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July 2008

Themes & Plans for July

Hot July brings cooling showers, apricots and gillyflowers ...Boat

Well, I hope you are all enjoying your summer! Has it been hot where you live? Stormy or dry? We're having a good old-fashioned summer up here in New England: hot and humid, with afternoon storms nearly each day. These midsummer days are slowy creeping along, and the landscape is showing the effects of time, warmth and rain  ~ everything's popping to life! In the gardens, at the farmstands and all along the roadsides.

And, now that it's the very last day of the month, here at long last is the final installment in my seasonal series ... Themes & Plans for July.



  • daylilies burst into bloom by the 4th
  • muggy mornings melt into hazy afternoons
  • fireflies wink in the darkness
  • bats swoop overhead at dusk
  • dragonflies are on the hunt
  • damselflies gleam in the sunshine
  • toads lie in the cool grass
  • spiders spin in shady corners
  • baby birds beg at the feeders
  • morning glories encircle the lamppost
  • roses are withered by the heat
  • weeds wage battle on the garden
  • chipmunks are everywhere, chirping and scurrying along
  • garter snakes sun themselves on the lawn
  • thunderstorms rock the afternoons
  • cicadas buzz in the woods
  • crickets strike up the chorus by nightfall
  • greenheads attack at the beach


  • July's birthstone: ruby
  • July's flower: larkspur
  • "St. Swithin's Day if it do rain, for forty days it will remain; St. Swithin's Day if it be fair, for forty days 'twil rain no more."


  • hot dogs and hamburgers on the grill
  • icy cold watermelon
  • corn on the cob
  • fresh lemonade
  • ice-cream sandwiches
  • flag cake
  • peaches
  • plums
  • nectarines
  • apricots
  • raspberries
  • cherries
  • basil
  • beans
  • picnic foods ~ devilled eggs, chicken salad and dilled cukes


  • July devotion: Precious Blood
  • Liturgical Season: Ordinary Time
  • Blessed Junipero Serra (1)
  • Saint Thomas the Apostle (3)
  • Saint Benedict (11)
  • Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha (14)
  • Saint Swithin (15)
  • Our Lady of Mount Carmel (16)
  • Saint Mary Magdalene (22)
  • Saint Bridget of Sweden (23)
  • Saint James the Greater (25)
  • Saints Joachim and Anne (26)
  • Saint Martha (29)

Houseold & Garden:

  • lawn mowing - careful not too cut too short!
  • constant weeding of the garden
  • tie and stake up growing plants
  • keep van packed with beach/park supplies
  • replenish sunscreen supply
  • check AC units; clean filters/screens
  • check/replace batteries
  • clean out coolers; place ice packs in freezer
  • curb water and energy usage
  • write educational plans and end-of-year reports
  • begin curriculum orders
  • harvest and dry lavender
  • purchase/replace canning supplies
  • begin Christmas notebook
  • deadhead flowers
  • plan an autumn tea
  • add all those vegetable and fruit peelings to the compost


  • National Hot Dog Month
  • National Baked Bean Month
  • National Ice Cream Month
  • Anti-Boredom Month
  • Canada Day (1)
  • First zeppelin flew (2)
  • Dog Days of Summer begin (3)
  • Wimbledon
  • Independence Day (4)
  • National Sugar Cookie Day (9)
  • Bastille Day (14)
  • Beatrix Potter's birthday (28)
  • JK Rowling's birthday (31)
  • Harry Potter's birthday (31)

Book Basket: For summer-inspired reading, please see my Summer Basket at left. :)

Field Trips & Outings:

  • a day at the beach
  • a picnic in the park, to fly kites
  • attending the town parade
  • watching a fireworks display
  • fishing along a shady riverbank
  • a weekly stop at the farmer's market

Crafts & Activities:

(First, let me direct you to the Fourth of July and Summer archives of The Crafty Crow, a fabulous place to get ideas for things to do with your children (at any time of the year).)

And, also ~

  • decorate the bikes for the 4th
  • make herbal honey
  • net (and release) butterflies
  • catch fireflies
  • make a storm candle
  • start a shell collection
  • make sand castles
  • have a Peter Rabbit luncheon on the 28th
  • nap in a hammock
  • make popsicles
  • make a daisy chain
  • go to a baseball game
  • make a sundial or shadow clock
  • press summer flowers
  • make homemade ice cream
  • make sun tea
  • play croquet or bocce on the lawn
  • stargaze on a warm dry night
  • outdoor concert
  • go raspberry picking
  • make peach butter

My aplogies again, that this is so late - really, too late, I guess for this year. But I hope these themes and plans will get tucked away till next year, when we'll be blessed with all the hot, summery pleasures of July all over again. :) In the meantime, please check out my August Themes and Plans ... for that month begins tomorrow! (Can you even believe it??)

Have a great summer, everyone ~ or what's left of it ~ be safe and keep cool!

The Simple Woman's Daybook ~ July 30th


~ Do stop by Peggy's for all the Daybook links this week. ~
Outside My Window ... soft morning light dapples the damp lawn, mourning doves line the telephone wire, a purple finch stops at the feeder, a red squirrel scampers up the tree, a man rides by on a bicycle.
I am thinking ... about the new Harry Potter trailer. (Thanks, Jenn, for the tip!)
I am thankful ... for my two kitties, Penny and Smokey. They're sticking close by me this week, wondering where their brother is and why I'm so sad. 
From the kitchen ... my breakfast this morning is egg salad on whole wheat toast, a sliced pear, low-fat milk and a cup of my new favorite coffee.
I am wearing ... my pale blue summer pj's, barefeet, hair in a clip.
I am creating ... ah, not much this week, I'm afraid.
I am going ... swimming this afternoon at a friend's house. :)
I am reading ... the final chapters of Eclipse; Breaking Dawn comes out on Saturday. After I digest BD, I'd like to check out this new book.
I am hoping ... to stop by the farmstand this afternoon ~ they're finally open for the season!
I am hearing ... the pop of the toaster, the coffeepot beeping, Crackerjack humming, a chickadee scolding, squirrels scrabbling, Earlybird laughing.
Around the house ... I've been useless the past couple of days and the house is showing it. A general tidy is in order - along with vacuuming, damp-dusting and fresh linens, etc.
One of my favorite things ... the way summer sounds: thunder rolling, birds singing, cicadas buzzing, crickets chirping.
A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week: ... quiet, homey days, and a weekend filled with reading, VBS set-up and keeping cool.
Here is a picture thought I am sharing ...
~Butter-and-Eggs or Toadflax, growing by the driveway.~
I hope you all have a wonderful day!

~ Gearing up for a New Year ~


How did it get to be this time of year already? July has been such a blur. The ed. package was mailed off Saturday morning and I got confirmation of its delivery today. We are now officially entering our ninth year of homeschooling!

Now, we don't officially begin lessons again until the day after Labor Day, but August begins the back-to-school season in my mind.

Things on my to-do list:

  • Make any final curriculum orders.
  • Order Earlybird's special school supplies.
  • Re-do the learning room; build desks for the older two.
  • Clean the learning room from top to bottom.
  • Polish the worktable.
  • Clean the windows and windowscreens.
  • Decorate the windows with fairy lights, leaves and letters.
  • Shampoo the carpet.
  • Stock up on art/school supplies.
  • Cean out and set up the school totes.
  • Re-organize my "teacher shelves" and workspace.
  • Clean out and reorganize the van (aka the "homeschool bus").
  • Make up a teacher's planbook.
  • Discuss and decide on fall activities and hobbies.
  • Re-tool the weekly and daily schedules.
  • Write overviews for September through December.
  • Make up work-binders for the older two boys.

I'm sure there's more, and I'm positive I'll never get all of it done - but still. It's good to have a list, don't you think? :)

Thank You, All ...

Very, very much.

For all your kind condolences - your thoughts and your prayers. You can't know how much it means to know so many of you are thinking of Midget and keeping us in your hearts right now. :)

If you have a beloved pet, give him or her an extra bit of love today ~ we just never know how long we'll have with these dear little friends.

Our Hearts are Broken


Today we had to say goodbye to our beloved cat, Midget. If you know our family, then you know how much our cats mean to us ~ and if you know us really well, then you know how special our Midget was. He was 17 years old - and he'd lived a happy long life - but it was still not enough time with him.

He was a dear, sweet, smart and loving companion and we're going to miss him so much. The house just doesn't seem the same without him.

A Craft Store Run~

I have tried to stay away from the craft store as much as possible this summer. For one thing, I don't really need any craft supplies right now - I'm not crafting much during these hot, busy months - and for another, I still have all kinds of supplies stocked in the bins I keep stashed downstairs. (Remember the bins?) Before I go craft shopping, I really must go through the bin contents first (now somewhat depleted and rather discombobulated) and take inventory before I buy even one more package of something like hot glue gun sticks. (I have more of those than I can shake a fist at, lol.)

But there's just something about this time of year - between all the autumn and holiday planning I'm doing these days, and the fall magazines appearing in my mailbox, I'm feeling a familiar itch. I can hear the siren song of the craft store (you know the one, don't you?), and I'm eager to heed that call.

A list would be a good thing to start with, but I don't have a list just yet. However. I did have a reason for running into my local AC Moore's this weekend: Bookworm and I needed neon-green t-shirts for VBS. But, of course, while I was there, I had to take a good look around and see what was what - and, of course, I came home with a few more things than were strictly necessary.

Would you like to see? :)

1. Scrapbooking paper:


I love to have a steady supply of pretty scrapbooking paper on hand. I use it for my journal covers, card projects and the myriad binders I make up through the year. I especially love the first two patterns on the left. They are so sweet; they look as if they've been embroidered.

2. Ribbon:


Darnitall, I had a third spool and it must have gotten left behind at the store. Oh well. I like to use ribbon to trim various crafts or handmade cards and also as page markers for my journals. The alphabet ribbon will be used in my September journal and the starry-red ribbon will be used in my holiday planbook.



This blend is called "Crayon," and I love it! What I'd like to do with it is make "school scarves" for the boys. (You know, kind of like how the Hogwarts students all wear scarves representing their house colors, only not nearly so formally patterned?) I bought this particular yarn mainly because the colors appealed to me, but from what I understand, this yarn will yield stripes when I knit, or a pattern of some sort anyway. It will be fun to see how it knits! I don't know as I feel like knitting just now - the days are too hot - but it shouldn't take much time to knit three, possibly four (one for me), scarves once September rolls around. Generally speaking, there's no need for woolens here in New England till the first of November. (Hmmm ... scarves might make nice Martinmas gifts!)

3. Note Cards and Stamping Supplies:


I saw this adorable craft in the August issue of Martha Stewart Living. Martha always has the best ideas! I was sorely tempted to try making the blueberry Keds, but I thought the note cards might be more practical. These would make a lovely gift set - tied up with a blue gingham ribbon ... or you could make a set of recipe cards ... or a gift tag for a homemade loaf of blueberry bread. The possibilities are endless! (And how about a dark red ink pad for cranberries in the fall?) I'll try this project out sometime next week, and let you know how it goes!

4. T-shirts and iron-on paper:


The green shirts, as I mentioned, are for VBS. The yellow shirt and the transfer paper is for Crackerjack. He wants to try making a t-shirt with an image found online. His friends make shirts all the time with this method, and he loves how they come out. He'll probably go with a Star Wars or Pikman theme. (I'm not sure the image will work on yellow - maybe white would be better - but it was what he wanted. We'll see how it goes.)

5. Glue:


In my opinion, one can never have too much glue - especially when it's Martha Stewart glue. ;) It just looks so much prettier than Elmer's! (More importantly, it works really well.) Here I have glue sticks, a bottle of plain craft glue and a ballpoint-tip glue pen - which will be really neat used with glitter. (I'm envisioning homemade holiday cards this year - which is so easy to do when it's not even August, lol.)

And speaking of glitter - oh, how I wanted the Martha glitter. There were so many beautiful glass jars of glitter in the most dazzling, sumptous shades. But at $4.99 a pop, I'd better know just what I'm going to do with said glitter before I buy it. (I have a few ideas - i.e. the holiday cards - and I'm working on more.)

6. Bake Sale magazine:


I had to pop into a Michaels (yes, a second craft store) to return the t-shirts I originally bought for VBS (which were an all-wrong apple green, rather than the neon green required). I had a 50%-off one item coupon to use (burning a hole in my pocket) but by now my head was spinning and I could hardly concentrate. This particular Michaels was having a grand opening and the store was packed - with people and products. I spied this specialty baking magazine and had Bookworm (my baker's apprentice) take a look-through. Several oohs, aahs and oh-mama's! later I figured we should buy it. It only cost me $3 with the coupon. :)

Well, I think I've kept you here long enough, lol. Bill and the boys are just getting back in from an afternoon jaunt. It's time to rustle up some supper and get the boys into baths. Thanks for stopping by and letting me prattle on about my latest craft adventures. I hope you are enjoying your weekend and I'll see you all again sometime soon. :)



As of 3 p.m., and at very long last, the ed. package is ready to go!

Technically, it will arrive at the office a day late - but I hope they'll cut me a little slack. I think they will - I've always been on time with my stuff, if not early. And everything's in there: the end-of-year reports for Crackerjack and Bookworm, and education plans for all three of my boys ...


And now I'm ready for the weekend. Actually, first - and once Bill gets home - I think I'll be ready for a hot lavender bath, a nice glass of this, and one or two chapters of this ...

Then I'll be ready for the weekend. ;)

Hope yours is a good one!

Thoughtful Friday ~ on Nature

"Study nature, love nature, stay close to nature. It will never fail you." Frank Lloyd Wright


I know I share a lot of squirrel pictures with you, but when these little red fellas showed up at the feeders yesterday, what could I do but stalk them from the windows and photograph them in all their super-cuteness?

The red squirrel is a fairly common visitor to the feeders, but it is rare that we see more than one at a time. These two seemed to be together - whether as mates or parent-and-child, I don't know. One was slightly larger than the other - and surprisingly, the smaller one was the feistier and braver of the two.

How could I tell?


Because when the big gray squirrel showed up to make a move on the seed trays, it was the little guy who made all the furious noise and chased him off handily. (The larger red took off up the tree, only returning when the coast was clear, lol.)

Of course I'm known to just throw up random pictures of squirrels now and again, but I thought since it was Thoughtful Friday, a quote about nature would round these out nicely. I've never heard this quotation before, and I like it very much.

Watching squirrels (or chipmunks or birds for that matter) from my window is a very soothing thing for me. Given the time, I could literally do it for hours. It's more than just their adorableness - I am fascinated by them. I love to watch their antics, listen to their chatter, observe their interactions with each other - and with other species. I especially love to watch them eat and then preen themselves after ... Maybe I should write a book? A book about the squirrels who visit our yard. I could be like the Dian Fossey of squirrels, lol. (Without the tragic end, of course.)

All right - obviously it's Friday because things are getting a little loopy around here. It has been a very busy week - in a good way - but I am so looking forward to a few quiet, homey kinds of days. The kind of days that include cleaning up, haircuts for the boys, finding lost library books, paying bills, feeding the squirrels, ETC. All good stuff.

So I hope you all have a good Friday. I'll be back again sometime soon. :)

This is trouble ...

Look who paid a visit to our bustling, bird-friendly yard yesterday:



(Is this a coopers hawk, or maybe a sharp-shinned hawk?)

He or she was obviously bee-lining for the forsythia bush, inside which several baby sparrows were hiding. I only took the briefest of moments to take this picture (hence the poor quality) before demanding the scoundrel leave the premises - and promptly. (That's putting it politely; actually, I think it came out more like a hiss.)

Yes, yes - I know. Circle of life and all that ...

Well, not on my watch. ;)

A question about our windows ...


... from Nancy. :)

Now, you all know how much I love our windows. Not so much for how they look, as for what they let us see. But Nancy wanted to know specifically about the panes, or grilles, we inserted. Our windows are made by Anderson, and we ordered the grilles at our local Home Depot (it might have been Lowe's - I'd have to ask Bill). As you can see in this post - they made a big difference. :)

Hope that helps, Nancy!

Nobody tagged me, but I'm doing it anyway :)

I saw this meme a long time ago at Tracy's Seaside Enchantment. Today it's time to pull it out of the drafts folder!

1. What were you doing 10 years ago?

Ten years ago I was reveling in stay-at-home-motherhood. Bookworm was 3 and we were spending our days attending play dates and play group, visiting family, listening to stories at the library and walking the neighborhood. I was living the dream ~  and I'm happy to say, I still am. :)

2. What are 5 things on my to-do list for today:

  • Tidy the house.
  • Bake cookies.
  • Fold laundry.
  • Make a menu plan for next week.
  • Start a shopping list for Saturday.

3. Snacks I enjoy:

  • Triscuits and cheese
  • Red peppers and ranch dip
  • Peppermint Patties
  • Coffee
  • Vanilla wafers

4. Things I would do if I were a billionare:

  • Help others.
  • Move to a farm in Vermont (taking my whole family with me).
  • Design a dream house (complete with a barn studio).
  • Fund an autism support center.
  • Buy an RV and travel the country.

5. Places I have lived:

  • Texas
  • Massachusetts

And who am I tagging?

Well, if you want to do this meme, please do! Then come back here and tell me. :)

Happy Wednesday, my friends!

Themes, Thoughts and Apologies~

This morning, Colin asked about my July Themes & Plans, and I thought it a good time to publicly apologize for the extreme tardiness of that particular post! I was so busy with so many things at the end of June I just never had the time to pull it together. I am going to carve out some time this week to get that post up - and before the end of July, I promise! It will be the last installment in my Themes and Plans series; you can access the rest of the monthly posts here.

Now, about those long ago Mittenstrings posts ... ahem. ;) That series, too, had to be moved to the back-burner for a while. Sometimes I am too ambitious for my own good, and I probably should have noticed how full my plate was becoming last spring, before embarking on so many "projects." I do fully intend to return to the book study - the chapter, "Stories" will be next. When, I can't say for sure - but soon. :)

And while we're talking blog thoughts and apologies I'd like to just say that - to be perfectly honest - this spring was a bit trying for me and for a while I considered not blogging anymore. But I realized I would miss it too much, and even if I can't post as zealously as I once did (old-time readers might remember when I posted at least once a day!) I would still like to come here and chat with you all when I can. It's not as often as I used to, I know, and those meaty posts are slower in coming and I feel badly that I can't always address every question or fulfill every request. I do appreciate your visits - and all your comments - so very much, but I'm just a mom like everyone else, and my time is hardly my own. If you've asked a question in the past and I never answered it, please feel free to leave a comment beneath this post. I will do my best to address any queries just as soon as I can.

Well, that's all for now; I'd best be off and turn my attention back to my family. :) Thanks, everyone ~ thanks for being such a lovely and encouraging audience. You make it a very happy place to be here in my little corner of the web, and I am grateful for your patience and support. Have a great day, and I will see you all again sometime soon!

The Simple Woman's Daybook ~ July 22nd


~ Do stop by Peggy's for all the Daybook links this week. ~
Outside My Window ... the sky is slowly clearing after a gray, cool start; everything is damp after yesterday's storms. A mourning dove is resting on the gatepost, dignified and serene - beside him, a dozen baby sparrows are lined up, squabling for their breakfast. A vee of geese just passed, honking, overhead.
I am thinking ... about the August calendar - and how quickly it's filling in!
I am thankful ... for the kind of friends who love you, quirks and all. :)
From the kitchen ... there are banana breads baking in the oven right now, and the house smells amazingly good. (Bill and Earlybird made them *early* this morning.)
I am wearing ... denim shorts, Red Sox shirt, keds.
I am creating ... a week-by-week "playbook" for the new year. I'm having a hard time deciding on the format - binder or notebook? And will it be exclusively academic, or will it address household activities, too?
I am going ... no where in particular. My friend Beth is taking our oldest boys to a computer class each day this week, while I watch the younger kids at home.
I am reading ... (re-reading, actually) the whole Twilight series, in preparation for the release of the final installment, Breaking Dawn, on August 2nd.
I am hoping ... to spend some time on holiday planning this weekend.
I am hearing ... baby birds chirping, a car driving down our street, the hum of my laptop.
Around the house ... the lawn needs to be mowed and the carpets need to be shampooed. (Both of those chores are Bill's department.) Lots of laundry to fold, and a refrigerator to clean out.
One of my favorite things ... the craft store at this time of year - all the fall goodies and Christmas stuff, too. I know this annoys most people to no end, but - planner I am - I love it all. :)
A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week: ... Bookworm's computer class, a VBS meeting, a trip to Whole Foods, a birthday pool party.
Here is a picture thought I am sharing ...
and another:
~How cute is this little guy?.~
I hope you all have a wonderful day!

Pumpkins in my Garden~

Before Bill left for work this morning, I ran out to fill the feeders and check on our sugar pumpkins. (Came *thisclose* to hand-feeding a chickadee, too!) Please let me share a few pictures - this is the first time we've ever grown pumpkins and I am just thrilled!





They look pretty good, don't you think? I have these guys to thank, of course:


I was pretty much swarmed by honeybees while I was snapping my pictures - they were everywhere, all over the pumpkin blossoms - impatient for me to get of their way, lol! Godspeed, little fellas - and thanks for all your hard work! :)

(A question for more experienced pumpkin growers: though for the most part our vines appear healthy, there are more and more withered yellow leaves showing up. Does this mean too much water? Or not enough? Do they need some compost added? Or, heaven forbid, could there be unfriendly bugs? Any advice is appreciated - I really want to keep these plants healthy!)

You know, as I've been working on Earlybird's kindergarten ideas - and to answer a few readers' queries - yes, I will definitely be sharing those ideas very soon! - I have been working all kinds of seasonal things into our plans. Or I should say, I've been working our plans around the seasons. :) I have lots of "pumpkin things" planned for October, but I can see it would be very timely to start discussing pumpkins now - while we have all these weeks ahead to observe their growth and changes. (Nature notebook, anyone?) And I actually think these pumpkins will be ripe by Labor Day, if not before!

So, while I'm thinking of it, here are a few of our favorite pumpkin books:

It is my hope that we will be able to harvest plenty of sugar (or pie) pumpkins - bake them up and use them in delicious autumn recipes like pumpkin pie, pumpkin bread and a spiced pumpkin butter, too!

And speaking of pumpkins, my friend Lisa recently started a new nature blog, and it's called Around the Pumpkin Patch. I've added a handy-dandy widget just below my Nature Corner that will keep us up to date on all her posts. :)

Thanks for stopping by today - I hope wherever you are, you keep cool and have fun!

The newest member of our family ...


My sweet second cousin, Connor Frederick.

We spent a lovely lunchtime today at my grandmother's house visiting with my cousin Colin and his wife Tina who were on from New York. They brought their beautiful baby boy, six week-old Connor. Seeing Connor in our grandmother's - his great-grandmother's! - arms was the best ...




Welcome to the family, little one!

Driving home from my grandmother's, Crackerjack looked up from his comic book, and announced:

"Well, it was nice to finally meet my new cousin."

"And what did you think?" I asked. "Wasn't he cute?"

CJ thought a moment. "Well, he was small."

"True," I agreed. "He was small. But he'll be a lot bigger when we see him at Christmas."

CJ pondered this a moment. "Will he be running around by then?"

"No, not at 6 months." I replied. "But he might be crawling."

CJ shrugged and turned back to his reading:

"Well, that's something I guess."


And so it continues ...


The plans for the older two boys are mostly in order - so today I'm concentrating on kindergarten plans for Earlybird. (Kindergarten is so FUN!) I think I'm at the point where I know enough to report to the school dept. (actual topics of study and the resources we'll use) but now I must focus, for myself, on even finer details. It's one thing to say we'll study physics this year - but it's another thing entirely to break that study down into do-able weekly goals.

So with that in mind, I'm making up a week-by-week "playbook" to the year ahead ~ I hope to fill it in as much as possible over the rest of the summer, addressing the following areas of study:

  • math
  • language arts
  • history/geography
  • science/nature study
  • kindergarten
  • crafts/activities
  • religion

I'll keep you posted on my progress. :)

In other news, it's foggy and muggy this morning, but the temps. should reach near 90 this afternoon. Strong storms are expected later today. And did anyone see that moon last night - as it rose in the eastern sky - full and gloriously orange?!

Well, I'm off ~ time to get ready for church. I hope you all have a pleasant and peaceful Sunday, and I'll see you all again sometime soon. :)