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February 2008

January 2008

What We're Reading Now

Bookworm: Boywithbook

He piled the library bag high with his selections last weekend, and he's about halfway through them all. Currently he is reading The Thief Lord. Just finished: Abarat, Capt. Hook: The Adventures of A Notorious Youth and Ranger's Apprentice. Still to go: Finn Family Moomintroll, A Swiftly Tilting Planet and Peter Pan in Scarlet. These are all personal reads ~ his next Book Group title is Lion Boy (he loved it and promptly read the two sequels). Assigned from me for history/science: Archimedes and the Door of Science. I'll let him finish his library reads before he begins that. The Book Group selection for March looks very interesting.


For February Book Group we will read The Penderwicks together (which we haven't begun yet - yikes!). (I see there's a sequel coming out this spring.) On his own, CJ is reading The Hour of the Olympics (Magic Tree House), but I must admit, he is quite absorbed by his Star Wars: The Ultimate Visual Guide; he curls up with it every chance he gets. Next month's Book Group selection will be Dealing with Dragons which we'll read together.


It's all about Groundhog, and pretty much nobody else. ;) He's barely given the new Penguin Chick a second glance, lol. I just bought a *beautiful* edition of The Ugly Duckling which I'll read to him next week. (By the way any book that you can find illustrated by Bernadette Watts is a gem. I looooove her books.)


He's listening to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows during his commute. This is the first time he's "read" it so it's all a big surprise to him. Of course he keeps bouncing his theories off of me, and since I've read the book (um, maybe three times) I try to keep a stone face and not give anything away. He doesn't really want to know, but he can't help discussing it. I can't wait for him to finish so we can really get into it.


Well, I'm still plugging along with Mansfield Park. I like it, but I am finding it a bit on the slow side. Actually it's not really the book's fault; I don't open it until I crawl into bed at night, by which point keeping my eyes open becomes a herculean feat. I bought Persuasion and Northanger Abby over the weekend and I am sorely tempted to jump ship and start reading one of those. But, I think I will press on. I have not yet watched the PBS version - but it's on our Tivo list. I wonder if I should wait or if watching it might make the reading go more smoothly? (That's awful isn't it?) I've heard mixed things about the presentation.

Last night I picked up this book which looks very interesting. It was on the bargain shelf at Barnes & Noble for all of $7.98! Now, lest you think I spend too much time (and money) at the bookstore (which I probably do) I was there for a valid reason: a planning meeting for our upcoming book study on Mittenstrings for God. We had a very good turnout - 11 were present and there are one or two more interested in the study who could not make the meeting. Our first (real) meeting takes place in three weeks. I am eager to re-read MFG and take lots of notes for our discussions.

But tonight, there won't be any reading, no sir. In case you haven't heard, in just about an hour from now the long awaited season premiere of Lost begins! Oh, how I've missed Lost! So I'm off ... but let's all check back in here tomorrow and see what we thought!

Have a good night!


Themes and Plans for February

February brings the rain, thaws the frozen lakes again ...Swans

With but two days to go till the new month begins, and without further ado, here for your consideration, are some Themes and Plans for February ...


  • low, gray, cottony skies
  • more and more (and maybe more!) snow
  • morning black ice - use caution!
  • sap starts to run during mild spells
  • Full Snow Moon (22)
  • Full Lunar Eclipse! (20)
  • seeds begun indoors
  • the trees in their bare winter glory
  • spring birdsong begins for some species
  • snowdrops poking through the snow
  • birdfeeder counts across the country
  • African violets in a warm sunny window
  • icicles hanging (and melting) from the roof
  • slowly but surely, lengthening days
  • mole tunnels in the soft exposed earth
  • skunks emerge from hibernation to choose thieir mate
  • red foxes also begin their courting


  • "If Candlemas be fair and bright, Winter will have another flight; But if Candlemas be clouds and rain, Winter is gone and will not come again."


  • humble winter roots
  • citrus still in season
  • shepherd(ess) pie for St. Brigid's Day
  • pancakes (or paczki) on Shrove (or Fat) Tuesday
  • "Fishstick Fridays"
  • hot homey casseroles
  • homemade crusty breads
  • fondue on a fun frosty night
  • baked potatoes with all the toppings!
  • chocolate, of course - unless you gave it up for Lent!
  • homemade coffee drinks
  • cherry cake for Washington's birthday
  • a jelly roll on Lincoln's birthday
  • hot chicken soup for cold and flu season
  • herbal teas with honey
  • tropical smoothies
  • hot chocolate with freshly whipped cream


  • St. Brigid of Ireland (1)
  • Candlemas/The Presentation of the Lord (2)
  • St. Blase (3)
  • St. Agatha (5)
  • Shrove Tuesday (5)
  • Ash Wednesday (6)
  • Lent Begins (6)
  • Holy Twins: Scholastica (10) and Benedict (11)
  • Our Lady of Lourdes (11)
  • St. Valentine (14)
  • Blessed Fra Angelico (18)
  • The Chair of St. Peter (22)
  • Sunday Gospels:
    • Matthew 5: 1-12a
    • Matthew 4: 1-11
    • Matthew 17: 1-9
    • John 4:5-15, 19b-26, 39a, 40-42

Home & Garden:

  • remove snow and ice from roof
  • declutter ahead of Easter cleaning
  • purchase Valentines (or any last minute materials)
  • pick up seeds for spring garden; file in index card box
  • order summer flowering bulbs
  • take an inventory of garden tools and equipment
  • prune where needed
  • stock up on bird feeding supplies
  • launder all throw blankets
  • hang our American flag for Presidents' Day
  • inventory medicine chest
  • schedule veterinary appointments


  • American Music Month
  • Black History Month
  • National Bird Feeding Month
  • Potato Lover's Month
  • National Heart Month
  • National Cherry Month
  • Great American Pie Month
  • Groundhog Day (2)
  • Focus on Feeders Weekend (2-3)
  • Superbowl (3)
  • Super Tuesday (5)
  • Weather Forecaster's Day (5)
  • Fat Tuesday/Mardi Gras (5)
  • Primrose Day (5)
  • Chinese New Year (7)
    • Year of the Rat
  • Abraham Lincoln's Birthday (12)
  • Valentine's Day (14)
  • Spiderwick comes out (14)
  • Great Backyard Bird Count (15-18)
  • Daytona 500 (17)
  • National Cafe au Lait Day (17)
  • President's Day (18)
  • Washington's Birthday (22)
  • International Polar Bear Day (27)
  • Leap Day (29)

Book Basket:

Field Trip Ideas:

  • Go cross-country skiing or snow-shoeing at a local farm.
  • Visit the Museum of Fine Arts.
  • Meet with a meteorologist.
  • Meet friends for ice skating at the pond (or the rink).
  • Take a trip into Chinatown.

Crafts & Activities:

  • Play shadow tag.
  • Make silhouettes.
  • Make shadow puppets.
  • Listen to American composers.
  • Anti-cabin fever project: an idea jar
  • Lincoln logs on Feb. 12th
  • Spend an afternoon making Valentines.
  • Make lollipops to hand out on Valentines Day.
  • Commence Lenten activities.
  • Have a Valentines tea with friends.
  • Watch Ratatouille in honor of The Year of the Rat.
  • Order Chinese for supper on Feb. 7th.
  • Build a bluebird house in hopes this is the year.

Well, thanks for joining me on this rather long journey through the shortest month of the year! The year is a wonderful thing ~ there's always something to marvel over or celebrate, or even just to smile about. And while time does indeed fly by, all these lovely things return to us year after year. :)

Enjoy this day, my friends!

When skies are low

and days are dark

and frost bites

like a hungry shark,

when mufflers muffle

ears and nose,

and puffy sparrows

huddle close ~

how nice to know

that February

is something purely


(N.M. Bodecker)

Tea & a Craft for the Days of the Blackbird


I know many of my readers are familiar with the Tomie dePaola books - in certain homeschooling circles, they are practically a primary resource!! And why shouldn't they be? Each title is a gem ~ a great story combined with lovely illustrations, and always that certain Tomie sparkle. :)

We are fortunate to have many of his books on our shelf, but I think Days of the Blackbird: A Tale of Northern Italy might be my favorite. I love the story of course, a heart-warming tale of loving sacrifice, but the illustrations are so beautifully shaded. Every page is a visual delight.

Today, January 29th, the first of the three Days, I sat the boys down after lunch to read aloud this treasured tale. As soon as I opened the first page, Crackerjack piped up: "Hey, I remember this book!" And as soon as I got to the page where Duca Gennaro falls ill, Earlybird hit the road ~ he's not one for dramatic tension, lol.

Once I'd finished the story I sent the boys off to play for a while and got down to work, setting up a simple go-along craft. I only got the idea this morning while waiting for EB at speech, so I had to figure out what exactly I was proposing and what I needed for materials. Not much as you can see in the top photo.

I first cut a length of paper from the craft roll and sketched out a tree with branches:


Next, I photocopied a page from the book to get the right size and shape stencil ~ and then cut out four birds using heavy white watercolor paper.


I called the boys back to the table; EB came with his piece of pizza in hand (but not on plate):


I had the boys color one side of the birds with black crayons (first coloring the beaks and eyes in orange) ...


... and we ended up with birds that on one side represented the white La Columba and on the other, the sooty La Merla.


After hanging my tree sketch on our bulletin board, I asked the boys to think about the concept of sacrifice, particularly what it means in light of our Faith. We talked about the character of La Columba, and about her sacrifice for Duca Genarro (at the plea of his daughter Gemma). I asked the boys to write down the name of someone who makes sacrifices for us on the back of their birds, and after we each did that, we perched our birds on our tree:


As you can see, one of the birds remains white. That would be Earlybird's. He got mighty busy coloring his black construction paper with white crayons, so I might cut his bird shape out of that.

Once our craft was finished we sat down for tea, or cocoa rather ~ hot cocoa and cold ice cream. I am working on the hot-cold concept with EB and these two treats made for a perfect (and delicious) example.


There's nothing like a good story, but even better, a story that fits perfectly within the season, that expresses the feeling of the time of the year. Days of the Blackbird is just such a story. For one thing, the last week of January is certainly cold here in New England. And next week we prepare our hearts for Lent, a time of loving sacrifice for us all.

Now the day is fading, the boys are off to play, and I'd best get the supper started ~ Italian tonight, of course! Nothing fancy, just baked ziti and grilled sausages. Though, I might ask Bill to stop at my favorite bakery on his way home and pick up some tiramisu for dessert. ;)

Thank you so much for stopping by today, and I hope wherever you are, you are warm and well. See you all sometime tomorrow.

Happy Carnation Day!


"The blossoms were used to make crowns and wreaths by the Greeks and later the English, and were called "coronations." They were called gillyflowers or July-flowers, presumably because they bloomed in July. In the fifteenth century, the name "carnation" (from "coronation") was given both to single (pinks) and double blooms (Clove gillefloures)." (From Mary's Flowers: Gardens, Legends & Meditations)

So if you've ever wondered what gillyflowers were (Hot July brings cooling showers, apricots and gillyflowers ...), there you are. :)

I remember patches of dianthus (or pinks) grew all over my grandparents' backyard, their tiny blooms frilled, their leaves silvery and soft. Whenever I inhale the spicy clove scent of carnations, I am transported back to that cool shady hill where I concocted my little "perfumes," pounding the petals of pinks, violets and tea roses with a small rock and then immersing the resulting mash in dixie cups of water. It never looked very pretty, but I loved how it smelled. :)

We don't have any pinks growing here at our house now, but I've just made a note to plant some this spring. For now, I'll have to content myself with small bouquets of carnations, such as the one at my desk, shown at the top of this post.

If you'd like an easy activity for your children on Carnation Day, there is the always-popular colored carnations experiment. Or how about crafting a small beribboned corsage for a teacher or an elderly neighbor or relative? And here is a labeled coloring page of the scarlet carnation, Ohio's state flower.

Now, how about for we mums? Well, there are always fresh carnations for sale at the local grocer's. Such a small treat brightens any gray winter's day. I am also sorely tempted to place an order for this pretty soap or perhaps these. Wouldn't carnation soap make for a lovely wintertime bath?

Here is one more idea, a "Spicy Clove Bath" from my old, old copy of The Book of the Bath:

  • 2 cups rosewater
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 ounce crushed cloves
  • 2 cups wine vinegar

Combine ingredients and boil for 1 hour, adding more water to the original level as it boils down. Store for a week in a cool dark place. Add 1/2 cup to warm bath water, or combine 1 part vinegar to 8 parts water for a delightful bath splash.

However you choose to spend it, have a lovely January 29th! :)

January at Aquarium School

It was another fun day in Boston at Aquarium School!


There's that quintessential city shot, the one I take each month as we exit the parking garage. It's been fun to see the seasons change against the landscape. Today was a very cold winter's day - a harsh biting wind was whipping in off the Atlantic.

So we spent very little time roaming the docks and visiting the sea lions as we usually do. Instead we made a quick stop into the gift shop where I purchased a new book for Earlybird and a card game for the older boys. (Love those Professor Noggin games.) And also, I couldn't resist some Aquarium Origami. Bookworm really enjoys origami - in fact, he once took a class with the creator of that particular kit!

But back to Aquarium School. (And by the way, my previous posts have even more details on what Aquarium School is all about.)

Bookworm and his friends headed into the older group's room, while across the hall, Crackerjack and I got settled in with the younger kids. Here he is with his friends Abby and Kurt, hard at work on a fish project:


Our theme this month was Care & Feeding of Aquarium Animals. I think this was my favorite so far. We spent most of the two-hour class inside exporing the Aquarium itself.

Here are a bunch (and I do mean, a bunch) of photos from the exhibits. Most are self-explanatory, but I added little notes anyway (with much assistance from the boys who remember things far better than I do):


Penguins ...


More penguins ...


Observing penguin behavior ...


Cool Rock Hopper penguins ...


Swimming penguin ...


Grumpy looking (and poisonous) Stonefish ...


A Cuttlefish ...


A Cuttlefish on the move ...


The Nurse Shark ...


Myrtle the LoggerheadTurtle ...


Unidentified bi-valve ... (looks a bit like The Hamburgler, don't you think?)


Random, beautiful, but poisonous, sea creatures ...


The top of the Giant Ocean Tank where we heard from Aquarium Biologists ...


Another turtle ...


A diver cleaning the windows ...


The Moray Eel ...


A Ray ...


Up close ...


Two baby Anacondas, born on New Year's Day ...


In the Jelly fish tank ...


A Piranha!


Electric eels at rest ...


A small portion of the Giant Ocean Tank (which rises 2 1/2 stories high) ...


Three Happy, Homeschooled Kids!

Well, I hope you enjoyed a peek at our day at The New England Aquarium! Thanks for stopping by, and I'll see you all again sometime tomorrow. :)

A Plan for the Week Ahead

Can it be possible that the week stretching out before us is January's last?? Where, ohPinkflowersmug where, did my birth-month go? It seems we've just stepped out of Christmas and now Easter (or Lent, I should say) is at our doorstep.

I stopped in at the grocery yesterday morning to buy some rolls for dinner, and as usual I took a few minutes to admire the bright blooms in the floral department. Immersed as I've been in all things Austen lately, I really felt the need for a little posy at my desk. :) So I almost bought a mini tete-a-tete daffodil, but then I reconsidered. For sure, they were springy and sweet, but I just couldn't do it. As much as I will appreciate its return, I don't wish to rush Spring just yet ...

So instead I bought a small bouquet of blush-colored carnations (the humble January flower). Their spicy clove scent is just perfect for this time of year. With one hopeful eye toward warmer days, I still want to find it within myself to enjoy the rest of Winter ...

"... a lingering season, a time to gather golden moments, embark upon a sentimental journey, and enjoy every idle hour." John Boswell

All right, this post is becoming something entirely different from what I set out to do! Which was to tell you our plans for this week, and since our plans are lengthy, I'd best get started ...

Of Note: Aquarium School, Speech, OT and Social Skills Group, Book Study Meeting, Lost returns (at last!), The Feast of St. Brigid, Groundhog's Day/Candlemas, Audubon Bird Count, Passion Play rehearsal, Superbowl Sunday!


Language Arts:

  • Daily workbook lessons
  • Reading:
  • Prepositions with EB (using and pronouncing them)
  • Stressing ending sounds with EB

History: Ancient Greece

Current Events:

  • Mini Pages: "On the Campaign Trail"
  • Mark on map:
    • Florida primary
    • Punxatawney, PA
    • AZ Superbowl

US Geography:

  • Massachusetts puzzle pages
  • State fact cards and coloring pages: New Jersey, Georgia

Science & Nature Study:

  • Aquarium School: "Penguins and Giant Ocean Tank"
  • Prepare for Focus on Feeders weekend
    • make a simple bird guide with EB
  • Nature poem (TBD)
  • Groundhog Day
    • winter animals poster with EB
  • Expore warm and cold with EB



  • Kids Classical Hour

Well, there you have it, our week-at-a-glance. And as it's now Monday morning, I'd better get our worktable all set up! :)

I don't mean to be ignoring all the questions (and emails) I've gotten over the last week or so. (There haven't been too many idle hours lately.) This should be a quieter week (activity-wise) so I will be getting back to you all on the tote bags, bird feeders and organizational tools very soon! Thanks for your patience, and thank you for taking the time to stop in and say hi.

Happy Monday, everyone! 

Sunday Plans

"Ah, there's nothing like staying home for real comfort."

This is one of my favorite quotes, and it happens to have been said, or penned rather, by my favorite author, Jane Austen. I believe it comes from Emma, and it so happens I'm going to watch that movie later today. Long-time readers might remember, I have a penchant for watching Austen movies when folding laundry. :)

But the movie and the laundry will have to wait a bit, for in spite of that lovely quote (and the light snow falling here), I am actually going to run out quickly this morning. It is the last day of the Barnes & Noble Educator Week, and I really would like to get the final two Austen novels I do not yet own. And maybe a cinnamon dolce latte while I'm at it. ;)

And speaking of Austen, tonight is the next installment in The Complete Jane Austen series: Mansfield Park, a book I've only just started. Bill and I finally sat down and watched the first presentation, Persuasion, last night. It was quite good! How are you all enjoying the series so far?

OK, I'd better run. The snow is picking up and I want to get there and back again as quickly as possible!

Happy Sunday, everyone!

What American city are you?

You Are Boston
Both modern and old school, you never forget your roots.
Well educated and a little snobby, you demand the best.
And quite frankly, you think you are the best.

Famous people from the Boston area: Conan O'Brien, Ben Affleck, New Kids on the Block
*I hope I'm not snobby, but I do think Boston's the best! ;)
OK, no more quizzes. Off to get the day started!*

What should you be when you grow up?

You Should Be a Teacher
You are patient, optimistic, and good at explaining things.
You work well with all types of people, and you are a good role model.
Success and positive outcomes are extremely important to you.
You are both a good leader and instructor. People look up to and depend on you.

You do best when you:

- Can see the results of your work
- Are able to teach someone a new skill

You would also be a good nurse or non fiction writer.
*Early Saturday morning, nothing much to say yet, more coffee needed ... a quiz seemed in order!*

Our Faith-at-Home Notebook

I've mentioned this notebook a few times now, and have been meaning to follow up on it. (I've been meaning to do a lot of things, lol, but today is the day for the notebook.)

Basically, I was looking for a way to keep our weeky liturgical plans in order. I thought if I had a notebook where I kept it all together - the plans I make and then the things we do - it would serve as a practical guide and a nice memory book as well.

I chose a plain, see-through, 3-ring binder. (I happened to have an extra on hand.)


For now, I have the calendar page from a magazine in the front panel. It's colorful, in a seasonal way, and shows feast days, holidays and the Gospel for each week. I might try to make something more decorative - a photo collage or some thematic scrapbook paper perhaps. But this works for now.

Inside I have 8 dividers for the year:

  • Ordinary Time (January 14 - February 5)
  • Lent: (February 6 - March 22)
  • Easter: (March 23 - May 11)
  • Ordinary Time (May 12 - November 29)
  • Advent (November 30 - December 24)
  • Christmas (December 25 - January 11)
  • Projects
  • Misc.

Inside the first section I have a certain arrangement of papers, the first set being a printout of the coming Sunday's readings and Gospel:


I printed them on green paper to tie in with the liturgical season. Starting with Ash Wednesday I will begin printing them in lilac. (And so forth through the year.)

After the readings, I file the Mass worksheets we do on Mondays. (We do these informally, but I have found that the boys notice more details now, hoping to answer more questions correctly!) Sometimes our parish bulletin includes a puzzle page for the kids and then I photocopy that for the boys, too.

Next come any photocopies or printouts for the week ahead. I survey my primary liturgical idea books to see what I might like to use - whether it be teaching ideas for the readings, or activities for an upcoming feast day. I also check my favorite online sources. (I try to be realistic about what we can and can't do - there are so many ideas, but some weeks are busier than others.)

Everything gets hole-punched and inserted in the binder. Then, using these sources, I pull together a general plan for the week: What will we read? What will we do? What theme(s) will shape our week? From my seasonal planning I have a general idea what happens and when, but this preparation lets me get more specific. I can only plan so much in advance. :)

Later in the week, after we've had our Faith-at-Home tea (and I've blogged all about it, lol), I print out the post and file it here as well. Below you see the "Lovely Doves" post from last week:


Yesterday, we read the Gospel story in which Jesus chooses his first disciples, Simon-Peter, Andrew, James and John. He calls them to be "fishers of men." Adapting a tip I found in this book, I saved a netted bag from our fingerling potatoes, and tacked it to the bulletin board:


We talked abut how these men were the first disciples of Jesus as well as his friends. I had the boys write their friends' names on multi-colored fish and add them to the net. All this over a lunch of fish sticks, of course. :) A snack of goldfish, gummy fish or cookies like Paula's would work nicely too!

Since I'm not doing a big post about that activity, I'll just print out the above picture and adhere it to a sheet of green paper. I might add a few of their fish for decoration. I will also print out the post we did about the Feast of St. Agnes and our Snowflakes of Kindness.

Today I printed and sorted the papers for next week, which will be, liturgically speaking, a very full week. :)


And if can you believe it, the week after next brings Ash Wednesday! So of course there are Lenten plans to be making this week, too ...

Later this weekend I'll share our plans - liturgical and otherwise - for the upcoming week. But for now, I have a round of cocoa to make. The boys have a friend over and they're knee-deep in Legos as I type up this post. Lol, it's all about Legos, Star Wars and Monster Jam around here lately. So, I'm off to find a quiet corner for my cocoa break ~ 15 minutes of Austen should put me to rights. ;)

Have a good night everyone, and Happy Weekend!

Game On!

So, a dear friend of mine from Long Island recently made a little proposal to Helmet_2this Massachusetts gal. :)

You see, Mary Ellen and I have much to agree on, we share much in common. If we lived closer I am sure we would be inseparable. And yet, there's one insurmountable small problem ...

And that would be sports.

Because coming from New York and New England, respectively, Mary Ellen and I by nature must agree to disagree.

But, we can have a little fun while we're at it!

You see, a few days ago, right after the (ahem), undefeated New England Patriots won the AFC championship, assuring a trip to the Superbowl for the fourth time in seven years, I got an interesting note from my NY Giants-fan friend ...

Mary Ellen was kindly offering her sincere congratulations (as only one so lovely and thoughtful would do), but she also made an interesting suggestion: a proposed little wager between friends. Something to do with The Superbowl and a couple of pairs of socks ...


Well, I was. And of course, I readily agreed. (In the spirit of friendship and friendly competition.)

Mary Ellen has all the details of our agreement today at her blog ~ complete with pictures! Stop on over and check it out!

And in the meantime, won't you join us in voting for one team or the other? If you're a PATS fan, (as I'm sure you must be) leave a comment here ... and if you're a Giants fan, well, if you must, click over to Mary Ellen's and leave a comment at The Bonny Blue House.

But come February 3rd, we'll just see which team is hoisting the trophy ~ and which one of us is left wearing the socks!

Go PATS! :)

The Book Meme

I have been tagged by Kathleen at The Daily Grotto for a neat little book meme. It is the perfect post for this afternoon! We're running around like crazy here, because tonight it's our turn to host Activity Night ~ pizza and a movie for a dozen or so kids ages 10-14. Our pick: Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark. Yep, we're in "tween" territory now, folks. ;)

OK, so about that meme ~ here we go:


  1. Pick up the nearest book (of at least 123 pages).
  2. Open the book to page 123.
  3. Find the fifth sentence.
  4. Post the next three sentences.
  5. Tag five people.

From Mittenstrings for God, a book I always keep close at hand ...

"I used to ask myself this question as I mopped up spilled juice, bribed a stubborn two-year-old to eat four more bites of macaroni, tried in vain to carry on a conversation with my husband, saw my own dinner get cold as I jumped up for the twelfth time to get more milk, the salt, the ketchup ... I had to laugh when I read a meditation by a famous monk in which he suggested that mindfulness includes setting your table and planning your mealtime so well that you would not have to leave your chair once you sat down to eat. Easy for a mystic, I suppost, but impossible for a mother.

So why do we bother?"

That's three, but I can hardly leave it there. Here's a bit more ...

"Perhaps it is because mealtime offers us an opportunity each day to celebrate being a family. In a world that is full of change and inconsistency and uncertainty, we each have a place that is really ours, a place at our own table, and we can come together there and nourish our bodies and our souls, as human beings have done since before time began."

OK, that's a nicer note to leave off on. :) It's such a wonderful book, and as I've mentioned once or twice or ten times now, my friends and I are starting a book study on this very title next month. If you'd like, I'll post our thoughts as we go along (the condensed version of course).

Well, that was quick *and*fun! Thanks, Kathleen! I know this meme has been around a bit, so I am not sure who's in need of tagging. Let's say, if you'd like to give it a go, please do! And leave a comment so I can find you. :)

Have a great night, everyone!

Our Home Learning Schedule

It was such a busy day today! And I'm just now (7 p.m.) sitting down to the computer. Bill's home, and Earlybird's off to bed, so that's my signal to iron out a post for the night. :)

So, as I mentioned a day or two back, I did a mid-year review over the weekend. I pulled out our ed. plans and looked them over carefully. Mostly I looked to see what we had not even started, like that darn Latin curriculum I just can't get off the ground. (And now I'm thinking Greek instead.) Also, there's that US geography survey that really had better be started sooner rather than later. I looked at the calendar too, and decided how many weeks we had left in which to accomplish all of (or most of) what we initially set out to do.

Below then, is our newly tweaked home learning schedule. Only time will tell if it works better on paper than it does in reality. ;)

(P.S. I didn't include Earlybird's schedule here, because I am still working on that. I will post his plans and goals for the winter-spring very soon.)

Primary Resources

Outside Activities

  • New England Aquarium School (monthly)
  • Games Day (monthly)
  • Book Group (monthly)
  • Nature Study Club (monthly)
  • Tween Activity Night (monthly)
  • MIT classes (on occasion)
  • Soccer (in fall and spring)
  • Swimming (TBA)
  • Misc. field trips, fairs and holiday parties


  • Math:
    • Bookworm: 1 lesson
    • Crackerjack: 2-3 pages in workbook
  • Language Arts:
    • Bookworm: Wordsmith lesson
    • Crackerjack: phonics workbook, grammar workbook
    • Various assigned and free reading
  • World History:
    • Read (or listen to) first part of SOTW chapter; answer review questions
    • Mapwork
  • Current Events:
    • Read The Mini Pages from weekend paper
    • Read two pages from almanac
  • U.S. Geography:
    • MA puzzle page
  • Religion:


  • Math:
    • Bookworm: 1 lesson
    • Crackerjack: 2-3 pages in workbook
  • Language arts:
    • Bookworm: spelling lesson, Wordsmith lesson
    • Crackerjack: phonics workbook, grammar workbook
    • Various assigned and free reading
  • Science:
    • Read over first part of chemistry lesson
    • Write out new vocabulary cards
  • Current Events:
    • Read two pages in almanac
    • Share any news clippings; check map for locations
  • U.S. Geograpy:
    • MA puzzle page
    • New state card; color on map
    • Do state bird/flower coloring page; fill in capital
  • Religion:
    • Reading (CM or Vision biography)
    • Bookworm: write response to CCD lesson (one paragraph)


  • Math:
    • Bookworm: 1 lesson
    • Crackerjack: 2-3 pages in workbook
  • Language Arts:
    • Bookworm: Wordsmith lesson
    • Crackerjack: phonics workbook, grammar workbook
    • Various assigned and free reading
  • History:
    • Read second part of SOTW chapter; answer review questions
    • Coloring page or activity
    • Bookworm: read in encyclopedia, outline
    • Crackerjack: read in encyclopedia, narration
  • Current Events:
    • Read two pages in kids almanac
    • Share any news clippings; check map for locations
  • U.S. Geography:
    • MA puzzle page
  • Religion:
    • Faith @ Home Tea (or Thursday depending on schedule)


  • Math:
    • Bookworm: 1 lesson
    • Crackerjack: 2-3 pages in workbook
  • Language Arts:
    • Bookworm: spelling lesson, Wordsmith lesson
    • Crackerjack: phonics workbook, grammar workbook
    • Various assigned and free reading
  • Current Events:
    • Read two pages in almanac
    • Share any news clippings; check map for locations
  • U.S. Geograpy:
    • MA puzzle page
    • New state card; color on map
    • Do state bird/flower coloring page; fill in capital
  • Science:
    • Complete second part of chemistry lesson
    • Write science report for experiment
  • Religion:
    • Faith @ Home Tea (if not Wednesday)


  • Math:
    • Bookworm: 1 lesson
    • Crackerjack: 2-3 pages in workbook
    • Work in math journals
  • Language Arts:
    • Bookworm: blog entry
    • Crackerjack: phonics workbook, grammar workbook
    • Nature poem copywork
  • History:
    • Read D'Aulaire myth; coloring page for notebook
  • Nature Study:
    • Read chapter in The Beginning Naturalist
    • Observation/activity based on chapter

Well, that's all folks! As you might have noticed there's no mention of Latin in there (nor Greek for that matter). I figure we'll try this schedule for a while and then see if there's any wiggle room down the road. I think we have plenty on our plate for now. ;)

Have a great night everyone! I'll see you again sometime tomorrow ...

On a Winter's Day ~ Cookies & Kindness

Yesterday was the Feast of St. Agnes, so today we had a little celebration ...


It all started with the cookies, of course. :)

I'll bet you're not surprised we made cookies. (We're always making cookies it seems, lol!) But what's a Feast without ... well, a feast? And what better feast food in the eyes of a child, than a platter of freshly baked cookies?

So today, in honor of St. Agnes and the winter season itself, I tried a new recipe. I read in this book, (one of my favorite liturgical craft books for young children) that snowflakes were once called "St. Agnes flowers." Last year on this feast, we ate vanilla pizzelles dusted with powdered sugar, but this year I made White Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies - from here after known as Snowdrop Cookies in our house. ;)

Anyway, as the cookies were coming out in batch-after-sweet-smelling-batch, I set the table with a very easy little craft: "Snowflakes of Kindness." We built upon something Father said in his homily last Sunday ~ (and I'm paraphrasing here) ~ the kindness we show may be the only light in someone else's life. He stressed that it is so important to give of ourselves, to think of others whenever we can. I believe he quoted St. Francis and urged us to remember that how we live is the greatest gospel we can preach.

(You know, I usually find Father's homilies enjoyable, but sometimes they really make me sit up straight in my seat. It's times like these when I wonder if it would be acceptable for me to rummage through my purse for a pen.) :)

But, back to our craft! To begin, each boy got a set of three snowflakes (paper doilies) in graduating sizes. We brainstormed things we could do for others - something very easy (for instance a smile), something more of a challenge (doing chores without being asked) and something that asks even more of us. For this biggest snowflake we each talked about what is hardest for us to give. For me it was time. It is the hardest thing for me to give up, so my biggest snowflake said "Volunteer my time to help others." The boys had wonderful thoughts and we wrote them all down on our doilies.

A final step: we hung our snowflakes in the windows ...


And there they hang, not so much for all to see, but for us to remember:


By the way, this would make a nice Valentine project, I think. You could cut rounds of tissue paper to the shape of the doilies, then cut out a heart in the center of the doiley itself. Lightly glue the edges together so the tissue shows through the doiley. On the front of each doiley, around the heart shape, write in something nice you'll do for someone, or the names of people you love.

This all took under 30 minutes to do (except for the baking part, of course, but that was all me). It was a quick and easy craft, but I think it will be something the boys remember. If nothing else, I hope they'll remember our time spent together, the warm smell of the kitchen and the truth behind Father's wise words.

Well, thanks for visiting today, and thanks for your patience too! For one thing, I keep promising my homeschool routine post, (tomorrow, really!) and for another, I write such very long posts. Short ones are rare, and I know your time is short too, so I appreciate you taking the time to stop by and read!

Have a great night, everyone. :)

A Mid-Year Review

Or, What I Did while NOT Watching the Game ... :)

Here's where you would have found me throughout most of the afternoon Sunday: hiding behind stacks of books and papers and planners and magazines and a hot cup of tea for good measure:


Don't get me wrong, I love football games, especially when the Pats are playing. But when we're down to the final few games, I almost never have the stomach to watch, lol! I get so nervous that I usually start puttering about and immersing myself in all kinds of busy-ness ~ checking in on the game every few minutes or whenever Bill lets out an exclamation of one sort or another. ;)


So what I did yesterday was to work on our mid-year review. I basically cleaned out all the school totes, and drew an outline for each subject for the rest of the year. I looked at where we are (as opposed to where I thought we'd be) and considered what's working and what isn't so much.

I now have plan in place for the rest of the year that feels comfortable. I will share that plan in my next post, but for now here are a few more pictures from my puttering ...


A close up of my favorite tea cup which I found at Market Basket last month (for all of 99 cents!) and a lovely coaster I received for my birthday. I collect this particular type of coaster, but I can't find a link and I'm not sure what the brand is (how helpful is that, lol?) but you usually see them in little gift shops. I'm pretty sure my mum picked this one up at Wild Birds Unlimited ~ where I had oohed and aahed over the very same one only a few weeks before. ;)

Oh, hang on ~ I just found them online: they're made by Legacy Publishing. It looks like they're a Massachusetts based company, in fact.

And my piles (how I love piles!):


Newspapers, magazines, books to peruse ... and my journal of course. I always work better when surrounded by my stuff. "Managed" clutter I like to call it.


I made up a new binder today, a teacher's manual of sorts. I filled it with tabs, one for each subject. I re-printed the ed. plans and went over them with a fine-toothed comb (i.e. a highlighter) to see where we need to catch up. (For instance, I completely forgot I said we'd do a state bird notebook this year!)


Once I broke down each subject (by dividing remaining lessons by weeks left in the year) I tweaked our weekly routine. (Please tell me you do this kind of thing, too. I'm not the only one who finds herself off-course in January, am I?)

I then wrote it all out longhand in my journal before typing it up in a word document.


It all looks good on paper, but the proof will be in how much we get done between now and June. And later today (or possibly early tomorrow) I'll post our home learning schedule, and how we're approaching each subject. As for progress, I'll keep you all posted, of course!

Thanks for stopping by, and Happy Monday Tuesday, everyone! (No wonder I get off track, lol.) :)

A Quick Saturday Night Post :)

We're queuing up a movie for the boys, and I'm all snuggled here in my couch corner with a few magazines to read and some strawberry jam toast. :) But before I button up the laptop for the night, I wanted to post the picture below *and* a few recipes I've mentioned recently.

First the tracks:


There are a whole bunch of these in our yard. All around the feeders and even the front steps! We checked the handout from our Nature Club meeting the other day, and we're thinking maybe raccoon? I considered squirrel, but I think they're too big. We may scout out the rest of the yard tomorrow and see what other tracks we can find while the snow lasts ...

... which according to the weather report should be for some time. We won't have any fresh snow for a while, but the temperatures are going to plummet over the next few days. Fifteen for a high on Monday! Bittah cold, as we say here in New England.

And what warms one up better than something fresh from the oven? Here are a few yummy wintery recipes you might want to try. We've made all these goodies lately and enjoyed them very much. :)

White Hot Chocolate*

  • 4 cups whole milk
  • 4 cups half-and-half
  • 1 pound white chocolate, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 8 to 10 vanilla beans

In a saucepan on medium heat, heat the milk and half-and-half to just below the simmering point. Remove the pan from the heat and add the white chocolate. When the chocolate is melted, add the vanilla and whisk vigorously. Reheat very gently and serve with a vanilla bean stirrer in each cup.

(Serves 8-10. From The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook)

*This is so, so good. Buttery smooth and sweet. I was thinking this would make a nice Eastertime cocoa, since it's still chilly in most parts of the country in the early spring. They even sell those pastel bunny shaped marshmallows! Or you could make your own if you were feeling ambitious. ;)

Best Brownies*

*The recipe can be found online here and the name says it all; these are downright delicious. I made these yesterday for friends who had come for lunch and the kids ate up every last crumb! I made another batch this afternoon for Bill and the boys. It was surprisingly easy to mix them up, too.

Sugar Cookies*

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup butter at room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder and salt. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar for about 3 minutes, until creamy. Turn off the mixer and scrape down the bowl with the rubber spatula. Add the egg and vanilla and beat on medium speed until blended. Turn off mixer and add the flour mixture. Mix on low speed just until blended. The dough will be lumpy, like moist pebbles.

Dump the dough onto a work surface and press together into a solid mound. Divide in half. Press each pile into a flat disk. Wrap each disk in plastic wrap and refrigerate until well chilled, about 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease 3 baking sheets with butter. (Note: I used Silpats.) Sprinkle a work surface with some flour. Unwrap 1 chilled disk of dough and place it on the floured surface. Sprinkle the top of the dough with a little more flour. Roll out dough with the rolling pin until it is about 1/4 inch thick. Sprinkle more flour under and over the dough as needed so it doesn't stick. (Note: I rolled the dough out between sheets of waxed paper with very little extra flour. I had no problem with sticking.)

Cut shapes out of dough and place on baking sheet. Bake 10-12 minutes, until light brown around the edges. Cool for 15 minutes and then move cookies onto a cooling rack and let cool completely. Repeat with rest of cookies.

(Makes about 36 cookies. From Williams-Sonoma Kids Baking)

*Kind of time consuming, but a solid recipe. I have another one I want to try - from the dove cookie cutter tag, actually. It looks simpler. I will let you all know how they turn out!

Frosting for Cookies*

  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 teaspoon lemon juice

Melt butter and combine all ingredients. Beat until smooth. Add food coloring if desired.(Note I omitted lemon juice.)

(Yield 1/3 cup. From Ann Clark Ltd., The Cookie Cutter People from Vermont)

*The vanilla I used made the frosting beige instead of white. But it tasted fantastic!

Well, thanks for stopping by, everyone ~ keep warm and be well!

Tea and a Craft: Lovely Doves

“I saw the Spirit come down like a dove from heaven and remain upon him.” (Jn 1:32)


Remember the dove cookies I baked the other day? Well, we usually have our Tea-and-a-Craft days on Thursdays, but this week Thursday was an incredibly busy day. So instead, we set aside time Friday morning to sit, read, craft and eat. :)

I try to do this with the boys each week ~ to read aloud Sunday's Liturgy of the Word, so we can talk about it a little. Usually I prepare a simple craft to go along with our talk, something to make the readings more memorable. I often tie in (or sometimes focus on) a current or coming feast day. Quite often we also weave in a book we're reading (something from Cay's Catholic Mosaic, perhaps) or even a seasonal theme from nature. Nature brings its own beautiful inspiration to the table! (I know many of you are familiar with this activity, but since I have some new readers, may I link you to my Tea and Crafts archive?)

I use several resources to plan out these teas (which for lack of a better term is what I call them; we only sometimes have tea, though, lol). Online there is 4Real, and many blogs of course, as well as places like CatholicMom, Catholic Culture and Open Wednesdays. I draw from the books I've listed on the lefthand sidebar under Living the Liturgical Year and we also subscribe to Faith & Family, Take Out: Family Faith to Go and Magnifkid.

Now it goes without saying, I don't use everything at once! But I like to check through all the resources to see my options. Usually something sparks an idea and our weekly tea takes its shape ...

But always, without doubt, there is a snack to be shared. Nothing draws a bunch of boys to the table like something good to eat! Especially when there's frosting involved. :)

The craft this week came from The Complete Children's Liturgy Book: Liturgies of the Word for Years A, B and C):


And having decided on this craft (which reflects Sunday's gospel) I also decided to tie in our snack to the theme of the dove. My parents gave me a beautiful dove cookie cutter for my birthday, and so sugar cookies became the snack of choice this week. (A great idea is to collect cookie cutters (alphabet, religious and nature themes) and keep a stash of frozen sugar cookie dough in the freezer - you'll always have a snack at the ready!)

As the boys assembled their dove crafts, I read Sunday's Gospel aloud. And yes, my boys do the crafts readily. I get asked that a lot, lol. We've always done crafts, and they enjoy them! I keep them very simple and the promise of a delicous treat at the end also holds their attention. ;)

By the time we were done reading and making, the doves were ready to hang, and the cookies were ready to frost:


Crackerjack kept his plain, but Earlybird's (shown below) was generously adorned with crystal white sprinkles.


Speaking of EB, the poor kid, he is suffering a terrible cold. He didn't even want to eat this cookie - for him, it was really all about the decorating today.

Finally, the cookies were consumed, and the craft was hung on display:


Don't they look nice hanging from the beams?


Even better when there are so many smiling faces beneath them. :)

And now here's the weekend at last ... oh, the promise of a weekend! And a long weekend, at that! It's bright and early here as I finish up this post. EB is feeling better, thank goodness. He had a good night's sleep and I am sure that helped a lot. I have a long list of things to do today - little errands, catch-up chores - and then we'll be settling in for a quiet family weekend. Well, quiet except for the part where we cheer on our beloved Pats! :)

And don't forget, today begins the Barnes & Noble Educator Week! And, I hear tell, JoAnn's has a good sale going on too. Hmmm ... books, crafts and football? Sounds like a great wekeend to me!

I hope you all have a good one too! I'll be back again sometime soon.

Stopping by the Snowy Woods ...

The woods are lovely, dark and deep. But I have promises to keep ...


... and miles to go before I sleep.

(From Robert Frost's Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening)

I couldn't help but think of this poem as I looked over my pictures from our Nature Club meeting yesterday. Firstly, these are about the snowiest woods I have ever seen! (In person, anyway.) And secondly, it was such a busy day yesterday, and there really were, seemingly, many miles to go and promises to keep before I'd place my tired head on the pillow ...

Doesn't poetry compliment nature so nicely? The two subjects really do go hand in hand. Wouldn't it be a cozy and creative project to collect a whole bunch of winter poems like Frost's - ones that make you glad for the snow and the wind and the frosty weather - and then bind them up in a special book? A scrapbook or lapbook or nature journal, perhaps? Or even, dare I say it, a blog? A blog for just poems about nature and pictures to go along with the prose? Hmmm. I'll think on that one a bit. I've also been thinking about another Field Day. Do you remember those? It's been a while, but maybe its time to start them up again ...

In the meantime, please join us on our walk through the woods ...






And now for the animal tracks we spied. (Any guesses are most welcome!)






It was cold, but a lot of fun~ good to get out in the frosty fresh air!


Happy Friday, folks! Thanks for stopping by our snowy woods today!

(P.S. I completely forgot - it's Poetry Friday! The Roundup is at Becky's this week.)