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October 2008

From the Autumn Kitchen ...

A batch of yummy cookies ...


Oatmeal-Dried Cranberry (left) and Iced Pumpkin (right).

One I found thanks to the Angry Chicken; the other I found at Google.

I had meant to make oatmeal cookies for Bill last week on our anniversary (they're his absolute favorites) but somehow that loving little gesture never came to pass. So this past Tuesday, which was a dark and rainy day - just perfect for baking - I decided the time had come. I had no raisins on hand, but a whole tub of dried cranberries, a fresh container of oats, a new carton of unsalted butter - all I needed at this point was a recipe ...

Now, I know I have a recipe for oatmeal-cranberry cookies somewhere in my bajillion cookbooks and cooking mags, but where it might be I have no clue. I didn't have the time or the energy to locate it (and this is a subject for another post), so instead I turned to good ole Google. Lickety split I found an easy recipe and an hour later my kitchen was all spicy and warm.

And the iced pumpkin cookies I made just because. (I find that roundabouts Halloween every year I have a constant craving to bake. Which is a good thing considering the holidays are right around the corner.) I saw these at the Angry Chicken and knew we had to try them. They would make a perfect Thanksgiving week treat, but truth be told, they are delicious with your morning coffee. too. ;)

A few notes about these two cookies:

*First of all, I omit the nuts called for in the oatmeal cookie recipe. Strictly speaking, we are a no-nuts kind of family - not that we have any allergies to speak of, we're just picky.

*And for another thing, actually, our pumpkin cookies are not made with pumpkin but with squash. Not for any other reason than that's what we had on hand. And even though all we grownups know pumpkin and squash are entirely interchangeable, try telling that to the kids - so I waited until after a few had been devoured (and the verdict was good) before telling the boys they were, in fact, squash cookies. Lol.

Now this is kind of cute if I do say so myself. I sprinkled the tops of a few of the cookies with some candy snowflakes and we called them, Frost on the Punkin cookies:


"Oh it sets my heart a clickin like the tickin of a clock, When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder's in the shock." ~ James Whitcomb Riley

So, are you baking these days, and if so, what are you baking? Do you have a favorite autumn cookie to recommend? :)

~*Dawn at Home*~

  dawn: n. The time each morning at which daylight first begins ...

I have always been a morning person, and I especially love that very first moment of the day, when night officially ends and the light returns. Have you ever noticed how, when and where the first rays of light enter your home? It's a neat moment to watch for - and right now, just days before we turn back the clocks, it's easy to catch it, even if you don't rise as early as we do. ;) It's still dark at 7:00!

But with autumn passing on, and winter fast approaching, every bit of that golden light is precious. I felt the need to capture it this morning as we settled into our day ...










The windows of my soul I throw wide open to the sun. ~ John Greenleaf Whittier

In the KinderGarden: Seeds & the Autumn Wind

Right now we're exploring the seasonal themes of wind and seeds, so I thought I'd share a few of my ideas with you on this fine autumn morning. I hope something here might be useful to you, whether you're teaching your own children, or just looking for ways to tap into the rhythm of the natural year ...

And remember: I'm not planning on doing all these things with Earlybird! I just can't contain my enthusiasm for the seasons ~ I always brainstorm more than I could possibly do. ;)

Books to Read ~

Fun Things to Make and Do ~

  • Make and float bark boats on a stream.
  • Find milkweed pods growing along the roadside or in a field.
  • Pick and make wishes on "fairy clocks" (dandelions).
  • Go on a seed scavenger hunt.
  • Organize a seed collection in an empty egg carton.
  • Look for and collect acorns:
    • Set out a pile for squirrels.
    • Plant one acorn in a little pot. (Tall oaks from little acorns grow.)
  • Hang sunflower heads for birds to eat.
  • Open various fruits and vegetables and look at the seeds inside.
  • Roast pumpkin seeds (lightly tossed with butter and cinnamon-sugar - yum).
  • Find the magic star inside the apple.
  • Lie on your backs and find shapes in the clouds
  • Make seed-folk out of natural materials; add them to the nature shelf.
  • Make seed ornaments for the Christmas tree.
  • Go kite-flying on a windy day.
  • Make simple pinwheels.
  • Make potpourri (to give as holiday gifts).

A Poem (or Three) to Know ~

In their husks, their shells and clusters,

In their pods, the seeds on high,

Wait to hear the Autumn whisper

“Little seeds it’s time to fly.”

Then they lightly leave their branches

Pop and burst and tumble down,

Hasten, hurry, rush and scurry,

Hide in Mother Earth’s warm gown.

              (J. Mehta)

In a milkweed cradle all close and warm,

Little seeds are hiding safe from harm.

Open wide the cradle now, hold it high.

Come along wind, help them fly!

(A fingerplay from Earthways by Carol Petrash)

Who has seen the wind?
Neither I nor you:
But when the leaves hang trembling
The wind is passing thro'.

Who has seen the wind?
Neither you nor I:
But when the trees bow down their heads
The wind is passing by

(Christina Rossetti)

And now I'm off to tend to my boys who are in the midst of preparing themselves breakfast while their mum sneaks in a few more minutes on the computer ... :) Thanks for stopping by this morning ~ I hope you all have a wonderful day!

~*Halloween Week Happenings*~

Monday, October 27, 2008

Housekeeping: clean bedrooms, change bedding, laundry

Dinner: turkey meatloaf, maple-roasted acorn squash, rice pilaf

Learning: math, vocabulary, spelling, history, religion

Activities: a visit with Gram after supper


Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Housekeeping: clean upstairs bathroom, clean living room, laundry

Dinner: smorgasboard night (aka leftovers! J)

Learning: math, vocabulary, spelling, history, science

Activities: Earlybird’s therapy, Library stop


Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Housekeeping: clean kitchen, start grocery list

Dinner: whole-wheat spaghetti and meatballs, salad, crusty bread

Learning: math, vocabulary, spelling, history, religion (tea)


Thursday, October 30, 2008

Housekeeping: clean dining room & family room, finalize weekend lists

Dinner: squash soup, grilled cheese & tomato sandwiches, garlic-rosemary homefries

Learning: math, vocabulary, spelling, history, science

Activities: orthodontist appointment, market stop


Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween!

Housekeeping: Clear and organize learning spaces, neaten for the weekend.

Dinner: homemade mac & cheese, kielbasa, roasted autumn veggies, pumpernickel bread

Learning: A day off from formal lessons!

Activities: (See below!)

*  *



~ Other Holiday & Seasonal Notes ~


Bill takes a vacation day on October 31st every year, so we can spend Halloween together as a family. We always take the boys to the town farm to pick out pumpkins, and then to a favorite bakery for “gingerbread” muffins. We take the muffins and coffee with us as we walk around a lake and visit a local cemetery (there are graves from colonial times here).

Back at home we carve our jack o’lanterns (out on the deck to minimize the mess) and spend time cleaning up the yard – raking, clearing spent growth, etc. We might even have a little chiminea fire if the day is not too warm. (The forecast right now is sunny and near 70.) Back inside, we'll pop in a holiday classic, pop up some popcorn and roast some seeds. I start mulling a pot of cider in the late afternoon so the house smells wonderful by the time the sun sets. Just before supper, the boys will don their costumes (Anakin Skywalker, a Clone Trooper and a Pirate this year) and we'll take them over to Mum and Dad's so the boys can trick or treat Nana, Papa and Damee. Later on, after supper, our friends will arrive – as well as our beloved Uncle Matt – and Bill and the boys will head out for tricks or treats, while I stay home to answer the door.

When the gang returns we’ll sip our hot spiced cider, nibble cookies and trade candy till the eyelids start to droop and the doorbell stops ringing. Then it will be time to snuff the candles and say our goodnights, and Halloween will be over till next year.


At our weekly tea (of which we’ve been neglectful lately) I plan to serve pumpkin muffins and Halloween Cocoa ~ basically a Mexican hot chocolate (dark and spicy) with special Halloween marshmallows the boys picked out. Over tea, we'll choose saints to study this year.


Make soul cakes (follow recipe in Mrs. Sharp’s Traditions).


Decorate mantel with tealights, marigolds and photographs of loved ones who have passed away.


Fall Back one hour (Daylight Savings Time ends).


Attend a Saints Day parade at church.


Make up book basket for November.


Serve Mexican for Sunday's supper.


Clear off and re-do bulletin board for November; set up Grateful Tree.


Well, that should keep us busy for a while ... good thing there are seven days in a week! I'll check back in again soon, but in the meantime, I hope you all enjoy a lovely last week of October. :)

October Nature Study Club ~ A Seed Search!


I don't have a lot of time to post this morning, but I wanted to share these photos I took yesterday at our October Nature Club meeting. It was my turn to lead the group, and I chose the timely topic of seed dispersal. So, after lunch, I gathered my supplies, some snacks and my kids, and we headed up to a local wildlife reservation where there were sure to be lots of examples of seeds in action. (Or so I hoped!)

It was a gorgeous day - sunny, cool and crisp - and I was pleased with a great turn-out (about 10 families for this outing). I gave each family a handout about seed dispersal (pages photocopied from this book), and talked with the children for a few minutes about seeds in general. Each child received a small ziploc bag with the instructions to gather as many varieties of seeds as he (or she) could. Then we started off on our journey through the autumn woods ...










(The snack of the day: cold cider and maple leaf cookies.)


After we ate and caught our collected breath (it was a rather hilly walk!) I gathered our group to "show and tell" (a few bags shown above). Most of the kids found similar items - pinecones, acorns, butternuts, berries and random "weedy" seeds. The most unique find was certainly the bird excrement one boy found (and was brave enough to bag up) which clearly showed seeds in its midst. Of course this garnered a fair amount of snickers from the group, but it definitely showed Nature in action!

As par for the course, once we were officially "done" with the Nature meeting, the kids launched right into their favorite pastime - a rousing round of pop-up tag:


It was such a great day to be outside! Next month's meeting will surely be colder, and it could even be snowy! We'll take these warm, sunny days while we can.

Speaking of next month, here's a rundown of the upcoming Nature Club themes:

  • November: Shorebirds at the beach
  • December: Birdfeeding and a Bird Walk
  • January: Wolves (we'll visit a local sanctuary)
  • February: Owl Pellets
  • March: Maple Sugaring
  • April: Theme and Leader, TBA
  • May: Flower Gardens
  • June: Theme, TBA

You can be sure I'll be reporting in here after each of our meetings. In fact, I still owe you all pictures from the September meeting - a visit and tour of a local Ironworks site. We spent two hours with a well-informed ranger learning about the geology and history of New England. Very cool.

Well, this was going to be a short morning post, but here it is now well past lunchtime and it's taken me this long to get all my thoughts out! I'd best wrap up now, and be on my way ... I've promised a chocolate cake for tonight's dessert (we celebrate our "family birthday" this evening) and it's not going to bake itself. ;)

As always, thanks for stopping by - I hope you all have a wonderful weekend!

A Little Bee Business

Oh, those busy bees - they are really making the most of these final, frost-free days. When we left to take Earlybird to his therapy appointments yesterday, our attention was drawn to the small patch of sunflowers that grows alongside our driveway. Something large and dark was moving inside the biggest and brightest of blooms:


This has to be the biggest bee we've ever seen! He (or maybe she) was HUGE. And not at all concerned by my presence. Of course, I couldn't pass up this prime photo-op so I threw my bag in the van and whipped out my camera, ready to take aim. The boys were already buckled in and as I stood next to the flower, snapping pictures (getting closer with each shot) their cries came one by one:

Mama! Watch out for the beeeeee!!! (Earlybird, in giggles)

Not so close, Mom! You're gonna get stung! (Crackerjack, a bit frantic)

Mom, let's go! We're gonna be LATE! (Bookworm, buried in his book)

Much later in the day, I ran down to get the mail, and naturally I checked on the sunflowers. I was surprised to spy not just one bee (the same bee I think) but three more of his friends!


Who knew bees would share?

So today, on this rainy dull day, we're going to spend a little time talking about bees. I'm particularly interested to find out what's on a honeybee's agenda at this time of year? What's his game plan, as it were? How much time does he have left before he must call it a day - until springtime?

The older boys can do some rummaging through our myriad science and nature study resources to find out the answers to these questions. Meanwhile, I'll have EB do some bright yellow watercolor painting and when the paper is dry, we'll turn it into a large sunflower for the window. (Ill cut out a basic flower shape and leave the middle circle empty - then back it with clear contact paper and let him press black sunflower seeds onto the sticky middle.) If EB could eat apples I'd serve apple slices with honey for snack, but since he can't, I'll have him slice a banana into chunks, and then let him dip the pieces into honey with a fork.

If it was a nice day, we'd hunt the yard for more evidence of bee behavior, but as it's really raw and rainy here, we'll read and watch a video or two. We have Magic School Bus In a Beehive - in both book form and VHS.

And since anytime a topic strikes our fancy, I turn to Amazon (and/or the library) for ideas, here are few other books about bees:

We own none of these titles, but I've done some online inter-library requesting and the books will be ready to pick up in a few days.

And hey, speaking of bees - has anyone seen The Secret Life of Bees? I read the book ages ago (I'm pretty sure I did, anyway), and I hear the movie's supposed to be good.

Well, that's enough jib-jabbing from me. I'm off now to get this day started ... Have a good one, my friends!

The pedigree of honey
Does not concern the bee;
A clover, anytime to him
is aristocracy.

~ Emily Dickinson

When fall comes to New England ...

This past weekend was so lovely ~ temps in the low 50s, a brilliant sky, and a chilly breeze overall. When fall comes to New England,* it's time to bundle up and get out there to enjoy nature's last dance of glory.

And where does one find fall at its best? Well, everywhere and anywhere, of course - within the deepest of woods, at the peak of the hills, and right inside our own garden gate.

I hope you enjoy these random autumn pictures, taken on family jaunts to the woods, the seaside, the fair and the farm ... and a very happy fall to you all.























It will not always be like this,
The air windless, a few last
Leaves adding their decoration
To the trees’ shoulders, braiding the cuffs
Of the boughs with gold; a bird preening

In the lawn’s mirror. Having looked up
From the day’s chores, pause a minute,
Let the mind take its photograph
Of the bright scene, something to wear
Against the heart in the long cold.

           ~ R.S. Thomas

*Please do take a moment to listen to Cheryl Wheeler's amazing song, When Fall Comes to New England. She is one of my favorite folk singers (introduced to me by my parents!), and her song - in a beautiful and sentimental way - captures the essence of autumn where I live. Click and enjoy. :)

Monday's Muse ~ First Frost


He comes, he comes, the Frost Spirit comes! You may trace his footsteps now, on the naked woods and the blasted fields and the brown hills withered brow.

He has smitten the leaves of the gray old trees where their pleasant green came forth, and the winds, which follow wherever he goes, have shaken them down to earth.

                           ~ John Greenleaf Whittier ~

We had a hard frost last night! Actualy, I must confess that I don't know the true definition of a hard frost - as opposed to a light one - but as I walked out early this morning to fetch the paper, I noticed the lawn had a silver sheen, and the leaves were particularly crunchy underfoot. An hour later I watched as Bill had to scrape his windshield before leaving for work. And sadly, our chrysanthemums have seen better days ...

So the Frost Spirit returns, and it's time once again to think winter thoughts ... what's your Monday muse this morning?

Off now to get our day rolling ~ hope yours is a good one!

The Simple Woman's Daybook ~ October 17th


~ Do stop by Peggy's for all the Daybook links this week. ~
Outside My Window ... brilliant blue skies overhead, crunchy leaves underfoot, songbirds flock frantically at the feeders.
I am thinking ... about the lesson plan for next week. Kinder-theme: Seeds!
I am thankful ... that Bookworm's oral surgery went well this week. (Two teeth pulled!)
From the kitchen ... a hot cup of Holiday tea later today. For supper: homemade pizzas and cut-up vegetables with dip. (Friday is always pizza night - either homemade or, sometimes takeout.) This weekend I plan to make spaghetti sauce and a pan of lasagna.
I am wearing ... a maroon long sleeve tee, jeans, clogs.
I am creating ... a very detailed to-do list for the weekend. I can't even begin to hope to get it all done, but I feel better getting it all down on paper.
I am reading ... nothing, really, right now other than newspapers and magazines. I am going to look for something new to read this weekend. (Any recommendations?)
I am hearing ... this CD on my laptop. (I'm organizing my Christmas tote right now.)
Around the house ... Friday brings a pre-weekend tidy all through the house. I am going to concentrate on the learning spaces because they've been neglected lately.
One of my favorite things ... raking leaves on a crisp autumn weekend and coming inside to hot cider and grilled cheese sandwiches!
A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week: ... Since it's Friday, how about next week? Homeschool Games Day, Nature Club Meeting, our 15th wedding anniversary, a dinner date with Bill. :)
Here is a picture thought I am sharing ...
Football mums ~ my favorite autumn flowers!
I hope you all have a wonderful weekend!

So how was your day?


There is absolutely no rhyme or reason to this post; I just felt like saying hi. :)

And ask, how was your day? Ours was nice, though it did not go as originally planned ...

Things got off to a rocky start when Bill woke me with the six words I never ever want to hear - particularly not at five in the morning:

"Honey, we're all out of coffee."


Thankfully, we don't live too far from a Dunkin Donuts and, mercifully, they open their doors at 6 a.m.

Next up in weird kitchen mishaps - our toaster went kaflooey. It was an old thing anyway, and appliance death doesn't usually bother me so much (unless it's the coffeemaker) - but I quickly realized I couldn't make my everyday (without fail) breakfast: a whole-wheat English muffin slathered lightly spread with peanut butter. I made one for myself anyway, letting the defunct toaster warm the muffin if not quite crisp it. It still tasted nice, and I nibbled away at my breakfast, watching the morning sun creep across the front yard ...

But then the sun disappeared, and by 7 a.m. it was raining.

Now, you all know how much I enjoy a rainy day - relish it even - but when the rain falls on our Nature Club day, not so much. I happened to be leading this month's meeting and my plan was to have the kids "Find Fall" with their cameras and sketch books. Not really a wet weather activity. So I hemmed and hawed and checked in with my co-coordinator - and finally made the decision to postpone Nature Club till next week. I sent the cancellation out over the airwaves (or the e-chain in this instance) and settled in for a nice long rainy day at home ...

And then the rain stopped.

And the sun came out.


Anyhoo. What was done, was done. By lunchtime we were finished with lessons and I was tidying up the kitchen. I noticed our apples were getting soft, so I decided to make up some applesauce - and after some consideration (time? energy? patience level?) I decided to have the boys help me.

Here are a few pictures from that adventure:





And at 1:30 p.m., as we stood at the stove stirring the apples, I heard a pitter-patter from the deck - and the air coming in the kitchen windows was a bit cooler, a bit sharper.



It was just a passing shower, but it made me feel marginally better about the Nature Club cancellation. Plus, several families were not going to attend due to family illness (there's a right nasty virus making its way through our crowd). So I am pretty much ok with the postponement.

(Can you tell I'm trying to make myself feel better, lol?)

I hope it doesn't sound like I am complaining - I was just musing over all the setbacks that crossed my path today. But, despite all those little trials (and they were very little), truly my day was a good one. Blessed even.

Sure, we were out of coffee, but ... I have a wonderful husband who gladly drove off into the cold, dark early morning to get me fresh coffee.

Yes, my toaster died this morning, but ... I have good food in my pantry and I have money in the bank to buy a new toaster.

True, the tricky weather wrecked our fun plans, but ... I'm lucky to be at home in the first place, and even luckier to have the time and energy to make applesauce with my kids.

And now, as I wrap up this post, the sun is shining again, my house smells like apples and spice, and Bill just walked in the door.

My day may not have gone according to plan - not my plan anyways - but it was a good one all the same.

I hope yours was, too. :)

Kreativ Blogger Award!


Sharing the Bloggy Love!

Sherri passed this award on to me and I am very honored. (Thanks, Sherri!) One of my favorite things about blogging is getting to flex a little creative muscle - whether it's working with words or playing with pictures. :)

And now it's my turn to to list 6 things that make me happy and then send this award on to 6 bloggers.

  1. A hot fragrant bath at the end of the day.
  2. Working (playing) in my journal.
  3. Photographing nature.
  4. A good old-fashioned snowstorm.
  5. Sunlight streaming in through windows.
  6. Watching the birds at the feeders.

Now, for 6 blogs I enjoy reading:

  1. Alice at A Number of Things
  2. Elizabeth at In the Heart of my Home
  3. Sarah at In these Hills
  4. Jennifer at As Cozy as Spring
  5. Clarice at Storybook Woods
  6. Angela at Three Plus Two

Thanks to everyone for stopping by today. I hope your day is a good one!

An Autumn Amble ...

~*Amble: n. An unhurried or leisurely walk.*~

One of my favorite things about teaching my children at home is the freedom we have - generally speaking - to do what we wish with our days. Here's where our home learning took us today ...










”Slow down and enjoy life. It's not only the scenery you miss by going too fast - you also miss the sense of where you are going and why.” ~ Eddie Cantor

Kinderweek ~ Leaves and the Letter F


This happens to be peak foliage time around here, so I planned some fun "leaf" learning for our Earlybird this week. Here are a few of my ideas:

Books to Read:Leafman

Things to Do:

  • collect leaves
  • make leaf rubbings
  • rake leaves
  • (then jump in the piles, natch)
  • bake leaf-shaped cookies
  • make a leaf mobile

Possible Field Trips:Redleaf

  • go on a family tree walk along the bike path
  • stop by the nursery to buy fall flowers
  • visit the farm to pick fruit

A Poem/Song to Learn:

Come little leaves said the wind one day ...

Letter F Activities:

  • watch the falling leaves
  • fall down in leaf piles
  • talk about fall (aka autumn)
  • play freeze tagFletcher
  • fingerpaint (yellow/red)
  • play follow the leader
  • toss the football in the backyard
  • work on Friends & Famly photo album
  • flip Father Bear's Famous Flying Flapacks (Little Bear, anyone?)
  • fly (and honk) like Canada geese
  • find fairy homes in the woods
  • smell the fall flowers
  • look for frost in the morning
  • fill the (bird)feeders
  • buy fruit at the farmstsand
  • arrange a fruit basket (cornucopia)
  • play "fur or feathers?" re backyard animals

We are blessed with a warm and sunny week up here in New England - these Indian Summer days are always a treat. (Our winters are dark and cold, and ... long.) I hope these Kinder ideas give you some autumn inspiration, but most of all I hope you are enjoying these beautiful October days! :)

~*This Week's Dinner Menus*~

Bear in mind, this is my projected meal plan for the week ahead. It's always possible that something might come up at the last minute (or I might just get lazy, lol) and then grilled cheese sandwiches and carrot sticks it will be ...

Still - as I like to say - it's good to have a plan. :)


  • American chop suey (w.wheat pasta)
  • roasted vegetables (peppers, zucchini, carrots)
  • garlic bread
  • apple crisp



  • bay scallop saute w/ French bread
  • tossed salad
  • (macaroni and cheese for the kids)
  • crockpot fruit compote (apples, peaches, pineapple)



  • homemade pizzas (w.wheat crust)
  • (Bookworm and I are eating out)
  • cut -up veggies and dip
  • Italian ice cups


  • meatball subs
  • onion rings and french fries
  • tossed salad
  • butterscotch sundaes


Hope your week is off to a good start! See you all again sometime soon ...

October's Moon


Theres a ring around the moon
And a chill in the air
And a fire in the stars that
Hang so near ...
~ Dan Fogelberg*

It was just after the supper dishes were cleared when Earlybird called out from the family room:

"The moon! The moon! Come see the moon, Mama!"

And what a moon it was. We spent a good bit of time out on our deck tonight, a chill in the air, the darkness all aroud us, and that glistening orb suspended above ...

There's nothing quite like an autumn moon ...

*Who could be my all-time favorite musical artist, child of the 80s that I am. I mean, how can you beat The Leader of the Band? :)