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April 2008

March 2008

Cake and a Craft for The Annunciation


To be perfectly honest, I was a bit tired after yesterday's shindig, but I still wanted to do something special with the boys for today's Feast, The Annunciation of the Lord, (technically, a Solemnity, but a day to rejoice nonetheless). On this day last year we brought roses (and, ahem, rocks) to a nearby Marian statue, but this year I was determined to stay in. Between the rain and the snow, it was downright unhospitable for even a brief outing, so while the flakes fell fast and furious, and the boys finished their math, I got started on the cake.

Now, you're probaby saying to yourself, "She baked a cake? Didn't she say they had a whole bunch of desserts leftover from yesterday's party?"

(Well yes I did ... and we did (still do) ... but nothing Earlybird can eat, and I wanted him to have something fresh and festive for today. Besides, I love to bake.)

Anyhoo. I had wanted to try making homemade angel food cake, which is a traditional food for today, but at the last minute I realized I don't own a tube pan! (How can that be??) I wasn't sure if a bundt pan would cut it, so instead, I reached for a lemon cake mix I had on the shelf. So easy, and I kind of liked how golden it came out. :)

And with all the time I saved using a box mix, I made up some lemon whipped cream with EB:


(Picture by Bookworm.)

Then, I turned a Ziploc bag into a makeshift piping tube ...


And got fancy with the whipped cream ... :)


(More photos by my Bookworm.)

And we fished blueberries out of the fruit salad to place all around ...


All that was needed was a pretty centerpiece - so I plucked a few leftover tulips (aka "Mary's Prayers") and voila ~


A fun, yummy feast day treat!

As the boys ate, we read about the Angelus, and I showed them this famous painting. I also showed them the Daily Missal you see below; it has just come into my happy possession. It was printed in 1959 and belonged to my grandfather. (Thank you so much, Mum and Uncle George!)


Here's the lovely page for The Annunciation:


And then it was time to get our hands dirty!


I read a suggestion in this lovely book to plant marigold seeds on this feast. (Marigold = Mary's Gold.) The boys have been itching to plant something, so a few dixie cups and some potting soil later, and we were good to go! :)


Note the variety of Marigold = Crackerjack! Which of course, made his day. ;)

First we scooped the potting soil into the cups carefully:


Next we fished out the seeds:



And each of my boys prepared his own special cup:


Bookworm added the water:


And now the cups will sit in a window full of spring sun. (Once it returns!)


And there you have it, our day in a (rather large, chatty) nutshell. (Though I left out the part about the flock of wild turkeys that passed through ... that caused some excitement around here!) I hope your day was a good one, too. Good night for now ~ I'll see you all sometime tomorrow.

Easter Dinner ... At Last!


And at long last the flu has vamoosed, so we were able to hold our Easter Dinner this weekend. It was great fun, even though several family members could not make it up. We missed cousins Caitlin, Colin and Tina (all from New York) as well as Grandma Barbara and Auntie Marcia (who were each away on trips down south).

If I may, I'd like to share some photos from our day ...


We set up seating for 11 in the dining room ...


... and situated the children's table close by in the family room.


I prepared a small table for holding desserts and paper goods. And here is Bookworm's contribution ~ the vegetable tray:


The weather was so fine (a bit chilly but bright), that the boys spent a good deal of time in the yard playing ball ...


... while dinner was being laid out on the buffet (aka the kitchen island):


We served haddock pie, baked ham, maple-glazed carrots and onions, roasted potatoes, roast beef, pineapple casserole and fresh bakery breads (olive, pepper jack and French).

And then came the desserts ...


Assorted cheesecakes, pound cake with ice cream and butterscotch sauce, lemon meringue pie, fruit salad, oatmeal cookies and brownie-bites. (Oh my, I'm glad there are leftovers!)

As we lingered around the tables enjoying dessert and coffee, I couldn't help noticing how the sunlight played off the wine glasses ...


(I just love sunlight; it makes everything look pretty, don't you think?)

This was a wonderful day! We are so blessed to have most of our family living close by. And I am so blessed to have my mum's guidance and help throughout all the planning and shopping and cooking and orchestrating ... I could not have done any of this without her!

I really do love putting together family celebrations, both small and large. First of all, there's the incomparable reward of gathering and visiting with loved ones, but then there's the creative side to it all ~ all the little touches that make each holiday unique. It's nice to keep things comfortingly familiar, but full of little surprises too. But whatever the celebration, there are so many details in the undertaking, it really warrants (dare I say it?) a notebook of its own. Hmmm, I'll think on that one a while, but for now I'll add "Entertaining" to my "What" List ...

And as that list keeps growing, I'll start working on the next step of organizing which is the How. But, first! April's Themes and Plans cannot wait any longer - that must be my very next post! And it will be, but not until much later today (or even perhaps very early tomorrow).

So for now then, have a happy Monday! Thanks for stopping by ~ as always, I appreciate your visit!

More for the List!

Well, Good Saturday Morning, everyone! GoodhousekeepingThis promises to be a busy weekend around here ~ our rescheduled Easter dinner takes place tomorrow afternoon, so today I'll be bustling about shopping, cleaning and cooking, etc. But I'd like to share a few notes with you all before I "disappear" until Monday. ;)

First of all, I am working on the April Themes & Plans post for (hopefully) Monday morning - Monday being the very last day in March, if you can believe it! I wonder how it will go out - like a lion or a lamb? (Make sure to ask the children what they think! And wouldn't these be a fun treat, whatever the answer may be?)

Also, thank you for all the great responses to my Organizing post on Thursday! I've updated the "What" List accordingly. (The additions are in a darker blue so you can identify them.) Remember, this is a list of all the things we mums need to organize - or delegate, manage, supervise or at least keep in mind. If you have something else to add to the list, please let me know in the comments below. (It seems the list could be never-ending actually!)

So WHAT do we need to organize?

  • Paperwork
  • Consumer Information (warranties/manuals, local businesses)
  • Housekeeping (daily, weekly, monthly and seasonal)
  • The Family Calendar (activities, appointments and events)
  • Home Learning (including life skills and manners)
  • Emergency Information
  • Medical Issues (care, special needs, appointments, research)
  • Home & Garden Maintenance (schedule, services, home gardening)
  • Home Decor (ideas, projects, seasonal)
  • Family Vehicles (interior and exterior maintenance, service/repair)
  • Clothing (maintenance, storage, purchasing)
  • Totes and Bags (mum's purse, family totes, diaper bag)
  • Family Entertainment (music, videos, games, hobbies, magazines)
  • Family Memories (photos, video, journals - electronic or otherwise)
  • Crafting (ideas, supplies - storage and inventory)
  • Toys (storage, organization, rotation)
  • Gift Giving (schedule, ideas, wrap, gifts on hand)
  • Family Pets
  • Seasonal Celebrations (holidays, feast days, birthdays)
  • Family Faith (at home, in the parish)
  • Correspondence (contact info., electronic mail, greetings)
  • Meals (menus, marketing, recipes, nutrition)
  • Money (bill paying, budgeting, economizing)
  • To-do's (daily, misc. tasks and ongoing projects)
  • Activities (social obligations, sports, clubs, hobbies)
  • Books (storage, rotation, library loans)
  • Well, I'm off now for a day or so, but in the meantime, I wish you all a happy weekend. Thanks so much for stopping by! :)

    *Vintage Good Housekeeping image, courtesy

    Mitten Strings for God: Chapter Three



    "Like Thoreau, I love a wide margin to my life" - the less packed into a day, the better." (p. 23)

    The first time I read Mittenstrings, the above sentence resonated so deeply with me, I copied it out and taped it above my kitchen counter, the spot where I keep all my calendar paraphernalia. Since I'm a homebody at heart, I tend to err on the side of quiet anyway, and yet, with three growing children - all with varying interests and needs - as easily as anyone else, I too can be swept along the racetrack of life.

    Peace at home: what does it mean for your family? Do your days allow for sufficient time spent at home together? Not just time spent getting meals on the table, and clothes in the washer, but time to just "be" with your loved ones? How often do you find yourselves sitting quietly together after supper? Are you ever just still, or always, seemingly, "on task" or on the move?

    What gets in the way of this kind of peace? I would agree with Ms. Kenison that it is, indeed, too much activity. Too much time spent outside the home going, going, going. I think finding peace means maintaining a balance - a satisfying combination of outside activities and time spent at home. And for each family the equation will be different. I personally require a good deal of time at home to feel peace, and I think my children do, too. The weeks when most of the calendar blocks are filled in are the ones which end with me feeling frazzled and disconnected. (And, as the saying goes, "If Mama ain't happy ...)

    Of course this doesn't mean to say that just by being at home we are creating the kind of peace and calm that is described in this chapter - the quiet attention paid, the simple connections made. This is a challenge as well - to learn how to slow down and enjoy stillness. Maybe you, like me, find yourself with a quiet "at-home" day and think, "Oh good! I can get this done, and this, and this ..." While there is certainly much to be said for honest work done together in support of our home - this cannot take the place of just "hanging out." Think of how we enjoy spending time with our closest (grown up) friends - wouldn't the best way to re-connect be to just sit and catch up?

    So then, what kinds of activities (for lack of a better word) promote such a peaceful place, an environment to foster connection? Handcrafts, read-alouds, puzzles and games, audiobooks, perhaps? This is all good fodder for a future post: How do we create the peace once we make time for it?

    It is up to us - as mothers and wives - to keep a close eye on our family's schedule. And the only way to do that is to make time to do so. I would propose scheduling (again, for lack of a better word!) routine times when we can sit down and do just that ...

    (And this is just a rough idea, nothing set in stone yet.)

    Yearly or seasonally: Take stock and call a family meeting.

    • Who wants to do what this year?
      • hobbies
      • activities
      • sports
    • Discuss vacations, birthday parties, and holiday goals.
    • Decide upon volunteer and charity work.

    Monthly: Sit down with month-at-a-glance calendar

    • Look at an overview of the month ahead.
    • Consider themes and goals.
    • Jot down steps to take regarding:
      • current projects (i.e. basement re-organization, vegetable garden)
      • seasonal aspirations (i.e. catch tadpoles in April, beach days in August).

    Weekly: Make a plan and discuss it with family.

    • Lessons
    • Appointments
    • Activities
    • To -do's
    • Family fun

    Daily: Assess the day's schedule.

    • List must-do's.
    • Where can peace be found/created today?

    I am eager to hear your thoughts on this chapter (or if you haven't read the book, this area of family life), so please leave a comment below if you have the time. I'll leave you with my second favorite quote from this chapter, which really gets at the heart of the matter:

    "Knowing peace at home, we bring peace into the world."

    Have a wonderful weekend, everyone. :)

    Going out like a lamb ...

    I hope you enjoy these pictures from a field trip we took this afternoon to a local farm. It was the perfect day for a visit - so very "March." The air was mild and the sunlight was milky. But the best part of all, without a doubt, was the baby lambs!


















    Have a good night, everyone! I'll be back sometime tomorrow with our next Mittenstrings post! :) 

    Organizing: A Mother's Area of Expertise


    It's been far too long since I've done an "organizing" post. (For that matter, it's been far too long since I've been organized, lol!) So I thought I'd whip up a big post about how my various organizing systems are working for me (or not), except that ... I ran out of steam! And then, when I gathered steam again a bit later, I ran out of time! So instead, I will do this project in installments. :)

    I've loosely divided this project into a series of questions regarding household organization: what, how, when, where and why. The first thing I did was to write down the what ~ all the areas of home and family life that we mums need to manage. (And by manage I don't mean we do it all by ourselves, but as mothers we are usually repsonsible for overseeing most domestic affairs.) :)

    So what do we need to organize?

  • Paperwork
  • Housekeeping (daily, weekly, monthly and seasonal)
  • The Family Calendar (activities, appointments and events)
  • Home Learning (including life skills and manners)
  • Emergency Information
  • Medical Issues (care, special needs, appointments, research)
  • Home & Garden Maintenance (schedule, services, home gardening)
  • Clothing (maintenance, storage, purchasing)
  • Family Pets
  • Seasonal Celebrations (holidays, feast days, birthdays)
  • Family Faith (at home, in the parish)
  • Correspondence (contact info., electronic mail, greetings)
  • Meals (menus, marketing, recipes, nutrition)
  • Money (bill paying, budgeting, economizing)
  • To-do's (daily, misc. tasks and ongoing projects)
  • Activities (social obligations, sports, clubs, hobbies)
  • Library Loans
  • So that's what I had jotted down in my notebook, the last time I brainstormed over this. The list seems fairly complete, but I'm sure I've overlooked some things. I would love your input! Am I forgetting something? What would you add to this list?

    And may I ask, what area(s) of home and family life do you find most challenging to keep organized?

    Well, that's all I have time for just now. We're getting ready for a busy day - including a trip to the farm to see baby lambs! (If the weather holds, I'll have lots of pictures to share later!) And in an upcoming post, I'll take a look at how I need to organize each of these list items - now that will take some thought. ;)

    Have a good day!

    Facts in Five

    ~ FIVE neat little things for today ~

    1. My Earlybird slept from 8 p.m. last night until 5:30 a.m. today; that's 9 1/2 hours, people! That was the most normal night's sleep he's ever had in his life. (And, more significantly, that I've had in 6 1/2 years!) What a clever boy; he's been showered with attention this morning and is he ever chipper and chatty. Some of you reading know just how early a riser my EB can be (i.e. 4 is the norm). I think - hope, pray - this new schedule (no naps/time change), has finally worked a little bedtime magic. I could get used to this well-rested feeling ...

    2. My blog turned 2 last week! I was thinking that today was the day, but actually it was March 22nd. I posted 3 times the first day, and 7 times the next, lol! I am stunned to think I've had something to say almost every day in those two years. (I think I've missed maybe 5.) I am really very grateful for this blog - especially for the folks I've come to know through it - it's been the most rewarding hobby, I must say. Here's how we celebrated ONE last year ...

    3.  SouleMama's book (The Creative Family) is coming out in 6 days! You are probably familiar with her beautiful, crafty, cozy blog (the kind of blog I hope mine grows up to be, lol), but if not, please hop over and check it out. There's a link to her book in the lefthand sidebar; check that out too. I've had it in my Amazon cart ever since she first mentioned it sometime last year, and now shipping's just a few days away! I am downright giddy. :)

    4. What we're watching/listening to right now ~ Here Come the 1,2,3's! from They Might Be Giants. Earlybird found this in his Easter basket, and it's a big hit, as I knew it would be. (He's loved the ABC version for a couple of years now.) Very catchy, perky songs - very parent- and older sibling- friendly. And the bonus is, the set includes a DVD to watch, and a CD for the car. EB, as some of you know, has a sensitivity to singing (in that, he yells, "NO SING, MAMA!" if I do so much as hum) so figuring out ways to get a little music into his life is a constant goal.

    5. And finally: the Red Sox won the season opener 6-5 in 10 innings! Hooray for spring!

    Well, I must be off - the waffles have popped, and the coffeemaker just sounded "last call." I hope you all have a wonderful Wednesday!

    So what would it be?

    Did you know that tomorrow is National Make Up Your Own Holiday Day? Really!

    What a great creative writing exercise this could be for the kids; get the conversation started as they sit down to breakfast tomorrow morning. Or, you could help them conduct an informal poll of family and friends, graphing everyone's answers to the question ~ What holiday is your favorite of all?

    Or, you could just take a quiz, like I did, and call it a day. ;)

    You Are Thanksgiving
    You are a bit of a homebody who enjoys being in the company of people you love.
    It doesn't take a lot to make you happy. You're enjoying life as it is.
    You have many blessings in your life, and you are grateful for each one.
    You believe that life is about what you *do* have. You feel like you have enough of the good stuff.

    What makes you celebrate: Family, friends, and the changing of the seasons.

    At holiday get togethers, you do best as: The host of the party

    On a holiday, you're the one most likely to: Spend so much energy preparing that it's a full time job
    And it's my favorite holiday, too! So tell me, what are you?

    It's Opening Day (sort of)!

    And as I type, at 7:52 a.m., the Red Sox are playing the Oakland A's - in Japan! I'm not sureCap_2 if this counts, officially, as Opening Day, since it's not being played here in Boston. A quick check of my friend Lisa's blog (and her handy widget) tells me we still have 13 more days to go till the Home Opener.

    Still, BoSox baseball is being played again - somewhere! Definitely a day to sport our team attire and maybe listen to this CD while we're out and about. I picked these up recently, but considering how much candy the boys have consumed over the past few days, I think I will hold onto them for April 8th; the Easter baskets should be well emptied by then. ;)

    So, thinking ahead to (Home) Opening Day, I can't help myself but plan a little baseball-themed lunch. Here's a possible menu:

    And, note to self ~ a few titles to request for our April bookshelf:

    All right then ~ time to get this day started! (We're up 3-2!)

    Have a good Tuesday, everyone. :)

    Monday Afternoon Chit-Chat

    By tradition, Easter Monday is a visiting day or a day for a nice walk, though I'd hazard a guess that many of us could simply use a day of rest. :)

    Since it was quite chilly here today and we're all still on the mend, I opted not to do either. Though normally I'm completely on board with the fresh-air-cures-all school of thought, I'm feeling a little cautious after this truly nasty bug. Especially when one of my boys complains of being cold no matter how many layers he piles on, and ends up doing his lessons - not at the learning table - but pulled up close to the fire:


    (Despite the cold, that spring light is a joy!)

    So instead, we cracked open a window - just to hear the birds and feel the breeze for a bit - and sipped some "Easter Cocoa." This seemed to please everyone, and warmed up my little Crackerjack at last.


    ("Easter Cocoa" is just fresh whole milk warmed with a little sugar and a dash of almond extract - topped with pastel marshmallows of course!)

    Completely off-topic (though I'm not sure this post has one, lol) I have to show you this lovely book that has captured my attention:



    It's called A Mom's Almanac, and it is just beautiful - to look at and read. As you can see in the photographs, the pages are laid out in an old-fashioned charming way (think Kate Greenaway), but its information is completely up-to-date. I actually bought it as a gift for an upcoming baby shower, but I fear I might not be able to give it up - ahem! I linked it at Amazon but I got it at B&N for only $8.95! It is a perfect gift for a new mother - or a mother who will enjoy mothering no matter how big her babies grow! ;)

    One more thing before I go, and I hesitate to post about it because it's something I've only just begun fiddling with. But the colors looked so pretty (and yes, matched the post) so I couldn't help snapping a picture ...


    In my (seemingly) never-ending quest for the perfect organization system, I am trying my hand at index cards. I tried using them once years ago after reading the S.H.E. book, and I even started a thread at 4Real ... but for whatever reason they didn't stick. Then a few months ago I read a magazine article about a mother who used multi-colored cards to keep track of her daily to-do's, and even more recently, my friend Kim shared how she uses hers ~ and, well, it all got my gears turning! I didn't even have to run to the office supply store - I had all the supplies on hand. So I've been using them for a couple of weeks now, and so far so good. I'll post more about them after I've used them a little longer. (Does anyone else use index cards in this way?)

    (Bill just peeked over my shoulder and sighed, "You're trying the index cards again?" Lol.)

    So there's the update for now - and now it's time to get these kids (and me!) to bed. I hope you had a nice Monday. I'll see you all again sometime tomorrow. :)

    How our Easter was (and wasn't) ...

    But first, how was your Easter? I hope it was lovely. Ours was nice, if not quite what I'd planned ...

    A quick bit of back story. Several years ago - it might have been the first year we lived here - we had what we now recall (not so fondly) as The Sick Christmas. That year, within days of December 25th, we all fell prey to a horrendous stomach bug. And so, at the very last minute, we had to cancel all of our holiday plans - including a big family gathering here on Christmas Day itself - in order to stay in and nurse ourselves back to health.

    Well, this year, I'm sorry to report, we had The Sick Easter.

    Just an hour after posting my Happy Easter greeting on Holy Thursday morning, I was on the phone with my doctor's office. The cold that I'd been nursing all week had worsened into a deep and painful cough, and my eyes were sore and red. A few hours later, home from the doctor, I had my Dx ~ flu, conjunctivitis in both eyes, and a budding ear infection to boot.


    Bill came down with it on Good Friday, and my mum too. Earlybird was just getting over it (the cough part, thank goodness, not the conjunctivitis); the older boys sneezed a lot and complained about "itchy" eyes, but so far they've just been less active than usual. (Which, all in all, was a good thing.)

    Needless to say our Holy Week and Easter plans had to be seriously altered - many things had to be put on hold. Still, we managed to create some family fun and, save for the incessant coughing, it was a quiet and restful Easter. The good news is, our family dinner (the one I outlined so meticulously here) will take place next Sunday - same time, same place, and same menu - more or less. ;)

    Of course, I took pictures all along - I can't not take pictures, lol! - so I'd like to share them with you this evening. :)

    We began with decorating eggs on Holy Saturday. That afternoon I summoned the troops (and the energy) to boil up a dozen or so eggs:


    Good old Paas. I had visions of trying natural dyes this year, but those tiny tablets came to the rescue ...


    I hung the forsythia garlands, but I wasn't able to get the eggs ready, as I posted about here.


    Sunday morning, our prayer corner was aglow, the great boulder rolled away from the front of the tomb ...


    (This is our dragon cave, btw. It comes in handy for all kinds of things.)

    The Easter Bunny visited before the sun even rose, leaving behind baskets of goodies, and hiding the boys' bright eggs in quiet corners of the yard ...




    While the boys looked for the eggs (bundled up tight against the cold March air), I prepared a very simple morning treat ...


    A strawberry punch and an Easter egg cake I picked up at Whole Foods. My mum brought over cinnamon biscuits and we put on a pot of fresh coffee.

    And finally, our Lenten cross made its Easter transformation. Remember how it looked last month? Well, here's how it looked today ...


    And in the midst of all the flowers and butterflies: the missing Alleluia!


    And now, Easter night, it's back to the couch for me ~ to the couch, with a warm banket and a hot cup of tea. The boys have been fed and sent to bed; I think they had a nice Easter in the end. I know it felt strange to just be home for days on end, and not go to church and not have a big party as usual. But we were together and we took it easy, and that's what we all needed - but thank goodness Easter is 50 days long!

    Have a good night, everyone. John Adams is starting up in a few minutes (what a good show!); we'll see if we can stay up to watch it. (And if not, thank goodness for Tivo!)

    See you all sometime tomorrow. :)

    Happy Easter, Happy Spring!


    Holy Thursday is here, and I'm signing off until next week. I hope you all enjoy a lovely Easter with your families!

    May God bless you at Easter,
    and keep you all year through.
    May God give you all the faith you need, to make your dreams come true.
    May His love and wisdom always help, to guide you on your way.
    May His light shine down upon you now, to bless your Easter Day.

    (An Irish Easter Blessing)

    And speaking of sweaters ...

    (... which we were, briefly, in my last post, in case you missed it ...)

    It seems my little cardigan habit will come in handy tomorrow - it's National Sweater Day! This day is so named in honor of Fred Rogers (that would be Mister Rogers to you and me) whose 80th birthday it would have been. Mr. McFeeley himself (Speedy Delivery!) has asked folks around the country to wear a sweater tomorrow in his memory. (See for yourself in this YouTube clip here.)

    Any style of sweater will do, so won't you be a good neighbor, and show your support for Mister Rogers? :)

    You can bet your bottom dollar I'll be sporting my new yellow cardy tomorrow ... and saying a little prayer for that special man who shaped so many young lives (mine among them).

    God bless and keep you, Mister Rogers. Thank you for making all of us feel special.

    ~ Easter Preparations ~


    Mum and I have finally nailed down the menu (a few desserts are still TBA), so I've made up a shopping list and cooking timetable. Last weekend was supposed to be the "big shop" but since I mostly stayed in bed, the marketing and cooking will need to be done over the next few days.

    At last count, we'll be a party of 16 this year - 13 adults, 3 children (all mine). I think we will be able to set up two tables in the dining room (you all know it better as the learning room) with possibly a small table set up for the boys in the neighboring family room.

    *Now if you are coming to dinner and you want to be surprised don't read on! ;)

    Drinks & Appetizers ~

    • Wine, beer and mixed drinks available at bar
    • Golden Easter Punch for the children and young at heart :)
    • Artichoke Dip with French bread (I can never not make this.)
    • Crabbies (Bookworm's request)
    • Dill Dip with Vegetables and Butterfly crackers

    Dinner ~

    • Asti Spumante (tradition with every holiday meal)
    • Baked HamEasterlilies1_2
    • Roast Beef with Gravy
    • Haddock Pie (from a local farm)
    • Herbed New Potatoes
    • Apple-Roasted Carrots and Onions (from Cooking with Paula Deen)
    • Steamed Corn
    • Homemade Chutney
    • Baked Pineapple
    • Biscuits with Honey Butter

    Desserts ~

    • Frosted Carrot Breads
    • Lemon Meringue Pie
    • Fruit Salad
    • Oatmeal Cookies
    • Assorted Easter Candies
    • TBA
    • Coffee and Tea

    Favors ~

    (Shown in the top photo.) I bought these cute chocolate bars a few weeks ago. Tied up with pastel ribbons they'll make nice favors for each of our guests.

    Tables ~

    The large table will be set with the sage green cloth, ivory napkins and my white china. The smaller table will be set with my mum's pastel plaid tablecloth, holiday napkins (white with embroidered Easter eggs) and her green-edged china. The boys' table will be set with small plates of the white china and placemats (tablecloths + boys = not a good thing).

    Flowers ~

    All this past week we've been hunting for pussywillows but didn't find any, so I actually purchased some at the grocery store. I'd like to have small pots of flowers and tea lights on the tables. I'll check the nursery for ideas, but there will most likely be daffodils on one table and tulips on the other. Oh, and of course there will be Easter lilies on the mantel! How I love their smell!

    Clothing ~

    The boys' clothes are all set, though they might need a little pressing. Each boy will wear khakis and a button-down shirt (light blue, pale green, and soft yellow), and brown loafers all around. I'll leave Bill's attire up to him, but I have my outfit all set; over my dress I'll be wearing my new spring cardigan (in butter). My friends kid me a little about my cardigan addiction - ;) - but you know, here in New England, we can really use them year-round! (Even the summer nights can sometimes be cool, especially by the water.)

    Housecleaning Notes ~

    It's Wednesday of Holy Week and our Spring Cleaning continues. Monday I tackled the family room and dining room, while Tuesday was forfeited to the plastering work (the living room now needs a really good wipe down). Today I plan to clean the bathtub with a lemony-fresh scrub and wash the wine glasses. The boys will be set to work in their bedrooms and tonight Bill will shampoo the rugs before bed.

    Otherwise, we're all going to work on getting over this cold!

    So on that note, I'm off; that tub's not going to clean itself. (Though wouldn't it be nice if it could?) Thanks for stopping by today ~ I hope your week is going well!

    A few notes while I'm trapped here ...

    Lol, maybe trapped is too strong a word, but we have a plastering crew working at the Pinkbluebutterfly_2house today, and I'm somewhat sequestered here in the family room, behind a tarp that's keeping the dust and the noise down a bit. Bill is working from home today so he can be the go-to guy for the workers (I'm no good at fielding construction questions) and in a little while the boys and I will head out to EB's therapy and then lunch with Nana ...

    All this to say, I have a little extra time at the computer this morning and I thought of a few things I've been meaning to mention. :)

    ~ I've been lately wrapped up in a little cocoon of family doings and minor illnesses etc., so I'm just getting around to answering comments that have been left in the past week or so. Please forgive my perpetual slowness in this aspect of blogging. I want you all to know I so appreciate each and every comment (and question) left here for me!

    ~ And speaking of comments, I have to ask once again, is anyone having trouble typing in my comment box? I swear, it's slow as molasses when I do, and I have resorted to typing my comment in a Word document first, and then cutting and pasting it here. I don't seem to have trouble leaving comments at other blogs, so maybe this is just an issue here at mine?

    ~ Also, a brief Mittenstrings memo ~ since this Friday is Good Friday, I would like to bump our discussion of Chapter 3 (Peace) to next Friday, March 28th. Thanks to all who have been participating - I hope you are enjoying the book!

    ~ Let's see, what else? I am also trying to update my sideboards - our booklists, etc. I have started updating my blogroll too, which, come to find out, is seriously out of date. I am deleting blogs that no longer exist, and updating URL's where needed. Hope that hasn't been too confusing for anyone!

    ~ And finally, an admission: I have 1,135 emails in my inbox. That's crazy, isn't it?! I'd say it's time to tackle that "hot spot" too ...

    Allrighty then, it's time to get EB packed up for therapy. I hope you all have a nice Tuesday. I'll check back in later today. :)

    Irish Brown Bread with EB and Me!

    This afternoon Earlybird and I made a loaf of Irish Brown Bread together, following a very easy recipe from last month's Family Fun. Not surprisingly, I took pictures as we worked, so I thought I'd share them here with you all. :)

    I set up the ingredients on the learning room table where we had better light and lots of room:



    • 2 1/4 cups whole wheat flour (I used white whole-wheat)
    • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
    • 1 1/2 cups rolled oats
    • 1 teaspoon baking soda
    • 1 teaspoon salt
    • 1 tablespoon sugar
    • 2 1/2 cups buttermilk


    Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl (ours could have been bigger), and make a well for the buttermilk:



    Now for the really fun part - you get to stir it all up with your hands! (Fun - but very messy! Notice there are no pictures of that part - I didn't dare touch my camera, lol!) Finally, you pat the whole bunch of sticky wet dough into a ball and place it on a floured cookie sheet (or one lined with a Silpat such as ours).

    A final touch - a cross on the top, cut with a knife:


    And while the bread baked (@ 400 degrees for 50 minutes), EB and I made the next panel for our stained glass cross:



    Truth be told, I worked on the panel while EB watched Jakers in the next room. ;)

    But before we knew it the timer had rung, and the bread was ready to come out:


    And I'm happy to say, it came out very well! It was warm and hearty and tasted great slathered with butter - even better with a hot cuppa tea:


    It will be quite good with supper tonight, too!

    Thanks for stopping by, everyone! And until we meet again, let me leave you with a favorite Irish blessing ...

    May there always be work for your hands to do.
    May your purse always hold a coin or two.
    May the sun always shine on your windowpane.
    May a rainbow be certain to follow each rain.
    May the hand of a friend always be near you.
    May God fill your heart with gladness to cheer you.

    And so it begins!

    A new week - Holy Week - is beginning! It's a whole week of beginnings in fact: Easter is coming and so is the first day of spring. There is much to celebrate this week!

    We had a lively kick-off last night, as we participated in our parish Passion Play. I only took one brief picture at the end of the performance, the final song ~


    My boys are at the far left side of this picture, the second and third children in (wearing helmets). It was a wonderful time, and we had a great turnout! We were so pleased to see our family and friends in the audience.

    After the performance, there were refreshments served downstairs in the church hall. The kids who performed in the play got first dibs, lol!


    There was also a craft room in which the children could work on stained glass pictures and other activities. I never made it into that room (too busy chatting, I'm afraid), but very kindly our music director (and play co-producer) sent me home with leftover projects to do with my boys.

    So the new week is here, and our plans are shaping up in this way ~

    • Lessons will be brief (just math and writing).
    • We'll be Spring Cleaning!
    • Everyday that's fine, we'll get out in the fresh air.
    • Every afternoon we'll have quiet time, and read from our Bible.

    But right now I'm off to start breakfast; all my boys are up and that means I'm "on the clock." ;) I hope your week is off to a good start! I'll see you all sometime tomorrow ...

    "Palm Sunday Pops"


    Now, I know what you're thinking ... what on earth do lollipops have to do with Palm Sunday? Well, maybe not much, but today is Palm Sunday and we did make these white chocolate pops for a festive gathering tonight at our church. They were so easy to make, I just had to post about them! I think they would make wonderful treats for the children to hand out at Easter - to relatives, friends, neighbors, their pastor, etc. This is a very doable craft for kids!

    These were the simple materials, which can be found at any craft store:


    (Not shown is the pastel ribbon I ended up using in place of the gold twist-ties. It just looked much better.)

    I'm sure many of you are familiar with making this kind of candy, so I'll be brief in my how-to's. Basically, you just melt the chocolate wafers in the top of a double boiler (or in a microwave oven) and spoon the liquid into the molds. You place the stick in the mold and turn it till its coated with chocolate. Chill the mold for 15-20 minutes and then pop the pops out - it's that quick and easy!

    To dress them up, and keep them clean, I slipped each pop into a plastic treat bag and secured them with the ribbons as you see in the top photo.

    All together, they made a pretty presentation in a small Easter basket:


    As I have mentioned, my older boys are playing soldiers in a Children's Passion Play this evening; it is being performed by parish youngsters in grades 2-10. They've worked so hard for several weeks now, I can't wait for all their hard work to pay off! After the play, there will be an Easter craft for the children to do and refreshments will be served. We'll be bringing our basket of "Palm Sunday Pops," along with a tray of Vienna cookies I bought today. Yes, bought - I'm afraid all my baking plans flew out the window when I came down with this wicked cold. ;)

    Well, I hope your weekend was nice ~ Blessings to you all as Holy Week begins!

    Happy Palm Sunday!

    A few ideas for the day ...

    ~ Here are some afternoon craft projects, courtesy

    ~ If the weather is cooperative, you might take the kids on a walk in search of pussywillows or Palm Willows. If none are to be found, you could bring home some forsythia cuttings to "force" into bloom by next Sunday.

    ~ You could make a date-nut bread today, a lovely treat for your family or a neighbor or friend. (My favorite mix-and-match quick bread recipe makes 2 loaves - one to enjoy and one to give!)

    However you spend your Sunday, have a lovely and restful day. :)