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December 2010

A Quick & Cheerful New Year's Banner


Late this afternoon, Earlybird and I made a very simple, colorful banner for the learning room windows. This is a really nice craft to do with kids of all ages.

We started with just a few materials ...


*Construction paper (card stock would be sturdier, but this is what we had on hand)

*Art tissue paper

*Yarn (or twine or a metallic cord would be fun)

*Scissors, hole punch, tape

* A craft punch (ours is in the shape of a snowflake)

(Note: If you don't have a craft punch you could just cut a shape - say, a heart - into the triangle using scissors. Lightly fold the triangle down the middle to center the shape as you cut. You could also use the hole punch to make a design.)


And here's what we did ...

(It took us about 30 minutes to make this - but to be fair, I had Bill's help with some of the cutting and punching.)

1. Cut out triangles in varying shades.

2. Use the craft punch to make an open shape in the middle of the triangle.

3. Use the hole punch to make a hole in the top corners of the triangle. (You could brace the holes with those little reinforcement stickers if you'd like.)

4. Tape a piece of tissue paper to the back of the triangles, covering the punched-out shape.


5. Run a length of yarn through the triangles.


6. (Save the punched paper shapes for decorating the windows - or anything you'd like.)


7. Your banner is ready to hang!


It looks especially pretty in a sunny window where the tissue paper can catch the light.


With very young children it would be wise to have the triangles and tissue paper already cut out. Let them do the punching (with supervision), taping and threading. They can also help with the hanging, and of course, all the oohing and ahhing. :D

Happy New Year!

Feeling Crafty

Thanks to a very generous gift certificate from my folks, I was able to stock up on some fresh, pretty craft supplies this week. Some items are for journaling and some are for calendar crafts, and a few things are for the January Learning Room ...


Here we have tiny wooden clothespins, crocheted flowers, crochet ribbon trim, glassine envelopes, lace doily shelf edging, decorative Victorian notes and plain ecru paper tags.


And I am so in love with this scrapbooking paper ~ I plan to use if for my next journal cover. (I'll be starting a fresh journal on New Year's Day.)


New Year decorations for the Learning Room ~ snowflake craft punch, brightly colored construction paper and tissue paper, foam star shapes and sparkly star stickers, a foil star garland and some primary-hued yarn ...


Materials for a new calendar center ...


These two *gorgeous* magazines were actually Christmas gifts from my mum and dad ~ further inspiring the craftiness!

Before I go, I want to say thank you for all your kind comments this week, and as for the questions (re ~ recipes and such) I will work on a "catch up" post for the weekend, answering questions and sharing links, recipes, etc.

I hope you are all having a nice week ~ see you again very soon! :)

Pictures from our Christmas Weekend ...

... and there are LOTS of them!


Christmas plates stacked on the buffet table, shiny in the late day sun. I had the table up midweek and slowly added serving pieces and decorations as we neared the holiday.


We spent Christmas eve (afternoon) with Bill's family. As per tradition, we had Chinese food ~ such a treat! We also snacked on this beautiful fruit bouquet (though usually we keep melon away from EB as he tends to react to this kind of fruit).


You can't see it in this picture, but EB is playing with his new Hess jet plane. My father-in-law gets the boys the new Hess vehicle every year.


The older boys looking over a rock and gem collection.


When presents are being opened, you can usually find me on the floor in the midst of it all, managing turn-taking, tossed paper and thank-you's, etc. :)


Shhhh ... this is how our tree looked just before Bill and I went to bed Christmas eve. ;) Santa brought EB his much-hoped-for Easy Bake Oven, as you can see.


Crackerjack took this picture - it's a "minion" from Despicable Me (really cute movie, btw).


Christmas morning sunrise - so pretty.


We attended Mass on Christmas eve, so we were able to enjoy a leisurely morning with my folks and brother, Matt. They came over around 8 ~ but we'd been up since 4 a.m.! (No, really. EB woke especially early - thanks to all that melon - and CJ followed suit around 5. He then dragged out a rather grumpy-looking Bookworm who mumbled something about, "I thought we agreed on 6 a.m.?")

We enjoyed a raspberry danish ring, a kielbasa-pineapple dish, scrambled eggs (plain and with cheddar cheese), roasted onion-thyme potatoes, orange-cranberry punch and crescent rolls (and coffee).


I've had these snowman mugs since before I was married! I remember buying *tons* of them at Crate & Barrel years ago.


And on to the gifts! EB loved this monster truck from his Uncle Matt. (Yes, that's tin foil you see in the foreground - my brother's wrapping paper of choice.)


The buffet table slowly filling in ...


... and the family room looking cleaner than it has in some time, lol! I've so enjoyed the lighted garlands above the windows this holiday season - they make the nights feel so cozy. I may have to keep those up all winter long.


The Advent Tree calendar, all filled with all those sweet apples. (I already have an idea for next year's Advent calendar - it involves tiny envelopes and clothespins lol.)


Every year, late on Christmas afternoon we hold a family dinner buffet. It's usually a pretty big crowd - aunts, uncles, cousins and cousins' kids! The kitchen island held the hors d'oeuvres ~ crackers, cream cheese with pepper jelly, cheese ball, hummus, a *delicious* shrimp dip my cousins Kate and Kara make every year (which reminds me, girls, I'd love that recipe!), a simple veggie and (dill) dip tray, and that's a hot nacho dip in the crockpot. 

See the drink perched there at the end of the buffet? That would be our "signature" Christmas cocktail this year ...

The lovely Candy Cane Cosmo:


I saw the recipe for this in People magazine and knew at once we'd have to try it. And I'm so glad we did - it was a hit!


Dinner included maple baked beans, honey ham, tossed salad, baked macaroni and cheese, my Nana's stewed tomato casserole, rolls (onion and knotted), pickles and condiments etc.

And there were lots and lots of desserts, natch ...


A birthday cake for my Uncle Karl (a Lady Bird Johnson lemon cake - so yummy!), Mums fudge and old fashioned ribbon candy (which nobody ate but it looked pretty), assorted cookies, Matt's brownies, my peppermint cupcakes, cousin Sue's peanut butter thumbprints, etc. ...

And yes, there was more coffee!


One last picture ...


As busy as our holiday sounds (and it was, pretty busy) it also brought me a lot of peace. I love spending the holiday with our family and creating a special day - happy memories - for our boys. You can be sure when we hit the pillows that night, our bodies were weary, but our hearts (and our tummies) were quite full.

Thanks so much for stopping by today, and for sharing in our holiday joy. I hope you are all having a nice week. Did I mention Bill is off work this week? Yes, it's been very nice having him home ... I could get all too used to these lazy mornings, (late-ish) movie nights and afternoon espresso breaks (Bill makes a mean cappucino!).

See you all again very soon!

Scenes from a Snowstorm


Well, it's Monday evening here, and the "holiday blizzard" has moved offshore - taking the heavy snow with it, but leaving behind a wild and wicked wind! I think all in all, we got around a foot of snow - not too shabby for our first big snow of the season. The boys had fun playing outside for quite a while this morning - until the windchill drove them back inside, all pink cheeks and sweaty heads ...

The picture above I took just before we went to bed last night, and the one below was taken just after I got up this morning. The rest of the pictures were taken throughout the day ... and as I was not in the mood to suit up and expose myself (nor my camera) to the elements, all photographs were taken through windows. ;)










It's kind of nice for the kids on school break to have all this snow to play in this week! Thanks to my readers who said a prayer for our safety through the storm ~ and thank you, also, for the kind comments about my new banner!

Well, for now I must be off ... we're in the midst of making calzones for supper, figuring out my new milk cafe (hot vanilla milk, anyone?) and after we eat there's a brand new copy of "How to Train a Dragon" queued up in the DVD player ...

I hope you all have a very nice night too - be safe, warm and well - and I'll see you again very soon. :)

Pretty in Peppermint!


Oh my goodness, if I could, I would share one of these chocolate- peppermint donuts with each and every one of my readers! They are really quite delicious (if I may say so myself *wink*), but this peppermint buttercream frosting is just out of this world!

I was planning to bake donuts with Earlybird one day this week, as part of his Advent countdown, but on a whim I decided to make a more festive frosting than the average buttercream. I also had all-natural candy canes on hand (found them at Whole Foods last month) so we crushed a bit to sprinkle on top.

I'm so in love with this new (for me) frosting I plan to make chocolate cupcakes on Christmas, frosted and decorated in just this way. (To be perfectly honest, I like them without the crushed candy, but they just look so pretty like this I couldn't resist.)

Well, in lieu of a cupcake, I will offer you a wish for a lovely Thursday ~ I hope your last minute holiday preparations are going well ... :)

It's snowing here today, and we have all the Christmas lights on as we work around the house, setting up tables and bringing special holiday plates up from storage. Our holiday entertaining begins tomorrow afternoon, so there's much to do before all the celebrating begins ...

See you again soon!

Dark Day ... Light Night

Here are some pictures I took yesterday afternoon as the shortest day of the year came to an end ...


Favorite books by candlelight ...


A bit of "sunlight" peeking through the branches ...


The window clings on our front door ...


The sun cake rising in the oven ...


The boys made these solstice lanterns years ago ...


The cottage pie ready to bake ...


... and the Happy Winter cake, ready to serve.


And finally, the Full "Cold" Moon shimmering in the western sky early this morning ...

Have a Wonderful Wednesday, my friends! :)

Our 'Happy Winter Tree,' Part III

First of all, a Very Happy Winter to you all!

As you can see from my pictures, we ended up having a good bit of snow overnight, which made everyone in this household very happy. Perhaps we'll have that White Christmas after all? :)

It's so beautiful here right now as I type up this post - quiet, gray, a few flurries lingering in the air. I'm sitting in the family room, nursing my coffee and enjoying the fire. It's truly a lovely Winter's day ...

 Very early this morning, we made our final Solstice Tree decorations. Bill popped popcorn and cracked open the coconut for us before leaving for work. The popcorn will be strung with cranberries for a bird-friendly garland (I'll work on it during quiet moments through the day). The coconut was halved, drained, and drilled ~ then filled with seed, dried fruits and nuts. We also made bread stars and pretty pineapple rings to add to the tree. 

Here are the tree ornaments ready to hang:


And now for a look around the Tree itself ...


It was too tricky to pierce and thread the bread stars, so we just placed them out along the railing. The coconut halves were looped around posts on either side of the tree. Bill used a handsaw to open the coconuts and a power drill to make the holes for the twine. The birds can nibble on the dried fruit, nuts or the coconut flesh itself if they so desire.


Dried pineapple rings were tied on with bits of festive ribbon. They remind me of little suns or maybe full moons. Either symbol works here, really ~ on this day the sun begins to grow stronger, and this is the night of December's full moon.


I really like how the gingebread folk came out. I think these treats would make nice gifts for people next year.


Above is a donut ring, one of the pinecones, and a coconut half in the background.

Below is a heart ...


Merry Christmas, dear little birdies and beasties! Our wish for you this year is that you keep safe and well fed. We look forward to watching you all Winter long. :)  


Later today I'll bake a treat for MY little beasties ~ a lemony "sun" cake ~ and for supper tonight we'll enjoy a hearty cottage pie, some toasty rolls and warm spiced wine (cranberry juice for the kids). A real Welcome Winter Feast! :)

Oh! And as for last night ~ did anyone catch the lunar eclipse? Funnily enough, I was actually awake at 4 a.m. (of my own doing, not Earlybird's) but the skies were too cloudy to see anything but falling snow! But here's a very cool photo blog of the moon as it was eclipsed last night all across the world ...

Well, I hope you all have a lovely Tuesday for yourselves ~ Happy Winter, Happy Advent, and Thanks for stopping by! See you all again very soon ... :)

Our 'Happy Winter Tree,' Part II


Well first of all, this has been quite a Monday! It started off pretty quiet, but before we knew it there were huge trucks arriving next door and loud engines starting up and oh my - trees were being felled! Like - really tall evergreen trees, literally right outside our family room windows! Then next thing we knew, the doorbell was ringing and packages were arriving and Nana stopped by and snow started falling - and this was all before noontime! 

If ever there was a week for "bustle," this is it ~ I love it!

It was also a busy morning in our kitchen as we set about making our Solstice Tree treats. Now, before I launch into the how-to's I'd like to mention that last week at our Nature Club meeting my friend Ketylina demonstrated a similar suet making project. I paid rapt attention and brought home the recipe as well as some ideas for making more projects at home.

 So here are the ingredients laid out by my stovetop. (And I apologize for the poor lighting in the next several photos - my kitchen is not very bright, unfortunately.)


In front is the package of beef suet* I bought at the market yesterday, and just behind, from left to right, we have: mixed bird seed, rolled oats, dried cranberries, currants, chunky peanut butter, hulled sunflower seeds, cornmeal, walnuts, hazelnuts and dried pineapple rings (the pineapple is actually for something else, lol).

(Notes: The recipe I followed came from this site, thanks again to Ketylina. *If you don't see suet at the meat counter, ask your butcher; he or she may be able to package some up for you. Alternatively, you can use lard in place of the suet.)

I first chopped the suet into small chunks and set them in a heavy saucepan over medium heat:


(Kind of gross, yes, but I tried not to think too much about it, lol.)

While the suet was melting (or rendering), I divided the "mix-ins" into one cup measurements (easier for small - and impatient - hands to deal with):


Here's how the suet looked once it was finished rendering (and lingering chunks were strained out with a sieve):


One pound of suet yielded about 2 cups liquid. Next, the boys had fun adding in all the mix-ins as I stirred the mixture with a strong wooden spoon ...


I poured the concoction into a glass measuring cup for easier handling ...


... and on the island I had some molds prepared:


Gingerbread men, donut rings ...


(Bookworm took a break from his work to gather pinecones for us from the yard.)

After filling the available molds we still had more left, so I pulled out some heart shaped ramekins and a Tupperware container to catch the remaining mixture:


(Note: I placed lengths of twine in the molds before pouring in the suet mix. Theoretically, this will make it possible to hang the shapes in the tree tomorrow.)

And here's our spread!


Into the freezer it all went ...


Tomorrow, on the first day of Winter, we'll take the frozen treats and decorate our Solstice Tree (along with a few other goodies we'll prepare in the morning). I think the birds and squirrels will be especially grateful considering they made themselves pretty scarce during all the loud tree work today!

One more picture before I go ...


Just in case the snow is gone by tomorrow, here's our Tree as it looked at 3 p.m. today. It sure looks and feels like Winter right about now!

And speaking of Winter, tomorrow brings not only December's Full "Cold" Moon - but a total lunar eclipse as well! (Details can be found here.) I may be up early enough to catch the tail end of it, but the trick will be remembering to look, lol!

Have a great night, everyone! See you sometime tomorrow. :)

Our 'Happy Winter Tree,' Part I


If you read my blog, it's clear my family loves nature and the changing seasons of the year. I never like to pick a favorite season, because truly, there's "something bright in all," but admittedly, a New England Winter can be pretty tough to love. Most years it's a long and messy affair, and it can be a challenge - if not downright impossible - to get out and enjoy the natural world when the weather is so uncomfortable. Sure we get out for the occasional walk or sledding adventure, but the icy/slushy/sleety conditions make it all too easy to turn our backs on nature (and nature study) until grass is underfoot and the sun feels warm once more.

Still ... my feeling on the matter is, if we're going to embrace nature, we should try to do it with open and impartial arms. It's my goal - as a mother and a homeschooler - to help my children learn to notice and relish the nuances of each season. And to do that we must be present for it all - the flowers, the foliage, the rain and the snow. And yes, even the ice, sleet and slush. ;)

One of our favorite Winter activities is tending and watching the birds that visit our feeders. They bring us such joy and we appreciate the trust they place in us - coming to our yard for food, water and a bit of shelter. Our Solstice - or "Happy Winter" - tree is a celebration of Winter Nature - which for us, revolves around the little birds and beasts that call our woods home.

So, when we visited the tree farm earlier this month, we brought home two trees to decorate for the holidays. The big one for inside, the small one for outside. And yesterday Bill moved the small tree to our deck, and wrapped it with colored lights (see above) ... this morning we'll start making treats with which to adorn our tree on the Solstice tomorrow.

More on all that later, but for now, I hope you all have a nice Monday ...
Just FIVE days till Christmas, my friends ~ are you ready?!
In your heart and in your home? :)
See you all again very soon ...

Our Advent Tree Notes ~ 25 Days of Fun!

 Recently Lynn B asked if I would share our Advent Tree Notes and so here I am with the list. :) We've completed 19 days so far ... just five more days to go!

So here are the notes in order, from December 1st through the 25th (the last five days are still tentative) ...


1. Happy December!  Nana is coming to make you lunch and we'll set up our Christmas book basket.

2. Today we'll clean the Christmas tree spot and read a book about a very special tree. We'll also gather cones and needles for our Advent Nature Shelf.

3. Daddy's home today! We'll go to the Christmas Tree Farm this morning and cut down our tree!

4. Today we'll put up our Christmas lights!

5. Today we'll decorate our tree and Daddy will put up the wreaths and window candles!

6. Happy Feast of Saint Nicholas! Today we'll bake "Dutch Spice" cookies and there's a little gift hidden in the tree!

7. To celebrate the first snowfall, today we'll make paper snowflakes for the windows.

8. Today we'll explore "The Spices of the Season" and grate our own nutmeg.

9. Today we'll make foam tree ornaments for the tree!


10. You'll be Daddy's helper today ~  doing yard decorations and running a few errands.

11. Today is your "friends" birthday party! Pizza lunch and chocolate cupcakes!

12. Today is your "family" birthday party! A yummy holiday brunch!

13. Today we'll mail our Christmas cards and bring a plate of cookies for the post office people. We'll also make breakfast treats and star hats for St. Lucia Day!

14. HAPPY BIRTHDAY, EARLYBIRD! Daddy's home today - we'll have lots of fun! 

15. Look for a new book hidden in the Christmas tree ~ and today we'll play with your new Santa Playmobile set.

16. Daddy's home today! We'll bake biscuits for breakfast and read The Legend of the Poinsettia. Later we'll visit the nursery and bring home our own poinsettia plant.

17. We'll make popcorn to eat while watching a new VT movie. You can also help mama make lemon snowballs!

18. This morning we'll bring a plate of cookies to our wonderful librarians and pick out some books to read next week.

19. Tonight we'll go for a Christmas Lights Drive ...

Now, for this last week of Advent ...

(I don't have these tags written up yet - we'll see what the week brings! - but these are my tentative ideas.)

20. Today we'll make all kinds of homemade bird treats for our (outdoor) Solstice Tree.

21. Happy Winter Solstice! We'll decorate our Solstice Tree and make mini sun cakes. As the day wanes, we'll read about Winter and The Shortest Day of the year.

22. Today we'll bake (and frost!) homemade chocolate donuts for breakfast!

23. Let's make homemade marshmallows today! We can dunk them in hot cocoa and watch a special about Christmas in Yellowstone. (Thank you, Amy for the tip!)

24. It's Christmas Eve! IF it's not too cold, we'll visit the local farm and in the late afternoon  we'll deliver goodies to our neighbors.

25. Merry Christmas! Happy Birthday, Jesus! 


This has been quite a fun countdown, I must say! The bulletin board base, foam tree shapes and sticky notes have made it all very easy to keep up with.

Well, this is sure to be a busy, busy week but I will try to post a few more times before Christmas. I hope you all have a fantastic final week of Advent ~ thanks for stopping by and see you all again soon. :)

Poinsettia Day!


Today's Advent tree note read:

"Daddy's home today! We'll bake biscuits for breakfast and read about The Legend of the Poinsettia. Later we'll visit the nursery and bring home a plant for our mantle."

(Officially, National Poinsettia Day falls on December 12th, but as we were busy that day with a family party, I decided to schedule our own "poinsettia day" for one day this week.)

Well, the biscuits were delicious (stuffed with cheesy, scrambled eggs) and EB half-listened to me read TLotP while working on a coloring page I found online ... and after breakfast we all bundled into the minivan for a family field trip to the nursery. (Lol, the older two never know what's coming next. What? Close our math books, grab our coats? Happy faces all around.)

To be honest, Earlybird was more enthralled with the Christmas trees for sale in the lot (and pushing the oversized nursery cart up and down the aisles) than he was with the multicolored* plants inside, lol. (Poor Bill got outside duty with EB while I savored the steamy warmth of the greenhouse inside with the older boys.)

*Oh, and by multicolored, I really do mean multicolored! There were the expected red, burgundy, pink and white plants of course - but also - purple, blue and fuschia! 


Now, maybe I haven't been poinsettia shopping in a while, but this really struck me as odd! I insisted on purchasing traditional red plants, but the boys talked me into one sparkly blue plant as well. Crackerjack said he wanted it for their bedroom - he has plans for a Star Wars Christmas corner I think.

Here's our Earlybird marveling at the pretty Christmas plants ...


... and Crackerjack and Bookworm, smiling for Mum's camera. :) 


As you can see from their garb we're in the midst of quite a cold spell here in New England; the balmy greenhouse was a nice escape from the frosty weather. (A quick weather note here ~ a major snowstorm is predicted for Massachusetts late this weekend. Maybe we'll get a white Christmas after all!)

Well, from there, our day got quite busy as we grabbed a quick lunch and headed out to our December Nature Club meeting (a homemade suet feeder activity hosted by my friend Ketylina at her lovely home - more on that later!).

So we're home again at last, and supper's bubbling away on the stove. Bill's getting some work done, the older boys are playing Wii, and EB and I are watching "Dogs 101" (a favorite show of his). Obviously I'm also working on this post! 

As a final touch to our poinsettia day, I had planned to pull out our sweet little poinsettia fairy to hang on our tree, but - gasp! - we can't find her! I made her a few years back (details in this post) and I just can't imagine where she's disappeared to ~ but if I can't find her, I may just have to make her again. Hmm ... an excuse to stop by the craft store tomorrow? Maybe that's not so bad after all ... ;)

By the way, in a comment today, Lynn B. asked if I'd share all my Advent tree notes sometime - and yes, I'd be glad to! I'll write up a post (possibly this weekend) with the notes we've done so far and my plans for next week. I must say, this has been my favorite Advent countdown yet. :)

Well, thank you very much for stopping by today; I hope you had a nice day too. See you all again very soon!

The Animals' Advent

This morning's Advent tree note read:

"Today we'll read about The Animals' Advent and play with your new Forest Santa Playset."


I found this delightful book at Barnes & Noble a few weeks back. It's a lift-the-flap, board-style book meant for very young children (and very small hands) but it's perfect for EB. He's really into the whole "countdown" aspect of Advent, and of course we love most anything nature-related. The story revealed along with each animal is told in rhyme so, it's even more fun to read along as you lift each flap.

And here's the Playmobile Forest Santa playset (an Advent Calendar actually!) ...


... our gift to EB on his birthday!

As with any Advent calendar, it's meant to be opened a door at a time (revealing one piece of the woodland) but we allowed EB to open them all at once. :)

By the way, another favorite book about animals at Christmas is The Christmas Cat by Efner Tudor Holmes (illustrated by the incomparable Tasha Tudor). It's such a heartwarming story and the pictures are so, so lovely. Next week, on the Winter Solstice (Tuesday, the 21st) we'll read this story and make some gingerbread animal ornaments. (The recipe and directions are given at the back of the book.) And then we'll decorate the little outdoor tree we bought at the tree farm with treats for "our own" woodland animals.

Thank you so much for stopping by today ~ I hope you all had a wonderful Wednesday! 

Happy Birthday, Earlybird!


Dear Earlybird, how did you get to be NINE already?! Time is flying by so fast! On your special day we want you to know we LOVE you so very much! You bring so much JOY to our life, and our family is BLESSED to call you ours.

With lots of smooches and love,

~ Daddy, Mama & Brothers

***Beatitudes For Friends Of People With Disabilities***

Blessed are you who take the time to listen to difficult speech, 
If I persevere, I can be understood.

Blessed are you who never bid me to "hurry up"
Or take my tasks from me and do them for me.
For I often need time, rather than help.

Blessed are you who stand beside me as I enter new and untried ventures, Myself and You.

Blessed are you who ask for my help.
For my greatest need is to be needed.

Blessed are you who, with a smile encourage me to try once more.

Blessed are you who never remind me
That today I ask the same question twice.

Blessed are you who respect me and love me just as I am.

Author Unknown 


Happy St. Lucia Day!


This morning's Advent tree note read:

"Today we'll mail our Christmas cards and make a star hat for St. Lucia's Day!"

Pictured above are the orange sweet rolls I make every year on this day ~ not from scratch mind you, but from Pillsbury. ;) EB doesn't care for these rolls (and he can't have them anyway), so he opted for a wheat bagel & cream cheese instead. The holly sprigs were snipped from our front bushes (and are now safely deposited in a vase on our nature shelf). After breakfast I'll help Earlybird make a star hat from large construction paper and bright shiny star stickers. He'll have fun making it, though I doubt he'll wear it for long lol. Hopefully he'll let me snap at least one picture before he whisks it off.

Later this afternoon we'll visit the post office, and mail our big stack of Christmas cards. And if we're efficient today (in schoolwork and housework, etc.) we'll have a batch of cookies to drop off with the kind ladies at the post office window. 

Thanks for stopping by ~ hope you all have a great Monday!

The 3rd Sunday of Advent!


A day for Comfort and Joy ...

The comfort of a warm, cozy home on a wild, stormy day ... and the joy of gathering with family to celebrate our Earlybird's birthday (which falls on the Tuesday of this week).


(We had quite a Sunday brunch, as you can see!)

EB was due on the Winter Solstice, but he arrived a week early - right on his Papa's birthday (just as his Papa predicted *wink*). So it was a double celebration today! :)

While I'm here, I wanted to let Kristie know that our child-friendly nativity set came from a company called Nova Natural. The dolls can be found here but I don't see our stable on the site anywhere. (Perhaps they no longer carry it?) And just for the record, I honestly don't remember paying quite that much for those dolls oh-so-many years ago!

(ETA ~ Emily linked us to a similar nativity set sold by Magic Cabin. Thanks, Emily!)

Well, I hope you all had a nice Sunday too. Right now I'm sitting here, curled up on the couch, listening to the rain pelt the house, enjoying the warmth of the fire. Bill is watching the Patriots game (we're winning - hooray!), and the older boys are busy with this and that ... 

Earlybird, if you can believe it, is in bed ~ at 6:30 he declared he'd "had a long day" and really "just wanted sleep." Lol, I know just how he feels!

Sweet dreams, my Earlybird!

The December Learning Room

(Otherwise known as Christmas Central these days!)


The learning room has been transformed this month as we make room for Christmas ~ and especially for the very large tree we brought home last week! We first moved out the big old dining/work table and nestled the tree into the front corner of the room (this way the lights can be seen from the street). I had Bill leave the study bench in place since we're still using all our school books and whatnot ... and he set up a card table to serve as my temporary workstation (it will make a nice coffee bar on Christmas Day).

So here are a few pictures of our December learning room ~ I hope you enjoy! :)

First, we have Earlybird's Advent Calendar underway ...


The sticky note messages are working out very well! A nice visual showing our family's journey through Advent. Also, as you can see, we're hanging our Christmas tree cards in the doorways this year. They'll be spaced throughout the main living areas. 

Moving on to the December nature shelf ...


... which I showed you a couple of weeks ago when I set up our Advent candles, but now we've added a few new things, mainly the bits of evergreen - needles, cones and branches - we've been collecting.

And here's the nativity/reading corner.


This is a very child-friendly nativity set, with the Holy Family tucked inside a small wooden stable. The shepherds are standing by, one windowsill to the left, and the three kings are hidden behind the tree. (They'll move a little closer everyday between Christmas and Epiphany.)

There's a pretty angel hovering above the creche, too ...


And this is where I'm sitting at the moment as I finish up this post - my laptop is perched just off to the right.


It's a really lovely spot to sit and work or write or read, especially as the day darkens and the neighborhood lights come on.(The bucket holds my holiday notebook and Christmas card paraphernalia, while the wire basket holds bills, coupons and more card supplies.) 

The best part of the room at the moment, though, is this:


Our Christmas Tree.

It fits the room very nicely, I think. :)

Thank you so much for stopping by today. I hope you all had a nice week. TWO WEEKS FROM TONIGHT is Christmas Eve ~ can you even BELIEVE it?!

On tonight's agenda - a quiet evening at home, preparing our own cards to mail (hopefully by Monday). This weekend will be busy with Earlybird's parties (his actual birthday is next week, but we're celebrating with friends and family ahead of time). A pizza lunch on Saturday, followed by a big Sunday brunch. Lots of food, lots of fun. :)

See you all again next week!

Poetry Friday ~ Song of the Christmas Tree Fairy


The little Christmas tree was born

And dwelt in open air;
It did not guess how bright a dress
Some day its boughs would wear;
Brown cones were all, it though, a tall
And grown-up Fir would bear.

O little Fir! Your forest home
Is far and far away;
And here in doors these boughs of yours
With coloured balls are gay,
With candle-light, and tinsel bright,
For this is Christmas Day!

A dolly-fairy stands on top,
Till children sleep; then she
(A live one now!) from bough to bough
Goes gliding silently.
O magic sight, this joyous night!
O laden, sparkling tree!

~ Cicely Mary Barker