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January 2011

Monday's Domestic Bliss Moment ...

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Maple-Apple Tartlets

 My friend Kim told me about this recipe last week, and I've been itching to try it ever since! Bill loves apple desserts, and since I'm not much of a pie maker (I'm too impatient to do pie pastry justice) I usually end up making a crisp, that old family standby. But these little tartlets were so easy to assemble and they just look so pretty ...

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 ... don't they? :)

And they're relatively healthy as sweets go. Frozen puff pastry, green apple slices, cinnamon, maple syrup - a touch of butter and sugar and that's it!

And oh my goodness, the way they made my house smell! The boys came out of the woodwork wondering just *what* Mum was up to, lol. Such a lovely treat to serve at the end of a winter's meal - or maybe with tea if you're having friends over. We'll have them tonight after supper; I'll warm them briefly in the oven before serving. I'll probably eat half a tartlet and save the rest to have with my morning coffee. I'm not all that big on sweets myself, as much as I enjoy making them!

Speaking of supper, in my house tonight it's (whole wheat) spaghetti and (chicken) meatballs - served with a tossed green salad and the tartlets to finish ...

Well, I hope you all had a nice Monday! As you can see from the picture above, it was quite a sunny day here. Cold (natch), but clear and bright just the same - though it's the last we'll see of the sun for several days I'm afraid. We're preparing as best we can for the coming storm - Bill finally broke down and ordered an electric snow thrower. Unfortunately, according to Amazon, it's due to arrive Friday ... two days after the storm.

In happier news, we're on the cusp of February tonight - one step closer to spring! - and this is a busy week as far as feasts and events go. We have St. Brigid's Day tomorrow (patroness of Ireland and dairy farmers) and Candlemas on Wednesday (as well as Groundhog's Day) and then Thursday is the Chinese New Year. The weekend brings the Superbowl, the parish pancake breakfast as well as the annual "Focus on the Feeders" project. Depending on the snow, we also hope to squeeze in the boys' Book Group, an evening of laser tag (for them, not me, lol) and *fingers crossed* my haircut appointment.

But like I said, we'll see what the storm brings ... and how long it will take to dig ourselves out. Our "out-of-house" plans are all tentative these days!

Well, have a great last night of January, my friends. Thank you so much for stopping by. Stay warm and well and I will see you all again sometime soon ...

:)


Something you don't see everyday ...

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Unless you live in the Northeast U.S. in which case maybe this doesn't seem so odd, lol. You see, our roofs are buried under such a deep blanket of snow, the pressure is getting too intense. Some of our neighbors are actually getting water inside their homes from all this snow cover!

So it started with the guy on the corner - we noticed him working up on his roof around lunchtime. And then the man next door started in ... and then the guy across the street ... and finally Bill caved to peer pressure and headed up to rid our roof of some of is accumulated weight.

Because, here's the thing. We have over two feet of snow on the ground right now. And according to the latest forecast, we are expecting 2-5 inches tomorrow (which, pfffttt ... that's small potatoes) but there's another - drumroll please - 14-20 inches coming on Wednesday!

(Suffice it to say, whatever the Groundhog says this year, I'm taking it with a grain of salt. I think our die's been cast.)

After Bill spent an hour or so shoveling the roof - having buried his ladder in the process -he got down the "creative" way:

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ο»Ώ Roofsnow3

Then he told me to send the boys out to join him in some roof jumping ...

I said no.

Cabin Fever has officially set in. 

Well, Happy Monday everyone ... I hope you're expecting better weather than we are around here! My computer's being tricky this morning so fingers crossed I'll be back later today with another post. I have lots to talk about this week!

:)


Last night was Greek Mythology Night ...

... and it was so much fun!

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Once a month our homeschool support group holds an 11-15 year old "Activity Night." We've been participating for several years now and it's something my boys really look forward to. The gist of it is, one family volunteers to "host" a month and organize the night's activities. Most months it's as simple as getting the kids together for pizza and a dvd at someone's home, but we've also gone out to the movies, visited a corn maze, held a Yankee Swap, and spent an evening at the mini golf course. It's always a fun night - for the kids as well as the mums (or dads as the case may be)!

Our family hosted this month's gathering, and we decided to go with the theme, "Greek Mythology Night." Our inspiration was this movie, this game and my boys' long-held fascination with ancient civilizations and mythology.

I started setting things up early Friday afternoon; this was the buffet table in its early stages:

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Earlybird insisted the chip bags be part of the picture, lol. And no, chips are not necessarily "Greek" - not as far as I know - but these are 11-15 year old kids we're talking about. Chips are always a must on Activity Night. ;)

For the table I used a light green tablecloth, tall ivory candles and a length of grapevine garland. On the windowsill above, I lined up the Percy Jackson books as well as our beloved (and quite bedraggled) D'Aulaire Book of Greek Myths.

Just above the books the boys lined up some of their action figures ...

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Dragons of all sorts, Cerberus (the three-headed dog), a (Lego) ogre, and several knights and gladiators rounded out the gallery.

So with the house more or less ready, and the food order called in, we waited to welcome our guests. (Six families in attendance this month, 12 kids in all.)

Our menu for the night:

Soda and water

Chips & salsa * Hummus & pita

Pizza (both regular and Greek)

Greek salad

Spinach pie (Spanakopita)

Greek Sweet Bread (Kouloura)

Assorted desserts & tea

After supper, the kids tried their hand at a Greek Mythology quiz one of the boys made up for the group. He awarded badges depending on quiz grade: mortal, demigod, oracle, minor god, Olympian god, fate.

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It was a very challenging quiz!

After the quiz, the kids split into two teams and we had a little trivia game. I used the a Professor Noggin set of cards called "Creatures of Myth and Legend." The kids handled questions on everything from unicorns to phoenixes to leprechauns to golems! There was much laughter and not just a little competitive spirit. ;)

After the games, the desserts were spread out, plates were filled up and the kids settled down to watch the night's movie. The mom's settled in to drink tea and chat. :)

(Now, I don't know what setting I had my camera on, but all the pictures I took last night came out with an awful yellow hue. I'm still going to share them - just wanted to prepare you, lol! I promise, the food tasted much better than it looks in my pictures!)

And all these lovely treats were made by my friends ...

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Holly's delicious Greek sweet bread, or "kouloura."

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Beth's festive "Greek alphabet" cupcakes.

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Yasmina's yummy vanilla twist cookies.

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Laura's sweet, crunchy raspberry crumb bars.

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And finally, Kim's soft and buttery "kourabiethes."

Dear readers, this night was such fun - one we'll remember always. And it was a late one too! - we said our goodbyes around 11:00! Needless to say, this was a long lazy morning ... and no cooking! We had plenty of delicious leftovers to enjoy. :)

Next month will be another movie night - February's pick is How to Train Your Dragon ... I wonder if there's such a thing as "Viking" cookies?

Well, thanks so much for stopping by today! I hope your weekend is going well. Take care of yourselves and have a good night ... I'll see you all again sometime soon.

:)


A late day moment ...

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I was bustling around the kitchen when Crackerjack called my attention to this afternoon's vivid winter sunset. He thought it looked especially "dramatic" viewed through the "wicked" icicles that hang off the house.

A very wintry view, indeed.

Have a lovely evening, dear readers. We're expecting guests in about an hour. Looking forward to a night of friends, pizza and fun ... 

See you all again sometime soon!

:)


Faith @ Home Friday

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Our focus this week ~  Blessings, the Beatitudes and The Days of the Blackbird. I'll also show the boys a little craft I'm working on (a prayer/petition box).

The wooden letters (shown above) tie into this Sunday's gospel, and they introduce our February faith focus. (If you remember, January was "peace" - well, next month will be "blessed.") After lunch today I'll ask the older boys to choose a Beatitude - to write down what they think it means, and how they can apply it to their life. I'll ask EB to draw faces for his "Happiness Train." (Another neat craft from this book.) We'll also prepare our annual donation to Citizen's Energy Oil Heat Program and take a moment to think about how hard life must be for people who can't afford to keep warm. 

  ***

β€œBlessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are they who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the land.
Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the clean of heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you
and utter every kind of evil against you falsely because of me.
Rejoice and be glad,
for your reward will be great in heaven.”

(Matthew 5:1-12)

***

It will be a busy day for us today - on top of our usual Friday routine, we're also preparing for a "Greek Mythology Night" here at our house. (More on that later!) I'm also working on my menu plan for next week - thanks to a few upcoming holidays and feast days, half of it's already set. :)

I hope you all have a great Friday! Take care, and keep warm ... I'll see you all again very soon!


"All I really need is love ...

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... but a little chocolate now and then doesn't hurt!" ~ Charles M. Schulz

We celebrated National Chocolate Cake Day today!

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(I bet you're not surprised.)

And a chocolate cake is one thing ... but a chocolate frosted chocolate cake is something else altogether! Of course, Earlybird insisted on sprinkles. He doesn't like to eat them, lol - note the corner left unadorned - but he loves the way they look. And he loves to do the sprinkling. ;)

Now for my daily weather report - well, there's lots of white stuff out there. As far as the eye can see. In fact, my Bookworm worked up quite an appetite today, shoveling snow:

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Coming inside to a slice of cake and a cold glass of milk was a nice treat for my hard-working boy.

In case you're wondering what other food holidays are coming up, here are a few more to round out your week:

1/28 National Blueberry Pancake Day

1/29 National Corn Chip Day

1/30 National Croissant Day

(I found great food holiday information at this site.)

Well, I hope you all had a nice Thursday ... enjoy your evening, and I'll see you all again very soon!


Thoughtful Thursday

On my mind today:

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From my page-a-day calendar:

"The thing that is so disconcerting about cleaning is that it just never gets done. As soon as we do it, we can start all over again."

This is true, and rather defeating, but I like the inspiring message just below:

"Each month this year, we will look at new options for approaching cleaning that may give us a new perspective. To fight cleaning takes a lot of energy. Perhaps everyone can be happier."

So this is what I'm mulling over this morning: how can I make housekeeping easier - on both the body and the mind? In both practice and perspective?

With the level of activity in our household, and the amount of time (as home learners) we spend at home - using dishes, creating clutter, trodding on floors - daily upkeep is a necessity. In short, cleaning is a big part of my day. 

Generally speaking, I'm pretty matter-of-fact about it. It has to be done, and it's part of what I do as a wife and a mom (I work at home, not outside of it). I enlist help where I can (growing children are more able every year). I try to follow routines that streamline my time spent on cleaning. And I'm also trying to pare down our stuff. Less stuff to clean means less time spent cleaning.

And keeping a good attitude about cleaning - about any task I take on - sets a good example for my children. I'm taking care of my responsibilities - and while I might not be whistling while I work - I'm at least getting it done without fuss and frustration.

At least on most days.

(It's easy to say all this, it's not always easy to live it!)

So I'm looking forward to reading these monthly "options" my calendar speaks of. It should be quite interesting ... in fact, I think I might skip some pages and read ahead. ;)

 How do you, dear readers, keep a good attitude about cleaning? I'd love to hear your thoughts. Do you have a book to recommend? A philosophy you follow?

Until next time - have a good Thursday, and thanks for stopping by! Don't forget it's National Chocolate Cake Day ...I just might be back with a food post later on.

:)


The Bookworm gets the Bird

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Here's Bookworm doing his "farm chores" today.

Lol, he does the feeders now for me - I pass the pitcher out through the dining room window and he fills the trays and tubes full of seed. He makes quite a racket tromping out there, in his big gunboat boots - the critters sure know when he's coming! A few of them barely budge though, content to keep eating while BW works around them.

Today a lovely little Carolina Wren (a very brave, cheeky bird) stayed close by while BW worked. 

He took this picture before coming back inside:

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We have two wrens (a mated pair I presume) that frequent our feeders. Have you ever heard this wren's song? It is quite startling and memorable.

Well my friends, how has your day been? I hope it's been nice. I hope you found many reasons to smile ...

 The storm is here now ... it's coming down at a good clip. The snow lights are on and supper's in the oven! Time to call it a day. :)

I will see you again sometime tomorrow, but for now I wish you all a peaceful goodnight!


Midweek Food Chat

So I was making omelettes this morning, and as I tossed in a handful of veggies I remembered Lori asked about roasting broccoli ... and then I remembered Dawn asking about lasagna and - I can't find the comment now, but - I seem to remember someone asking about taco potatoes a while back ...

So it's time for a a little food chat this Wednesday morning! :)

Lori, we love roasting veggies and I've found broccoli quite tasty prepared this way. I wash and trim the florets (leaving a good size "trunk" on the "tree"). I pat them dry and then toss them with some Ken's Italian Dressing. (Sometimes I just use olive oil, salt and pepper, but I find the dressing lends a wonderful flavor.) I then spread the broccoli (and any other veggies I'm using) on a lightly greased, foil- or silpat-lined baking sheet. (We rinse and re-use or recycle our tin foil.) I roast - or bake - the pan of veggies at 425 F. for approximately 30 minutes - checking them after 20 to stir or flip them a little.

Other veggies I like this way are diced potatoes, sweet pepper and onion chunks, and halved baby carrots. This is actually the only way I'll eat carrots! They are unbelievably sweet and tender this way. I also, on occasion, add chunks of turkey kielbasa into the mix and it makes a great meal!

This morning I finely diced the leftover broccoli and carrots and threw them into my omelette (with a handful of shredded sharp cheddar). It was delicious! I don't usually eat a big breakfast, so this will tide me over through lunch, too.

Now, Dawn asked about my lasagna - and I have to admit, I just follow the recipe on the side of the Barilla box! I did add dried basil and oregano to the ricotta cheese mixture and we like ground turkey instead of beef in most ground meat dishes. This is a really easy recipe - delicious the day it's served and terrific as leftovers - Bookworm is in fact heating up a slice for his lunch at this very moment!

As for the taco potatoes ... this is basically ground turkey or beef - or like the last time I made this, chicken - browned and tossed with a pre-made taco seasoning. (We like Bearitos when I can get it.) To cut down on the sodium level, I use half a package of seasoning to a full measure of water. I then serve the taco meat with diced bell peppers, tomatoes, shredded lettuce, sour cream and other traditional taco toppings - all over baked potatoes! It makes a very hearty and filling meal. My family really loves taco potato night!

 Ok, one final food note - tomorrow is National Chocolate Cake Day! So you know what that means ... ;D

Hope you're all having a good week so far! Thanks so much for stopping by ... I'll be back again very soon. In the meantime we're bracing ourselves for another big snow tonight - 6-9 inches by morning!

Eep!


Where do you keep the kids' "school" stuff?

Schoolbooks2 

And by "school stuff" I mean the textbooks, workbooks, notebooks (etc.) your kids need in a given week of learning at home. Their curriculum, I guess is what I'm getting at. Do you use a shelf, a cubbie, a bin or maybe a bag, as shown above?

I happened to be taking pictures in the learning room today and I thought I'd show you this spot - I had just neatened it up and it looked bright and cheery. :) Here is where I display seasonal picture books and just below, are parked the three "school" bags. (Lol, I feel compelled to put "school" in quotes. We're not trying to "be" or "do" school - we like the term home learners - but it's just easier to phrase it this way.) On the left we have Bookworm's bag in green, Crackerjack's in red, and finally, Earlybird's on the right in blue. (Isn't it convenient my boys all favor three different, primary colors?) By the way, their real names are embroidered on the other side of each bag. ;)

I should say I'm pretty sure I've shown you all their bags before but it's surely been a while, and I know I have a fair amount of new readers - plus we've only just started using the bags again after quite a long break. Last year we used the baskets in the cubbies shown beneath the bench - but they just got way too heavy! Now those baskets hold paper, coloring books and other miscellaneous softcover books.

We started this year by simply stacking the books on the top of the bench in three separate piles, but that got rather unruly. I finally decided to haul out those old Bean totes (cleaning out the materials left inside from a couple of years ago!) and neatly stacked the boys' materials inside. They work great - though Bookworm's bag is a pretty tight fit, I must say!

Bookworm and Crackerjack's bags hold their Oak Meadow materials and a few other books. Earlybird's bag holds a combination of books, workbooks, magazines, drawing and writing pads, puzzles and picture cards and a big nature encyclopedia. I also have a bag - on the floor to the left of the bench is a large tote which holds all my educational materials: manuals, teacher editions, catalogs, etc. 

Now, truth be told, we have books all over the house - in every room except the bathroom, lol! We have two bookcases in the living room - one holds mostly novels, the other holds mostly reference books (science, history, etc.). We have a bookcase in the learning room which holds all our nature-related books (field guides, idea books and the like), and there is a large bookcase in the family room that holds Figaro's cage as well as Earlybird's trucks, our religion books, and family dvd's. Quite an eclectic collection in that spot!

Earlybird's room has only baskets of books, but the older boys have - oh, what is it now? - three or four bookcases in their bedroom. These hold their ginormous library of personal reading - as well as plenty of Lego creations and video games.

In our basement we also have boxes and boxes of stored books - and they are in desperate need of sorting/clearing out. One of my spring goals is to pare down our book collection drastically. I should probably start now though, if I have even a whisper of hope of getting that chore accomplished!

So back to the bags for a moment - they are working well for us right now. The older boys do their assignments up at the kitchen island - I tend to stack their books on the counter in front of them before they dig in. As they finish a subject, the books go back in the bags. 

Earlybird and I work at the dining room table where we can really spread out. And with him, less clutter the better. I set out one activity at a time and (as much as possible) clean up after we're done before we move onto something else. Too much visual stimulation is distracting for EB.

OK, this post has grown VERY long, so I'd best wrap things up. I hope you've all had a nice Tuesday. The flurries have passed and now we have clear skies at sundown. The light is very pretty glinting off the trees and sparkling on the ice. I find myself itching to take pictures. ;)

As for tomorrow ~ well, they've downgraded the projected snowfall amounts to 9-12 inches (from 10-15) ... thank goodness for small favors, right?

Have a wonderful evening, and thanks so much for stopping by. I will see you all again very soon ...


Frost on the window, flurries in the air ...

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Another wintry morning dawns here in New England ... and while it will be relatively quiet today, tomorrow we're expecting a Nor'easter, which will bring us it 10-15 inches MORE snow. 

(Honestly, this is getting ridiculous.)

I wanted to post a link to an old craft post that goes along with a book I've mentioned recently, The Days of the Blackbird: A Tale of Northern Italy by Tomie de Paola. According to legend, the days stretch over this coming weekend (January 29th, 30th and 31st), and as if on cue, we've had blackbirds at the feeders this week. They're probably desperate for food, with all this bitter cold and deep snow cover. These days we're doing our best to keep the feeders stocked and the clearing under the spruce tree sprinkled with a mixture of seed, crumbs and toast crusts. 

Well, I'm off to start our day - I hear breakfast underway in the kitchen and I'm in need of one more cup of coffee ...

I hope you all have a nice Tuesday ... stay warm and safe wherever you are, and I'll see you all again sometime soon. :)


A Winter Night's Supper

Tonight's menu:

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*lasagna made with ground turkey

*roasted broccoli and carrots

*garlicky toasted rolls

*a glass of red wine for the grown-ups *fresh cold milk for the kids

*leftover cake for dessert!

Bill had to work up north today, which means a longer, later commute home. If ever there was a night for a warm-you-up supper, this is it. 

(Nine degrees at last glance.)

Have a great night, everyone!

:)


Monday Morning Memo

On my mind this COLD Monday morning ...

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What happens to boiling water when it hits frigid air?

The brutal cold - ideal for reading The Days of the Blackbird.

Midweek snow - where are we going to put it?

February - it's only a week away!

Lasagna - it's what's for supper.

My van - how big (and $) an issue will it be?

The fireplace - my favorite corner of the house these days.

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What's on your mind this Monday morning?

:)


Fish, Ninjas and a Very Pretty Sky

 (Our Sunday @ Home)

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Well, I had thought we'd be entertaining this weekend, but those plans didn't pan out, so instead it was a quiet, homey couple of days.

The skies were breathtakingly bright ...

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... but the air was bitterly cold! (Apparently tomorrow will bring the coldest temperature we've seen in six years!)

We worked on a little craft that went along with today's Mass ...

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... a basket full of foam fish in the cool shades of the sea. This week we'll be writing names down on our "fresh catch." :)

And here's another "craft" I "whipped up" today ...

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Lol, Crackerjack has been so into ninjas lately - ever since Lego introduced "Ninjago," a new line of building sets and a weekly television show, to boot - and he's been after me to make him a *white* ninja mask. I finally googled instructions and found a neat site showing how to Make a "Ninja Mask" out of a T-shirt.  It sounded easy enough - and it was! He was very happy with the results.

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(Back to work on Lego Digital Designer.)

Bill called my attention to a gorgeous woodpecker outside Earlybird's bedroom window. (I think this one's a Hairy, not a Downey.)

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And then, following up on the "fishing" theme, I baked a cake for our Sunday dessert:

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I tried a new recipe for this - it came from the back of the King Arthur Cake Flour box. A "Tender White Cake" made with yogurt, egg whites, and natural vanilla as well as almond flavor. It rose beautifully in the oven and the taste is absolutely divine.

Bookworm's pretty excited to sample the Swedish fish - now that he's sans braces, he's able to try gummy candy like this. Once in a while, of course. ;)

And now for a couple of sunset shots ...

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... taken on our way home from leaving my van off at the dealer.

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It's almost like the sun burns brighter for us at this time of year.

I hope you all had a wonderful weekend. They go by much too fast, don't they?

Have a good night, my friends - keep warm and stay well - and I will see you all again very soon. :)


Friday Snapshots

Hello my friends, I hope you've had a nice Friday. I took a few pictures today, thought I'd pop in to post ... :)

I worked in my journal a little ...

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I baked a batch of these beauties:

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I made some pearsauce from overripe pears:

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And I felt just a wee bit snowbound:

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I think we got 7 or 8 inches today, maybe? On top of what we already had that makes ...

A WHOLE LOTTA SNOW!

(Or 20 inches, says Bill, who just measured.)

Have a lovely evening, everyone ... and a happy weekend, too. I'll be back here again just as soon as I can. :)


Dear Winter ...

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Enough already, all right?

I know I have no right to ask that. This is January after all ... and this IS what Winter does in New England at this time of year. But the snow and the cold have been relentless lately!

So yes, as you can see from forecast above, we're getting several inches MORE snow today ... on top of all the snow we already have ... and then there will be FRIGID temperatures after that ... and let's not even discuss the "major storm" cooking for next week!

Sigh.

Now, dear readers, you know I love snow, but this weather is really cramping our style! We had to cancel our January Nature Club meeting - the day was just too cold and conditions too icy for a winter walk in the woods. And we also had to postpone our "Greek Mythology Night" to next week, because of poor travel conditions and inadequate parking on our street. (The plows will surely be busy this evening.)

Grumble. Grumble.

OK, I'm done complaining. It's Friday, after all. We're healthy and happy and (thanks to telecommuting) we'll all be home together today. And in addition to it being Squirrel Appreciation Day (those little guys will be hard at work keeping warm and full today!), it also happens to be the feast of St. Agnes, a saint near and dear to our hearts.

If you're interested in celebrating this feast day, here are a couple of posts from my past describing the crafts we made and snacks we ate in honor of St. Agnes:

2008

2009

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Before I go, l'd like to wish a very happy birthday to my friend Penny in Vt, a longtime reader and one of my most frequent commenters. Penny, my dear, did you "order" birthday snow, too? ;) Either way, I hope you have a lovely day!

Thanks so much for stopping by this morning, everyone! Keep warm and safe wherever you are ... we'll do the same here. :)

See you all again very soon ...


Did somebody say ...

Squirrel Appreciation Day?

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Yes, that's right! Tomorrow is National Squirrel Appreciation Day!

As my regular readers know, I'm rather fond of these funny, furry little critters. In any given month, you can find at least one squirrel picture here at my blog. (In fact, before I started this post I sifted through my wildlife archives looking for squirrel pictures - and I must say, there's a somewhat embarrassing amount of posts dedicated to our frequent squirrel encounters!)

Now, I realize not everyone appreciates squirrels as I do, but this would be a fun holiday to celebrate with your kids. Children generally find squirrels amusing - and as The National Wildlife Federation says in this article, these are the mammals "kids see most often in the wild."

So how does one go about celebrating a squirrel appreciation day? Well there are plenty of ideas in the two articles I linked above ... but here are a few of my own:

  • Do a squirrel count. Have the kids keep a tally of how many squirrels they see (at home or out and about) through the day. See who can spot the most!
  • Look for squirrel tracks in the snow. (Check a field guide for confirmation.)
  • Look for squirrel dreys in the bare trees. They're easy to spot at this time of year.
  • Fill your tray feeders with seeds, nuts and cracked corn. Or just toss it on the ground - squirrels aren't picky!
  • Throw out your breakfast toast crusts, dry cereal and cracker crumbs.
  • If you have very young children, it would be fun to make pretend squirrel nests - use bits of clean laundry, towels or small blankets, etc. Let them create their "dreys" in a cozy corner of the couch. All kinds of imaginative play can come from this!
  • Kick off a Squirrel Nutkin: Wintertime Nature Study. There are a lot more ideas and book suggestions in that post from 2009.

Now, if you happen to have a squirrel story to share, I would love to hear it! Even just a report of what kind of squirrels you see in your area - common grays, little reds, the elusive black or even an albino white. Any squirrel news at all - we'd love to hear it, so if you're so inclined, please drop me a note in the comments box below. :)

In the meantime, I'll leave you with a peek at my current screensaver:

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He makes me smile each and every time I log on. :)

Thank you so much for stopping by today ... I hope you've all had a nice Thursday. I will see you again very soon ...


Are you a Planner Junkie, too?

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So, a new year begins and naturally (possibly, instinctively) I find myself itching to make a new planner. To be fair, I first make myself take stock of my current planning "system." Is it still relevant? Is it convenient? Does it make me happy?

I'm rather fond of making planners, I'll be the first to admit, and I've certainly made plenty through the years (as long-time readers can attest). Maybe I'm too picky (there's probably no maybe about it, lol), but nothing has worked just right.

(That said - the one aspect of my planning that has always worked well, is my file crate system. I've used that for years and will always work it into whatever "new" system I'm concocting.)

So finding my current planner lacking (no big surprise there) I gave myself permission to "scratch that proverbial itch" and make myself a brand new planner for 2011. I wanted to make it pretty, and practical - something I'll use primarily at home because, well, that's where I primarily am! :)

So I combined the materials I need to manage my family, our home, our faith and the seasons of the year - all in a 1-inch binder. Most materials anyway - some items, like travel brochures, store coupons and bills and statements (etc.) are stored separately from the binder. (I'll get into all that in a later post.)

Now, before I go any further I want to be clear ~ this is very much a work in progress! Goodness knows I'm not a professional or any kind of expert, and I don't mean to post this in an attempt to woo you all into making a planner just like mine. This is just me showing you all what I'm working on, because that's just what I do - I show you all whatever I'm working on! If something here strikes a note with you, that's fantastic! I know as a self-confessed planner junkie I just LOVE seeing other people's planning paraphernalia - so I'm showing you mine. Yet again. ;D 

So, as I said, I'll still be using my file crate, as well as my "to-do" clipboard, but for now, let me show you what I've done with this new binder ...

I like to see my months "at a glance," with generous squares for writing down all kinds of things, from birthdays to feast days to full moons to doctor appointments to auto-pay dates ... etc.! And I like to plan our learning & living, a week at a time. I further decided I wanted the weekly pages to reflect the liturgical seasons, so I assembled a mass of papers in shades of white, green, purple and (a wee bit of) red.

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The cover was a lot of fun to make. I started with a plain white, "view front," 1" binder. (It holds up to 200 pages.) Then I found a patterned paper I liked very much:

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Conveniently, it matches the liturgical papers. ;)

I covered the patterned paper with another sheet of white lace paper which diffused the bright floral a bit. Then I added a couple of stickers that just made me happy.

I began working on the inside by creating a master outline of every little thing I could think of that needed to be organized, planned and referenced with regular attention. (It's amazing sometimes to consider all we mums have to juggle!)

Now I was ready to begin assembling the planner ...

Cover Page

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This page is still under construction. I chose another piece of scrapbook paper (a soft green paisley), hole-punched it to fit in the binder, and adhered a craft tag to serve as a label. (I'll write my pertinent personal information here - name, address, phone #s, etc.) The crocheted flowers were just so lovely I had to see if I could work them into the design somehow. At "press time" I was still playing around with them. ;)

Seasonal Brainstorm Page

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This looks rather messy - and it is - but it's how I plan for an upcoming season. I basically just jot down everything I connect with a season (roughly a two month period in time). These notes are for January-February (or "Deep Winter" as I call this time of year). I didn't type up these notes - there's something about using a pen and hand-writing these thoughts that works best for me.

 Ideas for Specific Events this Season

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These are ideas for celebrating events - feast days, holidays, club meetings, gatherings, etc. - that fall within a specific season. Crafts, foods, activities, etc. I might have simply written "candles" down on my brainstorming page, but here I would write, "Make walnut boat candles" next to "Candlemas."

Planning Notes for the Upcoming Liturgical Season

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Not much written down here yet, lol! This a place where I can jot down ideas for how we'll honor Lent this year. When I file the March-April (Early Spring) season up front, I'll have notes for Easter in this section.

Themes & Plans Posts

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I printed these out from my blog archives. Some of the dates are out of sync (since these were originally written in 2008) but I still find these outlines useful.

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Ok, so that whole first section of my binder is all about the Season at hand - now comes, calendar planning:

2011 Month @ a Glance Calendars

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These are made by Daytimer (I buy them at Staples). I love the wide open format and the lined daily boxes. This is February's calendar and as you can see I haven't entered much yet. (I actually erased a few things for the purposes of this public post. *wink*)

Weekly Planning Section

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(NOTE this is the heart of the planner - I keep this section open on my counter for working on throughout the week.)

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In this section I have a (colored) planning page for the week (we're in Ordinary Time, so this week's page is green). Here I list:

1. "Of Note" (events/holidays/outings)

2. To Do/Get Done 

3. Dinners

4. Faith@Home This Week

5. Earlybird's Learning & Nature Notes

(Currently I keep these lists on separate post-it notes - that's because I'm slightly anal-retentive and can't commit to writing on the page itself yet.)

I also keep my 4x6 daily planning cards here, slipped inside pocketed sheet protectors. NOW ... this is totally an experiment. I've been using a spiral bound (pocketbook sized) daily planner for my everyday notes. In an attempt to keep more planning inside rather than outside the binder, I'm trying out my index card system here instead. I like it for the most part - but it's a bit tetchy having to pull the cards out of the pockets when I think of something I need to do ("pick up a prescription on Thursday," "email someone on Friday," "mail the light bill on Saturday").  

Here's the basket I'm using for storing  the cards in bulk:

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IF I find this part of the planner working out, I will get monthly tabbed dividers for the basket and pre-date all the cards for the rest of the year. Only a week's set of cards will reside in the planner at one time - the rest will be stored here in this basket. (In this way, when I think of something pertinent to a specific day - say, I need to return something to someone I'll see at a specific event - I can quickly pull the card and write down the note.

We'll see how this works out. I'm going to try *very* hard to adapt to this system because it seems to make sense. (And it would mean one less "item" in the overall planning system.)

Home Learning 2011

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Here I store all the information I sent to the school system, and the things they sent back to me. The ed. plans for each of my boys are here, as well as a note page for listing field trips, projects and any unique learning experiences. Finally, I also have EB's learning/life goals and seasonal curriculum notes in this section.

Household Information

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This section will include general household information such as utilities, services, accounts, emergency information, contact numbers, family medical notes, etc.

I'll keep you all updated on how this new (latest) planner is working for me. So far so good. Of course, the shine hasn't worn off yet - I'm still oohing and aahing over the pretty colors and cool pockets. ;)

Well, I'm not surprised this became an awfully long post - you know how I get when I'm talking about planning! If you're also into planners and planning (fellow junkies like me), then I hope you found this post interesting (if not amusing, lol). And if you're not, well you know I'll be onto something else in another post or two ... 

Have a great night, my friends. As always, thank you so much for stopping by and taking the time to read what I have to say. I appreciate your visit and I wish you all a very nice night.

See you again very soon!