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December 2006

Eight Thumbs Up! (A Movie Review)

Bill, Bookworm, Crackerjack and I went to see Night at the Museum this afternoon Night_in_the_museum_1(Nana  stayed home with Earlybird). I am so happy to say it was a terrific movie! We all agreed it had a great cast of characters, a great storyline, lots of action and humor - an excellent family film all around.

I asked the boys to review the movie here at my blog; of course they were happy to comply. These reviews might contain a smidgen of a spoiler (though nothing you wouldn't learn from the trailer), so proceed with caution!

From Crackerjack:

"This movie was about a man who got a job at the museum and everything comes to life at night. A monkey steals the keys and even the skeleton of a dinosaur comes to life! I would describe this movie as exciting, scary - no, not scary - silly and ... did I say exciting?"

From Bookworm:

"Today we went to the Imax theater to see a movie called Night at the Musuem. Imax is a type of theater that features a large 3-D screen. (This movie was not shown in 3-D but was really great on the big screen!)

"In the movie a man called Larry Daley gets a job as a night gaurd at a natural history musuem - however, it turns out that the job is not as easy as it seems for everything comes to life at the musuem and it is very difficult to make sure nothing goes wrong! For example, the monkey named Dexter is prone to steal keys or rip up the instruction manual. Attila the Hun is terrible and known by all of the museum creatures as someone who might rip their limbs off. And the railworkers and the Roman Empire figures are often waging war on each other no matter how many times Larry tells them to get along.

"I liked the amount of humor in the movie. If I told you my favorite part it would probably give the movie away so I will just tell you that it is when Atilla is begging Daley to let him rip someone's limbs off - just a little!

"I'd say that this movie is very appropriate for all kinds of children and that it is a great family movie. I give this movie 5 stars."

What I liked about this movie, (Dawn speaking here) was that, on top of it's fine entertainment value, it really got us excited to visit a museum! There's a message in this movie, one revealed by museum guide Rebecca as she explains to her tour group (and Larry):

"This museum was originally dedicated to President Theodore Roosevelt ... He had a passion for history and believed that the more you knew about the past, the better prepared you were for the present."

A great point to remember. And in closing, here is one more Teddy Roosevelt quote I found online, this one not about history but about children and family life:

"For unflagging interest and enjoyment, a household of children, if things go reasonably well, certainly makes all other forms of success and achievement lose their importance by comparison."
~ Teddy Roosevelt, An Autobiography, 1913

Well said, Mr. President!

Saturdays are for Coffee and Books!

Or at least, once in a while they are - but especially when your pocket is positivey on fire with the incredibly generous Barnes & Noble gift card you received from your parents at Christmas! And today was the day - I could hold out no longer, especially since I received a "Take an additional 20% off any purchase" sticker in the mail. So, as I left this morning to run my usual Saturday morning errands, I casually informed my husband that I'd be gone a bit longer than he might otherwise expect - I had book money to spend. :)

So I thought you might like to know what I got! (I'm being a little silly about all this - and I think by now you all know to expect a little silliness from me now and again - but honestly, this was a huge treat for me, and I thank my mum and dad from the bottom of my heart for this generous and thoughtful gift.)

OK. First I must tell you, as I headed out on this very dark and wind-whipped Saturday, the skies looking like they might burst open with snow squalls any moment - I decided I must have some coffee to start the whole adventure off right. I usually try not to do this as we always have perfectly good and downright delicious coffee at home in the mornings as well as a wide variety of travel mugs to choose from ... but two things conspired to make take-out coffee a necessary treat for me today. A. we had no fresh coffee left in the house this morning (other than some woefully undrinkable "Vanilla Creme" blend stuck way back in the freezer that we drank out of pure need of caffeine) and B. I had a Dunkin Donuts gift card to spend (my Cookie Bake-Off winnings)!

Now, have you been to a Dunkin Donuts lately? Have you tried their newest winter beverage - White Hot Chocolate? Yes, I'm happy to report it is as delicious as it sounds. Creamy, buttery, vanilla coziness in a cup - its one failing is it contains not an ounce of caffeine. So naturally, I got a small coffee on the side for good measure.

By the time I got to Barnes & Noble's I was warm and toasty inside and out and ready for some serious browsing. I spent a good 45 minutes there - no kids, no rushing and not much of a crowd either. Here's what I came home with, in no particular order.


Little Women by Louisa May Alcott ~ Sure, I've read this once, twice or ten times before. But it's been a good long while, and I'm due. I may even read it aloud to Bookworm, who thoroughly enjoyed watching the movie over the Christmas holiday with me.


The Happy Side of Me: Mary Engelbreit's 2007 Page-a-Day Calendar~ I have one of these every year (and have had for years!). I love ME's artwork (not to mention her magazine) and I love being treated to a cheerful scene and happy thought each day. Plus, the torn-off pages are the perfect size for daily to-do lists. This was on sale, 50% btw! (All the calendars were, in fact.)


The Herb Companion ~ Nothing beats garden planning when the snow is a-flyin'. I love the herbal craft ideas and recipes in this magazine, though I only pick it up once in a great while. The January issue has an article on stocking your own herbal remedy kit that looks very intriguing. All the articles look good, really!


The Last Straw ~ I have had my eye on this book for some time. I saw it way back before Christmas, and I immediately recognized it as a Catholic Mosaic title. Well, I'm glad I waited because today it happened to have a large green sticker on it which meant it was $5 off the cover price! This will be perfect for next week's lessons leading up to Epiphany.


Season of the Sandstorms ~ Back when Bookworm was younger we collected all the Magic Tree House Books. He was an early reader and just devoured these fun, historical stories. Then at some point the publisher started making them only available in hardcover, and therefore much more expensive. We halted our collection and started taking them out of the library, only we never remember to check them out for some reason so we're several books out-of-the-loop. Well, today I saw this newer title in paperback! I think we'll be taking a good look at camels and deserts this week!


A Night in the Museum ~ Thanks to Cay, who gave this movie a good review, we are going to see it tomorrow! (Already bought the tickets and everything!) When I saw the junior novel, I could not pass it up. Bookworm read the whole thing already and loved it! (He keeps trying to share bits with me, but I don't like to ruin the surprise!) I think after the movie I will have him read it aloud to Crackerjack - it will be fun, I'm sure, to "see" the movie all over again at home.


Miss Potter: The Novel ~ And speaking of movie novels ... As you know from my post the other day, I'm a bit giddy about the new movie coming out next month about Beatrix Potter. The bookstore had a whole display of new and familiar Peter Rabbit books ... including a few about the movie! I held back from buying The Making of Miss Potter because it was filled with wonderful pictures and far too tempting to peruse before I see the movie. I'd like to be surprised as much as possible. I will save this novel for after we see it, another read-aloud perhaps.


The Ultimate Peter Rabbit: A Guide to the World of Beatrix Potter ~ OK, so I was on a Beatrix roll, lol! Seriously, though, this book is gorgeous. It's done by Dorling Kindersley, my all-time favorite publisher. (Nobody makes books as fine as they do.) It's a huge hardcover, filled with all kinds of delicious Beatrix Potter information, pictures, history, illustrations - the works! I used my 20% sticker on it and with my member discount on top of that, it was really quite a bargain for such a beautiful, informational book. You will probably not be surprised to see a rather lengthy Beatrix Potter unit study in the works over the next few months!

So there's a peek into my shopping bag today! Thanks for letting me share all my goodies with you, and thanks again, Mum and Dad, for making this all possible!

Saturday Snow

Well, I'm actually working on two other lengthy posts - one about new books and the other a mid-year home learning review - but those are taking longer to finish than I expected, so in the meantime, I hope you don't mind a few more bird pictures! It is snowing here today (yahoo!) and I could not restrain myself from photographing the flakes falling and the birds flocking ... I hope your Saturday is warm and cozy, wherever you are. :)


The woods never look lovelier than when it's snowing ...


Two male cardinals beneath the snow-laden branches ...


A white-breasted nuthatch at the suet cake (goldfinch behind) ...


Our Christmas flag bears my message to you this New Year ...

Poetry Friday: Robin Redbreast

The fireside for the Cricket,
The wheatstack for the Mouse,
When trembling night-winds whistle
And moan all round the house;
The frosty ways like iron,
The branches plumed with snow, --
Alas! in Winter, dead and dark,
Where can poor Robin go?
Robin, Robin Redbreast,
O Robin dear!
And a crumb of bread for Robin,
His little heart to cheer.

(Excerpted from Robin Redbreast by William Allingham)

Continuing with the winter birding theme, for this week's Poetry Friday, I chose a lovely poem by William Allingham. It think it will look nice in our nature notebook. The poem in its entirety references all of the seasons, but I chose this particular stanza for, though it feels much like spring in New England these days, winter really is here for a spell. The birds know it even if we don't!

At the end of this post I tucked in one more little poem about the robin, this one by Christina Rossetti (my favorite children's poet) from her Sing-Song collection. I noticed both poets speak of sharing a "crumb" with the robin, which is reminiscent of course of our winter birdfeeding.

If you can believe it, the image at the top is a scan of a gift box I bought at the grocery store! I love this image of the beloved British robin. (No, I've never set foot on British soil, but I just know in my bones I would love it there!) We'll begin reading The Secret Garden later this winter and so a closer look at the robin - both American and British - will be in store. I think it would be fun to look at how the robin has been featured throughout children's literature.

My friend Wendy, who lives but a mile from us, saw robins in her yard the other day, so we'll be keeping our eyes peeled. It's funny how we see robins now and again through the winter - they're not quite the spring harbinger they were once known to be.

For more winter birding ideas, please see my friend Jennifer's blog As Cozy as Spring. (I just have to try making that birding bag, Jenn!) And for the whole Poetry Friday Round-Up please stop by A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy later today.

Bread and milk for breakfast,
And woolen frocks to wear,
And a crumb for robin redbreast
On the cold days of the year
~ Christina Rossetti

Winter Birds

As you probably know from my Nature Notes, we are always on the lookout for birds - Birdsbox_2whatever the season - but winter is probably the most intensive time for bird "study" in   our home. Partly because there is not a lot else to do for nature study at this time of year (well, there is, but birdwatching is very convenient when it's cold and you have young children), and partly because our feathered friends seem so very plentiful in the winter garden. Their colors and motions stand out against the stark landscape and always catch our eye. Nothing is quite so cheerful as watching the vibrant cardinal perch himself nearby on a cold winter's day, especially when the wind is blowing and the flakes are flying.

From The Beginning Naturalist:

"If you'd like to begin learning about nature this winter, the first thing you might do is put up a bird feeder near a window. Invite winter birds close to your house in order to see them better. If you offer sunflower seeds, you will probably be visited very shortly by black-capped chickadees, blue jays, and evening grosbeaks ...

Watching winter birds is only one way to acquaint yourself with the natural world. But the nice thing about birds is that they will invite you to notice many other things - such as the trees they perch in and the plant and animal foods they eat. Finally, an interest in birds will help you begin to understand how everything interacts in the natural world."

Our current feeding stations include:

  • Four hanging tube feeders with black oil sunflower seed
  • One tube feeder with niger seed for the finches
  • A hanging tray feeder with the black oil (the red squirrel loves this)
  • Two suet cakes
  • One Birdola seed cake
  • One Our Lady of Grace feeder with black oil

Our birdwatching/feeding goals:

  • Replenish seed and suet cakes as needed (check daily).
  • Set up heated water dish (currently in storage).
  • Plan bird-friendly plantings for the spring.
  • Hang a birdhouse or two - this time well away from the feeders.
  • Better familiarize ourselves with birdsong.
  • Read through The Backyard Birdfeeders Bible with the boys.
  • Create a personalized field guide this year.

All-time favorite go-to guide for bird identification: Birds of New England

And so we begin a new year's worth of nature study. Next week we will crack open new nature notebooks and start our annual weather tree. We like to closely follow the nuances of the natural year, but I also plan to follow the lead in a few wonderful books like New England Nature Watch, The Kids' Nature Almanac, A Field Guide to Your Own Backyard and the aforementioned Beginning Naturalist.

I'd like to be more organized with our nature study this year. I am still toying with the idea of starting a separate nature journal blog. This way, all those Nature Notes won't just disappear! Ideally we would keep lots of hand-written notes and sketches in our notebooks, but sometimes it is so much easier to type and upload pictures! So, we'll see ...

For now, the days have been mild and tame around here, but the birds are sure acting otherwise. They have been flocking to the feeders in such great numbers you'd think a blizzard was on its way! Yesterday the boys and I noticed how great a variety of birds we have coming to our feeders and so I tried to catch a few of them on film. (Film being a rather outdated word, but you know what I mean.) All of these pictures were taken through windows so please excuse the lack of clarity.


Above you see the tiny Carolina wren. He was positively frozen on this branch for several minutes. I can only imagine there was a predator nearby.


This lovely lady is a female cardinal. We had several cardinals yesterday. I'm wondering if they might be a family because I thought cardinals were territorial. Maybe that's just in the spring when they're breeding.


A titmouse pausing to give me a second look before grabbing a seed and flying off.


Another view of the titmouse. We get lots of titmice and they are almost as gregarious as the chickadees.


Of course no bird study is complete without a picture or two of a squirrel. This is our Blackie, who is positively gorgeous and very robust looking.


I love this picture of the male cardinal - he's looking right at me as if to say, "Is this my best side?" :)


Another cardinal at our tray feeder, which as you can see is getting very low on seed. (ETA I refilled it this morning!)


The cardinal looks especially striking against drab shrubbery like this. Notice the sparrows around him?


Two goldfinches at the thistle seed feeder. They have their winter coats on.


Another cardinal here, but if you look closely you will see two mourning doves on the branch there.


A woodpecker at the suet cage - I cannot tell if this is a hairy or downy woodpecker (I think downy). No red at the back of the head means he is a she.


And here is the male! Again, not sure if this is a downy or hairy. I know downy woodpeckers are smaller, but I don't have anything to compare them to.


A pair of purple finches at the black oil seed this morning.


These last two pictures were taken outside as I filled the feeders this morning. Whenever I perform this morning chore, the birds naturally take off as I enter the gate. But very soon, as I move about rather quietly, a few of the bolder types move closer again. This is a slate-colored junco. Sorry the picture is a bit dark.


And of course we all know the famous little chickadee - he will come the closest of any!


Before I wrap up, here is my Christmas gift from my boys - a birdhouse that will suit a titmouse, tree swallow or warbler family. We have both titmice and warblers (so far no tree swallows that I know of) so it will be interesting to see who moves in. :)

Are you watching the birds this winter? We'd love to hear about your backyard birding adventures - stay tuned for more of ours!

A Few Pictures to Share ...

I did manage a picture of the mantel on Christmas eve, just after we hung the stockings - and just before we shooed the kids off to bed (they went willingly!). It was very exciting for us, as this was the first year we had a real mantel! Not shown is the stocking for the cats ... oh, yes, we include our beloved felines in much of the holiday celebration. Come Christmas morning their stocking always holds a few surprises like a new food dish, a pet brush and, much to their mortification, a suet cake or two for the birds.


Yesterday was a nice day of rest and recovery. I couldn't help but snap a picture of the cozy little corner from which I barely (rarely) moved. All I needed was my laptop, my favorite seasonal idea books, and the mug of coffee my husband brought me - isnt he a dear? This is decaf (I think he determined I'd had enough caffeine by 2 p.m.) with a splash of Bailey's (for medicinal purposes, you know) and a generous dollop of homemade whipped cream that he made himself (!) with my Christmas gift -a Braun Three-in-One Hand Blender. (Not to detract at all from this loving gesture, but I think he wanted to get his hands on the new kitchen toy, lol.) The coffee was as yummy and soothing as it looked:


It's probably not wise to have this many delicious leftover Christmas treats just hanging around the house. Not wise - but wonderful!


Clockwise from upper left - jam thumbprints, fudge brownies with white chocolate chips, eggnog cookies and chocolate chip cookies, tiny sprinkled sugar cookies, iced butter cookies, a mixed bag of all kinds of cookies, my mum's butter-and-whiskey cake (a tradition on Christmas and Bill's birthday request every year), penuche fudge, another mixed platter of cookies and a package of Stella Dora's that obviously did not need to be opened! (Of course these all arrived beautifully arranged on pretty platters and holiday dishes, but for storage purposes they've been transferred to assorted Tupperware containers and Ziploc bags.)

So Christmas was (is!) here and it left in its wake, quite an array of goodies, gifts and assorted holiday debris. This week we're inching closer "back to business" ... but we're still half-on, half-off our regular routine. After weeks of preparing it's hard to adjust back to schedule! We're just doing lots of reading and remembering this week for the most part. Next week it will be back to things like, oh, math and geography. :)

I also hope to work on my "New Year Planbook" this week (a section I'm lifting out of my homekeeping binder - I just need to have it more accessible and portable). This week I'll be setting up the files, the weekly planner and monthly calendar, looking through my seasonal idea books and sketching out some hopes and goals for 2007. I'll also look at where we are in our studies, and adjust and re-think a few areas - what's working, what's not, that sort of thing. I'll post about it all as soon as I can!

Oh, I do hope this is good ...

Miss Potter

There has been an appalling lack of period movies of late - my favorite genre - but this Benjamin_bunnyone, based on the life of Beatrix Potter, looks really cute! (The link takes you to the trailer.)

In my book, it has all the right elements - a British setting, Victorian flavor, a favorite author, tiny woodland creatures ...

(Now I know what I'm doing for my birthday!) ;)

And while we wait for opening day, here's a sweet website to explore with the children, and this book looks very interesting. It won't be published until January 9th, but my library system already has a copy on order!

From Publishers Weekly: "This lively volume also captures her energetic participation in Victorian-era natural history research and conservation."

Sounds like a lovely wintertime read ...

Christmas Memories, Christmas Recovery ...

Which about sums up my day today! I plan to do little else after a quick pick up of the kitchen (last night we put away perishables and just left the rest) and then a whole lot of sitting ... remembering and recovering ... and, oh yes, there will be coffee. :)

Remembering ... the fun, the faces, the food. Beautiful Mass on Sunday, our church filled to bursting with glorious poinsettias. Wishing our friends and pastor a blessed Christmas. One last look at the beautiful creche before returning home.

The quiet night that came after an early bedtime for the boys ... Norad played a part in that. "Look he's in the Azores! All right, that's it! Off to bed NOW!" So proclaimed Bookworm with one last glance at the computer screen, ushering his brothers down the hallway.

And then in what seemed the blink of an eye, our boys were awake at 4 a.m., unable to get back to sleep. They were finally allowed their stockings at 5. Pots of hot coffee followed, along with breakfast goodies like coffee cake, blueberry strudel, raspberry danish and fruit salad. We gathered with our beloved family here all throughout Christmas day, chatting on the phone with those that couldn't be here. I especially so enjoyed having my grandmother here, who made it for breakfast but was too wiped out later in the day to return for the afternoon party.

And at that afternoon party we served Christmas dinner ... honey ham, several casseroles, rolls, baked beans, broccoli with cheese sauce. Red wine, white whine, eggnog and cider. Cookies! Oh, the cookies! Plates upon platters of all kinds of cookies.

And would you believe I didn't take any pictures of all this?  I know, I know, what kind of a mother - nevermind blogger! - am I who doesn't take even ONE picture of her family Christmas to share with her friends. Sigh. Bill did take some video through the day, but I was far too busy doing to be the usual camera-happy person I am.

Later today, I will try to take pictures of the zillion leftover cookies because one of the benefits of hosting the party is that although you get all the cleanup, you also get all the leftovers! I think my diet today will be a steady one of cookies, coffee and maybe a vitamin or two. ;)

A final and important part of the remembering today will be trying to recall all the gifts that were given to our boys and by whom - something I quickly lost track of by late day. An outline for thank you notes will be written up before things get put away and while our memories are still fresh.

And in the recovering department there will be much lounging about, watching the birds at the feeders (the tiny red squirrel is there now), paging through the British magazines I received in my stocking, and definitely at least one viewing of The Sound of  Music. It's raining hard this morning, so a day spent at home, mostly in our pajamas, is just the ticket.

I hope you had a lovely and memorable Christmas and today finds you, resting, remembering and filled with peace!

Comfort and Joy to You!


"There is nothing like staying home for real comfort." Jane Austen

Bill is officially on Christmas vacation starting today! Over the next few days, most of our time will be spent at home, preparing to welcome many friends and family on Christmas Day. A few quick trips out into the hustle and bustle will be necessary - the grocer's for the Christmas menu, the nursery for a Christmas plant or two ... and Bill has his own shopping to do, though he keeps his itinerary carefully under wraps. ;) At home, our Christmas lights will be on all day, carols will be playing (as well as the occasional Christmas movie) and we'll be wrapping, baking and generally making merry. 

Before I go, and I do think this will be my last post until after Christmas, I would like to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Most Blessed New Year!

I hope your holiday is filled with peace, comfort and joy ...


"Together let's rejoice in the miracle of this happy season!"

Bonne Hiver!


It is officially winter now as of 7:22 p.m.! As you might have noticed we get pretty excited around here about the changing seasons. (Bookworm started the kitchen timer 'round lunchtime - and it just rang, reminding us to wish each other a Bonne Hiver - or Happy Winter!)

In years past, I've been known to bake a "Happy Winter Fudge Cake" on this day, but I couldn't put my hands on that recipe and - well, who am I kidding - I didn't have the time anyway, lol! (Still cranking out those cards and let's not discuss the wrapping, shall we?)

But please let me wish you a Happy Winter before the moment gets away from us. Over the next several days we will all be making merry, taking delight in the peace and the joy of the Christmas miracle ... all as it should be. Tonight, I will share with you a pretty poem and remember that we have much wintertime ahead of us to explore ...

Good night and God bless. :)

A-swinging, a-ringing,

The bells at Christmas say:

A merry Christmas to you all

And happiness for great and small,

With joy we sing and plenty bring,

This happy Christmas Day.

Ring, ring, ring the bells.

Ring them loud and clear,

To tell the children everywhere

That Christmastime is here.

(from Winter: A Collection of Poems, Songs and Stories for Young Children, Wynstones Press)

To Do Today ...

  1. Pray for a dear friend's babies. Please join us.
  2. Finish the Christmas cards. Really and truly I mean it, today we will finish them and tomorrow we will mail them! (But if you are expecting a card from us, it just may arrive after Christmas Day!)
  3. Begin wrapping. Yes, begin.
  4. Celebrate the official start of winter at 7:22 this evening. Bird tree decorations and cocoa all around!
  5. Pick up the Katherine Valentine book I have on hold at the library. (It's in! And just before the Christmas holiday!)
  6. Clean, clean, clean. Begin with the dining room!
  7. Organize our outfits for Christmas.
  8. Bake more lemon snowballs to eat and give as gifts.
  9. Clean up the craft bins which are all over the house. (Organizing to come later.)
  10. Eat leftovers for lunch (and dinner) to make room in the fridge.
  11. Make out my grocery shopping list for the weekend.
  12. Read The Clown of God; use Catholic Mosaic's discussion questions as a guide.
  13. Catch up on my e-mails (I am waaaay behind!)
  14. Begin my New Year's Notebook (more on that later).
  15. Consume a good amount of caffeine - coffee, tea and/or chocolate.
  16. Breathe deeply, try not to stress and remember to smile.

"If you give happiness to people, you give glory to God as well."

(from The Clown of God)

I hope your day is a happy one!

It was Cay!

Cay, my dear friend, you were my 2000th comment last night! Hooray and Thank You!

Earlier this week I saw that I was nearing this blogging "benchmark" and I couldn't help wondering - who would be the one?

And this morning, I am just tickled it was Cay - especially since I was praying for her beautiful family last night after receiving their Christmas card in the mail just yesterday!

Thank You Cay, for your kind comment and Thank You to everyone who leaves me comments here. I appreciate each and every one of them. I love hearing from friends, family, bloggers, non-bloggers - and I especially love it when someone who has been reading for a while takes a moment to say hi, and introduce themselves, and comment on what it is that draws them to my blog. It makes this whole blogging experience all the more fun and friendly!

So if you're stopping by today, whether or not you have the time or inclination to leave a comment, please know how much I appreciate your visit. :)

And please stop by Cay's blog today, too - someone special is celebrating a birthday. :) Cay's Cajun Cottage served as a model for me when I was brainstorming my own blog, and remains one of my first and favorite places to visit everyday.

A Tour of Our Christmas Tree!

I thought you might like to see what our Christmas tree looks like! We put it up on the first Sunday of Advent and basically, since then, we've just let the boys have at it, lol. Almost all of our ornaments are child-friendly (i.e. non-fragile) though there are one or two that I just put on myself today - a bit closer to the top than the others.

Our tree stands in our living room window, though we bought it with our family room in mind. It's just a shade too big for this room, but that's OK. It looks nice from the outside, and I like that I can see it while I work in the kitchen. :)


(Ooh, side note - I feel compelled to point out that the wallspace above the window has recently been stripped of its wallpaper - making way for a painting - and that explains the rather dingy appearance!)

Now, back to the tree. :)

There's not really a theme, but a general trend towards red-gold-birds-and-berries. We use lots of ribbons and apples of varying sizes, as well. We used to have an angel for the top (she lit up and was very pretty) but she broke some time ago, so now we have a red metal star (just visible at the top of the picture).

We gave up on the tree skirt a few years ago. Someone - who shall remain nameless - never left it alone, pulling it out from under the tree and any presents along with it whenever he had a chance. Not surprisingly, the skirt became ripped and frayed. I keep telling myself someday I will make a new tree skirt ... and until then I refuse to buy a new one. ;)

Recently my mum brought over some ornaments from my childhood and we had fun adding them to the tree today. Following are some close-ups of a few several many of our favorite ornaments. I hope you enjoy the tour!


I think I realize now where my love for birds came from - it must have been the many tiny feathered creatures that appeared on my childhood tree every year. I forgot all about these guys! Here is the little cardinal family all nestled together in the crook of a bough.


These two glistening aqua-hued ornaments were gifts from Crackerjack's CCD teacher.


Oh, how I love this tiny fabric mouse! He's straight out of the 1970s - as you can probably tell from his colorful plaid attire.


This nutcracker is missing a leg, the poor chap. My grandmother collected nutcrackers for a time, and this ornament makes me think of her.


The above ornament was made by Bookworm - but when and where is up for debate. I say our original weekly playgroup several years ago - he says at a friend's Christmas party last year.  Or was it both, lol?! (Wendy, do you remember these?)   


Two more tiny birds, above and below ...


Below is a tiny cardboard birdhouse ornament, one of several I purchased at the art supply store last month. The plan was we would paint and decorate them for the tree, but that grand  plan will have to wait till next year!


Isn't this little angel a gem? She has a tiny bell inside, and is called a "tranquility" angel. I happened upon her at a card store the other day and I could not get over her sweet countenance.


Now, this teddy bear also happens to be an angel!  He just arrived today - a beautiful gift from dear Kristina of yesterthoughts, as part of our 4Real Ornament Exchange! Thank you, Kristina - we love him already!


And just this very moment, Bookworm walked in from his CCD Christmas party with this lovely ornament - a gift from his teachers. Isn't it beautiful?


Thank you for coming along on the Christmas tree tour! Every year we add a few more things, (and every year Earlybird pulls off a few less things) ... Our tree is far from fancy, and it's a real hodgepodge of "homey-ness" - but we love it!

A Merry, Merry Christmas to you all!

Little Gifts, Big Fun

Crackerjack and I would like to show you the little gifts we made for his CCD teachers yesterday. Here are the materials to make the God's Eyes (a project I posted about a while back) and the decorative gift boxes. (Note the helpful little hand - that would be Earlybirds' - reaching for the glue stick.)


We used multicolored yarn to make the God's Eyes, and then set about decorating the gift boxes. These plain little boxes are available at the craft store in various sizes and colors.

In fact, while we're on the subject of the craft boxes, there is also a long thin rectangular box available that would make a perfect size for a rosary or chaplet. I love the ones at Gardens of Grace and Beads of Mercy, especially. Just by the way. Honey, are you reading this? :)


What we did was cut out a small construction paper star (red being Crackerjack's signature color) and glue-stick it onto the top of the lid. (This one is a demo; on the "real" ones, CJ wrote his name and message before we glued the star down.) Next we used a small paintbrush to apply Tacky Glue all around the edges, working one side at a time.

(A brief aside - can anyone recommend a good craft glue that dries clear?)


Then came the necessarily copious amounts of glitter all around the star. I don't have a picture of the next step which was to glue a thin golden ribbon around the edge of the lid.


And here you see the God's Eye nestled inside the box, a bit of green tissue as a cushion - and the lid ready to pop on once dry. (That would be my cat's ear on the right in case you were wondering. Yes, there are always lots of helping hands and paws when crafting commences around here.)


We just had to post this picture - the boys thought it was very neat that the glittered boxes caught the light in this way on the side of the craft bin. Earlybird thought it was a "gaksee" (or a galaxy)!


Here are the four finished boxes - notice we tucked a couple of delicious candies underneath!


You knew I was going to finagle a basket in here somehow. :) It was easy to carry the very glittery boxes in this basket and hand them out when we reached class.

And speaking of class - what a fun time! We had a Christmas party with a Bible story video, delicious goodies and crafts. Today's project was decorating foam crosses with stickers and glitter glue. Below you see the two CJ made. The teacher was very kind to send home two extra kits for my other boys to work on today.


One CCD party down, one to go! Bookworm's class meets tonight! :)

Waiting with Mary


Crackerjack picked out this "six day" candle the other day at the grocery store. Today there are six days left until Christmas so we lit it for the first time this afternoon. We decided to place our statue of Mary on our Christmas mantel so we might keep her company and remember all she went through in these days leading up to the blessed birth.

Of course we know the answer to this question, (it's in today's Gospel in fact), but listen to this lovely song if you have a minute ...

Mary, Did You Know?