house will smell great and we'll think of St. Elizabeth and how fortunate we are to have good bread to eat!

I'll bet you, like I, will be busy this weekend getting ready for Thanksgiving next week. I pray that it is a happy and safe one for you!

"I want to see you, God, in all persons who are in need. Give me the eyes of your love. Amen." ~ Saint Elizabeth's Prayer

Field Day: Date Change!

Quick note, folks. I am moving the Late Autumn Field Day to Friday, December Field_day_late_autumn_31st - just bumping it two days back so as not to conflict with the Loveliness of Advent which will be hosted by my friend Jenn on the 29th.

So now you have two whole extra days to send me your nature-themed posts and/or pictures! For all the nitty-gritty check out the new links on my right-hand sidebar. (See Field Day!) And don't forget to grab the button here above. Please help me spread the word - the more the merrier!

I do hope you'll join us - Field Days are so much fun! Let's bundle up against the cold November wind and journey into these late autumn days together ...

Our Ten (Family) Commandments

We're just back in from Bookworm's Homeschool "Tween Night" (more on that later) - a rare night out for us early risers! But before I retire, I wanted to share an activity we did yesterday ...

This idea came from Bookworm's CCD workbook; his class is currently discussing the Ten Commandments. Each week his book suggests a few follow-up activities for the kids to do at home, some independently, some with their family. The teachers do not require the students to do it, but Bookworm has never missed a week. I think, to him, "homework" is a novelty, LOL - plus each week you complete the extra activity, you get a sticker - and five stickers earn you a treat from Sister's treasure box. (Last month it was a tootsie roll; Bookworm was thrilled.)

Anyway, the activity this week was to make up our own set of Family Commandments. :


(Click on the image to see our project better. We printed our list out, set it against parchment-like paper and adorned it with star stickers.)

And since you might not be able to read the text very well, here are our Ten Family Commandments (in no particular order - I typed them in as we went):

1. Show each other, by our actions and words, that we love each other.

2. Pray together every day, especially before bed and at mealtimes.

3. Work hard to take care of our responsibilities - our lessons, our home, our belongings, our pets, and ourselves.

4. Share with each other and especially with those less fortunate.

5. Appreciate and care for the natural world around us. Take time everyday to thank God for these blessings.

6. Keep Sunday special: Mass, family, relaxing.

7. Always be truthful and say sorry if we make a mistake.

8. Be happy with what we have and be thankful.

9. Always be kind to others.

10. Follow the real Ten Commandments!

I think upon reflection, that these are like a family mission statement, perhaps? We have never made such a thing up, though I've always wanted to. I think if we did, it would look something like this list.

This was a very nice activity to do with the boys. It didn't take very long, but I think this little piece of paper - which is front and center on the bulletin board this week - will become a family keepsake in due time.

Well, it's off to bed for me. "See" you in the morning - God bless!

Thankful Thursday!

This week's Thankful Thursday is being hosted by Diane at her lovely blog, The Journey of a Mother's Heart. Once again, I so enjoyed compiling my latest list of blessings!

So without further ado, this week I am grateful for ...

1. Conversations like this:

Me (to Crackerjack): What is Daddy's real name, Crackerjack?

Crackerjack: Bill.

Daddy to Crackerjack: And what is Mama's real name?

Crackerjack: Mama.

Daddy: Doesn't she have any other names besides Mama?

Crackerjack: Nope, nope, nope. She's just Mama.

2. For plumbing that works. And for not having to call a plumber after all. And for being able to wash dishes and run laundries again. When you can't do these mundane but meaningful tasks it feels sooo good to be able to do them again. (I fear this bliss will be short-lived, however.)

3. For the mail. How I love the mail. No, not the mailman, just the things that he brings.Starbucks2 And the very fact that he comes every day without fail, and he brings me things like magazines, catalogs and thoughtful letters from dear friends. And today he brought me my Peet's! Oh I wish you could smell it! There is nothing like fresh-roasted coffee beans right out of the box, except of course when they've been ground and brewed and are being poured into your waiting cup ...

4. And speaking of coffee, I am thankful for the way Starbucks celebrates the seasons with amazing holiday drinks like Pumpkin Spice Lattes, Peppermint Mochas, Eggnogg and Gingebread Lattes, too. I just looooove coffee (period, but) especially when made for me by someone else, and even moreso when it is served in a lovely red cup with snowflakes and snowmen all over it.

5. But as much as I love (long for, daydream about, need) coffee, I am even more grateful when friends put the caffeine craving in perfect (and darling) perspective. :)

More things to be thankful for ...

6. For the library because without it I would most likely bankrupt my family buying books. I am especially grateful for the inter-library loan system AND the online request system. I always have two or three holds "in-transit or "ready for pickup." (I suspect the local branch has me on speed-dial, LOL!) And the other thing I am thankful for are the librarians who always hold my books a few extra days even if Im not there by the specified date. They're good people, those librarians.

7. Speaking of books, I am very grateful for friends who have put together amazing Advent reading booklists, study plans and book packages for me and my children. I can hardly wait for December!

8. And on top of all that, I think I speak for us all when I say I am just plain thankful for Tomie de Paola. Did he write his amazing, beautiful, brilliant books with us CCM-ers in mind? I think so.

9. I am so very grateful for my mum. I can't even begin to list all the reasons why, nor to describe how much. Let's just say she's there for me all the time, without question and without fail. This week she did my laundry, babysat my boys, bought me a bag of sugar when I ran out, and, as she does every year, she is helping me plan - nevermind cook! - Thanksgiving dinner! And oh, yes, there's the small detail about how she gave me LIFE! And it's such a wonderful life, Mum. I love you.

10. I am grateful for my small, family-loving, warm and welcoming parish. I am grateful for my pastor who is kind and soft-spoken and gives the most wonderful homilies. I am grateful for the all the fun activities like parish breakfasts, toy drives, Christmas concerts, pageants, cookie swaps, VBS and CCD ... and last but certainly not least I love Mass. Don't even get me started on that one.

And one more!

11. I am grateful to Kristina and Lisa for starting this whole carnival idea! Because I was a bit grumpy this morning and then I remembered tomorrow was Thursday and next thing you know I found myself thinking up so many reasons to be grateful. (Which is something I should do everyday, isn't it?) But it's nice to put it down in one place and its wonderful to share it with others.

What are you thankful for this week? That's a lovely thing to consider as you head off to bed, don't you think? In the meantime, as always, Good night and God bless!

A Child's Poem for November


"November smells of turkey, grapes, and pumpkin pie,

And leaf-smoke curling gently into the sky.

Some animals have burrowed into the earth

To sleep until the spring.

Is a cricket sharing your house for the winter?

Can you hear him sing?

Nature's garden is resting.

The trees are stark and bare.

Now you can see the lovely nests

You didn't know were there."

~ From "Merry Months of the Year" by Patricia Scarry, as found in Richard Scarry's Best Storybook Ever.

Late Autumn Nature ... and Science!

This first photo is for Jennifer who read my morning Nature Note about "pumpkin slugs" and asked to see the picture ... probably because she knew how much I really wanted to post it! (Thanks, Jennifer!)

Note: If you're squeamish about such things - slugs and rotting pumpkins, that is - you might want to skip down to the part about crows. :)


No, he's not a pretty picture, is he? But a squishy wet pumpkin is a sure sign of November! I was on my way back inside after filling the birdfeeders this morning, when I stopped to check on our good ole Jack and found him, well, not so good ~ and infested with slugs of all shapes and sizes. (We've grappled with slugs in the past. Don't these things hibernate?) I have no idea what all that bright pink stuff is. (See inside his mouth?) It's all over the inside of the lid, too. Some kind of mold or fungus, perhaps? (Anyone?) You know, there's a good science lesson here somewhere ...

And speaking of good science ... Stef is hosting the first (perhaps monthly?) Science Fair next week! (We 4-Realers are a busy bunch, aren't we?) As you might have heard, the boys and I are working on the solar system these days. (As I type up this post, Earlybird is hugging a picture of Jupiter. No kidding.) This being our first science fair, I'm all excited to buy a presentation board, LOL! Stay tuned for more details!

Now, back to nature (which we all know is the heart and soul of science) and a few more photos!

Another sure sign of November are these cool misty mornings - so still and somber, disturbed only by the rumble of a passing school bus and the familiar call of a crow:

"What a perfectly New England sound is this voice of the crow!"  ~ Thoreau

According to Anna Comstock the crow is "probably the most intelligent of all our native birds." I buy that. They certainly know the days of the week. (And here is a neat science article about crows using tools.)

There is a lively threesome that roosts in the woods behind our house. I love watching them when they're waddling all over our leaf-ridden, rain swept street, looking for bits of debris. They are always together and we've named them Wynken, Blynken and Nod. Here is one of them, though I could not tell you which one:


The above picture was taken on trash day - the one day a week when we are assured of a crow visit. Come late morning, after the neighborhood has quieted down, and everyone is off to work or school, these fellows show up and take over the street. They're fun to watch and the boys and I observe the "show" from the windows.

If you have crows where you live - and they live all over, so I'm sure you do - take a few minutes to watch them! Listen for them in the early mornings. Wait for them on trash day! They are pretty cool birds if you ask me. :)

Case in point:

Recently, Bookworm brought to my attention a rather startling crow fact - aggregations (or groups) of crows are known as murders. (The things he learns on Magic School Bus, really.) Now who saddled them with that moniker, I wonder? Obviously someone with some serious crow issues. Just to be safe, we've decided three measly crows do not an aggregation make. ;)


I took the above photo this morning. I was standing in the drizzle taking pictures of the pumpkin when I heard him. I just thought this picture captured the November morning perfectly.

And here is another crow in flight (from trash day):


We haven't added to our Nature Almanac lately, and I think a drawing of this silhouette would be a nice addition. ("Almanac" is my new word for nature notebook, btw, having been inspired by Kirstin at 4Real in this thread - I'm thinking a lot about this. I might start just by printing out my entire nature archive and file it all in a big binder ...)

Take a look or a listen around your neighborhood these cold gray days of November and you will surely observe these harbingers of autumn, symbols of Americana, in fact. (Is there a Wysocki without a crow in the frame somewhere? How about this for a late autumn scene?)

How is your pumpkin doing? For that matter, how is the rest of your garden faring? Is it sound asleep yet or just drowsing? Can you still observe any bugs or invertebrates? What or who is under all those leaves? How are the birds in your neighborhood doing?

All great things to look for and consider during these last days of fall ...

Just because nature is slowing down doesn't mean there's less to see - we just need to look harder these days. The wet murky weather can make it less appealing to go on that nature walk or spend anytime outdoors at all, but maybe if you had something nice and warm to return to - bread baking in the oven, a soup simmering in the crockpot, a hot pot of tea to warm up your bones. We discussed this challenge - getting out in the winter - at 4real recently - see here for more ideas.

November is not all murk, mist and mess, though. For my last bit of November nature, here is a vivid sunrise from the other morning. With the sun rising later, it's easier to catch sight of these bright rosy moments and store a bit of light against the cold and the gray to come later ....


How fares the nature around you these days? Please share, and consider joining the upcoming Late Autumn Field Day! Let's keep our nature studies on track all winter long!

Thank You So Much!

So many of you dear readers sent in posts and linked to my Fair yesterday and left such kind comments and gave me so much support, I hardly know where to begin to thank you all ... well, I'm going to begin right here and simply say THANK YOU!!!

My little blog's head is spinning from all the traffic, LOL! (But in a very good, very fun way.) :)

If anyone still has entries let me know, I would be glad to update the post ... I realized last night as I re-read the Fair that I never even entered a gift of my own! Well, I'm working on that, but as soon as I get a Christmas craft done, I'm going to post it right over at O Night Divine!

For the time being though, I'm turning my attention back to the season at hand - this glad and joyful time of Thanksgiving. Today I'm going to read in Mrs. Sharp's Traditions, make up some marketing lists, housekeeping notes, and think up something for KC's Loveliness of Thankgiving Fair next week. (Oh yes, and there's math, science and laundry, too.) All of this over a good hot cup of tea, of course. :)

I thought I'd share the pretty card I have pinned up on my desk. The quiet woodsy little image has me thinking late autumn thoughts, which of course lead me to think of Field Day ... which is not too far away itself ... more on that soon!


Inside the card reads: Wishing you a peaceful Thanksgiving ... and I do!

The Loveliness of Homemade Gifts

~ A gift from the heart is a treasure from the start. ~

I am so pleased to be hosting this week's Loveliness Fair! As you've probably come to Loveliness_logo_4 guess, I am a big crafter at heart - if not always in practice. Which means my closets are full of all kinds of crafty supplies, but that does not always mean the crafts come to be! Making gifts by hand means more than just having seven kinds of glue and every shade of paint at my fingertips - it means first making the time to make the crafts. This is where things can get tricky.

I grew up spending the holiday season helping my mum prepare for Christmas. I fondly remember days spent around our dining room table helping to decorate candles with bits of printed napkins and adorning homemade ornaments with sequins and ribbons. I remember the packages of penuche fudge she'd make up every year for my teachers. I remember how proud I was to hand out those gifts. I would like to emulate my mum - not just for the gifts she made, but for the memories she made for my brother and me. I would like my children to know how special it is to give of ourselves at Christmas - and all the year round!

The good news is, Christmas is still seven weeks from today! So there is hope! There is plenty of time to craft, cook or create some homemade gifts to give this year! Please take a look at what some of my blogging friends have to say about gifts they are making, and those they have given and received. Having read through all their posts, I am completely inspired and my gift list is now taking shape!

~ We begin with Margaret who sets the tone beautifully with a post full of honest and loving thoughts on gift giving.

~ Krisann's cheerful family quilt was a gift for her mother - a patchwork of love and an heirloom as well.

~ Katherine is felting a pair of clog slippers - a warm and wonderful gift for her dad. (Katherine, are you taking orders?) :)

~ Jennifer's making candles with her children. I love this idea - a simple yet satisfying craft. I can almost smell that sweetly scented beeswax.

~ Rachel's beautiful family has been blessed by her talent at making wonderful handknits - sweaters, hats, scarves. Simply lovely!

~ Leonie enjoys making handmade cards with her children - one of my favorite crafts too! She provides several very helpful links, as well.

~ Charlotte also enjoys cardmaking at the holidays and she has some yummy recipes to share. I for one would be thrilled to receive such a treat at the holidays!

~ Cheryl's children are preparing a special shirt of honor for their daddy this year - I love this idea and plan to "borrow" it myself. (Hope you're not reading this, honey!)

~ Mary is planning all kinds of special knitted gifts with her children. I love her quote:

"The time the kids spend to choose colors and yarns, to create something, is time spent LOVING the person getting the gift ... It's time spent on the person -- so much more priceless than buying a present."

So very well said, Mary.

~ Maria shares the sweetest pictures of her four darling children sporting colorful crocheted scarves that she made for them! What a merry bunch!

~ Speaking of scarves, Rebecca has also been busy knitting up some gorgeous handknits for her lucky family members. She also shares a fabulous decoupage idea as well as her son's colorful handmade rosaries and sacrifice beads.

~ Can there be a more treasured gift than one made by a child? Erin shares beautiful gifts made by her children through the years. I especially love those bookcases!

~ You are in for a visual feast of handmade gifts at Louise's A Time to Keep: Life on The Good Shepherd's Farm. (Oh, how I love that name!) Make sure you click on her thumbnails for descriptions of each gift.

~ Elena beautifully captures the joy of homemade gifts she's given over the years and reflects on two special gifts she's received. 

~ Kristina shares many tasty gift ideas! Her biscotti sounds scrumptious, and those homemade lollipops will delight children of all ages!

~ Perhaps the gifts we look for most hopefully at Christmas are those treasures made by our children's own hands, inspired by their beautiful imaginations. Alice shares her children's lovely artwork, part of a new Friday tradition at The Cottage.

~ Marjorie shares fond family memories and a terrific idea for a children's dress-up box ~ a gift that will keep on giving through many play days all year!

~ Angel reminds us of the true holiday spirit - opening our homes and our hearts to those around us. Her simple but lovely hospitality ideas are so inspiring!

~ Jenn has a fantastic idea for recycling those old, but beloved Christmas cards into exquisite ornaments! I love anything with all that glitter - so festive!

~ Tracy shares this delightful gift idea for homemade peppermint cocoa:

"This year, I'm going to make a gift in a jar of homemade hot chocolate mix with chopped up peppermint candy canes, making it homemade peppermint hot chocolate. I received this as a gift one year, and it was SO yummy!

I'll make up labels on the computer with a candy cane border that says "Peppermint Hot Cocoa," and the instructions. And I think I'm going to buy some candy cane type of material, if I can find it, to cut out squares, and tie with ribbon to the top of the jar. I've been saving my jars!"

Tracy, that sounds so good, I may have to make the first jar for myself! ;)

~ Kim has put together a lovely collection of simple and wonderful homemade gift ideas. I especially love that votive candle idea, Kim!

~ And while Michele awaits the greatest gift of all this Christmas season, she is reflecting on the why's and the why not's of homemade gifts. Michele, your holiday plans sound just perfect to me. :)

So are you inspired? Are you ready to head to the craft store, the grocer, the yarn shop, perhaps? Check out the many gift idea books available at your local library. And as Mary points out, there are many, many Christmas magazines out on the stands. I agree completely with Mary that the best issue by far is Martha Stewart's Holiday Issue; her theme this year is - how perfect - Handmade Gifts. (She must have heard about our Fair!) ;)

There are also many places online to get ideas. Two of my favorites are Mary Ellen's O Night Divine and Lindsey's Advent for Evangelicals.

I hope you have been inspired by the wonderful posts shared by my friends. Thank you to all who took part in my Fair, and thank you again to Elizabeth for thinking up the Fairs in the first place! Next on the list is the Loveliness of Thanksgiving to be hosted by KC at her happy Cabbage Patch.

And if you have an idea or a post for today's Fair, please drop me a comment below and I will gladly add you in!

~ As the season of Advent grows near, may your heart be filled with hope, your home with joy and your days with quiet peace. ~

Time for a Reality Check

And the weekend was off to such a great start, too ...

Then, the plumbing went kerflooey and just about everything that could back up did.

Bill spent the whole day under sinks or at the hardware store (in fact he's there now).

Oh, and that "savory beef stew" that was "cooking away in the crockpot" has indeed cooked away. Far, far away.

And the potatoes and popovers? They never even had a chance.

Lesson plans did not get planned, youngest did not get a nap, olders spent too much time playing Toontown and the Loveliness Fair did not get written!

And, last but not least, the Patriots lost.

To the Jets.


Well, such is life - such is reality! (Lest you think it is all cookies and crafts around here, LOL ...)

Look for The Loveliness Fair to be up sometime tomorrow! Perhaps not as early as I'd hoped ... but the good news is, there's still plenty of time to send me a post!

Good Night and God Bless!

Coffee, Cookies and a Craft for Martinmas

The Feast of Saint Martin comes on November 11th; here in America that date is perhaps better known as Veteran's Day. I had a few plans for commemorating both beautiful and meaningful holidays, but as we had a busy Saturday morning, we spread our activities out over the whole weekend! I'd like to share a bit of our fun here with you!

I wonder how the weather is where you live? Here in New England, today is overcast and damp, but yesterday we enjoyed plenty of late autumn sunshine, as well as unseasonably mild temperatures. A touch of Saint Martin's Little Summer, perhaps? :)

"A quick spell of warm weather around his feast day (usually termed "Indian Summer" in the US) is known as "St. Martin's Little Summer" in Europe." (Catholic Culture)

After running our errands early, we returned home to lunch and I brought out a few crafts. First, we made booklets telling the story of "Martin Learns to Share" - a cute project I found in my Big Book of Catholic Customs and Traditions. As the boys colored their pictures, I read aloud the Gospel from today's Mass. And it just so happened this week's message worked in very nicely with our feastday spirit! As Martinmas is a time to consider our charitable giving, we followed this week's activity suggestion in Celebrating the Gospels: Activities and Prayers for the Sundays of Cycles A, B and C - and made up a family collection jar. As we thought about how and for whom we could save, we decided to begin our yearly collection for a local heating-assistance fund in St. Martin's honor.

"Martinmas is an obvious day for some act of charity which will benefit the cold and poor this coming winter." (A Book of Feasts and Seasons)

Anyway! We glued our Scripture symbol from today's Gospel (two coins symbolizing the poor widow's donation) to the front of the jar. To dress it up we added some silver scrollwork stickers and thin metallic ribbon.

One other thing we did was to begin a bag for clothing donations. Our church is holding a clothing drive next weekend so we will work on filling this bag with clothes we no longer need and bring it Mass next Sunday.

As the sun was sinking fast in the dimly lit sky, we got to work on our lanterns. Actually due to unforseen events (like Earlybird not taking his nap) it turned out to be just one lantern, LOL! But we were very happy with the results. Here is how we set up our mantel once we finished our afternoon crafts:


Sorry it's a bit blurry and dark!

Before I continue, I should take a moment to provide a bit of background on the traditions of St. Martin's Day! If, for example, you are not famliar with St. Martin, you may not know about his background or the tradition of lantern-making on this special day! I am known to be long-winded (and this post is already long enough), so perhaps it's best if I point you in a few directions for more on the Martinmas story - please see here, here and here! :)

Come Saturday evening, we enjoyed the glow of our lantern and a passage from Joanna Bogle's wonderful Book of Feasts and Seasons. We began our supper with a lovely prayer for Veteran's Day from Let's Say Grace. (A Veteran's Day note - we have America's White Table on hold at the library which was most unfortunately closed yesterday! I am very eager to read this book to the boys - it comes highly recommended by my friends at 4Real.)

Our other Saturday evening activity was to look over the worksheets for tomorrow's Mass, courtesy I love that each week there is a short and simple (but thorough) list of questions for children to follow up with after Mass. (There are two versions:  one for 7-10 year olds and another for 11-14 year olds.) We don't make this a strict or pressured event - we treat it as if it were a fun scavenger hunt! The questions range from "What was Father wearing at Mass today?" to "What holy season begins in three weeks?" to "What book did today's second reading come from?" It's a fun way to spark their attention and bring the Mass closer to them, if you know what I mean. :)

Now are you ready for Martinmas part two, LOL?

This morning, as is routine, my folks accompanied us home after Mass. But this week, in addition to the freshly brewed coffee, we enjoyed some Martinmas Horseshoe cookies! This recipe was from another favorite liturgical resource, A Catholic Parent's Book of Feasts. (And I see Rebecca and I are on the same wavelength this weekend!)


Earlybird and I - up early as ever - began making the dough around 5:30 a.m. (Yep, you read that right, folks - and we had already been up an hour!) Above you see the ball of dough ready to roll out, and below are strips ready to be placed on the cookie sheet.


Oh boy did the house smell nice when the older boys and Daddy came out around 7!

The cookies are baked in the shape of a horseshoe (harkening back to St. Martin's legend). They were delicious (though next time I will use unsalted butter instead of regular). They made for a tender, buttery shortbread-like cookie - perfect with coffee!



Well, the rest of our Sunday stretches out before us. It is a gray rainy day, perfect for staying in (as we plan to do). I was tempted to run to the fabric store when Crackerjack mused aloud how much he'd like to "play St. Martin" if only he had a red cloak ... but I think I will wait till my next scheduled errand day to do that. There's plenty to do here - lesson planning, cooking, reading ... watching the Patriots, LOL! And as I go to post, a savory beef stew is cooking away in the crockpot and later there will be potatoes and (maybe) popovers baking in the oven. :)

So another autumn saint's day passes, and so too does another weekend - too quickly! All these days with our little ones go by far too quickly.

I hope you enjoyed your weekend and I wish you a blessed new week!

Flushed Away: The Reviews are In!

Flushed_awayYesterday the boys and I met friends for an afternoon matinee, the newly released Flushed Away. We were also joined by what seemed like thousands of other kids who had no school due to Veteran's Day, LOL!

At supper last night, as the boys filled Daddy in on the movie, I whipped out my laptop so as to capture their "narration" in a post.

Crackerjack got things rolling ...

"This movie was about a pet mouse who got flushed away ..."

"Wait," I interrupted, fingers paused over the keys. "Wasn't he a rat?"

"No, he was a mouse," CJ said. He turned to his brother for confirmation. "Bookworm, wasn't Roddy a mouse, not a rat?"

"Right, he and Rita were mice," Bookworm replied.

"Guys, I'm pretty sure Roddy was a pet rat ..."

"But you said people aren't allowed to keep rats as pets." CJ challenged.

"Well, you know, this is the movies," I said quickly. "And besides, they're from Ratropolis. Don't you think if they're from a city called Ratropolis it would mean that they're rats?"


"And what about Sid?" I reminded them. "He was a rat, right?"

"Yes, he was definitely a rat." BW agreed.

"I think Sid was wearing a wig," CJ felt compelled to add.

We had come to a standstill in the rat/mouse debate, when I decided to play hardball - I went to Google. We found the definitive answer not at the official Flushed Away site but at, of all places, The National Catholic Register.

Rodney was indeed a rat.

So with that small, but rather important detail cleared up, it was on to our reviews:


"This movie was about a mouse rat that lived in New York London in a fancy house as a pet. I didn't know that was London! The people that owned the house left on vacation, I think - (I don't really remember) - and a sewer rat came to their house. He got there when their sink backed up. Like the same thing that happened to our sink, except a rat didn't come flying up at our house. The rat exploded out of their sink and ate some of their hot dogs. Then he flushed Roddy down the toilet. Roddy ended up underground in a place called Ratropolis. He was in a weird city, a different city, a city full of rats and mice, and slugs and frogs and flies. He ended up involved in a "grande" adventure with a girl mouse rat named Rita. They were trying to escape from the Toad who was thinking up a plan that would have been very, very, very bad for the rats of Ratropolis. Roddy had to figure out: live down there forever or go home. Can I say what he decided? No, I probably shouldn't.

I give this movie 50 STARS!!"


"This is a movie called Flushed Away, and in it, a pompous pet mouse - I mean rat - named Roddy, encounters a sewer rat who gets launched into his house during a back up in the sink. Since Roddy's owners are away it's up to him to get the rat out, but when he tries to convince him that the toilet is a jacuzzi and that the flush will make bubbles come out, Sid the sewer rat pushes him in instead and pulls the lever. Now Roddy's stuck underground in the sewers of London which is a lot like the London above except completely different and mouse size. I mean rat size. And his only chance of getting out is a female rat, Rita, who is running away from an evil toad who wants her for stealing a gem. I don't want to give too much away, but I will tell you that near the end, Roddy discovers that his objective is not to get back to the upper world but to stop the toad from doing something terrible.

I give this movie 9 out of 10 stars."

We were very excited Daddy brought home McDonalds last night for supper, especially Flushed_away_1because this week's theme is none other than Flushed Away! We even made this cute little craft as instructed on the side of the Happy Meal box - a "Jammy Dodger" boat made out of a straw, a chicken McNuggets carton and a sail we punched out of the box.

My take on the movie? Very cute, with some potty humor (a given it seems these days), all in all very fun. Loved the slugs, the surroundings and Hugh Jackman, Kate Winslet and Andy Sirkis were great. You know how I love anything British. :) If you see this movie, I have to tell you - the part where Spike says to Whitey "Keep your legs straight when you hit the water!" (in full cockney accent) - a scene which is actually shown in all the commercials - had me laughing to tears.

Have a great weekend everyone! And if you have time, please consider sending me a post, picture or e-mail for the Loveliness of Homemade Gifs Fair on Monday!

The Plight of the Younger Brother

On the way home from speech this morning, Bookworm calls out from the back of the van:

"Only 13 days till Thanksgiving!"

Crackerjack pipes up:

"Mama, how many days till Thanksgiving?"

Bookworm exclaims indignantly:

"I just told you it was 13 days!"

Crackerjack retorts:

"Yeah, but you could be wrong."

Mama interjects:

"He's right, honey. Thanksgiving is 13 days away."

Crackerjack sighs:

"Phooey. He's always right about everything."


Quick and Crafty Puppet Curtains

Do you know a little person (or 2 or 3 or 4) who enjoys puppet shows, storytelling or just plain old make-believe? Well, then have I got a craft for you! :)

As I've posted before, my boys really enjoy our nature puppet collection. (Notice I say, our puppet collection, LOL!) Well, we've been collecting various critters for years and have amassed quite an array! A few years back, my mum noticed how much Crackerjack, in particular, loved making up stories with his finger puppets, so for his birthday that year she made him several pairs of homemade puppet curtains! I helped pick out the material, relating to themes we usually pretended - snowy woods, starry night, magical kingdom, sunshiney days, etc. A simple tension rod was all we needed for the boys' bedroom door and voila - we had our own puppet theatre!

Recently we decided to add an autumn leaves theme to our collection. I picked up the fabric a few weeks ago and today I took advantage of my mum's visit and asked her to show me how to make the curtains. I am happy to report, it was very easy and it only took about 2 hours. (I can tell you that because we worked on them right after Earlybird went down for his nap, and we finished just before he woke up!) 

I have included many photos in this post - big surprise, right? :) I don't know about you, but I do much better with visuals. Let me confess right away, I am no seamstress at all. My mum - now, she can do anything - knit, sew, crochet, paint, etc.  Me, well, I can glue pretty well. :) I can also fold and iron - and basically that is all this craft requires - folding and ironing.

Now, as I sit down to write this post, most of the facts and figures have flown right out of my head so let me start by saying this craft is completely adaptable. There really are no "set" measurements - you can make your curtains in any size or shape that suits your fancy. I hope this post gives you an idea of one possible final product.

Our curtains are a set of panels, which fit on a tension rod that can be easily placed in a regular door frame. Spectators sit on one side (usually the bedroom side) while the performers sit (or lay) in the hall, and reach through between the panels with their puppets. It's really fun!

(Note: Another idea is to turn a small child's wooden table into a portable theatre. Simply attach velcro (dots or strips) around the edges. Cut material into two pieces to fit around the base of the table (leaving the back open). Then, the children can lay under the table and poke their puppets through the front, where the two pieces meet.)

But I digress - my aim is to show you the curtains we made today!

Start with a fabric to your liking. When choosing prints, consider themes your children like to play out - princess, knights, safari, etc. You might start with the puppets they own. And puppet shows can be performed by all kinds of toys, believe me - Bionicles, dinosaurs, Toy Story characters. You name it, if it's a toy they love, it belongs on stage!

I was even thinking our saint spoons might make wonderful "puppet shows!" We could re-enact the stories of the saints we've come to know. I'm sure we could find some celestial-looking fabric. Ooh - and a dark desert night fabric would be a wonderful backdrop for a set of Nativity-themed spoons (the Holy Family, three wise men, angels, shepherds, etc.). Hmmm ... the wheels are turning ....

Good grief, enough of my chatting, on to the project!


You will want to buy your fabric (approximately 2 yards), a tension rod (we use 32"; check your door frame size) and a package of Stitch Witchery.

The snowflake print above is already a curtain, we used it as a template to cut our autumn leaves fabric to the right size. This picture also shows the snowflake curtain's bottom hem.


Above you see the first panel we worked on. (Instead of using an ironing board, which I, er, couldn't locate at the time - funny, that - we worked on the dining room table with a couple of towels laid out underneath.)

A note on the fabric- it should be pre-washed before you begin. Once it's cut into shape, press it lightly to smooth out any wrinkles. As I mentioned above, your curtains can be any size or shape. Our panels measured 44 inches long by 22 inches wide before hemming.


The above photo shows the right side hem on one of the panels (and the package of Stitch Witchery). We folded each side of the panel in about an inch. (You want enough material to cover the Stitch Witchery.) We pressed the fold first, and then ...


... tucked in a length of Stitch Witchery (which by the way is a fusible bonding web - and I LOVE it). Following the package directions we pressed the hem twice (front and back) for 10 seconds each turn. We had a little bit of trouble with this but realized it was probably because I forgot to wash the fabric first. (Such a rookie mistake.)


Above you see the first panel with side hems complete.


And here is the bottom hem finished. (Turned in about an inch and a half.) My mum had an excellent point - you could finish the bottom hem in different (and perhaps easier) ways - for instance, cutting the bottom with pinking shears or adding a lace trim.


The above photo shows the top hem (folded down about 2-3 inches). Remember this does not have to be exact - just as long as the two panels match in length. We actually made two folds. The first was about an inch; we pressed this (using no Stitch Witchery) to keep the inside edge neat. We then turned the hem down another length - allowing space for the tension rod to run through. This edge we adhered with the SW once again.


Working on the second panel, we first made the side and bottom hems. We then lined it up with the first panel to check for accurate length. In the above photo you see the unfinished second panel on the bottom; the completed first panel on top. We used the finished hem of the first to guide where we folded the hem for the second. (I know that probably sounds very confusing, sorry! It will make sense when you do it, though.)


And finally here are the two completed puppet curtain panels (undersides up)! I am really very happy how they came out - nice neat edges and perfectly sized to each other! (Thank you, Thank you, Mum!!!) We will have so much fun acting out our late autumn stories with these!


Above you see our current curtain collection (left), a basket of nature puppets (right) and the folded new curtains in front.

I have a few other ideas for this puppet project, but once again it is getting late and I really should wrap up. I would like to post again more about all this, hopefully this weekend - including photos of the curtains in action! Because I bought 2 yards of fabric, I had a good bit of it left over ... but I have a really fun idea how to use it  up, and after a trip to the craft store this weekend, I will post about that too!


Thanks for sticking with me on another loooong post, LOL! Good night and God Bless! :)

Thankful Thursday!

Lisa at Joyful Chaos is hosting "Thankful Thursdays" all through the month of November! She is asking us to list 10 things for which we are thankful each week ... Lisa, what a wonderful idea!

First off, let me just say (I fear I start all my posts with these words, LOL) there are HUGE things for which I am grateful but I am going to keep my list light - at least for this week. It's the big things that leave me grasping for words ~ I'd be here all night trying to say things just right ... :)

So here I go!

Ten Things I am Thankful for This Week:

1. For conversations like this:

Crackerjack: "How come you always know what I want?"

Me: "Because I'm your mama, that's my job."

Crackerjack (hugging me): "I love it when you say that."

2. For homeschooling. And for sooooo many reasons - too many to name in one post. So maybe I'll name a different reason each week. This week I'm thankful for homeschooling because my boys are the very best of friends. And after they spend the whole day together, they still talk each other to sleep for almost an hour. I love that.

3. For the rain. Yes, the rain, which as you know, in November is anything but gentle and warm. Spring rain we welcome because it's going to make everything green and it's so good for the flowers, the trees and the baby animals (etc.). But November rain is an altogether different kind of thing. It's cold - very cold - and it makes everything, well, dank. But still, I love these rainy kinds of days - when the pleasures of home just seem even more pleasurable ...

Like a reading corner:


And a picture window:


And a mantel glowing with candles:


I am also thankful ...

4. For Annie's Macaroni and Cheese - because without it my children would starve.

5. For this blog - that my family allows and encourages me to do it, and that there are folks who stop by to read what I write! As many of you readers - fellow bloggers yourselves - know, it's a nice creative outlet. Though I once hoped to be a writer, I wished even more to be a mom at home with her kids. I was blessed to be granted that wish. My life does not contain the kind of time or energy that writing would require, but it does, thankfully, contain the time and energy needed for mothering and teaching my children. For all that - and with a very full heart and full hands - I am eternally grateful.

6. For the movies - I LOVE going to the movies and we're going this Friday! We're going to see Flushed Away with our friends - we'll post a review this weekend!

7. For these ladies, this place, this way of life and learning:


8. For chipmunks, squirrels, wrens, juncos, jays ... all the little critters who call our yard home. They keep us entertained and bring such joy to our days. I am grateful that, because we homeschool, we are able to observe them and keep track of them daily - they're like our classroom pets, LOL!

9. For my husband stepping on a tack, and getting it stuck fast in his foot just now - which sounds crazy! - but we just witnessed the sweetest, most heartfelt outpouring of love and concern from our boys. Bill pulled out the tack while I ran to get a bandaid and when I returned it was to boys with their arms wrapped lovingly around their daddy. :)

10. For this moment right now. The boys are in bed (though not yet quite asleep), I've got my after-dinner eggnog and Bill and I are sitting here together watching our news programs, waiting for Lost to come on. How I love these cozy homey evenings!

So there are my 10 things for this week! Thanks again to Lisa for thinking of this and for hosting! I look forward to spending more Thursdays recounting my blessings. :)

Another Quick and Crafty Project

A picture frame for my prayer corner! :)

Some time ago I saw a beautifully framed picture of Jesus and Mary in a catalog. I thought it was lovely. I loved the images - the Sacred Heart and the Immaculate Heart - side by side. Later, I saw it in person at our local Catholic gift shop - and it was as beautiful as I imagined. I loved it.

I thought how nice it would be to have the picture set in a place of honor in our home. But the price was a bit high for an everyday purchase. I thought I might drop a few Christmastime hints ... and if that didn't work, there was always my birthday in January. ;)

Last weekend, I stopped in at the gift shop and, again, I looked long and hard at that picture. I called to mind my new prayer journal and the quiet corner I'm setting up at home. I envisioned how perfect this picture would be in that spot.

I almost bought it - but in the end, I resisted. I reminded myself patience is a virtue and I reminded myself that I could set up my little laminated holy cards at home in some makeshift way.

And that was when the lightbulb went on ... I could make a picture frame for my cards! And that's just what I did!

It is certainly not as beautiful or well-made as the ones they sell through catalogs and shops - but you know, as with my journal, I like the homemade touch. :)

Now you could use any colors, styles and images you'd like, of course. And while this was a relatively easy craft, lining the ribbon up in the groove of the frame proved a bit fussy. (The ribbon was a last minute addition - I had some laying about and the frame looked like it could use a little something else.) The whole project took me just about an hour.

Here are the materials to start with:


A piece of floral scrapbook paper (I used the same one as I did for my prayer journal), a 5x7 unfinished wooden frame, a blue accent mat and my holy cards. Not shown - acrylic paint in a shade of pale gold, a length of blue ribbon and a glue gun.

I simply cut the paper to fit the frame and, with a tiny bit of tape, centered and adhered the images in place. I then painted the frame with golden paint. Once it was dry I used a glue gun to add the ribbon.

Here is how it came out!


And here it is next to my prayer journal. I am setting up a small table in the family room as our prayer corner. It is still in the works, but right now I have it next to a very comfortable chair and the fireplace. :)


This frame might make a nice gift for someone - perhaps you could find out their patron saint, or if they have a special devotion. It would not be difficult for a child to make this craft with a little help from mom or dad.  (Note: If I do make the prayer journal as a gift, I will use double-sided tape on the cover for a neater look.)

You could give both of these projects together as a set. It might be hard to tell in the picture, but the background of the picture coordinates with the prayer journal. :)

And while I have your attention - and while we're talking about handmade gifts - please consider entering the Loveliness of Homemade Gifts Fair which is set to run here next Monday. (For details see this recent post.)

And remember - any kind of post about homemade gifts is welcome! Thoughts, challenges, plans, projects - anything! If you can't think of anything to post about, how about answering one or both of these questions:

~ What was your favorite homemade gift you've received?

~ What was your favorite homemade gift you've given?

If you don't have a blog, you are still more than welcome to join in the Fair! Simply email me your thoughts and/or photos.

I look forward to hearing from you (by Sunday night, please). :)

Thanks for stopping by - I hope you have a lovely day!

A Few Quick Ideas for Election Day

It's Election Day in our country! I just thought I'd mention a few things to do with the children:

  • Bring them with you when you vote. Let them see the democratic process in Election_day_1 action!
  • Read about How the Government Works.
  • If your children are older you might plan to watch some news (sure to be all about the elections) over lunch.
  • How about some mapwork? Color in the blue states, red states - purple states, perhaps? ;)
  • Learn more about the government and about Election Day (more here).
  • Go inside a virtual voting booth.
  • Sing a few rounds of Three Ring Government! (Words and music here.)
  • Wouldn't this Election Cake be festive?
  • Bake some flag cookies! (We don't have the time or the food paste to do these - maybe next year! - but we will make some plain sugar cookies and add red, white and blue sprinkles.)
  • Have a cup of herbal tea to celebrate our colonial roots - the beverage of choice for the original Patriots! (They used the herbs grown in their dooryards, we can just use Celestial Seasonings!)
  • And last, but certainly not least, pray! We have our candle lit!

Have a fun, patriotic day!

In a November Mood

So dull and dark are the November days.
The lazy mist high up the evening curled,
And now the morn quite hides in smoke and haze;
The place we occupy seems all the world.

  ~ John Clare, November

November, dull and dark? Why, I won't hear of it!

Well, dark - o.k., yes, November days are dark, indeed. But dull ... ?

November_sticker1Well, quiet, maybe. Somber, peaceful, still, perhaps. But I say November brings a welcome pause in the ongoing rhythm of nature. A time of grey skies, russet leaves, geese overhead and frost underfoot. A time of darkness, yes ~ but a time of light, too. A light we keep burning bright in our hearts as we prepare for the winter ahead.

It is true at this time of year, "the place we occupy seems all the world" ~ for now is when we hunker down and watch the world around us do the same. We might embrace these autumnal blessings of hearth and home, and relish our time spent within. And yet let's not forget to appreciate the world without - the lovely sleeping landscape just outside our frosted windows. 

Well, I've been thinking on all this as you can tell, and thought I'd share my late autumn ideas with you here, in hopes of putting us all in a November mood ...

~ Cold weather and early sunsets mean more time spent inside. On days such as these, what could be better than an hour or two spent with a good book? Prepare a special reading nook for afternoon read-aloud time. Fill a basket with lovely picture books that celebrate the season. Add an autumn ribbon for a special touch! Choose a chapter book to read aloud in part every day. Fold a favorite throw blanket over the back of your chair or the arm of your couch. Sit by a window if possible and feel the warmth of your home all around you.November_sticker6_1

~ Fill your home with light - warm and soft as candles. When the darkness falls outside, nothing warms up the house like soft cozy lights. We love these pinecone lights all around the sliding doors in our family room. They're perfect all winter long!

~ On a brisk day spend some time outside stacking wood for the winter ahead. Our fireplace is gas, but my boys still like to stack wood! It's fun to search the yard, or even the woods, for branches and twigs strewn about. (November's wind is a good help in this.) A bonfire is great fun at this time of year, but if you're not going to burn it, what else can you do with that wood? All this bramble would make a nice brush pile for the birds for the winter. Place it in a corner of your yard, not too far from your feeders and you'll enjoy watching who moves in.

~ A walk through the woods will also provide a basket-ful of natural ingredients to adorn your Thanksgiving table. Or how about a log for Advent? (Rebecca has more here on this lovely tradition.) We found some fallen birch trees last spring and Bill plans to use the wood for a family Advent log. And since we have plenty of wood, we may make some as gifts.

November_sticker9_1~ Speaking of gifts - now is the time to decide what you'd like to make by hand. Once you have a list of ideas, schedule a trip to the craft store for supplies. You have plenty of time if you work on things a bit at a time over the next several weeks. (And don't forget to send me your entry for Loveliness of Homemade Gifts by November 12th!) The pressure isn't on just yet - and the stores are still fully stocked (and not too crowded).

~ Bed takes on a whole new meaning when it's winter, don't you think? Winter sleep is very sweet- all curled up under our warm covers. I tell the boys, just like the animals, we need to get ready to hibernate! We must prepare our own winter nests - not with feathers and twigs, but with warm flannels and woolens. A thorough room cleaning is in order - and if there's a relatively warm day it's nice to open the windows one last time before spring. We'll freshen the air a bit before the hatches are all battened down. :) We launder all our winter pajamas and perhaps purchase a new set of slippers. A set of white Christmas lights around a window would make a nice winter nightlight.

~ With all that room cleaning, we try to pare down the toys - some to store and some to donate. Martinmas is a good time to make a family donation of toys, clothing and food. (Also to make room for the inevitable Christmas onslaught.)

~ This is also a perfect time to talk about your family's charitable work - donations and November_sticker4 volunteering. What services and missions will you support this year? Plan to spend an hour or so after supper one evening talking on this with your children. They might have their own ideas to share. You might consider setting up a Charity Jar: label and decorate a large canning jar with ribbons, stickers and such. Keep it in the kitchen for all to see and encourage everyone to add what they can, when they can. Come New Year's Day, count it up and make out your contributions together.

~ Put up the storms, rake the lawn and put the garden to bed. Throw on a scarf and some gloves and spend a chilly hour or two tending to the last outdoor chores of the season. Come inside to hot soup and sandwiches. :)


~ Make sure you have all you need before the first winter storm hits. Do you know where your snowshovel is? Do you have sand/salt or kitty litter - whatever your chosen de-icer may be? It's a good idea to start up the snowblower and make sure it's all set to run when you need it. And how about your car? Make sure it is stocked with your winter needs - make up a winter car kit before your holiday travels begin. (I personally consider Christmas music and thermoses filled with cocoa essential items on the winter car list!)

~ And speaking of winter preparedness - take stock of the family winter wear while you're at it! It never fails that the first snow day of the year hits and and we're scrambling to find matching gloves and missing boots. Check now and order items you'll need. A nice tradition at Martinmas is to give a gift of warmth. This year I'll be ordering the boys' snowgear at LL Bean online! And while you're at it check on the snow gear status - such as sleds, skis and skates. What needs to be replaced, repaired or reconditioned?

November_sticker7~ Though it pains me to say it, November also ushers in the inevitable cold and flu season. It's a good time to sort through your medicine cabinet and toss what's old and make a note of what you might need (though hopefully not!): fever medication, throat lozenges, decongestent, etc.

~ The holidays bring lots of sweets, extra stress - and sometimes lowered immunity. Make an effort over the next few weeks to include lots of fluids (think hot soups and fresh juices), veggies and fruits in abundance, and whole grains, too. Make space in your schedule for family down time and don't over tax yourselves! Plenty of sleep will also help boost your immune system - at this time of year our bodies naturally crave it! Here is some good information from Dr. Sears on feeding your immune system.

~ Here in the northeast we see some pretty good winter storms. Good meaning powerful (wind), precarious (ice) and plenty (of snow)! Since we often see the first flakes fly around Thanksgiving, now is a good time to give some thought to winter storm preparation.

~ November is also the time to stock up on those most important of winter supplies - November_sticker3 your cocoa supply! You could make up a large supply of homemade cocoa mix, or just make sure you have your favorite brand in bulk on the shelf. Don't forget to plan ahead for all kinds of hot drink occasions - the aforementioned skating/sledding/skiing, as well as afternoon tea, dessert by the fire, after-dinner coffee, caroling parties ... any old time, really! Check out this thread at 4Real for lots of yummy ideas! And don't forget the marshmallows!

~ Dark november days just beg a few hours worth of cookie making (and eating)! As with the cocoa, you could go the store-bought route - Pillsbury makes sugar and gingerbread cookie dough that you can just slice, roll, cut and bake. But really, nothing tastes like homemade. Instead of making up a fresh batch of dough each time you go to bake, you could spend a few hours making up some logs of dough to keep in your freezer. And while you're at it make sure you have all your favorite cookie cutters put aside and plenty of baking supplies and decorations as well. You don't want to wait till December to buy your cardamom, ginger and pastry flour when supplies have been picked over and are running low - trust me, I've been there. For inspiration, pour yourself a cup of peppermint tea and pore over the The Baker's Catalog. An afternoon of cookie baking seems so much more do-able when you've prepared ahead for the fun (and the mess)!

~ Try to focus on the natural beauty of late fall, though it might be hard to get all excited about what some might call a rather dreary time of year. Look up poems and quotes about late autumn - check here for a start. As nice as it is to retreat to our dens for hibernation, don't forget to keep in touch with the outdoors! Bundle up and head out when the weather allows, even if only for a ten minute walk - or even just to fill up the feeders! Speaking of feeders, I never tire of plugging for our little feathered friends - come the heart of winter they bring such joyful relief! Set up a basket of bird guides and binoculars - keep them by a favorite window. I also find reading books written by naturalists - especially those that describe the year round - help me to appreciate and look for the nuances of each seasons.

November_sticker12_1 ~ The late autumn landscape might be bleak but it has its place in the year just as does the greening of spring. Talk with the children about the cycle of life, how each time that passes is meaningful and serves a purpose. And what about the promise of spring? It seems so far away and yet we know it will return for us once again.

~ On November nights, as you gather your family around the dinner table, take time to count your blessings. What a nice way to head into the holidays with our hearts filled with gratitude, our spirits moved by grace? Before the onslaught of packages, boxes and bags - spend these family moments appreciating what we have right here and right now. If you like, you could make a blessings box in which to store all your thanks. The slips will make cheery decorations come Christmas.

~ I like to prepare a correspondence basket at this time of year - with notecards, greeting cards, pens, stamps, stickers and the like. I tuck in a few favorite holy cards, too. Oh, and the 2006 Christmas stamps are available now! I just picked up my supply this past weekend. They are so beautiful this year!

~ Speaking of correspondence, you might encourage the children to work on some homemade note cards these next few Sunday afternoons. Craft stores carry all kinds of plain notecards, postcards, and stationary as well as envelopes that the kids can decorate to their hearts' content. Let them choose some special colored pencils, stickers and ink pads and rubber stamps ... then set them to work. By the end of the year they will have a ready supply of personalized notes to send out to family and friends. 

~ Candles are a beautiful part of our late autumn home, as well as our Catholic November_sticker1_1 traditions. Make sure you have plenty on hand. Tea lights or tapers, they will warm your family heart and soul. In keeping with November's devotion, you might pause over each light and remember a soul who has passed in prayer. Set your table with small glass votives (anchored by river pebbles perhaps) and hold hands while you reflect on the light and the life within us all.

~ What about the hearty foods of late autumn? The roasts, stews and pot pies? Won't they lend a comforting air to your home these next few Sundays? And not to be forgotten are all the late season fruits and vegetables - the last of autumn's bounty - squash, potatoes, pears, cranberries, Brussels sprouts, apples, parsnips, carrots, onions ...

~ And even if you don't have time to cook, you can still fill your home with the delicious smell of late fall. Simply set a pan of cider on the stove to simmer, along with some spices and orange peel wrapped in cheesecloth. Mulled cider captures the essence of November, don't you think?

Once again, I've gotten carried away - thanks for joining me in this post! Before too long we'll be talking about Christmas, so let's savor these lovely days of November.


Blessings to you at this special time of the year!

A Carnival of Nature ~ Field Day Returns!

I am very happy to announce the coming of a brand new Field Day ~ The Late Field_day_late_autumn_1Autumn Edition. My next carnival of nature study is set to run on Friday, December 1st!

Late autumn is a short, somber, special time of year - a pause between the busy-ness of early fall and the bustle of the holiday season. A time of brisk winds, gray skies and withered vines - a time for lighting a candle within and watching the weather without.

Dear readers, would you consider sending me a nature post or picture for my Field Day? If you do not have a blog, you are still more than welcome to send me your thoughts and/or photos and I will be happy to add them to my post!

I would like to have submissions by Thursday, November 29th. Please e-mail me your entries ([email protected] - take out the NOSPAM first) with the following information:

  1. Your name
  2. Your blog name
  3. Your post URL (link to your post)
  4. A brief description of your post and/or pictures

(Non-bloggers, I only need #1 and #4 from you!)

Feel free to grab the Field Day button above for your blog and I would welcome your help in spreading the word! (Huge thanks to my sweet husband for making the button!) And if you're new to my blog, you can familiarize yourself with past Field Days here, here and here ...

Three weeks to go! I look forward to hearing from you!

*Ooh, and speaking of hearing from you, I am still hoping for posts for the Loveliness of Homemade Gifts! I'd like your entries by next Sunday the 12th. :)

Thank you and blessings to you this cold autumn day!