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July 2007

June 2007

Don't Forget the Full Moon!

Remember ~ tonight's the Full Strawberry Moon, and it will be enhanced by a tricky illusion.

Plus, this just in from

Venus and Saturn Collide - Almost

"Saturn and Venus are converging in the sunset sky for a beautiful close encounter this weekend.  At closest approach on Saturday, June 30th, the two planets will be a mere 2/3rds of a degree apart.  It's a pretty sight for the unaided eye, and a great target for backyard telescopes. Even small 'scopes will reveal the rings of Saturn and the crescent shape of Venus.  Check for sky maps and more information."

Furthermore, the Boston Globe adds that tonight, "Venus blazes in the west at dusk with Saturn, much fainter, a tiny bit above it. Although they look right next to each other, Saturn is 19 times farther away."

So, did I remember to buy strawberries for tonight's dessert? Sadly, no. But I am sipping this as I type. ;)

P.S. Happy July (at midnight)!

A Must Read

If you home educate a child with special needs, or if you know someone who does - and if you know me, then you do - please do not miss Mary Ellen's wonderful post today, Autism and Home Education Part I. It is filled with thoughtful advice, most welcome encouragement and lots of love.

Wise words from my friend:

"The first thing you should do, and this is vital, is pray. I say this knowing a lot of people will immediately skip down looking for the “real” information. The nuts and bolts type of stuff. Please let me tell you that if you are going to school a child who has learning challenges then your first activity of the day needs to be getting on your knees and asking for help."

Oh, this is so very true. I know that the days I begin in prayer - asking for guidance, patience and strength - are absolutely without a doubt our smoothest days. I am so looking forward to reading more from Mary Ellen on this subject, one so near and dear to our hearts.

Friday Photos: Happy Little Things

I have a bunch of unrelated pictures to share today, so I'm lumping them all together in a big Friday Photos post. :)

First up, a little thing that made me very happy this morning:


My "new" coffee mug awaiting me as we walked out the door.

Isn't it a cheerful sight? This was at one time a picture mug but somehow the photo insert got waterlogged along the way. Instead of leaving the mug unadorned, in basic plain metal, I decided to use my new favorite scrapbooking paper as an insert (the same paper covers my current journal, too). And voila - a "new" summer coffee mug to tote wherever I go!


My little Penny, our calico cat. She doesn't look 16 years old, does she?


Here's what's awaiting me this evening (i.e. five minutes after Bill walks in the door). ;) Thanks to a suggestion by Colleen at 4Real, I tied a sprig of our lovely lavender underneath the tub faucet. This should be even better than a Calgon moment* ...

*"Even today, an escape from a difficult day or situation is often referred to as a Calgon moment." (Wikipedia)

OK, outside we go ...


Can you see the tiny garden spider in his web suspended just above the hydrangeas? He's almost the same color as the blossoms ...


Here he is! I've never seen one like him (her?).* Very cool coloring!

Update: Click on this link and see if you think the spider I found at is a match! An orchard orbweaver, perhaps?

Continuing on the green theme ...


Can you spot the cabbage butterfly hiding within?


A-ha! Not a moment's peace for the poor thing. I chased it all over the front yard trying to get just one clear shot.

And now for one of the reasons why we gladly raise a sweet clover crop out back:


Hey, what's that brown furry thing sticking up out of the clover patch?


It's our resident roly-poly woodchuck! Isn't he adorable?

Well, thanks once again, for stopping by and checking in. We have an incredibly busy weekend ahead (although who doesn't, right?) so this might be all you hear from me till Monday (notice I said might because with me you never know). ;)

I hope your weekend is a good one, filled with lots of happy little things. See you soon!

The Real Learning Conference!


Have you heard the news?!

This August 11th, the first ever Real Learning Conference will take place in Manassas, Virginia! Read all about the plans here at the Conference website, and here at the 4Real Forums, and don't forget to download a printable flyer here. :)

I am so proud and excited to be part of this conference - my first ever! I am honored to be speaking with Jenn Miller on Living the Liturgical Year (and I got butterflies just typing that sentence, lol). Other speakers include Real Learning author Elizabeth Foss, Theresa Gonzalez, Mary Ellen Barrett, Meredith Henning, Michele Quigley, Janette Smith and Bridget Galbraith. What beautiful company! I can hardly wait to meet these lovely women whom I have known for years and yet have never met!

I'm still working out just what I will say during my talk (more butterflies!) but I will mostly be focusing on the things I've shared here at my blog - the crafts, learning activities and simple ways we celebrate the seasons of our Catholic faith. I'll be bringing some of my organizing materials with me, too. :)

Here's a peek at the day's schedule:


8:30        Holy Sacrifice of the Mass
Celebrant: Fr. Thomas Vander Woude
9:15        Coffee and Donuts
10:00     Welcome
The Real Learning Philosophy
11:00      Living the Liturgical Year
12:00      Nature Study
1:00        Lunch and Vendor Shopping
2:30        Break Out

3:30       A Loving Lifestyle: Husbands and Real Learning
4:30       Question & Answer Forum
5:00       Closing

$20.00 (Before July 11th)
$25.00 (after July 11th)

Lunch is included with registration

Now how wonderful does all that sound?! I hope you'll consider joining us - and if you do go, I look forward to saying hello!

Giant Moon Looming ...

Just in time for the full Strawberry Moon, there will be a "Summer Moon Illusion" to witness this Saturday night - a sleight of the universal hand as it were. Find out more about this cool phenomenon here and check your local papers for Saturday's moonrise time. It should be brilliant!

We're bracing for a day's worth of severe thunderstorms up here (I can hear distant rumbles already) so I'm signing off until it all blows over. Keep cool, keep safe, and have a great day!

Today's Project: Refreshing the Files


There comes a day in late June, sometimes early July, when a certain letter in the mail interrupts my summer reverie, and I suddenly realize it's time to get my story straight - it's time once again to "report in."

That's right, the annual school department letter arrived today, reminding me they need the end-of-the-year report I promised them way back last June (which I did), and, should we plan to contine home-educating our children for the coming year (which we do), we must send in our "stuff" ASAP - or by the latest, July 15th.

Well, you and I both know how quickly July 15th will arrive. It behooves me to get started right away.

  • Step one: Write the end-of-the-year reports.
  • Step two: Write the educational plans for the new year.

So I got down to work this morning, beginning, as always with my file crate, the hub of my home office (and described, by the way, in a ridiculous amount of detail, here).

First, I pull out last year's weekly folders (pictured at top), make sure they're all accounted for and in order, and set them aside. I will use the contents of these folders to help me remember what we did, books we read, places we went, etc. Once I've gone through them all I will file them away, probably in a cardboard storage box. Ideally I would purge the unnecessary stuff and file the rest in a large binder marked 06-07, but I probably won't take the time to do so.

After a year's time, the 52 folders are all too abused to be re-used, so I start again with all new folders. (This pains my environmentalist husband, but satisfies the office supply geek in me to no end. Ah, fresh manilla ...) This year I decided to change up the color scheme a bit. Last year I used all pale florals, but this year I'm going with soft Americana colors - red, gold and green. I think it suits my "boys' school" just right. ;)

Now some folks might say that messing around with a bunch of scrapbooking paper and matching folders is just a fancy way of procrastinating the real work to be done ... and I would say to those folks: True - but I really find that setting an inviting stage and refreshing the materials (I even dust out the crate) is a great first step when moving from from one year to the next.

Here are some photos from the project:


Here we have the crate awaiting new folders, the old folders stacked to the right in back and supplies for the planning binders in front.

Oh yes, the planning binders:


A new idea this year. I decided to break the year into three sections - gold for July to October (Ordinary Time/summer/fall), maroon for November to February (Advent/Christmas/winter), and green for March to June (Lent/Easter/spring). I'll post more about the planning binders soon (still a work in progress), but for now I will say each one will have an overview of the season and a planning page for each week of that time. 

The new files were dated and filed in the crate (that's my homekeeping binder sticking up in the back, and I chose a plain magazine holder to hold the three binders.


For the time being I parked the crate on a small tv-tray by the bookcase in the learning room. I used to keep it on the longer dining table, but I am no longer using that as a desk, but rather a true dining table.


The contents include, from left to right: my homekeeping binder, 52 weeks worth of manilla folders stored in bi-monthly hanging folders, a set of three planning binders and at the far right, my month-at-a-glance calendar.


It's not the most convenient spot for it, but it works for now.

Once I've looked through all the folders and have made my notes, I'll work them up into a narrative - one for each son over six (that would make two so far). To further flesh out my reports, I also look through my month-at-a-glance calendar going back to last fall and I peruse the bookcases as well.

With the reports written, I'll shift my focus from past to future, and I'll launch into a plan for next year. And I'd very much like to talk more about that, but it looks like my computer time is up for now. I hope you enjoyed this peek into my "file crate day" - it feels good to have gotten this done! And now I'm off to start supper. :)

How much do I love Jennifer's ...

AMAZING Craft Kits post? Not to mention her preceding craft planning post? Well, let me put it this way - a LOT! I love them as much for all Jenn's incredible ideas as for how much she inspires ME to get rolling on our own fall plans!

You know, it's going to be something like 95 degrees today (as it was yesterday and will be tomorrow); according to my internal clock these are perfect days to start thinking about and planning ahead for the fall and holiday season.

Thank you, Jennifer, for sharing your creativity with us all - I, for one (of many), am right behind you on this!

The Bee's Knees!

We wanted to share this neat picture we took today - a tiny bee crawling all over the yarrow, with what at first glance appeared to be day-glo orange appendages, but upon closer inspection turned out to be his pollen baskets, or the bee's knees, if you will. :)


And a wee bit closer ...


What a busy bee!

And these guys below had also been busy building a nest beneath our picnic table, but we put a stop to all that ...


They are amazing, aren't they?

Hope your night is a good one!

Good, Clean, Fun

You might have noticed that we really enjoy going to the movies (case in point here, here, here and here). There's just something special about catching an afternoon matinee, especially in the summer - the popcorn, the previews, the big screen - the AC! Good clean (cool) fun.

The tricky thing is, though, finding movies that are good (funny, exciting, worth the $$) but still appropriate for family viewing. G movies are almost a thing of the past, and many PG movies sneak in a lot of stuff that is, I feel anyway, rather bothersome - adult innuendo, poor or even foul language, and even over-the-top violence. It can make for slim pickings sometimes.

So it was with great interest that I read a review of the new movie Evan Almighty, posted recently by the lovely Margaret in Minnesota. I've seen the preview once or twice and we even watched the HBO First Look recently (you can view it on YouTube, just do a google search). It looks cute, and I really like Steve Carrell, so I was glad to read that Margaret's gang enjoyed it, because I am sure we will too. Leah Rozen of People Magazine did not particularly care for it, but I hardly ever agree with her anyway. With Margaret, however - well, I like to flatter myself that we are on the same wavelength - so her opinion counts. :)

According to Margaret:

"Evan Almighty is both biblical and family-centered, which is why it annoys the secular media. There is nothing offensive at all in the film - no swearing, no sex, no disrespect - although there is a splatter or two of bird poo."

Family-centered? Nothing offensive? Bird poo? Yup, right up our alley! :)

And speaking of good clean fun, here are some cute jokes from my parish bulletin this week:

Q. Who was the greatest financier in the Bible? A. Noah. He was floating his stock while everyone else was in liquidation.

Q. Why didn't they play cards on the Ark? A. Because Noah was standing on the deck.

Q. Who was te 2nd greatest financier in the Bible? A. Moses' mother. She went down to the bank of the Nile and drew out a little prophet.

Q. What excuse did Adam give to his children as to why he no longer lived in Eden? A. Your mother ate us out of house and home.

Q. Which servant of God was the most flagrant lawbreaker? A. Moses. He broke all 10 commandments at once.

And now I'm afraid I really must tear myself away from the computer and attend to the laundry situation which is currently reaching alarming levels. Have a great day, and if you live in the northeast (or anywhere else experiencing a heat wave this week) keep cool!

Sour Cream Chicken

I had a few requests for the chicken dish I mentioned a few days back, so here it is!

This recipe has been a family favorite as long as I can remember - a Sunday dinner standby and frequent birthday request. So easy to make - and to tweak if you'd like - and really, really good.

I have no exact measurements to recommend, just general instructions.:

Set your oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9x13 baking dish with cooking spray OR melt a little butter in your dish (place the dish in the heating oven just until the butter is melted). I recommend the latter variation if you are preparing this for a special occasion or whenever calories are not a concern. ;)

Begin with sour cream and cracker crumbs. Place the sour cream in a dish - shallow, but deep enough in which to dredge your chicken. Start with perhaps half a container; you can always add more if need be, but you obviously can't put any back. I've never used plain yogurt here but I am sure it would work out well.

For the cracker crumbs, we use Late July organic cheddar crackers or Cheez-its. You could use any crackers you like, but the cheese flavor really makes the dish, I think (of course the butter and sour cream don't hurt either). Place the crackers in a large ziplock bag and crush to a fine crumb with a rolling pin. Pour crumbs into a second shallow dish.

Take a package of boneless, skinless chicken breasts (we like to use the tenders), and dredge each piece of chicken in the sour cream first and then in the cracker crumbs. Turn each time to coat thoroughly. Place the chicken in the baking dish, not overlapping, but side by side.

Now, Bill likes it when I cut up peppers and add them around the chicken to bake alongside. I do too - they add a nice flavor, color and texture.

Put your dish in the oven for approximately 30 minutes. Remove from oven and check the inside of the thickest piece for doneness (no pink, clear juices).

I like to serve this with rice or roasted red potatoes.


Look Out Birds, Here I Come!

Bill surprised me with a new camera this weekend (to replace the one that broke a few weeks ago), and I am once again able to take pictures of my beloved songbirds - through the looking glass as usual! Here's the sight that caught my eye just now (very early Monday morning) ... a new visitor to the Our Lady of Grace feeder:


This is a rose-breasted grosbeak, one of the largest members of the finch family. He is new to our feeders this spring, but since he arrived a few weeks ago, his colorful presence has been frequent and much appreciated. His song is beautiful, as well. He arrived seemingly ready to socialize; he doesn't fly off so quickly if we appear at the windows, but rather, cocks his little head and fixes us with a steady gaze. According to one bird book I consulted, grosbeaks are "unusually confiding, as birders say, showing little fear of humans."

I've only ever seen one grosbeak, the male, but I assume there's probably a pair. The female is drab in appearance, and looks quite like a sparrow so it is possible I have missed her. I will now keep my eyes peeled for her since I assume she is somewhere nearby. A fellow so handsome as this can't possibly remain a bachelor for long!


Here he is from the other side, to give you an idea of his shape and size. He's not as big as a robin, but close. Bigger than a sparrow or titmouse, but just. His markings are so striking!

Now, about my new camera. ;)

Thank you to everyone who left me suggestions for camera shopping; I have printed out your comments to save for the future. We decided, for now, to return to my original camera style for two reasons - A. I'm not much one for change, lol and B. it was on sale at a local office supply store this weekend. Bill actually picked out a slightly different version of my first, a Sony Cyber-shot - this new one is called a "Super Steady Shot" which sounds good to me - I can use all the help I can get with steadying my pictures!

Here's the last picture I took with my mum's camera:


My old camera is on the left with the zoom lens frozen out in place. My new camera is on the right. You can see how much smaller it is. 

It is also much lighter and I think will be easier to tote around (and slip in my pocket). I like it very much and can hardly wait to get back to my nature photos!

Speaking of nature photos, I just got in from a quick tour of the yard ...


Our raspberries are starting to ripen! In fact, the boys each enjoyed one ripe red berry this morning upon waking. Above you see one of the golden berries.


A pretty mystery flower blooming just behind our fence and wildflower patch. I'll be checking the field guides today ...

Update! I think I found a match here - and would you believe, the name of this lovely and unusual wildflower is none other than Sweet William? A member of the dianthus family (or "cottage pinks" if you prefer), they must have that trademark spicy clove scent - I'll have to check and see. :)


Another mysterious flower, this one buttery yellow and just opening for the day. I'll pop back out in an hour or two to see how it looks unfolded.


I know it is almost July when the orange daylilies start blooming along the roadsides. Ours are always late, and I think that's because they grow in the shade garden.


But our neighbor's are ready to pop! They are better situated in a warm sunny spot.

Well, I'm off to start the day ... looks to be hot with temperatures nearing 90 (in the 90's for certain midweek). Summertime is here at last!

Thank you, honey, for the new camera, and thank you mum and dad for letting me hijack yours for the past few weeks. And thanks again to everyone for stopping by today! Hope your day is a good one.

More Birthday for Bookworm!

And this is not even the end of it, lol - he still has his "friends" party coming up after the holiday - a trip to the movies followed by a party back at home. Oh, it's so good to be a kid! :)

These pictures here are from our family gathering last night. My folks and my brother came over for a cookout supper and cake and ice cream (or, in this case, ice cream cake). Damee, my grandmother, wasn't feeling well enough to make it to the party, and Bill's folks are away for the summer (in Alaska, no less!) so I wanted to post a lot of pictures of the boys, especially for them. I also wanted to share the ice cream cake recipe with you all (it was so easy and yummy!) so I tacked that on the end.


Not surprisingly, Bookworm got lots of help opening his presents. Here we have Earlybird, who was absolutely convinced this new notepad was for him. Bookworm was a good sport and let his little brother hold onto it while while he dug into the rest of the present pile. He was very excited to receive many new books from my folks - most of all I think for The Two Towers (the second installment in the Lord of the Rings trilogy).


Crackerjack helped too - of course, he's a bit more hands-off. ;)


Bookworm received a package all the way from Alaska filled with birthday goodies from his grandparents. We all thought the rubbing of a petroglyph was cool, but I think he liked the Pokedex the best.


Crackerjack and Uncle Matt. In case you can't tell, we're Sox fans around here.


Bookworm had help blowing out his candles (Earlybird made a fast getaway - he doesn't care much for the happy birthday song, lol.)


And here's a close-up of the ice cream cake. It doesn't look very fancy, but it was really quite delicious and refreshing. Bookworm found the recipe some time ago and kept it in mind for just this occasion. The original recipe called for peppermint ice cream and crushed peppermint candies on top, but we substituted mint chocolate chip ice cream and chocolate chips for the top. Not a bad trade, eh?

And before I go, here's the recipe, as found in Williams-Sonoma Kids Baking:

Chocolate Cake

  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup warm water
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Ice Cream Layer

  • 1/2 gallon of your favorite: peppermint, vanilla, mint chocolate chip or chocolate)

Whipped Cream

  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream, well chilled
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract


Crushed hard peppermint candies or chocolate chips

Before you start:

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease a 9x13 baking dish with butter. (I used canola spray)

Make the cake:

Put the flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt into the sifter and sift into a large bowl. Stir in the sugar with a whisk. In a medium bowl, using the whisk, beat the water, egg, oil and vanilla until blended. Pour the egg mixture and stir together with the whisk just until blended. Pour the batter into the prepared dish. Use a rubber spatula to scrape all the batter out of the bowl into the dish. Put the dish in the oven and bake for about 20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Using oven mitts, remove the dish from the oven and set it on the cooling rack to cool completely.

Spread on the ice cream layer:

When the cake is cool, remove the ice cream from the freezer and set it on the counter to soften for 10 to 15 minutes. Drop large globs of the ice cream over the top of the cake with the rubber spatula and spread them out to make a thick, even layer. Cover with plastic wrap and freeze for about 4 hours, until the ice cream is hard.

Make the whipped cream:

In a medium bowl, use an electric mixer on low speed to beat the cream, sugar and vanilla. When the cream begins to thicken and no longer splatters, increase the speed to medium high. Continue to beat until medium-firm peaks form, about 3 minutes.

Decorate the cake:

Spread the whipped cream evenly over the frozen cake with a rubber spatula, then sprinkle with crushed candies (or chocolate chips).

Cut into 12 squares. Remove immediately from the pan with the metal spatula. Serve immediately or store in the freezer.

Very easy and yummy - a cool summer dessert! You could really play around with the flavors and toppings. A fun combination for the Fourth of July would be vanilla ice cream inside with blueberries and strawberries on top. :)

Friends, Food and a Great Movie!

What an awesome way to celebrate Bookworm's 12th birthday!!

Last night we hosted our homeschool group's Activity Night! Bookworm was very excited to host the group on his birthday night - he could think of no better way to celebrate than to hang out with his friends. :)

Activity Night is a monthly gathering of tweens (ages 10-14) at one family's home. The host family orders a pizza supper and everyone brings favorite snacks to share. (This being a bunch of tweens, the snacks range from Doritos, to Pringles to Oreos, lol.) After the kids eat, they sit down to watch a movie together, though sometimes the chosen activity is a game night or trading cards. Each family gets to choose their activity, and we decided to show the movie National Treasure, which is one of Bookworm's favorites. Have you seen it? It's a great family-friendly historical-action-suspense movie. Many, many thumbs up. :)

We spent the afternoon preparing the environment. Here are a few before pictures:


The concession stand.


The viewing room.


The mums' corner - just one room over, but still close enough. ;)


A fresh batch of chocolate cupcakes to celebrate BW's birthday.

Just about six o'clock, the gang started arriving. Bill and Earlybird left to have dinner out and spend the evening at Nana and Papa's house, but Crackerjack got to stay with the "big kids." He was so excited to be included!


Sorry this photo is blurry, but I had to show you our packed house! We had 14 kids in all, and several mums stayed to chat and visit. Above you see the group enjoying their supper as the movie started. Activity Night generally runs between 6 and 9 p.m. and as National Treasure is a long movie, I started it while they were eating. After the pizza, sodas and snacks followed, as well as plenty of cookies and cupcakes. We mums enjoyed tea, coffee and lots of conversation.


After the movie the kids gathered around my laptop to watch the trailer for the National Treasure sequel, Book of Secrets, opening this December. We're already planning a field trip, with perhaps a Book Group tie-in that month.


And here we have the aftermath! Contrary to what this picture might suggest, we have TONS of food leftover!

It was such a great time, and I was once again reminded of how blessed we are to be part of such an awesome group of people. And now I'm off to make an ice cream cake for Bookworm's family party later today (pictures to come later!). Have a wonderful weekend, everyone!

Happy Birthday, Bookworm!


On this first full day of summer, our Bookworm turns twelve years old ~ a pre-teen he is quick to remind us! ;) How full he makes our life! He is a wonderful son and a loving big brother. He is always thinking, imagining and figuring things out - a JOY to teach and learn from! More than anything, Bookworm is patient and kind, and he has a gentle yet vibrant spirit. He is growing into an amazing young man ... and as you can tell, we are very proud of him! :)

Happy Birthday, our dear boy! We love you so very much!

Poetry Friday: If by Rudyard Kipling


I remember this poem mostly from graduation cards years ago. But I came across it again recently and now, so many years later, with sons of my own - one who celebrates a milestone this very day - the words rang wise and true in my ears. I also find myself wondering, why is it time must move so quickly just when you really want it to slow down?

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you
But make allowance for their doubting too,
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream--and not make dreams your master,
If you can think--and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it all on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on!"

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings--nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much,
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And--which is more--you'll be a Man, my son!

The Poetry Friday Roundup is at ... well, I'm not sure yet, lol. I'll get back to you! :) Have a great day, everyone!

Happy Summer!


If you notice, my Countdown Widget reads 0-0-0-0! It's time to update that to a Countdown-to-Autumn (my favorite season of all). But before I get ahead of myself, a bit about summer, which technically, begins at 2:06 this afternoon.

First off, how's the weather where you are today? (I'd love to know - leave a comment if you can!) Does it feel like summer yet? It is absolutey gorgeous here in my corner of New England today. Nice and warm - 78 degrees on the dot. And breezy - so breezy! We have every single window open and it's the most refreshing thing. I told the boys that we're changing the air today ~ we're letting out the spring and welcoming in the summer. It's like a wind tunnel in here, lol, but it's nice to air out the whole house in one fell swoop. I'm cleaning the windows too, to catch all that extra daylight. ;)

Secondly, did you see the space-station/shuttle flyover last night? So very, very cool. The viewing was even better last night than the night before. We also spotted a planet or two, some bats and fireflies, as well. Summer nights are the best.

Oh, also, this is short notice, but today at 1:55 p.m. the shuttle Atlantis is scheduled to return to earth.* I would guess most of the major news channels will show it live. We have the NASA channel here so that's where we'll tune in (I believe you can see it online; check their site). In fact we've set both our kitchen timers - one for the shuttle and one for the solstice. An exciting day all around. :)

So what will you do with all this extra sunlight today? Technically, today is the day the sun gives up it's reign and starts making more room for the night. Yes, from here on out, the days will actually be getting shorter. Maybe that's why summer seems to fly by?

We'll be having our Thursday tea this afternoon. I bought half-moon cookies (also called black-and-white cookies in some places) because they seemed to complement the light/darkness theme. Technically they'd probably suit an equinox better than a solstice, but I'm sure I won't hear any complaints. ;)


The white part also happens to mirror tonight's crescent moon!

We'll be reading ahead for Sunday ~ for Mass and the Nativity of St. John. St. John's Day is also celebrated as Midsummer all over the world with bonfires, special foods and stories. I have a nice book of Shakespeare for kids which recounts, in just a few pages, the well known tale of A Midsummer Night's Dream. I think I will read that aloud as we eat - maybe tomorrow, depending on time and attention spans. I also have a simple sun craft for the boys to work on, too, one I found in All Year Round. I'll try to post pictures when we're done.

Well, however you celebrate this most summery of all days, enjoy!

*Update: The shuttle landing has postponed till 3:30 p.m. due to cloud cover. Make that Friday. Thanks, Nancy!

*PS: Just to clarify - that top picture is not mine; it came with my computer as a sample. Lovely though, isn't it? :)

Oh, Good - a Meme!

I know - you were thinking the same thing, right? It's been far too long since I've bored amused you all with a bunch of insignifcant trivia about myself. ;) But I saw this at Moomin Light and thought - Hey, I could use one of those today. So here it is, and help yourself to it if you too are in need of a fun, easy post. Let me know (in the comment box) if you do it!


Don't think so. But my dad really wanted Dawn while my mum really wanted Michelle. I ended up Dawn Michelle. Dawn is a fairly uncommon name, but there were three Dawns in my kindergarten class!

Oh, I'm embarrassed to say it was at Pirates of the Caribbean III.

Yes, I'm a bit obsessed with it actually.

I like plain roast beef (not Italian) with Swiss cheese, on a baguette if possible.

Three awesome boys - 5, 7 and 11-about-to-turn-12 tomorrow.    

Gosh, I hope so.

No, almost never. I just can't pull it off, plus, it tends to sail over my head.

Nope! I had them removed when I was 4 or 5, I think? I still remember them putting the mask over my face and telling me to count backwards from 10. I remember them giving me a shot and telling me it would feel just like a mosquito bite (ha!). I remember waking up in the recovery room and screaming for my mother and a very mean nurse telling me - in so many words - to shut up.

Absolutely not. 

I hardly ever eat cereal, but I loved Honeycombs as a child. Actually, if I could choose any cereal it would be hot Irish oatmeal with cream and brown sugar. Yum!


Physically? Somewhat, I mean for my size I guess (5'4"). My arms are surprisingly strong from years of picking up one if not two little boys at a time. Bill calls them "mama muscles." ;)

Breyer's Natural Vanilla (though I also like peach ice cream and blackberry sherbert).

Their manner and way of speaking.

I like both, but I think I prefer red.

I fret too much.

My grandpa. 

Olive colored shorts, brown sandals.

The "crusts" of Crackerjack's waffles.

Birds singing and the breeze outside my window.

Dandelion. (OK I now realize I've done this meme before but I'm forging on.)

Vanilla, gingerbread, balsam. 

My mum.

NFL Sunday football. LOVE it. Grew up on it. Go Pats! :) 

Dark brown. 



Can I say coffee? Hmmm ... pretty cookies like these with a cup of coffee.

Happy endings, most definitely. 

At the theater: Pirates of the Caribbean III. At home: The Land Before Time.

Light blue with a splash of flowers across the front.

Winter. I've been told I am a winter (as in fair skin, dark hair, light eyes) but I also prefer winter, as a season, over summer. I realize I am in the distinct minority with that choice, but I'm OK with that. 

Depends on who's giving and receiving!

See Favorite Food, above, though a cup of coffee is really all I need, perhaps with a splash of something to make it interesting. 

To the boys: The Hardy Boys and the Tower Treasure. To myself: Plantation: A Lowcountry Tale. I plan to read this and this next. Love summer reading!

A pretty blue bird on a branch.

Big Love on HBO.

I used to love the sound of my husband's car pulling in the driveway at the end of the day, but now he drives a Prius and that makes hardly any noise at all. So I'll say the wind in the trees, Canadian geese honking, my cats' purring ... and the coffee grinder whirring away in the morning. Fresh coffee is just moments away ...

Beatles, I guess.


'Fraid not. 

At the risk of sounding mysterious, at an army base somewhere in the deep south.

Have a great day, everyone! Happy Summer!!



My parents were very kind to let me borrow their camera while mine is in the shop (i.e. waiting to be taken apart one more time by Bill before we decide if it is really and truly a goner). As you can see, however, I have yet to get the hang of their particular camera. I can't tell you how many pictures I took of this tiny butterfly - but it was a lot - and this was the clearest shot.

I did a bit better with this tiny bumblee:


(He is there ~ you just have to look for him!)

Well, now that I am mostly convinced that I am in need of a new camera, I need to think about what kind to get. Replace the old one? Try something new? I really loved the way my camera worked, but lately I had been wishing for a tighter zoom. I seem to be spying birds further into the woods and yesterday there was the neatest spider web suspended between two branches way up high in the tree canopy - the morning light was cascading down through it, highlighting the intricately woven strands. So beautiful!! I took some pictures but ended up with nothing to show:


If you look really closely, you might be able to see it. It's hanging just to the left of that center branch, the one splashed by the sun.

Anyway, I can't complain, can I? When you can spend time meandering about your garden, taking pictures and gazing off into the woods, you really can't complain about much. No, you thank your lucky stars for thoughtful parents, a patient husband, a life that you love and a memory that still serves you well.

It's all good. :)

Night News & Nature Notes (etc.)


One of the nicest things about summer nature study is that it is so easy - enticing even - to enjoy nighttime events, of both the social and natural variety. Warm weather, late sunsets, relaxed bedtimes ... all mean much ado after dark. Really though, you need go no further than your own backyard for memorable and meaningful entertainment. Just look up and you won't be disappointed.

Anna B. Comstock says it far better than I:

"The summer is an inviting season for making the acquaintance of eight of the fifteen brightest stars visible in the northern latitudes. Few midsummer entertainments rival that of lying on one's back on the grass of some open space which commands a wide view of the heavens. There with a planisphere and an intermittently lighted flashlight with which to consult it, learn by sight, by name and by heart those brilliant stars which will ever after meet our uplifted eyes with friendly greeting. To teach the children in a true informing way about the stars, the teacher should know them, and nowhere in Nature's realm is there a more thought-awakening lesson."

Keeping all that in mind, here are some random nature thoughts I'd like to share this week.

~ Space Shuttle Sighting ~

Now, I'm a little fuzzy on all the details, but there will be something neat to see in the sky tonight and tomorrow night, just after the sun goes down. According to

"On Tuesday morning, June 19th, space shuttle Atlantis is scheduled to undock from the International Space Station. On Tuesday night, the pair will fly in tandem over many US towns and cities including Detroit, Washington DC, San Francisco and Denver.  Typical flybys take place shortly after sunset, with the pair first appearing in the northwest (look for the Big Dipper) and soaring overhead from there.  The space shuttle appears first, followed by the ISS.  Both spacecraft are bright and easy to see with the naked eye.  Double flybys continue on Wednesday night, June 20th, before Atlantis returns to Earth on Thursday, June 21st."

I'm having a hard time pinning down the exact time to watch; Spaceweather is a bit coy on this point, linking two sites for further information. The latter link recommended a 9 p.m. viewing for the area in which I live - and that seemed strangely late to me - until it occured to me (duh), that 9 p.m. is just after sunset at this time of year.

So the boys will get to stay up a bit past bedtime tonight it looks like, for the space shuttle flying over (not to mention the space station) is a sight to see. Do you know, I have a very strong memory of being awoken by my parents one summer night when I was quite young, and brought outside to watch a satellite (or something or other) go over? I must have been very little because my brother was in my mother's arms. I think sometimes night memories can be the most dramatic in young and active imaginations.

~ Stars, Planets & Harry Potter ~

More things to look for in the summer night sky; this from the Boston Globe:

Lined up to the lower right of the moon at dusk are Saturn, and farther on, brilliant Venus. Very close to the moon is the star Regulus. Try binoculars.

I couldn't help noticing that Regulus is the name of Sirius Black's brother (Harry Potter's godfather) who may or may not have a part to play in the last HP book due out next month. If your kids are fans of the series, it would be fun to look for these characters' namesake stars this month (Sirius, the dog star, being the brightest of all). There's also a constellation called Draco the Dragon, but I'll leave that for another post.

And! Speaking of the Harry Potter series, have you heard about Nancy Brown's new book, The Mystery of Harry Potter, a Catholic Family Guide? Thanks to Maureen Whitmann's post earlier today I remembered I wanted to order this book - so I did! - and it's on its way as I type. (Note that the book is available now, though Amazon lists it as a pre-release order.)

Now, speaking of Venus (which, in case you've lost track, I had been several sentences back) ...

“Next to Mercury the beauteous one,

Venus, her father’s delight,

Unrivaled reigns, without sceptre or crown,

The glorious queen of the night.”

(From the Monthly Evening Sky Map by Nancy L. Moorefield, 1937)

What a nice copywork page for the nature journal! Perhaps with a sketch of the summer evening sky? The whole poem can be found in the Handbook of Nature Study; I may just post it in its entirety for Poetry Friday this week. (I was going to do so right here, but then this post would be ridiculously long. Even for me.)

~ The Solstice ~

The summer solstice occurs this Thursday at 2:06 p.m. This would be the longest day of the year, and consequently the night would be the shortest. A fun thing to do this week is to acquaint your children with the weather pages in your local paper, particularly the sunrise and sunset times. Record the times over the next few days (and do the math, fuguring out the total hours of daylight). Help them discover what happens over the course of the week.

~ A Full Moon & Strawberries ~

While you're there (at the weather pages, I mean) take a look at the moonrise time for each day as well. June's full moon will occur on the 30th, and last, day of the month; it is known as the Full Strawberry Moon. How about a day trip one day next week to the nearest pick-your-own strawberry farm? Why not read about The First Strawberries, too? Certainly on that night, strawberry shortcake is a must for dessert! Ooh, and not to skip around too much here, but do make a point to stop by Suzanne's Virtual Kitchen next Wednesday for The Strawberry Festival! I wonder if Suzanne knew her timing was so perfect? :)

Now, for a few final random nature notes ...

  • The daylilies are getting ready to burst ... I always look for these bright orange beauties the week or so before the Fourth of July.
  • You can see fireflies at night, and hear crickets as well. Summer would not be the same without either.
  • We also like to look for bats at dusk. They dash out of our woods and dive-bomb our yard. We cheer them on, hoping they'll take thousands of mosquitos a night (and they will).
  • Once we had an owl swoop through the yard; Bookworm swears its wings almost brushed his head. Bill backs up this incredible story - they had been out watching bats when a hooting deep in the woods caught their attention. Moments later a large creature swooshed through the dark yard, heading towards that mysterious sound. Now, I'll bet that will be a memory that will stay with Bookworm forever!
  • We found our first little toad the other day - I just love them, and they love our grass, pesticide-free as it is (the only lawn in the neighborhood to claim that I think). We've also got plenty of slugs, bugs and other toad-yummies. Bill is very careful of these guys when mowing (with the reel mower) out back. 
  • Keep your eyes peeled and your ears tuned for baby birds; nestlings are emerging just now. We have the cutest family of sparrows nesting in of all places, a street lamp! They visit our feeders en famille every day and they are the funniest little creatures to watch. It's quite easy to tell the baby birds from the parents - they're the fluffy ones with open beaks and fanned out feathers, begging for a meal, and not wanting to budge from their branch. :)

Well, allrighty, I've kept you all here long enough! Have a fabulous night, everyone - open those windows, listen to the breeze and don't forget to look up after dark!

********************************************************************Update, Update, 9:05 p.m. ~ Wow, did you see them?! We just came in from the front yard where we watched the shuttle and the ISS pass over as a pair! They were easy to see - two good size lights, a bit apart from each other, but moving steadily together across the sky from northwest to northeast. So cool! But I can only imagine what someone might think if they did not know in advance what those two lights were! Remember, they go by again tomorrow night - definitely worth it! And hey, how about that milky, golden crescent moon off in the western sky? Very warm, light breeze; we had a few bats fly by, too. Still just light enough to see, but now the dark's closing in fast ... OK, time to get these kiddoes off to bed. Good night! :)