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November 2007

October 2007

The Loveliness of Leaves

Leaf1_3Colleen is hosting this week's Loveliness Fair at Footprints on the Fridge later today ~ our subject this time: Autumn Leaves!

Here in New England, the fall foliage is having its last brilliant hurrah. A forecast of bright cool weather should assure us several more days of color ... and then the raking begins! Leaf4

(Personally, I think those clever leaves knew to stick around Boston for all the celebrating this week.) ;)

And please stay tuned for a post later today with details about next Leaf3week's Fair which will be hosted right here ... all about The Loveliness of Handmade Gifts! I'll be collecting posts about the upcoming holidays - and your plans and projects for making handmade goodies and gifts. More information to come, but I hope you'll consider joining me! Everyone is invited along! :)

Out & About: Aquarium School!

It was back to Boston today for our marine science class at the New England Aquarium. First though, we had to get that online reading assignment done ... this month's theme: conservation and fisheries.


We got into the city a bit early so we stopped in at the famed Aquarium gift shop before class started. The boys spent a good deal of time checking out all the stuffed animals. Bookworm particularly liked the golden hammerhead shark. (Paging Santa!)


Penguins are a HUGE part of the Aquarium experience, and the gift shop definitely showcases them, as you can see from this giant stuffed penguin chick! Earlybird would love this, but we didn't even dare ask how much he cost!


I'm sure you know this, but penguins are big Patriots fans.

This is just a shot of the city from outside the Aquarium. I think I posted almost the exact same one last month, but it always takes my breath away when I see it.


Once our class got underway, the kids got down to work. Bookworm is in the older class (which my friend Lisa helps to chaperone) and Crackerjack is in the younger class (where my friend Beth and I help out). I am so glad I volunteered - I am learning so much!

Here is CJ with his friends, coloring pages of animals that might end up in fishing nets - swordfish, oysters and lobsters to name a few ...


And speaking of lobsters ~ we got to visit with one! (Side note: are my kids the only ones who insist on "saying hi" to the lobsters at the grocery store?)


Well today was their chance to really get up close and personal. We learned all about them - their color range, their life span and fishing regulations regarding their size. This particular lobster was six years old, a lifetime resident of the Aquarium. The oldest lobster on record was 100 years old! Who knows how old lobsters in the wild can grow to be.


Here we have a demonstration of a lobster trap in action (complete with lobster puppets). It was fascinating to learn how the traps were invented - how fishermen realized the lobsters can get in and out with relative ease. Rather than build a smarter trap however, they just limit their catch to whatever ends up inside when the trap gets pulled.

We learned a bit about the history of lobsters too - how they were once considered cheap and unsavory and were fed mostly to prisoners (by law "only" three times a week!). Today of course they are an expensive (and delicious) delicacy.

Our teacher also showed us how a buoy works, and explained that if a buoy comes loose, the trap is lost. Fortunately the trap is secured with clasps that break down in the water, so it eventually all comes apart (letting loose any widlife).


The subject of this picture is very hard to see here, but there is a large fishing net suspended from that silver pole at the top of the shot. We were shown how the gills of a large fish get caught in the holes, but smaller fish can swim on through.

Such a net could possibly trap a dolphin however, a mammal which needs air after a time. To prevent this from happening, a pinger is set up, a small device that sits beneath the net and slowly and repeatedly "pings" a sharp sound (fueled by the natural electicity in the water). Dolphins have excellent hearing and avoid the rather annoying sound, and therefore the net traps as well.

Next we played a very interesting game, one that combined trivia questions based on our day's lessons and the concepts of overfishing ...


Each table began with a foil pan filled with a mixture of beans, raisins, popcorn and candy bars. These items represented fishing grounds and its stock. Each child was given an empty cup and a straw as fishing tools. On go, they were to use their straws to get as much of the stuff in the pan into their cups. It was harder than it looked, but after a few "fishing seasons" (30-second rounds) the pan was emptying. The teachers would come around and survey the "fishing grounds" assessing whether they had been overfished or not. If the stock was still plentiful, they added a bunch more back in, but if the stock had run low, they added only one or two more pieces (symbolizing diminishing populations).

By answering questions correctly the kids earned bonus points and the ability to upgrade their tools from straws to spoons. Now the pans were really getting emtpy!


To be honest, our table was getting highly distracted by the amount of chocolate being fished, lol. (Or more precisely, who had how many pieces and how many pieces were still left.)

By the way, I know I only have pictures of Crackerjack's class, but that's where I spend my time. I might have to ask Lisa to take pictures of the older group for me one month! Though the classes do follow, roughly, the same lesson plan, the materials are presented at grade level. Each class ranges in size from 18 to 20-odd students. All homeschoolers from all over the area.

Here's our gang, posing among the dolphins ...


Oh, and here are a few shots of urban wildlife on our way out ...


A Proper Bostonian Sparrow. ;)


And a gorgeous, um, seal (?) in an outdoor exhibit. (Please excuse my ignorance here, I didn't actually check to see what kind of animal this was - it could perhaps be a sea lion, or maybe a leopard seal. I really have no idea. I will verify next month.)

Oh, and I forgot to mention - we talked quite a bit about cod, a local and historic fish here in New England. A Sacred Cod hangs in the chamber of the Massachusetts House of Representatives, and a golden cod hangs in front of our favorite restaurant. Seeing as how Legal's is a stone's throw from the Aquarium, I popped over for a quick snap:


And still speaking of cod, I picked up this fascinating book at the gift shop: The Cod's Tale. It will be a great way to extend our Aquarium School lessons at home.


So there's the Aquarium School report for this month! Next up: sharks!

A Little Halloween Treat ...

*Candy Corn Pots*


Yes, this makes two posts from me today, but I wanted to show you these cute little candy pots I made this afternoon - in case they might be something you'd like to make before Halloween. :) I found this project in the October issue of Martha Stewart, but the directions are also available online here. The pots were so quick to put together, and very inexpensive, too. I think they would make a fine holiday treat for grandparents, teachers, favorite librarians, neighbors, therapists etc.!

Now, I followed Martha's instructions to the letter, but I added some festive wrapping ~ amber-colored cellophane and thin purple ribbon. Come to think of it, this craft could easily be adapted to other holidays, using seasonally appropriate colors and goodies. Hmmm ... I'll have to think on that one a bit.

I think I might bring a pot with me to our our homeschool group's Halloween party this week. I could ask for guesses as to how many candy corn are inside the pot and whoever comes closes gets to take it home! :)

Here are the materials ...


The first step, painting the bottoms white ...


Then adding an orange stripe ...


And finally the yellow!


Once the pots were thoroughly dry, I filled them with candy corn:


And then came the wrapping ...


Sweets for the sweet! :)

In Season: Eggnog!

How often do you find yourself at the grocery store, checking off your usual list, when you come upon some little familiar surprise, a pleasant reminder of where we are in the year? Like hot cross buns in March (Oh my goodness, Ash Wednesday is next week!) or canning jars in August (Hmmm, we'd better do something with all those tomatoes ...). I love that!

Inside and out, I just love seasonal things. I love how strawberries ripen in June. I love those barrels of mixed nuts in November. I love the fresh citrus of January and the prospect of making marmelade on a snowy afternoon ... and I love it when eggnog appears in the dairy case once again.

Well, that time is here my friends - eggnog is officially in season! The other day I ran into the local market for a quick errand and there it was! All the flavors of last year and two more for good measure. Well, that, of course, called for a taste test! 


As it happened, last Friday we had friends over for an afternoon playdate, so I arranged a small sampling of eggnog varieties. We each took a cup and I grabbed a sheet of graph paper. As we sipped each flavor I asked for scores from 1-5. Can you guess which eggnog won?

Sugar Cookie, 2.41

Gingerbread, 1.75

Pumpkin, 2.58

Vanilla, 3.91

Golden, 4.33

Yes, the traditional Golden Eggnog won! (As it did last year if memory serves.) It really does taste just like Christmas morning. :)

Vanilla was nice, if a bit like a melted milkshake. Pumpkin would be OK, say, as a novelty drink at Thanksgiving. Gingerbread was interesting, and we noted it was made with molasses. Sugar cookie - very yummy, though it didn't taste much like eggnog. Still, I could imagine it would be delicious as a wintry drink. And all of these would be really good baked into things like pancakes, cake, cookies etc. There are intriguing recipes on the sides of the cartons.

I think our taste-testers had fun. :) Right after this picture was taken they hunkered down to watch Evan Almighty (which by the way is a pretty cute movie!).


So don't forget to take a second look in that dairy case! Just like any other seasonal specialty, eggnog is here for just a short time. Enjoy it while it's "fresh!" :)

Oh, and if you check out the new flavors, let me know what you think!

In Case You Didn't Know ...

It's National Chocolate Day ...


... tomorrow!

We might have chocolate-chip pancakes for breakfast ...

We might make chocolate lollipops for Halloween ...

We might whip up a fresh batch of cocoa mix for the coming winter ...

We might watch Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory ...

and ... I will enjoy that candy bar I bought just for me today, perhaps with a nice hot cup of vanilla tea ...

So how will you celebrate? How do you take your chocolate? :)

"All you need is love ... but a little chocolate now and then doesn't hurt." (Lucy Van Pelt of the Peanuts)

Autumn in the Learning Room


Yesterday I spent some time cleaning in the learning room. It's hardly done yet, but everything looked so sunny and soft when I called it a day, I couldn't help but snap pictures. :)


As you can see my bookcase is in need of a good pruning! Especially that craft shelf and the budget basket - yeesh! (I have lots of autumn craft supplies stashed in that bookcase!) That small bulletin board will be coming down next week; I have a Thanksgiving project in mind for it. :)


Bill put up these little pumpkin lights the other night, as well as the wrought iron lanterns. With the afternoons growing dark earlier each day, I turn them on right after lunch. It feels so cozy as the light fades outside.


This is the other corner of the room, which is not quite big enough for a piece of furniture (I've tried) but roomy enough that it looks like it needs something ...


Our cat Smokey insists on sleeping in the in-box (much to the boys delight)! We use the inbox for any and every little thing that gets done through the week. I go through it on Friday (and/or over the weekends) and file things where they need to go. The ball jar on the left holds links from our holiday paperchain - I have a vague idea what we're going to do with them, but I'm still ironing out a few details.


Here is all my stuff spread out for some serious planning. (Our lessons had been cleared away for the day.) A clipboard, next week's folder, things I want to read (sections of the Globe and the October Martha Stewart), grocery flyers and coupon packet, and my journal set on top of my planner.

On the far side of the table are the boys' magazines that had just arrived in the mail. They were playing outside when they came, so I set them out in what I hoped was a tempting way. I believe that is called strewing. :)


More strewing! Above you see our learning center this week. As you can tell, we are studying Egypt. On the far right is a tray for loose paper, and the shelf below holds our "school" bags.

A close-up of our nature-blessings shelf:


A beeswax Celtic cross candle (which I never light because I want it to last!), a nest filled with feathers (and the tip of a red squirrel tail), three little acorns, my favorite starry silver candleholders, a lovely wooden sun face, tiny Indian corn and our Sumerian clay tablets (which have nothing to do with nature's blessings, but this is where they were set to dry).

This windowsill has become something of a catch-all for random nature things ...


You might not be surprised to learn I've started collecting little birds. :) My mum bought me the chickadee on the far left, and the paper mache bird is from our Christmas ornament collection. On the right is a sweet little brushy-bird I found at a country store last week (for all of $3!). (It's kind of like these which I LOVE.) In the middle is my tiny wooden red squirrel just below the suncatcher my parents brought me home from Vermont. In the far right corner is a wooden owl resting on a mushroom and two milkweed pods from our field.


Ah, those magazines attracted somebody's attention. :)

Well, this was a good start anyway. I hope to continue my autumn cleaning this weekend. Today we are hosting some friends for a playdate - a viewing of Evan Almighty and an eggnog tasting. YES, eggnog is back in the stores! And there are a few new flavors this year!

I'll let you know how our tasting turns out, but in the meantime, Happy Friday!

Of Bunnies and Books ...

I have more exciting book news, and from another dear friend!

The lovely Clarice of Storybook Woods will be hosting a guest post by Susan Wittig Albert on November 7th. Ms. Albert is the author of the charming Cottage Tales ~ as well as my favorite daybook and many a thrilling mystery series.

This exciting event is in celebration of the release of The Tale of Hawthorn House, the latest in the Cottage Tales, which are a series of mysteries featuring the beloved author and illustrator, Beatrix Potter.

I must say I have dragged my feet on reading this series, but I have book one sitting right by my bedside ... I'll just have to dig in one evening very soon - perhaps after all this baseball hubbub settles down. ;)

Do stop by Clarice's to find out all the details ...


It's a Book-Walk at Cay's!

My dear friend Cay has a brand new book coming out next week, and in celebration, she is Bookwalkmd_2_2hosting a Book-Walk today at her blog! How fun!

So click on over to the Cajun Cottage and find out how you might win an autographed copy of the forthcoming (and much anticipated) Christmas Mosaic!

Cay's Book-Walk lasts all day today and the winner will be announced tomorrow ...

Good luck, everyone! (And congratulations, Cay!) :)

It's a bird, it's a plane, it's a...

... giant blimp in the sky!!!


As we were finishing up lunch today, ("Two more bites of sandwich, all of your apples and then you may have a cookie ..."), the boys suddenly leapt from their chairs and ran to the windows.

"MAMA!" they called, faces pressed to the screens, "WHAT is THAT???"


At first it was nothing more than a large bluish shape weaving its way through the low cloud cover. We couldn't really see more than its shape and size, but we could hear its engine, a dull roar from somewhere nearby. Then all of a sudden it appeared directly overhead ...


We realized it was a blimp! (Also known as an airship or zeppelin.) Well, you can just imagine the scene back down here on earth.

Grab the camera!!

Where are my shoes?!

Where did it go, is it gone??

The blimp operator would have been chucking if he could see us - a mother and three kids whipping in and out of doors and hanging out windows (screens popped and lying below), snapping pictures like crazy. (And I assume he (or she for that matter) could see me at least - I'm wearing bright orange today, the very sweater in my picture at left.)

After a bit, I admit, it did get a little disconcerting, it seemed like the blimp was circling our very house!


Over and over again, lower and lower each time ...

Not surprisingly, Crackerjack was the first to express concern:

Is he trying to land?

Is he going to crash into our house?

Why won't he leave?!

I explained about advertising and how the blimp was trying to get a message across, (a message someone - in this case, DirectTV - had paid for). By canvassing an area repeatedly, the ad will be seen by more people. This might result in more sales. My little informative spiel went over like - pardon the pun - a lead balloon, so instead I looked online.

I was just googling How Blimps Work when somebody asked, "Hey, where did it go?"


For almost an hour it seemed the thing would never leave, and then suddenly ...


... it was gone.

Happy Anniversary to Us!


Bill and I were married on a day much like this one, fourteen years ago today ~ bright, blustery, autumn leaves whipping on the wind. Only, October 23, 1993 was a good 10 or 20 degrees cooler than its 2007 counterpart! Gosh, it's so warm here today, like summer all over again.

I can't get my scanner to work just now, so instead of posting a wedding photo here, I'm going to link you to my anniversary post from last year: Lucky Thirteen. Wow, has it really been a year since that post? Has it really been 14 since that picture was taken?!

At the top of this post is a picture of our celebration table tonight. We have a tradition of calling this day our family's birthday as well our wedding anniversary, so up went the Happy Birthday sign and out came a dark chocolate cake - complete with candles, of course. :) Flanking the cake are lovely bouquets given to me by my parents and Bill.

Now earlier in the day, the boys and I were thinking over what to give Daddy as a gift for this special day. We had a few general ideas, but on a whim, I looked up what the traditional gift for the fourteenth wedding anniversary would be; as it turns out that gift would be ivory. This site had some great ideas for ivory-themed gifts, and after a bit more digging online, we decided to adopt an elephant in Bill's name through the World Wildlife Federation. (Ivory comes from tusks, as you know. Elephants are now an endangered species, due to illegal poaching and habitat loss.)

First we set about making a card ... 


Each of the boys colored an elephant picture and we glued them onto the front of a red file folder. We slipped a copy of the adoption certificate inside and on the tab we wrote: "Happy Anniversary, Dad!"


Now it was time for me to sign my own card (elephants didn't seem quite romantic enough, lol). I also popped a cake in the oven and set up the birthday regalia:


And while looking for a cake stand downstairs I came across this candle:


Though we're not big on scented candles anymore (too many allergies) I had to light this one for a short time today (next to an open window). Yankee Candle Spiced Pumpkin candles were our wedding favors!

Oh, this was cute. Just after Bill got home, and as I was lighting the cake candles, Crackerjack tugged on my sleeve and said, "I have another anniversary present for you, Mama ..."


"The sunset!"

So another year has come and gone! It brought lots of little things - cakes, flowers, homemade cards, sunsets and candles in the window - leaving behind a whole bunch of fond memories. I'll gladly trade a few more grays for another year full of this stuff. :)

Paperchain Days


There's just something about construction paper. No matter how much we have on hand (and let's be honest, there's usually lots) I can always talk myself into buying a few fresh pads of the stuff. It's just like opening a new box of crayons - the colors are bright, the paper is smooth, the pack is full of promise ... it even smells good!

Fall is such a great papercraft time of year, too ... pumpkin faces, handprint turkeys, paper snowflakes and of course, good ole paper chains. And so that (at last!) brings me to the point of my post! ;)

Because I have a middle son who likes to know at all times how many days it is until the next big thing (holiday, birthday or other special event) I decided to make a paper chain with a holiday twist:


I used regular construction paper for the days leading up to the upcoming holidays, and patterned paper for the big days themselves. Above you see from left to right, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's.

And below you see how it looked strung across our windows:


I toyed with the idea of making a year-long chain, but after an hour's worth of snipping, stapling and draping, I figured I'll revisit that thought in January.

Here is the Halloween corner (9 orange and purple, 1 patterned):


And the Thanksgiving section (21 pale blue and brown, 1 patterned):


Next came Christmas (28 red, white and green and 3 purple, 1 pink, 1 patterned):


Oh, right! I made sure to put in a party-patterned link for Earlybird's birthday!

And finishing up the right side of the window is New Year's (6 multicolors and 1 confetti patterned):


Now we're ready to count ... one day at a time, one link a day.


And so my curious Crackerjack can simply check the windows to know in a glance how many days there are until the next special day. But of course, when you're eight every day is the next special day. :)

A Visit with Damee

Yesterday morning my mum and I took the older boys to visit my grandmother at the hospital. She is doing much better - thanks again for your good wishes and prayers - and as you can imagine, she was thrilled to see her boys!


We brought her our favorite gingerbread muffins and a little something for her wheels:


She uses a walker to get around and tennis balls on the back legs make for a smoother ride. :) Her old ones were worn down and when we spied these Halloween balls, we knew they were just the thing:


We have many things to be thankful for this morning (and I'm not just talking sports). Damee is going to be ok and, as soon as they finish running a few more tests, we'll have her home safe and sound.

Happy Monday, everyone!

CD of the Month: Play Ball!

So we're going to game seven! And it's all about baseball (Go Sox!), football (Go Pats!) and soccer (Go Crackerjack!) around here today. :)Playball

Speaking of sports (which I rarely do, but in October one can barely escape it) I've been wanting to mention our favorite CD of the moment: Play Ball! (pictured at right). This is a fabulous recording of baseball themed-music and skits, done by the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra. We first heard a portion of this (possibly the best portion, Casey at the Bat, read by the awesome James Earl Jones) during Kids Hour on WCRB. The boys were in downright hysterics ("Fraud!" cried the maddened thousands, and echo answered "Fraud!" But one scornful look from Casey and the audience was awed ...) and begged me to find a copy at the library. None to be found there, so I turned to the internet and found a used copy online.

It was worth every penny - a terrific slice of Americana! Some of the selections include: Who's on First (Abbot and Costello), The Star Spangled Banner, Take Me out to The Ballgame, Centerfield and themes from Damn Yankees, Field of Dreams and The Natural.

Of course the question of the day is, will there be joy in Mudville Red Sox Nation tonight? We'll just have to wait and see ... :)

On the Autumn Trail ...


Oh my goodness, what a day! So lovely and mild for mid-October. It began misty and cool, but by lunchtime, the fog had burned off and the warm autumn sunshine broke through. Just in time for our Nature Club Meeting!

Now prepare yourselves - I took SO many pictures! Really ~ even for me, this is a lot. But I just had to share the story of our day, and it is one best told through pictures. If you must skim over the lot of them, do be sure to see the seventh one down - it was the highlight of the day for me. :)

So what is Nature Club you may wonder? Well, check this post for more information, but suffice it to say it is a monthly gathering of homeschooling friends who also happen to be nature enthusiasts. Yesterday afternoon, 15 of us (families, that is) met at a local Audubon wildlife sanctuary for a few hours of birding together. We first gathered in the Nature Center buidling where we checked in, received handouts and a few tips regarding birds we might spot. Our attention was quickly drawn to a large bank of windows that looked out on a secluded bird garden ...


There were mourning doves, white throated sparrows, downy woodpeckers and an adorable chipmunk cleaning himsef (just there on that front rock). I could have spent a long while just absorbed by the view, but I knew there were even larger landscapes to explore ...

... such as this field of milkweed (and possibly withered goldenrod, I'm not sure). It was swarming with ladybugs and bees, and one brilliant Monarch butterfly that floated overhead (too fast for my camera, I'm afraid).


The large group of us broke up into smaller groups and set off along the myriad trails. Ours took us deep inside the autumn woods ...


... and past wetlands buzzing with life, and ripe with vivid fall color:


As we trekked along, we suddenly came upon two families absorbed in a very interesting activity. They were keeping very quiet and still, and their hands were stretched out in front of them ...

We tried the same thing ...


The most important thing to mention is that we all had pockets full of birdseed just for this moment ...

And here was my big moment:


That's MY hand, and that is a real live little chickadee, eating right out of it! I could have fainted away, I tell you.

Everybody tried. Crackerjack didn't have much patience, at first:


But Bookworm's persistance paid off!


This was his face immediately after the bird left his hand:


We carried on, crossing a bridge ...


And before too long we had entered "The Rockery." It was so shady and cool; it felt rather primeval. It was really neat (if a bit strenous) to climb all around.


Very hard to see here but take my word for it, there is a red squirrel in that tree pictured below. He was making such a racket for such a little guy! He wasn't quite as bold as the chipmunks and chickadees.


A lovely scene below ... we were headed across that pond!


I walked right by this beaver lodge till a friend of mine called my attention to it:


A bunch of the kids acquiesced to pose for a quick picture. There were 16 kids in all (ranging in age from infant to 13), but by this point they were spread out all over the Sanctuary. (I'm hoping to photograph each meeting and assemble a yearbook of sorts at the end of our Nature Club year.)


While the rest of the kids tried their hands once again at hand-feeding (many if not all of them succeeding), Crackerjack took a bit of a break. I think he was a little disgruntled that a bird had yet to eat from his hand.


It was drawing near time to head back to the Nature Center and meet up with our fellow Nature Club members. We hiked up and out of the woods ...


When along the trail we came upon a small gathering of chickadees, and Crackerjack gave it one more shot ...



The butterflies at the Sanctuary were so beautiful, and at last I "caught" a monarch, sipping from this lovely zinnia (cosmos?) ...


Oops, that's a Viceroy, a clever Monarch mimic ... Thanks Marcie!

I'm not sure what this type of butterfly this is - it's much smaller than the monarch but still very pretty in her yellow garb:


Update: Thanks to new reader Kim, we know it's a Clouded Sulfur!

If you look very closely there is a flash of brown fur in the middle of that low wall, below. That would be the chipmunk I chased all over trying to get just one photo. The little imp.


Plenty of bees to be seen. Bookworm said this photo reminded him of the opening scenes of the Beatrix Potter movies. High praise indeed! :)


Once our walk was concluded, the kids played a game called Pop-up Tag for nearly an hour. We mums stood nearby, enjoying the late afternoon sunshine and wishing we had brought thermoses of tea. Next month we will - November will surely be colder than this!

Here's one last photo I took as we left the Sanctuary. Such a perfect day. I'm so grateful we had it to share with our friends, and in turn, I'm grateful you all let me share it with you.


Our Nature Study Club


We've been nature nuts enthusiasts as long as I can remember, and our backyard will always be our favorite place to observe nature - as you can tell from my nature notes it provides a steady stream of interest! - but there's something to be said about getting out in "the wild," and observing nature in larger, less civilized places. And when you get a whole bunch of kids together for just such an expedition, why the enthusiasm is downright contagious!

So, this idea had been rattling around in my brain for well over a year: an organized monthly nature study club for homeschooling families. I happen to belong to a terrific support group, with many active and enthusiastic members. I wondered, though, how many people would be interested in nature study? My April support group meeting on this theme drew only a very small crowd. Well, I put the idea out in our group's summer newsletter and arranged an initial meeting to discuss ideas. I was so excited when I had many responses (25 in all) from old friends and new faces alike!

Our first meeting was just for parents - we met at a local coffeeshop one evening to discuss how the group might be organized. We decided once a month was a good starting place. We narrowed it down to a convenient day and time, then set about planning our themes.

Our first meeting in September (the pictures from which are below) was organized by yours truly: a fall scavenger hunt held at a nearby forested reservation. Now, as much as I'd love to organize every month's meeting, I don't have the time, nor should I have all the fun! So future months will be organized by other members. So far our themes include:

  • October: Autumn Birds
  • November: Late Autumn Nature (Squirrels and Hibernation)
  • December: Winter Solstice
  • January: Animal Tracks in the Snow
  • February: TBA
  • March: Maple Sugaring
  • April: Tidepools
  • May: Water Ecology
  • June: Insects

I'm so excited for each and every month's meeting! It's great to know we will be doing a nature walk at least once a month! An added bonus - the themes give us a framework for our own nature study at home.

Below are pictures from last month's gathering. It was a perfect day - sunny, warm but not hot. Glorious early fall.


Working with our scavenger hunt lists, we found something to check off right away - a flower still blooming:


Jewelweed! One of the moms showed the chidlren how the pods will pop open to reveal a tiny jewel inside. I remember this plant from my childhood, it grows wild all over New England.

There were interesting examples of fungi all over the place, especially on trees:


Way up high ...


And way down low ...


It was everywhere we looked!

One of the clues on our list was a three-colored leaf. On this one we counted four shades!


Animal signs included large nests in the trees (possibly squirrel dreys):


And we also found two kinds of fur, the first being identified as skunk by its appearance and odor ...


While the second was harder to identify. It was light yellow in color, but did not appear to be dog fur. A mystery!


We also found some scat, but I won't post a picture of that (yes I took pictures!). It too was hard to identify, though one boy had brought an excellent field guide that showed many kinds of mammal scat.

At the end of the walk we gathered under a gazebo to do some leaf and fern rubbings. Then most of the kids ran off to play a neat game about the food chain.


Someone found an interesting yellow caterpillar:


Someone else found a cocoon that had burst open - there were tiny dead caterpillars all over it. Wonder what caused them to die?


This was very neat: a salamander! Look closely and you can see him inside this observation jar:


We capped the day off with a little rock climbing ...


... and, I think, a good time was had by all. Look at those shiny faces!


At our September meeting we had 15 families participate, and at today's October meeting we will have 15 again! Fifteen homeschooling famlies translates into a lot of kids! But they were so well-behaved and enthusiastic. We can't wait to see everyone again later today.

You can be sure I'll be taking lots of pictures. :) The weather is quite Octobery here. ... a dense morning fog is just moving off and the sun seems to want to make an appearance. It's actually quite mild, and as far as I can tell (from multiple sources) the rain should hold off until tonight. Well, I'm off to pack up our birding paraphernalia, and will be back later to report in ...

Have a great day, everyone!

Evening Shadows


Pink in the morning, Orange at night ...

That old autumn light is at it again ~ the whole house is surrounded by it, just as it had been oh-so-early this morning. Has it really been 12 hours since then? No, a bit less; the days are getting shorter after all. I took this picture in order to capture the intense glow of the setting sun off in the western sky. Only later did I notice the bold little shadow making his way homeward for supper. :)

First let me offer many thanks for all your caring thoughts and prayers on behalf of my grandmother. I am happy to report that she is much improved from yesterday, and may even be going home tomorrow! After much testing, it was confirmed today that she did in fact have a stroke. However, where last night she struggled to speak, today she seemed much better. We're still waiting to learn more (prognosis, treatment, etc.), but for now we can breathe a small breath of relief. And with that breath, we continue our prayers for Alice's dear mother ...

When I visited Gram early this morning, one of the first things she asked me was if we had seen the spectacular sunrise. (Had we ever!)

"It filled the whole room with light!" she exclaimed, looking over at the wide windows beside her. She smiled with the wonder of it all and added, "It was just like a mural."

I took this all as a very good sign - Grandma was acting just like Grandma - comparing notes on the sunrise, complimenting my outfit and joshing the nurse.

I assured her that yes, we had indeed seen that gorgeous pink sunrise this morning. I described how the boys ran from room to room, opening windows and peering out doors. That sunrise filled our own house with light, and looking back I realize, it filled our hearts with hope ...

Tomorrow I'll post about our Nature Study Group meeting (last month's overdue report and all the details from tomorrow's birding adventure). I'll post more, too, about how our Nature Study Group came to be.

Thanks again everyone, for your support and encouragement - through this and through all my months of blogging. I don't say this enough, but I so appreciate that you all take the time to stop by here and read what I have to say. Your thoughts and questions I carry in my heart, until such time as I can sit down and address them (and really, long after). Now, if only there were a few more hours in the day ...

But for now, I must say good night!

Morning Light


Just a few minutes ago, we were all sitting here in the family room, drinking our coffee (or, as the case may have been, juice), when the morning light positively wrapped our home in its brilliance. It lingered for only a few seconds but it drew everyone's attention to the windows - especially Earlybird's. He dashed all over the house, checking every portal, just amazed at the vivid pink light. (A-mornin' Sun!) As the light hit the windows they sparkled; where it hit the trees, it set the foliage aflame. There's just nothing like that autumn light, especially as it rises and sets. Moments like these I am glad we are such early risers. :)

Thank you all for your prayers for my grandmother. I'm heading over to see her in just a little while, and will post an update later today.

I hope your day is a good one. :)