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October 2010
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December 2010

November 2010

Two Advent Projects: Candles & Counting Down


Every year I like to do something different for our Advent calendar, and this year it was a package of green foam tree shapes that got my wheels turning ...

Using Earlybird's bulletin board as my base, I covered the cork with Christmas wrap and draped a length of garland around the frame. Then I tacked 25 trees to the board (numbering them with a Sharpie).


On the back of each tree is a cheery little post-it note (so much easier than making tags!) with a fun idea for the day. 


Now, because I often need to work around last minute plans (or illness, or weather, or EB's mood swings), I write my tags out the night before we turn a tree. I do however, brainstorm a master list of ideas to choose from ahead of time ~ things like taking a night drive to look at the lights, making paper snowflakes for the windows, or eating gingerbread pancakes on Earlybird's birthday. 

Now, for our Advent candles this year, I decided to go with something very simple ...


I bought wooden letters spelling out PEACE for the nature shelf, and to dress them up a bit I adhered a foam tree to the back of each letter. In front of the letters I placed four small glass votives, one for each week of the season.


There's nothing so lovely as candlelight on a dark Advent afternoon ...


For nature study this month, we're focusing on conifer trees (starting with a tree farm visit later this week) so we'll be adding various bits of evergreen to our arrangement as the season moves along. 

Well, I thank you for stopping by today and I wish you all a very happy Advent! Hope your new week is off to a good start. :)

Thanksgiving at Our House


Another Thanksgiving come and gone? And Advent upon us this Sunday? How time is flying ... 

I hope you all had a lovely day yesterday! We had a very nice holiday with our family - we hosted* an afternoon dinner here at our home. The day was clear and cold, just right for a New England Thanksgiving. The Patriots played (and won!) so we had a TV set up down in the playroom for those who didn't want to miss the big game. We moved the Wii into the older boys' bedroom (much to their dismay, lol). Food was served buffet-style from the kitchen island, and dinner seating was set up in the living room, dining room and family room. It all worked out very nicely. :)

Our Thanksgiving menu this year included ...


Baked artichoke dip with French bread

A variety of cheeses, red grapes, fig jam and crackers

 Mango salsa with tortilla chips



Red and white wine (including apple and pear wine from a local orchard)

Beer, cider and soda



Roast turkey (a free range bird from a local farm)

Herbed Sausage stuffing


Mashed potatoes

Sweet potatoes with marshmallow topping

Roasted autumn vegetables

Cranberry-apple relish

(as well as good ole canned cranberry sauce!)

Maple carrots

Baked macaroni and cheese

Crusty sourdough rolls



Apple pies (traditional and crumb)

Pumpkin pie

Lemon meringue pie

Spice cake served with whipped cream (for my mum's birthday)

Pecan bars

Triple layer brownies

Gingersnap cookies

Freshly brewed coffee (we like Jim's Organic these days)

*Note: I would never have been able to pull off even a TENTH of this day were it not for my mum. She planned with me, shopped with me, cleaned with me and cooked with me! Working together made it all so doable - not to mention all the more fun. :)

Here are a few pics I took before the day really got underway ...


Seating for eight in the dining room ...


The kids' table in the family room ...


Seating for five in the living room ...


The desserts in their "holding" zone; beverages keeping cold on the deck ... 


Some of the appetizers (and the turkey behind in the bottom oven!) ...

As you can probably guess, there were lots of leftovers! Today was spent putting chairs and china away and running the dishwasher a time or two. Bill worked a half day and now we're winding down, glad to have a (relatively) quiet weekend before us.

I hope you all had a nice week, wherever you live and however you celebrate. Thanks for stopping by today ~ hope to see you again soon. :)

Busy with my Boys

I apologize again for being just too busy to blog recently! I may not have had time to sit down and write, but I did take photos as often as I could. I thought I might share some of them with you this fine Tuesday morning. :)

This is Earlybird's "Thankful Board." It's been a more meaningful project for him than the acorns we hung on our Seeds of Gratitude Tree.


He's still learning (and remembering) the holidays themselves and I find that concentrating on symbols are helpful. So of course I chose a giant sparkly turkey for this board! We added a card (and sometimes a photo) every few days or so, talking about what we are thankful for, and what thankful means - a tough concept to explain when you think of it! 

And here are some pictures from a neat little craft we did last week - I found it in the November issue of Family Fun: Nutty Boats


For obvious reasons we did this activity outside on the deck ...


Crackerjack was intrigued enough to join us ...


A skill we work on constantly with EB is patience and reigning in impulsive tendencies. Something as simple as pouring a cup of water into a bowl can be a real challenge for him 


For example, yesterday we made pumpkin breads together. He stayed by my side while I worked on the recipe, helped fetch ingredients (and put them away) and I allowed him to dump/pour the ingredients into the mixing bowl. (Sure, I snuck a little math in there *wink*.) He was a little quick sometimes but he's really come a long way from those impulses that tell him to act fast and make a mess!



A day or so later, Crackerjack had a science assignment to work on - he needed to dig up a sample of backyard dirt and examine what all was in it. Then he drew and labeled his results in his science notebook. EB had fun with this too.


But Earlybird had a real grand old time doing some "Thanksgiving Painting" last week!


I called it "Thanksgiving Painting" because we used autumnal colors. Due to EB's sensitivities, we have to be careful about the kind of art materials he uses. No Crayola for this boy ... I ordered a Clementine All Natural Paint a few months ago. (Note: I've found them available at Amazon. And I plan to order some more supplies for EB's birthday  next month.)


It was so nice to be able to indulge EB's love of finger painting. He even let me paint his palms so we could make the traditional Thanksgiving handprint turkey:


(Of course he immediately asked to clean his hands once we made the print, lol.)

We also used a brush.



The colors he painted with are so in tune with the season ...


Also, while Bookworm volunteered at the library yesterday, the younger two and I ran a quick errand at the grocery store ...


(Lol, EB was transfixed by the wide carrot selection.)

A full-blown shopping trip is not feasible with EB (I do those on Saturdays sans children), but we do take him for short visits to practice good public manners. Plus, the food store is just such fun! So much to see and to talk about. :) 

Back at home we marveled over the setting sun and how it filled our house with golden light and striking shadows.


This is our November Nature Shelf ~ the focus this month is squirrels, as you can see.

Now, as I reach the end of my post, I realize I didn't include Bookworm in any of these photos! He had a busy week too - the highlight being Saturday, when he took part in "SPLASH" weekend at MIT. He had a great time and can't wait for "SPARK" in the spring.

 So that's a bit of catch-up from me - a little look at what we've been up to! And now here we are only two days away from Thanksgiving ... We're hosting dinner this year for our family, so there's much to do these next few days - to cook, clean and create! I hope you're enjoying your November too ~ and I hope to be back again before the holiday ~ but until then, have a happy Turkey week and see you again soon. :)

November Nature: A Quaking Bog & Solstice Hill

Our Homeschool Nature Club met for its November meeting yesterday and it was truly a fantastic experience! The reservation we explored was breathtakingly beautiful, and the day itself was just perfect for November ~ bright, blustery and brisk. Considering all the dank, dreary weather we've had recently, we really lucked out! 

At this month's meeting we explored a pond, a "quaking" bog and the highest hill in the county. I hope you enjoy these pictures from our day ...


A narrow but sturdy boardwalk allowed us to journey through the bog out to a large open pond. On either side of the walkway the dampness was pretty deep! (See the walking stick below - it had just been stuck in the ground beside the path.)


At this time of year there was not much still growing, but the moss was plentiful. 


As you can see, the afternoon sunlight made the bog shimmer in an almost ethereal way ...


A few things we noticed on our walk out to the pond ...


A tiny solid drop of sap ...


A carnivorous pitcher plant!


Tiny cones/seeds of some kind.


A few mushrooms popping up here and there.

Finally we reached the end of the boardwalk and the quiet pond in all its late autumn glory:




Two of my intrepid explorers. :)

By the way, the reason they call this bog "quaking" is because it is literally a mat of vegetation resting on water-logged muck. When the children jumped on the semi-solid earth next to the walkway, the trees around us trembled (or quaked) in response! As you might guess, this unique site really captured the kids' collective attention!

After thoroughly exploring the bog habitat, our group headed uphill ...


Stopping to climb a tree on the way ...


And take some pictures of the lovely setting ...



We passed through a beautiful, golden wood ...


And finally found ourselves at the very top the hill, the highest point in the county. 


A set of "solstice stones" rests at the crest of the hill, marking the four cardinal directions, as well as the points of the solstices and equinoxes.


The kids mostly enjoyed clambering all over it. ;)

But it was the view of Boston in the distance that really amazed me ...


*Note: This picture was not taken by me, but by my friend, Beth - whose awesome camera I covet. ;)

While the kids ran around and had snacks, the moms chatted and walked about, enjoying the pretty surroundings.

I spied a gorgeous birch tree ...


And a crabapple (?) of some sort. Very autumnal looking, don't you think?


But before we knew it, the late day sun was slipping behind the trees and the air was growing colder ...


We piled back into our cars and headed home in all different directions, each family taking home another nice Nature Club memory.

Thanks for stopping by everyone! I hope you've all had a good week ... it was another busy one here! Really looking forward to Turkey Day next Thursday - and there's plenty to do to get ready - but I'll be back here again just as soon as I can. :)

Just passing through!

Another quick stop in to say hi, and I hope you all have been well. I've not been online much this past week, as my Earlybird has been needing his mama a bit more than usual lately. I hope to get some posting done later this week, though ... I have Thanksgiving plans, new recipes and November nature study to discuss! 

In the meantime, I hope you all have a lovely, late autumn day ...

Blessings to you and yours! :)

Happy (Sleety, Sloppy) Monday Morning :)


Sorry I've been quiet for several days now ... we've been busy, busy, busy!

The picture above shows you what we did yesterday (with Flat Stanley tagging along). We met some friends at the Wheelock Family Theater in Boston to see a production of  ANNIE. It was wonderful! 

Today is a cold, rainy day - not the nicest of weather, but better than it started out anyways - it was dark and sleeting at 6 a.m.! Our week looks to be a bit quieter than the last ...

Thanks for all the kind comments on our Gratitude Tree - and thank you to The Crafty Crow  for featuring our project in a post last week! A couple of readers asked about the acorn template I used, and to be honest, I'm having a hard time finding the one I used! (I printed out all 25 acorns right away and didn't bookmark the page.) I originally found it by doing a google image search for "acorn template" ... but when I do it now, I can't find the one I used! I'll keep looking and if I find it I will post the site here. I barely looked at the site, I just grabbed the image and moved on.

So that's all for right now ... I'm sneaking a few minutes online while the boys dig into their morning's work (Algebra for Bookworm, Ancient China for Crackerjack and lantern coloring for Earlybird) ...

Be back again - just as soon as I can! :)

October's Nature Notes


(Here's another installment for my Nature Notes storage project. As I compile this post, I realize I took shamefully few nature notes last month!)
10/8/10 October's "bright blue" weather is finally upon us! Cool temperatures ahead - maybe even a first frost this weekend! (I cringe for my beautiful morning glories.)
10/11/10 We're expecting a first frost any night now ... though the days are still relatively warm. I am ready for this turn of events ... except for saying goodbye to my morning glories. They are just coming into their prime ...
All in all, it was a lovely October ~ the foliage got off to a slow start, but it burned bright as a flame by Halloween. Still lots of color to be seen ... though much of it is on the ground. The juncos returned around the 19th of the month, and we have not seen a chipmunk in a few weeks now.

Looking ahead, November's nature themes will include ...

homes and nests
acorns and squirrels
how we prepare for winter.
And in December we'll focus on ...
feeding the birds
the first snow
starlight and solstice

 Late Autumn is here, my friends ~ enjoy the fading light, embrace the coming cold ... look for the spark in the dark! :)

Our "Seeds of Gratitude" Tree


After lunch yesterday, Earlybird and I scoured the backyard for a branch just right for this year's Thanksgiving tree. We finally settled on a rather large red oak branch ~ it was lying on the ground just waiting to be put to good use!

Back inside, I anchored the branch in an earthenware pitcher (filled with coins for stability and weight) and placed it at the head of our dining/work table.


Next was figuring out what symbol to use (size, shape and medium), to represent the "thanks" we'll give this November. 

I really liked the idea of using acorns instead of leaves, so I scoured online for a template. Once I found one I liked, I printed out 25 copies (an acorn a day leading up to Thanksgiving). For a bit of extra color and texture, I attached a couple of pretty silk leaves to my paper cutouts ~ and tied the whole thing together with a bit of autumnal yarn:


At supper each night this month, we'll talk about what things we were thankful for that day - the big and the small - and write them down on the back of an acorn. 

Update ~ I just took a picture of our very first acorn:


By Turkey Day our tree will be filled with many Seeds of Gratitude!

Happy November, my friends ~ I hope you have a wonderful week! :)