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March 2011

February 2011

A Few Happy Things ...

(Before bed.)


Earlybird's daffodil plant, purchased just today at his grocery store. (Where he chatted up the produce clerk about the latest banana shipment.)


Tags for our Lenten Cross project - quick and easy, just folded and snipped bits of index cards. Now, to fill them out!


Tonight's supper included roasted asparagus. I am such a fan of asparagus. :)


This little view caught my eye today - my kitchen windowsill, with the (surprisingly still alive) potted violets.


A beautiful card from a sweet Southern friend - and a lovely sentiment, too.


My brother stopped by this evening bearing gifts - my favoritest cookies from a local bakery. :)

 Sweet dreams, my friends ... when we wake up, it will be March!

Mucky Monday Morning

It's a cold messy mix of rain and ice here this morning ... the commute is horrendous from what I hear ... Crackerjack's sick with a cough that kept him (and us) up all night ... and Earlybird is sneezing like crazy ... cancelled the dentist (but not the math tests, lol) ... Not much time to post, but I'll take a minute to show you what I spied in a tree yesterday afternoon ...




(This gives me hope!)

Enjoy your Monday as best you can, my friends - it's the last day of February after all!


Making Ready for March

Well, I spent a little time (but not too much money) at the craft store this morning, gathering materials for March themes and plans ...

Like a Lenten Cross project ...


... a variation on an activity we've done before.


(I'll post more on this project in a few days - still hammering out a few details!)

Also, after much rumination I decided on our "March Message."

This month will be all about  ... 


The shamrock doilies and paper snowflakes will go up in the learning room windows (we'll make a big deal of taking down the snowflakes on the first day of Spring). The package of cards I just couldn't resist ... Earlybird and I are working on the concept of "mail" this month so I thought it would be fun for him to send St. Patrick's Day cards to friends and family.

The March flower is the daffodil (or its close cousin, the jonquil) so I couldn't resist the lovely (and earth-friendly) napkins seen below.


(I'll save most of them for Easter, but they'll also go nicely with the daffodil cake I'll make this week.)

I was planning to buy some potted daffodils today while running errands, but I decided instead to do that with Earlybird during our "mini marketing" on Monday. First we'll color some daffodil pictures (found in these Dover coloring books) and while he works, I'll read aloud the "Song of the Daffodil Fairy". (More for my benefit than his, lol.)

Then, when we visit the market that afternoon, I'll ask him to help me find daffodils!

I also brought up the March book basket today, and tomorrow I'll start packing away the winter decorations. I may be rushing things a bit - sure, there's still lots of snow on the ground, and the calendar stills says February - but that's ok. Our hearts can always be hopeful for Spring - preparing on the inside, no matter what the weather's doing outside! After all ...

"Once you choose hope, anything's possible." ~ Christopher Reeve

But for now, my hope is that you're all having a nice weekend ... keep warm and well, and I'll see you again sometime soon!


File Crate Posts & Crafts for Next Week

Happy Friday, everyone! 

This morning I'd like to take a minute to answer a couple of questions left overnight ...

Hi Dawn, Your planning system is so interesting. Do you have another post where you explain how you set up all these weekly folders? Thank you, Mary

Mary, here is my File Crate System archive which contains, to the best of my knowledge, every post I've done about the FCS. This post in particular - Revamping the File Crate System - is pretty thorough in explaining how I set it all up. (Note: I've since moved the weekly sheet into a planning binder, along with my month @ a glance calendar.) Please feel free to ask any other questions you might have about the file crate and folder system. Just drop a note in my comments box below. :)

Hi again Dawn! Is there any chance of daffodil cake pic and recipe, the lion craft, and the St. David's day details? Thanks, Holly

Sure, Holly!

Here are pictures of the cake I made for St. David's Day a few years ago ...



And here are the recipes for Daffodil Cake with Lemon Glaze

As for celebrating the Feast of St. David - here's a link with lots of activities and information. We'll probably do something with dragons and I'll make the daffodil cake for Tuesday night's dessert. I'll also add a daffodil plant to the nature shelf, as I revamp the learning room for March. (It feels so good to say March! We're that much closer to Spring!)

I also plan to make a very simple lion craft with Earlybird to celebrate the first day of March (which comes in like a lion, of course) and to kick off next month's "wind study." According to the the forecast, Tuesday looks to be brisk and very windy - perfect!

Well, I hope these links have been helpful! Before I go, I'd also like to say thank you to all who've left wonderful tips and encouragement for our Disney trip! I so appreciate any and all advice! To clarify, we are going to Disney World (Florida), as opposed to Disney Land (California), and the RV will be our means of travel! And though I don't want to say (for privacy/security reasons) exactly when we're going, I can tell you the trip's a little ways off. But we're all booked (my parents too!) and as you can guess, I've started lots of lists and ordered a few books. We also got a doctor's note for Earlybird (confirming his autism Dx) and really, my main concern there is just keeping him safe and not overwhelmed. I know I can't plan for everything, but I'll do my best to think ahead as much as possible!

Have a fantastic Friday, my friends ... it's a gray, rainy day here, but I honestly don't mind. With every hour that passes we see a little less snow, and a little more grass out there. Please keep it up, Mother Nature! Let's leave Winter behind for good, shall we?

See you all again soon ...


Thursday is File Folder Day ...


The day I pluck next week's folder out of the file crate - take a looksee, refresh my memory - and then start next week's planning page in my binder.

In my folder marked "February 28th - March 6th" I found:

 --> an email with this month's Book Group info. <--

--> registration info. for an upcoming MIT program <--

--> an email with details on "Laser Tag Night" <--

--> a note page I started for "Lenten Cleaning" <--

--> a recipe for "Daffodil Cake" <--

--> a birthday party invitation <--

--> a lion craft for EB on the first day of March <--

First, I opened up my "shopping notebook" and started a page for this weekend's errands. I noted a few ingredients I'd need for the cake, a gift idea for the birthday party, and some materials for the craft.

Then I began setting up next week's planning page ... 

I wrote days/events "of note" on the red apple post-it.

*Boys to the dentist*

*Library volunteering*

*March begins!*

*St. David's Day*

*Dr. Suess's Birthday*

*Laser Tag Night*

*March Book Group*

*Mom's Night Out*

*Rango opens*

I started a dinner menu, noting which nights some or all of us are out and any special days to celebrate with food. 

For instance, I may make "green eggs and ham" on Wednesday, and on my "Mom's Night Out," I'll do something quick and easy for Bill and the boys.

I started a "to do" list - calls to make, things to remember, etc.

For example: "Return "S's" video game at Laser Tag Night," "Email "P" about April Nature Club meeting." And, "Bring palms to Mass for ashes."

I added a sticky note for Earlybird's goals/learning activities and another note for random jottings.

I didn't do too much with these yet. I did write down "start wind study" and "Dr. Seuss books" on my EB note. 

Tomorrow I'll finalize my weekend errands list and go through my coupons. I'll sift through this week's file folder and decide what to store and what to move forward. I'll do more planning for EB's week and look through the older boys' curriculum to see what they have on tap.

I should say, next week is an uncharacteristically busy week for us. It's rare we have any nighttime activities, let alone two! This week was much quieter by far - just a couple of doctor's appointments and a lunchtime visit with friends. I find during weeks like this next one, having a system - even with all its imperfections - really helps keep me on track. Or at least, it keeps the track in my line of sight!

I also want to say thank you to my readers who have been linking to my file crate system here and there around the internet. It makes me so happy to think that it's something other people find useful too!

Thank you, as always, for stopping by today ... I'll be back again soon! But for now have a lovely night. (Or a pleasant day, depending on the time of your visit!)


Thoughtful Thursday ~ Appreciating Nature

"To find the universal elements enough; to find the air and the water exhilarating; to be refreshed by a morning walk or an evening saunter; to be thrilled by the stars at night; to be elated over a bird's nest or a wildflower in spring - these are some of the rewards of the simple life." ~ John Burroughs


The tufted titmouse, one of the friendliest (and most photogenic) birds to visit our feeders. 

(Have I mentioned how much I love my new camera?)


Hope you're all having a nice day!

Wednesday in the Kitchen ...

It's National Banana Bread Day!

Here's our favorite banana bread recipe - it's quick, easy, can be used with a variety of fruits and vegetables, and it conveniently makes two loaves. It's adapted from a recipe found in Frozen Assets.

  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup oil
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 cups mashed bananas*
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 cup chopped nuts or seeds (optional)

Sift together dry ingredients. In separate bowl, beat eggs; add oil and sugar; cream together. Stir in bananas and vanilla. Add dry ingredients; mix well. (Stir in nuts, if using.) Spoon into two well-greased loaf pans. Bake at 325 degrees for 1 hour.

(Note: We have used less sugar than this recipe calls for with good results. Tinker, according to your taste. Also, this can be baked in 5 mini-loaf pans - they make very nice gifts.)

*Other mix-in ideas (use one of more of the following to equal 2 cups):

  • apples, grated or chopped
  • applesauce
  • apricots, chopped
  • berries
  • carrots, cooked and mashed or grated
  • cherries, pitted and chopped
  • coconut, grated
  • cranberries, dry or raw, chopped
  • dates or figs, pitted and finely chopped
  • lemon, 1/2 cup juice
  • marmalade (omit 1 cup sugar)
  • mincemeat
  • oranges, chopped
  • orange juice, 1/2 cup juice
  • peaches, fresh or canned, chopped
  • pineapple, crushed and well drained
  • prunes, chopped
  • pumpkin, canned
  • raisins
  • rhubarb, finely chopped (add 1/2 cup more sugar)
  • strawberries, well drained
  • sweet potato or yam, cooked and mashed or grated
  • zucchini, grated and well-drained

Have a great Wednesday, everyone! See you again very soon!


Well, Earlybird did great!

Thank you all, for your prayers for EB! He had his doctor's appointment this morning and it went really well ...

Just look at his proud smile!


No shots and no bloodwork - thank goodness for that!

Now, for some reason he really wanted us to take a picture of Peep (one of his favorite television shows right now). Not sure why, but it was his day and his call, lol:


What would we ever do without PBS? We're watching Wild Kratts right now - another favorite around here.

OK, scratch that - I'm watching Wild Kratts right now. Everyone else is watching a "Disney Vacation Planner Video" with Daddy in the living room. 

So, have I dropped enough hints, lol? We are indeed going to Disney this year! This is our first time to Disney (with the kids) and our first family vacation in forever

Check out the new section I set up in my planner:




And since I took my first red squirrel pictures with my new camera today, I couldn't resist ...



Isn't he so cute? But I wonder what happened to the poor little guy's tail?

Well, there's the Tuesday roundup ... I hope your week's off to a good start! By the way, tomorrow is National Banana Bread Day ... and happily I happen to have a bunch of nearly overripe bananas in  the fruit dish. Now whatever could that mean? ;)

Have a good night, my friends ... see you again very soon!

Best-Ever Belated Birthday Gift!


Yes, I have myself a brand new camera! :D

I knew it was coming, but Bill surprised me yesterday evening! He had run out to do some errands and came home with what you see above! (A local electronics shop is going out of business and he was able to get a great discount.)

Back on my birthday last month, he had given me "a picture" of a camera - he/we wanted to do some research to figure out just what to get before making such a big purchase. I'm very much a creature of habit (and comfort) so I've been using the same Sony Cybershot for five years now (as long as I've had my blog, more or less). It's been easy, dependable and the pictures it takes are pretty satisfying. 

Now I have this new camera to get used to ... it's very, very cool, and I'm very, very excited. It's a lot more complex than my old camera, so I do plan to read the instructions manual for this one, lol!

And happily, the old trusty Cybershot is still in perfect working order, so the boys will inherit that, while I get used to the Nex 5.

Here are the first few pictures I took on my new camera while we ate breakfast on this fine President's Day morning ...








(These are "Presidential Pancakes!" Blueberries inside, raspberry sauce outside, covered in whip cream and topped with a little flag heart. Yum!)

Well, I hope you all had - or are perhaps still having! - a great weekend. It's steadily snowing here this morning - a few inches have already settled on the ground. Those warm temps were nice last week but it feels very "February" again ...

Oh, and before we part, if you have a moment, could I ask you to please say a little prayer for our Earlybird? He's going in for his physical tomorrow, and though I'm sure all will go fine, after our experience last week (and the simple fact that doctor's appointments are never simple for EB) we could use a little help staying calm and mindful tomorrow.

Happy Monday, my friends ... and Happy President's Day, too! 

See you all again very soon ...


Poetry Friday: Fra Angelico

I salute you!

I am your friend, and my love for you goes deep. 

There is nothing I can give you which you have not. 

 But there is much, very much, that while I cannot give it, you can take ...

No heaven can come to us unless our hearts find rest in it today.
Take Heaven!

No peace lies in the future which is not hidden in this present little instant.
Take Peace!

The gloom of the world is but a shadow. Behind it, yet within our reach, is joy.
Take Joy!

There is radiance and glory in darkness, could we but see. And to see, we have only to look.

~ From a Christmas letter by Blessed Fra Angelico, 1513


I got a little crazy with the colors, but hey - it's Friday!

Have a happy weekend, my friends!


Did you all see that MOON?

Last evening, roundabouts suppertime, both Bill and my friend Kim called me from the road (Bill on his way home from work, Kim running errands) to alert me to the rising full moon. And what a flurry of activity it set off in this house!

At first we couldn't see the moon at all (it rises behind our woods), so every minute or two we'd drop what we were doing - this was very much a group effort - to check the sky. Picking up on the mounting energy, Earlybird thought he'd be funny and started "crying moon" every minute or so just to get us all running. The little scamp, lol. Eventually I threatened him with no dessert if he didn't cut it out. ;)

But finally we spied that unmistakable light behind the trees ...


I seem to always get "through-the-trees" moon shots, but by the time it hit the open sky the clouds had moved in for the night. It certainly was gorgeous though!

Tonight's another chance to see February's Snow Moon, as the moon becomes officially "full" today. No snow in the near future however - our forecast is for clear skies and SIXTY degrees!

(Yes, the windows will be open in this house today!)

Hope you all have a great day. I hope to be back later with something for Poetry Friday. 


Body Parts, Bird Names and Sun Sparklies

Just a few things going on in the learning room today!

So, Earlybird's physical is coming up next week and I've been preparing him with brief conversations about "what happens when we go see the doctor." This has sparked lots of "body talk" ... and revealed some misunderstandings about what parts of the body were what! (Oh, those tricky joints! Elbows and shoulders, and ankles and knees ... they're so easy to mix up!)

So we moved the nature puppets to the lower cubby in this corner table, and pulled out some of our human body resources:


And I made up a whole bunch of sight cards listing body parts:


It was the funniest thing going through the cards, from top to bottom with Earlybird. We ran through them a couple of times and each time we got to "stomach" he just fell into hysterics. (Of course I hammed it up a bit, to keep his attention.)

Earlier in the morning I had put up some bird name cards ...


These are the species EB can identify so far (the ones that most routinely visit our feeders).

I mostly wanted to share this particular picture because EB was very excited to spot a rainbow on the window frame (just to the left of the blue jay card). We found the source to be the prism hung in the front window, and so I jiggled it a bit to see what it would do. Suddenly the whole room was filled with sparkling bits of color and light!

"Just like magic!" he said. 

I thought it looked a bit like a disco ball, lol - but I knew what he meant. Sometimes science seems just like that. So mysterious and magical ... but it's so very interesting when we find out why things happen as they do. Why does light filtering through some kinds of glass make a rainbow? And what is a prism anyway?

I also happened to find our "long lost" basket of flash cards today. Somebody (and I'm not naming any names) stashed it downstairs in the basement, behind a whole bunch of holiday decorations. I gave it a quick glance through - finding Crackerjack's missing math facts cards as well as the Countries of the World cards AND the President's Rummy card game which will be fun to play on Monday. (Monday being President's Day and all.)

Another bit of "excitement" in our day ... just after lunch we heard (and felt) an enormous, house-shaking CRASH. Honestly, I thought something huge (like a tree limb or a bear) had come through the roof - but looking out back we spied the gutter - all along the back of the house - hanging off the roof's edge! The ice dam had finally come loose, but it tore the gutter clear off its hinges as it went!

It's the temperatures today causing all the melting - it's 54 as I write up this post! It will be interesting (and maybe a little scary) to see what these mild days do to all the snowcover we have ...

So stay tuned!

Well, thanks as always for stopping by today ... I hope your day's been a good one!

Have a good night, my friends ~ I'll see you all again sometime soon. 


Hearts, Flags and Flowers ...

... February in the Learning Room.


The tools of the trade.


February's flower is the violet.


Favorite winter books.


The puppet corner, and a February blessing.


My workspace ...


The bits and bobs I need for running our home and homeschool.


A pretty prism, catching that late day sun.


Spying on little critters ...


A favorite winter pastime.


Earlybird's "family tree" board.


In the deep winter it's nice to remember things like flowers ...


And the return of the light ... a little more each day.

Before I go, I must mention that this Saturday is National Chocolate Mint Day. I discovered this interesting bit of info because I subscribe to this lovely weekly newsletter. Chocolate and mint are two of my favorite flavors ... we even grew a chocolate mint plant this summer! Must think on how best to celebrate. ;)

 I hope you all have a wonderful Thursday!

Just right for a cold winter's day ...


... baked apples with dried fruit & honey!

It was a perfect day to bake something warm and wonderful - it was so very cold, and quite windy as well! I found a recipe for baked apples in a magazine at our pediatrician's office last week - for the life of me I can't remember what it was called, but I wrote down the instructions in my planner so I could try it at home.

I started with six good-sized apples (a mix of Pink Lady and Golden Delicious), as well as dried cherries and golden raisins. The recipe also called for honey and orange juice concentrate.


First, I washed and cored the apples, and pricked the tops lightly with a fork. Then I placed the apples in muffin cups brushed with canola oil. I also placed a small piece of parchment paper beneath the apple, in the bottom of each compartment.


I filled each apple with 1 tablespoon dried fruit, 1 teaspoon frozen orange juice concentrate and 1 teaspoon honey.


They baked for 30 minutes at 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

(Note to self: next time, place the muffin pan on a cookie sheet to collect spills!)


The boys were downstairs building Legos (enjoying the last bit of their lunch break) as the apples baked. Before too long I heard a voice call ...

"Mom? What's that smell that smells so good?"


So we all sat down to a baked apple before we resumed our lessons for the day. These made a very nice snack, but I think they would also be delicious served at breakfast or even as a side dish at supper. (They'd be perfect with pork chops!)

Now, before I go, I thought I'd answer a few food questions that have been left for me recently ...

Lecia asked for recipes for the chocolate-chip cookie cake and the raspberry danish from brunch. Well, first of all, the danish was store-bought, Lecia! I had wanted to make a scratch coffee cake, but didn't have the time between Mass and brunch, so store-bought danish made do. ;)

The chocolate chip cookie cake was all homemade, however. Here's the recipe:

Chocolate Chip Heart Cookie

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar

1 egg

3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray pan with Pam. In a large bowl, cream butter with sugars. Add egg and vanilla and mix well. Stir in flour, baking soda and salt; mix well. Stir in chocolate chips. Spread dough into prepared pan with spatula. (I sprayed my hands and following manufacturer's directions I pressed the dough just short of the edges of the pan.) 


Bake 15-20 minutes or until light golden brown. Cool on rack 5 minutes. Remove from pan. Cool before cutting.

(Recipe from the Wilton Company)

We had this for dessert last night and it was SO yummy - a very nice, cakey texture, with a small amount of - but just enough - chocolate taste.

And Kristie asked me to expand on this week's long-day, "easy" dinner menus.

Here's what I have planned:

M - Valentine's Supper

T - baked ziti, salad and rolls

W - (frozen) chicken pie, butternut squash and roasted potatoes ... possibly, apple crisp for dessert (I have a lot of apples to use up.)

Th - hot dogs, veggies with ranch dip and tater puffs

F - pizza/leftovers 

Well, the timer on the pasta is ringing so I'd best wrap up. Thanks as always for stopping by ...

See you again very soon!

Sweet Things

Yesterday I spent some time with my mum, going through my late grandmother's things. (My grandmother, or "Damee" as the boys called her, passed away a little over a year ago.) I brought home several small items that meant something to me.

Among these treasures were her many lovely handkerchiefs (the monogrammed linens actually belonged to my late grandpa) ...


They're soft as butter and wonderfully preserved. You can tell she made - and cared for - these with love.

And I thought this sweater chain was just so sweet ...


It needs some cleaning, but I will wear it proudly with my cardigans.

And this has nothing to do with family heirlooms, but I wanted to show you the chocolate-chip cookie cake I made for tonight's Valentine's supper ...


And speaking of ...

~* Valentine's Night Supper *~

grilled sesame-ginger steak tips

brown rice pilaf

stir-fried asparagus

(ham rolls & cheese quesadillas for the picky eaters)

Valentine "cocktails"

(the aforementioned) chocolate-chip cookie cake

(Our Valentine cocktails will basically be a mix of leftover brunch punch ingredients. Crackerjack used Welch's "Strawberry Breeze" Juice Cocktail, Sprite and a bit of raspberry sherbert.)

Bill has a monster work schedule the rest of the week, so this will be the one big hurrah, lol. After tonight, the remaining week's dinner menus are as simple and easy as possible. I knew this was coming so I made sure to plan (and buy) for long-day dinners.

Well, thanks so much for stopping by. I hope you all had a lovely Saint Valentine's Day! See you all again sometime soon ...


Happy Valentine's Day!


We enjoyed a lovely brunch yesterday at my parent's house. There was lots to eat, as you can see ...



Crackerjack even made his special "Valentine" punch ...


Today might be Valentine's Day proper, but it's back to the grind for most of us - it being a Monday and all.  Everyday life means Daddy to work, kids to lessons, mom to housework, plus ... the orthodontist, the library, the market, etc. It's nice though, to stop and remember it's a special day in the year. And on that note ...

Have a GREAT Monday, everyone, and enjoy your Valentine's Day!

I'll be back again very soon ...


 (Me and my "everyday" Valentine.)


Saturday Evening Post

Just stopping in to post a few pictures from our day ...


Early this morning, I stopped at the nursery to pick up a few houseplants - a few primroses in the sunniest colors I could find, and a couple of violets (shown below).


Bookworm spied a big flock of big turkeys in the woods ...


I finally got the nature shelf straightened up! Our themes and activities this month include ~ light, colors, peas to plant, crazy red squirrels, and African violets.


Earlybird and Daddy bought this balloon for me today. :)


And boy, what a sunset we had! So pretty splashed against the trees.

Hope you're all having a lovely weekend! 


Grateful Hearts!


First of all, thank you SO much for all the thoughtful comments, blessings and virtual hugs left after yesterday's post! You all made both Bookworm and me smile AND feel lots better. He's heard from many different people, both online and off, that it's quite common to faint when giving blood ...

"Next time we'll take the proper precautions!" I told him. He looked at me, one eyebrow raised, as if to say, "Next time?"

So I took Penny's terrific suggestion to heart today ... and just before we ran out to Bowling Club, I whipped up a batch of "gratitude" cupcakes. (See above, see below.)


(Pre-frosting, just baked.)

It's true - I do bake as a form of stress relief, lol! But since we were on a short schedule today, I used a favorite box mix and my own vanilla frosting. (I am so trying the coffee cake in that link!) I happened to have some little Valentine marshmallows on hand, and they lent just the right to touch. :)

And speaking of hearts ... what are you all planning for St. Valentine's? I can hardly believe it's just three days away! For all the planning I do (and you all know, it's a lot) I'm caught completely off guard this year! Well, I knew it was coming ... I just kept thinking I'd think about it later, lol.

Most likely we'll have a nice family supper Monday night (maybe steak and potatoes?) but I think we will also do a brunch with my folks on Sunday after Mass. Hopefully my brother will be able to come too. Other than that, I just don't know. The boys always like to watch this old favorite, and I may wrangle Bill into watching "Love Actually" with me (the ultimate romantic comedy - it even says so on the box!). Honestly, he likes the movie as much as I do, so I don't think I'll have to do too much wrangling. ;)

Well, thank you again everyone - for the comments, and the caring and concern. And thanks, as always, for stopping by. I wish you all a nice Friday night ... and I will see you all again sometime soon!