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December 2009

Advent Family Fun, Part 2


I apologize that this post of holiday ideas is coming to you so very late in the season. I hope if an idea sounds fun to you, you'll tuck it into your 2010 Christmas planner. :)

You might remember my first Advent Family Fun post, which showed you the craft-tag calendar I set up this year. Well, here are some of the ideas from my holiday planner. Not all of them got done - not all of them made it to tags! - but it's fun to brainstorm and catalog ideas ... and there's always next year, right? ;)

~ Spend the first Sunday of Advent decorating for Christmas; set up the tree.

~ On a clear frosty night, bundle up the kids and drive around town admiring Christmas lights. End our journey at a beautiful outdoor nativity scene.

~ On St. Barbara's Day (December 4th), collect bare branches from flowering shrubs in the yard (forsythia, for example). Place them in water in hopes they'll bloom at Christmas. 

~ On the Winter Solstice (December 21st), decorate a tree in the yard with bird-friendly treats like dried fruits and plain popcorn, orange halves, suet balls and peanut butter pinecones. (Making these treats can be a fun activity a day or so before the Solstice.)

~ Because I am partial to animal stories, I like to collect Christmas books that focus on the beauty and peace of nature. This year I added a new book, My Wonderful Christmas Tree by Dahlov Ipcar. Other books in our "Nature Rejoices" basket:

Bear Noel by Olivier Dunrea

The Christmas Bird by Bernadette Watts

The Christmas Cat by Efner Tudor Holmes

A Wish to be a Christmas Tree by Colleen Monroe

Night Tree by Eve Bunting

Who Would Like a Christmas Tree? by Ellen Obed

Hurry! Hurry! Have You Heard? by Laura Krauss Melmed

~ Bring out the Polar Express train set for Earlybird. Watch the movie and have some hot, hot, hot - Hot Chocolate!

~ Go to a local zoo one night to see the beautiful Holiday Lights and decorations.

~ Build a gingerbread construction with Nana (this year, a train).

~ Go on a nature walk and look for examples of Christmas greenery (holly, boxwood, evergreen, ivy). Take pictures of the first day of Winter and start a nature journal for the new year. Have cider mulling on the stove for when we return home.

~ Bake homemade donuts (chocolate with peppermint topping) one morning for breakfast and serve with Trader Joe's mint cocoa with freshly whipped cream.

~ On the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe (December 12th), make some cinnamon-sugar tortilla stars (recipe found here) and read the Tomie de Paola book, The Lady of Guadalupe

~ Make "hot" cocoa and eggnog popsicles. :)

~ Listen to A Christmas Carol on audiobook over a few afternoons - then go see the new movie starring Jim Carrey. Talk about how the movie differed from the book.

~ Set up the children's creche in the family room. Place a basket filled with nativity stories near the display. Put the magnetic manger scene on the fridge.

~ Bring Christmas arrangements to grandparents' graves; pray for our loved ones, then take Nana to lunch.

~ Attend a Yankee Swap with friends.

~ Surprise an elderly relative or neighbor with some baked goodies and Christmas Carols.

~ Spend a whole day at home baking cookies - eat some, freeze some.

~ Take the kids Christmas shopping one weekday - help them buy gifts for friends and siblings.

~ On New Year's Day (the day we take down our tree), pack ornaments and other holiday decorations in the day's newspaper ~ fun to reminisce over as we unpack next December.

Hope your Christmas week is going well! As my boys just announced moments ago, ONLY TWO MORE DAYS!!

Off now to wrap and bake and clean, etc.! I hope to pop in one more time before Friday, but in case I don't find the time, I want to wish you all a beautiful and blessed Christmas! :)

Fresh and Fragrant Eggnog Muffins


 Early this morning I made up a batch of these beautiful muffins ~ and oh how I wish you could have smelled my kitchen as they baked! The recipe (found here) was a new one for me, but it was so easy to follow and produced the most scrumptious results!

I have always been partial to eggnog (the boys and I start looking for it around Halloween!) but I especially enjoy eggnog-flavored baked goods. There's just something about that rich, nutmegy flavor and smell ...

So when I was ordering a gingerbread kit for the boys to make with my mum, I couldn't resist popping a bottle of Eggnog Flavor in my virtual shopping basket. (Btw, it's on sale at the moment - just $4.98 for 1 oz.) So far I have only made the muffins, but I am definitely baking some eggnog-spiked butter cookies before the holidays are over. (I'm thinking sparkly bells and stars for the New Year ...)

This debut batch made its way this morning to the office staff where Earlybird does his therapy, but I plan to make another dozen for Christmas breakfast - I bet they will taste great served along with freshly brewed coffee. :)


Are you baking something new this year?

Christmas Cards and Snowy Days

A few pictures from today (note the beautiful snowfall in the background!) ...


Our Christmas cards pinned to ribbon stretched along the windowsill ...


Our Christmas card this year (a picture of the boys is mounted inside the cover) ...


Our Christmas tree this year!


And Crackerjack in the snow early this morning - this boy just loves winter! 

As I type, they're all back out there again ... while I'm wrapping presents inside just as fast as I can!

One more pic before I go, just look at this evening's sunset!


Hope you all had a great weekend ... don't forget, Winter arrives tomorrow! :)

Looks like it will be a white Christmas after all ...


Batten down the hatches, fellow Mass residents!

So this puts a bit of a crimp in my weekend to-do list, lol. The snow should move in tomorrow night around nine, and by Sunday morning we'll have white-out conditions! So it looks like Saturday will be the day for running errands (here, there and everywhere - along with everyone else in the state) and Sunday will be a day for keeping at home - watching the birds, writing out cards, sitting by the fire and thinking about the true meaning of Christmas ...

Oh, and there will be cocoa, of course. ;)

Our Buche de Noel!


 I'm not sure if I've mentioned it before, but Bookworm is taking a weekly French class this year. It's a small class of boys and girls, starting out in their first year of French together; it's held at another homeschooling family's home. (Quite conveniently for us they live but a stone's throw away ~ and even more conveniently, my mum drives BW to and from class for me ~ this way Earlybird's morning doesn't get rattled.) Bookworm's teacher is absolutely wonderful and makes the class informative and fun - and in the case of this week's meeting, festive too! For their last class before a brief Christmas break, Madame organized a lovely holiday fete. Each family prepared a signature French dish, and Bookworm chose to bring the traditional Buche de Noel. I'd like to share the recipe and some pictures with you below - it was really much easier to make than I thought it would be!

First of all I should mention that my first intention was to make this gorgeous (but much more complex) cake found at (where else?) Martha Stewart's site. The steps and ingredients were many, but both Bookworm and I just loved the woodland appearance of this particular cake. As the party day got closer however, I panicked I did a little googling and found a simpler recipe at 

So I started with a simple spongey chocolate cake, baked in a jelly roll pan. It got turned out onto a dishcloth dusted with powdered sugar ..


... and then rolled into said dishcloth - carefully. *Note, this part was not as hard as I feared - the cake was very flexible and held its shape well.


Once the cake cooled, it was spread with a bit of mocha buttercream frosting, and a generous amount of sweetened whipped cream.


 It was next rolled up again (sans towel) and then frosted with the remaining buttercream.


I used the tines of a fork to give a bark-like appearance to the frosting.


And just before Bookworm took it to class, we sprinkled it with powdered sugar ...


... a light dusting of snow on the log!

 This was so fun to make, I think I'll make it again for Christmas eve. :)

 Have a great night everyone ~ I'll be back again soon!

Happy Birthday, Earlybird!


Can it really be true ... my "baby" is eight years old today?

We love you, little man ~ you make us all proud with how hard you work on your challenges and you fill us with joy with your sweet affection and zest for life. God Bless you today and everyday, dear Earlybird!! He most certainly blessed us with you.


And p.s. Happy Birthday, Papa!

My dad shares his birthday with his youngest grandson! I was due with EB on 12/21, but when my dad heard that, he immediately proclaimed, "The baby will be born on my birthday." And wouldn't you know it - as usual - my father was right! ;)

Have a great day, Dad ~ We Love You! :)

Advent Family Fun, Part 1

As I sit down to finish this post, the boys are busily hanging ornaments on the tree, Bill is filling our birdfeeders and I'm hanging garland wherever I can find a good spot. There are cards in a basket on the table, candles aglow in the windows, and Amazon boxes taking over our bedroom.

I'd say it's beginning to look a lot like ...


Now, a while back I mentioned my Advent calendar craft this year - a bulletin board adorned with ribbon and plain paper tags. As I explained in a previous post, on each day of Advent, the boys turn over a tag to read what little bit of holiday fun will be had on this day. 

And this, of course, leaves the planning up to me. The first trick is to keep it doable; no busy mother needs extra work for herself during the Advent season. The second trick is to brainstorm the ideas as far in advance as possible, and - or should I say, but - the third trick is to leave the assigning of activities to the last minute. Sounds kind of crazy but believe me, I found out the hard way you can't always make things happen according to (your) plan - particularly during the hectic holiday season.

For instance, the first year I made tags like this, I wrote all 24 tags out with an idea for each day. Invariably however, something would come up to make the planned activity an ill-fit for the day. A freak ice storm kept us housebound on a day we were meant to go the zoo. A wicked cold settled in and sapped us of energy - not a good time for a walk in the winter woods. 

So now what I do is I make myself a master list of activity ideas, and then I hang all my tags ... blank. Well, the front of each tag is numbered, but the backside is empty. About a week ahead I make a tentative plan for the next several days (this way I can pick up any needed supllies while I'm running errands), and each night before I go to bed I write out the tag for the next day, making sure we have the time, energy and weather to make it work best. 

In my next post I will share some of the ideas I have for Advent family fun this year. I can tell you what tomorrow's tag will read, though ... as it's Earlybird's birthday we will be having an afternoon movie time (Santa Buddies is his current favorite) complete with popcorn and cocoa, homemade pizzas for supper (his favorite) followed by cupcakes and candles of course! 


My Grandmother's Wreath


I wanted to post a picture of the lovely wreath we had made for my grandmother's funeral. I also had a small pillow made for the casket with matching flowers and a ribbon that said "Damee." The flowers were done in beautiful shades of soft white, pink and lavender. These were Gram's favorite colors (the lavender, especially). 

Just before we departed the funeral home for Mass yesterday morning, I asked the director if I could take a few roses from the wreath to bring home. He suggested I take the whole structure and so I did. I plan to dry the roses and make a potpourri to share with the women in our family. Potpourri makes me think of my grandmother ~ she was so feminine and enjoyed little touches like this through her home. I've never made potpourri before so if you have any advice or direction I'd love to hear it! 

I plan to do a holiday themed post this weekend (nearer the end than the beginning). On Saturday we'll be celebrating Earlybird's birthday (he turns 8 on Monday). He shares his birthday with my dad so it will be a double celebration ... I'll be sure to take LOTS of pictures!

Thank you again, and as always, for your continued support and all your kind messages. I appreciate each and every one. 

Have a wonderful day, my friends. See you all again very soon. :)

Rest in peace, dear Damee ...

Earlier today, surrounded by her family, my beloved grandmother passed away. Thank you for all your prayers and kind words these past few days ~ they have given me so much peace.


Death is nothing at all.
It does not count.
I have only slipped away into the next room.
Everything remains as it was.
The old life that we lived so fondly together is untouched, unchanged.
Whatever we were to each other, that we are still.
Call me by the old familiar name.
Speak of me in the easy way which you always used.
Put no sorrow in your tone.
Laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes that we enjoyed together.
Play, smile, think of me, pray for me.
Let my name be ever the household word that it always was.
Let it be spoken without  effort
Life means all that it ever meant. It is the same as it ever was.
There is unbroken continuity.
Why should I be out of mind because I am out of sight?
I am but waiting for you, for an interval, somewhere very near, just around the corner.
All is well. Nothing is hurt; nothing is lost.
One brief moment and all will be as it was before.
How we shall laugh at the trouble of parting, when we meet again.

An Irish Prayer

If you have a moment tonight ...

 Please remember my grandmother, Mildred, in your prayers. She was taken to the hospital yesterday and is not doing well. This afternoon she was placed under Hospice care and started on morphine ... they do not think it will be long now. As my readers know, my Gram, or Damee as she is called by my children, means the WORLD to my family. All I want is for her to be at peace now ...

Thank you all, so much. I will post an update tomorrow.


Our Advent Calendar and other Fun Things ...

I get an irresistible urge to make my own Advent calendar every year, no matter the time crunch or energy level. This year I was inspired by a pack of tags made by Martha Stewart Crafts ...


 I have a weakness for plain craft paper and bakery string. :)

I used our bulletin board as my base and some pretty Christmas ribbon for a splash of color.


Oops, that last strip needs too be trimmed!


There's a tag for each day of December. On the backside of each tag is a note revealing something fun we'll do that day. (My next post will focus on some of those ideas ...)


This is Earlybird's little nature shelf - right now it holds a few small board books (he's really into mouse books these days) and three little angels - who are not yet wearing the golden pipe cleaner halos I've crafted for them. (I need to re-stock my glue gun lol.)


Our December nature shelf ... holly is the theme at the moment.

(ETA: the books shown here are, from left to right, The Shortest Day: Celebrating the Winter Solstice, The Nature Notes of an Edwardian Lady, Night Tree and Flower Fairies of the Winter)


I had so much ribbon leftover from the Advent tag craft, I decided to put it to good use on the rest of the learning room windows. Using clear pushpins I lined the mid-sills with the ribbon - over the holidays I'll hang our Christmas cards here, securing them to the ribbon with tiny craft clothespins.


I also placed 24 tea lights along the sill - one to light each night of Advent.


We have our tree in the learning room this year, but as you can see, it's somewhat light-deficient right now. Bill's working on it, though - and we're waiting to hang ornaments until every light is sparkling as it should.


A small grapevine tree I found at Target this year. Looks so pretty at night in our front window.


Couldn't resist showing you my "new" Christmas mug (a stowaway from my mother's collection). It features the lovely and seasonal artwork of Marjolein Bastin.

 So there's a little peek at some of the Christmas decorating we've got underway around here! As I mentioned above, in my next post I will share some of the Advent activities I have planned for my family this year.

Hope you all have a good night! :)