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December 2011

Ring out the Old, Ring in the New ...

And a Happy New Year, to All!

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It will be a quiet "at home" evening for us. We'll have some fun appetizers, we'll watch a fun movie, and just before bed (most likely not midnight), we'll toast the New Year with some sparkling cider. (Or maybe something stronger for Mom and Dad. ;)) And tomorrow, just after Mass, I'll pop a French Onion Beef Stew in the slowcooker. We'll have that - with crusty bread and salad - for our New Year's Night supper.

:)

But before I sign off for the night - for the year! - I would like to wish you all a wonderful holiday weekend. Have fun and be safe ... and may you be blessed with much peace and contentment in 2012!

•❤•❤•❤•❤•❤•❤•❤•❤•❤•❤•❤•❤•❤•❤•❤•


Friday Felines

 How about one last "Friday Felines" for 2011? :)

It's hard to believe we've only had these guys in our life for four months! It's seems much longer than that. Our (not so) little kittens are eight months old now, and they sure do keep themselves (and us!) busy getting into all kinds of mischief.

Most recently, Archie figured out how to get up onto CJ's top bunk ... 

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Not to be outdone, Oliver found a way up there too ...

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Once he got his bearings, Ollie took it one step further - instead of resting peacefully, as Archie did, he explored the very edge of the railing ...

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Once I saw that the cats could get themselves down safely, I stopped stressing over them getting up there. And Crackerjack's thrilled of course, because now he can read up on his bunk and cuddle a cat at the same time. :)

Now, before I go, here are a few more moments of "holiday" mischief ...

Wrecking the tree skirt:

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Nipping ornaments from the tree:

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Fighting over ornaments from the tree:

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Stalking manger scene figures:

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Fighting over manger scene figures:

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Over all, the kittens were pretty good about Christmas - honestly, I figured we'd have a lot more stuff broken! The only thing that really aggravated me was their constant need to be under the tree - keeping out of reach, mind you - eating twigs and needles, messing with the lights and drinking from the tree water bowl (blech!). They were fixated on the tree, really, and that drove me a little batty, lol ... though they never did climb it!

But of course, this is what kittens do ... they cause mischief! And we wouldn't have it any other way. Of course it helps that they're just so darn cute ... ;)

Well, my friends, thanks for joining me for another "Friday Felines." I know cats are not everyone's cup of tea, but these two sweet scamps are part of our family now - and therefore, a big part of our family memories. And that's what my blog is all (or mostly) about - our family memories!

So thanks again everyone, for stopping by ... I hope you all have a nice Friday ... and I'll see you again before the New Year kicks in!

 ❤ 


Afternoon at the Cinema

Dear readers, today I took a bunch of boys - some mine, some a friend's - to see Sherlock2 Sherlock Holmes 2: A Game of Shadows ... and oh my goodness, was it fantastic! We've been so eager to see it, as Bookworm is a big Sherlock Holmes buff, and we enjoyed the first SH movie so much. I hadn't followed the buzz on this film (i.e. reviews and such) so I wasn't sure what to expect ... but not only did we truly enjoy it, we liked it even better than the original!

Regarding the PG-13 rating ~ our Crackerjack is 12, but he's fairly mature, so this movie was "ok" for him. It was violent - there is a lot of fighting, a lot of things blowing up - but there really wasn't anything inappopriate (which is usually what worries me more). 

Now, on the homefront - Bill and I are still loving Downton Abbey - we've seen the first two episodes so far and have five more to go. (Season two, as I understand it, begins a week from this Sunday.) It's one of those shows that has all "the right stuff" if you know what I mean - a compelling story, great characters (and acting), a wonderful setting and scenery ... the kind of show that leaves you chomping at the bit for more!

Also ... next in our Netflix queue is Rango - something for the kids, but fun for the grown-ups too. :D

*

Well, friends, I hope you all had a nice Thursday ... have a good night and I'll see you all again sometime soon!


First Cup!

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I am very happy to report that our new coffeemaker performed its job quite admirably this morning! The coffee is not quite as strong as we like it (we'll play with the settings a little) but the taste is the smoothest I've ever experienced ...

Bravo, new coffeemaker!

And so our day can begin ... with smiles on our faces ... and caffeine coursing through our veins. ;)

Have a great Thursday, my friends ...



Random Happy Things

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First up ...

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Right behind me, at this very moment, lies Oliver. All nappy and soft ... curled into my shoulders. (Note the pretty sunset in the background.) 

Some other things that made me smile today ...

• The 2012 Burpee Catalog arrived in the mail! My head tells me to ignore it - to just be in the season that's here and now - for all of a week, no less! But my heart breathes a sigh of relief to think ... If Winter comes can Spring be far behind? I'll pop the catalog in my reading basket for later - as in February, maybe - but it's nice to know it's in there, and that the days of "seeds and soil" will be here again.

• Last night, Bill and I watched the first episode of Downton Abbey, and oh my goodness, where on earth have I been?! I can't believe I completely missed out on this little slice of programming heaven! We are totally hooked of course, and we just found out Netflix has all of season one available for immediate viewing. So we'll work our way through the episodes and hopefully be caught up in time for the new season of Downton Abbey premiering on January 8th.

• All the comments on yesterday's Teatime post made me smile ~ especially Nicole's! (Best Wishes and Many Blessings, Nicole! Can't wait to hear the good news!) And yes, the movie showing in my kitchen picture was indeed, Little Women! One of my favorite movies of all time. :)

(P.S. Kim, I bought the "Orange & Clove" dishwashing soap at our local Hannaford store, and I've also seen it at Whole Foods. And Michelle - I'll take the recipe idea into consideration ... it's a great suggestion!)

• This little spot caught my eye today ... 

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Crackerjack's slippers (they must always be red!), soft sunlight, hard wood, a stack of books, a cup of pencils and a basket of puppets just beyond. Common, everyday things ... but each of them mean something more.

In household news, our new coffeemaker arrived today!

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Our old one (many, many years old) finally gave up the good fight at Christmas. Honestly, though, we can't complain ... We make a full pot of coffee every single day (sometimes more than that if we're entertaining), so that old pot certainly earned its keep! I'll let you know how the new machine works out tomorrow morning - after I've had my first cup. ;)

• I'm SO pleased my library system has a copy of this book which I have been itching to look over ... not for this Christmas, obviously, but next. I saw an excerpt from this book displayed in a British magazine - a lovely felt nativity set I'd like to try.

• And just because he'll feel left out - and because he always makes me smile - here's a sweet, sunny picture of Archie.

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Well, my friends, I hope you all had a nice Wednesday. (Is it midweek already?)

Have a good night, and I'll see you all soon!


•*Winter Tea Tuesday*•

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Hello, my friends! This is my 'Tuesday Tea' moment ... I'm so glad you could join me!

My brew this week is a mild and milky Vanilla Comoro. No caffeine, but a wonderful sweetness that reminds me of a sugar cookie - a Christmas cookie, in fact!

And speaking of Christmas - which it finally is, hooray! - I have a special new mug to show you. This is one of a beautiful set my Mum and Dad gave me this year ...

I just  them!

And I must show you the other side ... it's just as pretty:

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I am so pleased to have a new set of mugs to use during our holiday celebrations! And of course, during my own little afternoon teas. :)

Taking a few minutes for tea is a way to embrace a bit of "Winter Bliss" - it's something to look forward to ... and it makes us slow down, if only for a moment or two. The Christmas lights have been wonderful to sit by, but in a week or so, our tree will be down, and I'll turn my attention to the light and life I can admire outside: vivid sunsets, swirling snowflakes, tiny snowbirds and red squirrels at the feeders. Winter's a very long season here in New England, so it's wise to find ways to welcome it!

Now here's another "Winter Bliss" moment ... oddly enough I took it while cleaning the kitchen ... because sometimes a few little things can make an everyday chore a little less dull ...

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A new scented dish-soap, some pretty things on the sill, and one of my favorite movies playing in the background ...

(Can you guess what movie it is?)

Now, I always love hearing how your Tea (and your day) was, but this week I'll also ask ... How was your Christmas? Do you have any special plans for New Year's Eve and/or Day?

*❤*

Well, dear readers, I hope you enjoyed sharing in my Teatime today - as always, thanks so much for stopping by! I'll host another Winter Tea here next week, so be sure to come back again ... 

But for now ... keep yourself happy and healthy ... and have a good night!


Christmas Weekend Recap!

It was a lovely weekend all in all, but I feel a bit like Archie today:

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Half in the bag, and in need of a nap!

No, no, I'm kidding, of course. It was a really great time start to finish, and I hope you all had a nice Christmas, too. :) We so enjoyed celebrating our family and a very special day in our Faith, and we did a lot of entertaining. Needless to say, I took a lot of pictures - so I have some things share with, you all.

*❤*

Now, the above picture was actually taken on Christmas eve, as Bill and I were just finishing up all our "parental preparations." Ahem. At first, the cats were quite intrigued by all the wrapping chaos - the packages and paper and ribbons and whatnot - but eventually, as it neared midnight, they just exhausted themselves.

At least they left the tree alone, which looked very pretty ... just before Santa arrived.

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But speaking of Christmas Eve, I have to back up a little, because our celebrating actually began on Saturday afternoon, when we hosted Bill's family for a holiday ham dinner.

I thought the dining table came out rather nicely ...

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(I never did add the holly sprigs to the vases though!)

Our menu included ~ the aforementioned ham, macaroni and cheese, rice, baked beans, rolls, a delicious holiday relish that Bill made, as well as the usual "nibbley" starters.

Here's Crackerjack looking quite pleased with the spread (not a green vegetable in sight!) as well as his aunt (and godmother) Ami, along with her boyfriend, Eric. 

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Once we were done eating, we set into opening presents ...

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(Earlybird and his hugs!)

After gifts, it was dessert time ...

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I made my mother's "Butter-and-Whisky Cake" for the first time on my own and it came out pretty well!

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My folks and my brother, Matt, also joined us for coffee and dessert. In addition to the cake we had ice cream as well as assorted Christmas cookies.

Fyi: I stopped counting calories on Friday.

;)

After a very late night, the morning came all too quickly ... thanks in part to Earlybird, who woke his folks at 4 a.m.!

Fortunately, it didn't take too much convincing to get the older two up around five - they may be 16 and 12, but they still get very excited for Christmas morning!

(Don't we all?)

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Archie just CANNOT miss out on a thing ...

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He simply MUST be in the middle of it all.

And speaking of middle - EB loves to sit on "his" couch with "his" loved ones. Here he is between his Nana and Papa, opening a new Brio train set.

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While my folks and my brother Matt enjoyed a little breakfast with us ... Archie kept a close eye on the coolers.

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The "shifting" ice inside kept him on edge. Lol.

Around 4 p.m. we hosted one more gathering! A Christmas afternoon "open house" for my side of the family ...

My Aunt Marcia gave me this lovely hostess gift:

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I have a thing for night lights, you know - kind of like magazines, tote bags and mugs! I'll have to show you the lovely "rainbow angel" night light we have in the bathroom right now. (Future post. ;))

Part of the dinner spread ...

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My mum made most of this delicious buffet - baked brie, meatballs (Italian *and* sweet and sour), cold cut tray, so many yummy appetizers ... My Aunt Marcia brought Nana Riley's stewed tomato casserole and I made a simple baked ziti because I knew EB could eat it and would enjoy it. :)

Because my mum works so hard, and does so much, I am able to pull off all this entertaining. And because we share so much of the work, I'm also able to relax and enjoy myself. Here I am with my brother - my "little" brother, mind you:

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These are some of my cousins, my cousin's Mike's wife, Krista, my Aunt Marcia and Mum. The two lovely little girls in the middle are Mike and Krista's darling daughters. It's always a joy to catch up with them - and admire their beautiful holiday dresses!

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My cousin Mark's son, Christopher - spending time with EB:

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And here's the whole lot of us!

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Actually - Bill was taking the picture, and EB refused to get in the picture, so they'll be "photoshopped" in after the fact. As will be Mike, Krista and their girls, and Kate's boyfriend Paul who all arrived after the "group" picture.

(A large family is such a blessing, but especially so at Christmas!)

And after presents and pictures, there were, of course, plenty of desserts (and a fresh pot of coffee) ...

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A few shown here, more still to be put out ...

This is the gingerbread house the boys made with my mum:

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They make one every year with their Nana, and it's become a cherished tradition. And apparently, it tastes pretty good too, because as of this post, the house is half gone!

A few last photos, from today, the day after ...

Bill with what just might be his favorite present this year:

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A Cuisinart Griddler, which he received from my parents. He's having so much fun with it!

This morning's dish:

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Leftover ham, rice and relish - all wrapped up in a crispy tortilla.

(His breakfast, not mine. Lol.)

And one last shot of the cats ... just because:

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I think they enjoyed their first Christmas!

*

Well, my friends, I hope you all had a nice weekend, and if you were celebrating, a very nice Christmas. I also thank you, as always, for stopping by. :)

I'll be back tomorrow afternoon with my "Tuesday Tea" post. If you have the time and inclination to "take tea," I'd love to have you join me!

Either way - tea or no - I will see all you again very soon!

*❤*


Friday Afternoon Tea ... and a Winner!

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Happy Friday, my friends!

It's been a very busy day, and I almost skipped my tea break, but then I decided that on hectic days like these, taking tea is a really great idea. It gives me a chance to catch my breath, collect my thoughts and remember what's really important. So here I am ... not with "tea" today, but a big mug of milky spiced cocoa.

And speaking of mugs, I've enjoyed showing you all my favorite "Christmas Cups" this week! Today's mug is part of a set of four which came with a lovely pitcher, and I'm pretty sure I bought this set before I was even married! It's a nice heavy mug, just right for when you want more than a few delicate sips. :)

But anyhoo - the real reason I'm here right now - taking a pause in between baking and wrapping - is to announce the winner of our giveaway!

Drumroll please ....

The winner of our Christmas Cookie Package is:

TANYA W.

* Congratulations, Tanya! *

Earlybird and I look forward to baking your cookies and putting a package together for you! I have your email and I'll be in touch soon so we can work out mailing details. (Probably after the weekend. :))

And thank you ALL for taking the time to take part in our poll; I really enjoyed reading your responses! Food prepared with love is, to my mind, by far the most delicious - and it certainly makes some of the fondest memories!

And speaking of food - I currently have a butter-and-whiskey cake in the oven as well as a batch of chocolate-peppermint cookies cooling on the counter AND there's a pot of spiced cranberries simmering on my stovetop ...

Suffice it to say, it smells pretty darn good in here right now!

:)

Before I go, I'd also like to thank you all for joining me in my afternoon teas this week - it's been such fun, and I would like to continue this "tradition" through the Winter. I can't say I'd do it every day ... but maybe once a week? A "Tuesday Teatime" at 4:00, posted here at my blog? I think I can swing that ... and I hope you'll all continue to join me!

Well, that's all for now, dear readers ... I'll check in tomorrow and then I'll probably take a short "blog break" until just after Christmas. So until the morning, then ...

Be well, keep warm and have a good night!



Thursday Tea (& Thanks)

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Nothing fancy today, just my favorite "everyday" tea. No sweets or snacks to "go with" - I'm saving my appetite for dinner tonight. :)

Were you able to find time for tea today? If so, I'd love to hear about it! Wouldn't it be nice if we could all sit down and "take tea" together? 

When I sit here with my laptop and tea (or coffee, as the case may be) and I write out the thoughts that fill up these posts ... I feel like I'm sharing a little of myself with you all. I know we're not all "here" at the same time, but I do feel as though we're sharing a part of our day together. When I pop online, I'm taking a quick break - from the house, the kids, etc. - and it can be hard sometimes to do that. I'm sure you all feel the same.

So our paths may overlap or criscross or we might miss each other completely, but if I'm not "here" when you are, please know you're never far from my thoughts. I appreciate my readers so much! I'm grateful that you spend some of your time here, and I carry your kindness with me all day. Many days it puts a little extra lift in my step. :)

But for right now, I must wrap this up, because I've got some cooking to do ...

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{The kitchen smells ABSOLUTELY fantastic!}

So I wish you all a pleasant evening. I'll see you again sometime tomorrow ... *

*Oh! But speaking of tomorrow ... I'm going to extend the Cookie Poll till the end of the day -  let's say, teatime ;) - because I'll be out very early in the morning. So I'll announce the cookie package winner roundabouts 4:00. 

See you all then!



Happy Winter!

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Sometime last night (12:30 a.m. to be exact), Winter arrived - and not as quietly as one would think - but with violent thunder, lightning, and a hard pouding rain! The storm woke up both Bill and I - though surprisingly the boys slept through it - and my first thought when I looked at the clock, was: Wow, Winter's really coming in with a bang!

Just a few hours later, though - storm over, sun on the rise - Bill slipped outside and plugged in these lights ... such fun for the boys to see when they first woke up!

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And while Bill fired up the suns, I started the Solstice Cider:

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This is just a blend of apple cider and cranberry juice, which I brought to a boil on the stove. I placed mulling sachets and cinnamon sticks in our pinecone mugs ...

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And five minutes later the cider was ready to sip, so it was time to rustle up some boys! I also toasted some cranberry English muffins and lathered them with Crofter's Blood Orange spread. (This stuff is SO good. If you like marmalade, as I do - but are not fond of the chunky peel, as I'm not - you'll love this spread! I bought my jar at Whole Foods.)

:)

Now our day will be pretty quiet, but I do have a few things planned. This morning we'll set out treats for the birds (our favorite Winter friends) and a bit later on, the boys will make a gingerbread house with Nana. (That's the "surprise" on their Advent scroll today!)

And while the boys are out, I'll do some pre-Christmas cleaning - it will be a nice day to open windows and air things out a bit. After my 4:00 tea break, I'll start supper: a beefy cottage pie. And for dessert, I'll bake a yummy "oats & apples" crisp. 

**

Now, today's weather is not very wintery at all - not for New England anyway. In fact, today will be sunny and rather mild, in the 50s. And while I can appreciate the unseasonable (but comfortable) weather, Crackerjack is just distraught we'll likely not see a white Christmas! Of course I reminded him that before long we'll have more snow than we can shake a fist at - for goodness sakes, remember last year?

So I'm off for now, but I do wish you all a Happy Solstice! And whatever Winter brings to your corner of the world, I hope it's kind to you this year! Which now has me wondering ... what is Winter like where you live?

Also, please, if you have the time and inclination, stop by this post and take part in our "Cookie Poll" today ... I'll be drawing a winner tomorrow morning!

Have a good day, my friends... see you back here sometime soon!

Brew me a cup for a winter's night.
For the wind howls loud and the furies fight;
Spice it with love and stir it with care,
And I'll toast our bright eyes,
my sweetheart fair.
~ Minna Thomas Antrim


Wednesday Teatime

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On this last day of autumn, it's most certainly dark, but there's no sun to speak of - just a cold, heavy rain. Days like these are just made for afternoon tea ...

My Wednesday brew is Lemon Lift, and I've paired it with one of my lemon snowballs. I'm a big fan of lemon - flavor and smell - especially when it's paired with cinnamon or ginger. (Random fact: I craved lemon through all of my pregnancies, but especially with Bookworm. To this day I adore lemon danish.)

So it's a very cozy corner I find myself in right now ...

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I took my tea a little earlier than usual, because Bill and the boys headed out to do their "man shopping." :) All I know is that it concerns me - but it cannot involve me, and for a happy little while the house was really and truly quiet. And I was completely by myself. (Even the cats were asleep!) So I hurriedly switched on the kettle and readied my mug ...

I looked through the Globe food pages - all about "holiday baking" this week - and I thought about how I want these next few days to go. Less busy-ness, more mindfulness. Easier said than done at this time of year, but at least I can try ...

I also stared at this lovely print which is sitting on the opposite side of the room ... something I bought (yes, for myself!) while I was out and about this morning.

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Such beautiful words, aren't they?

Bill hasn't had a chance to hang it yet, but I think it will look nice here in our sitting/learning room. The background is not quite black - more of a sooty dark brown. And the lettering is done in an off-white pinkish hue. I think it ties in with the room colors nicely.

And do you know what? I found it on clearance at T.J. Maxx!

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Money well spent, I think, because I'll enjoy pondering these words every day:

Our family is a circle of LOVE ...

Of course, words like these are certainly beautiful, but it's our example that teaches our children best:

When we show them how to be positive, even when we're unsure.

When we show them how to recognize their blessings.

When we show them how to share joy with others.

In doing these things, we exercise our "family muscle" and the more we exercise the stronger we'll be!

TOGETHER we are unbreakable ...

:)

Well ... dear readers, I didn't mean to get so deep, so enough of my armchair philosophizing! (Lol, I get rambly when I'm tired!)

So, I'll call it a day ... it's well and truly dark now, and the menfolk are still out there somewhere. But they'll be home soon so it's time to rustle up supper ... Now, don't forget: the Solstice arrives just after midnight (est), so be sure to say "Happy Winter" in the morning! Also, if you have a chance, please leave a "cookie comment" at our poll - and many thanks to those who have already "voted!"

Have a good - warm, safe - night, my friends. I will see you here again sometime soon!



Christmas Cookies: A Poll & A Package!

Earlybird and I had a lot of fun conducting our cranberry sauce poll last month! It was very interesting to read how different people's tastes and opinions can be. Unfortunately, between a bout with the flu and a week of Thanksgiving, we never got around to making up the proposed chart, but I think conducting the poll was, in itself, a really great experience. And we were very grateful for all the help with our survey!

So today we have another poll for you, my dear readers. This time we're wondering about cookies ... Christmas cookies to be specific!

As I mention often, my boys love to bake with me - especially Earlybird. There are great lessons to be found in baking, but what's best about it, I think, is it's just so much fun! It makes the house smell good, the results (hopefully) taste good, but in the end - whether we're keeping or sharing our goodies - baking just feels really good, too!

So we're baking cookies this week, and we've been talking about ALL the different kinds of Christmas cookies, and how people tend to have particular favorites. Sometimes it's because of how they taste, and sometimes it's because of how they make them feel ... 

Which got us to wondering:

What is your favorite kind of Christmas cookie - and why? 

If you have the time, please let us know your thoughts in the comments below ... and because we just can't have a poll without a "giveaway," I thought I'd offer up a little cookie package made up by EB and me. It will contain a few goodies, including a batch of our own "signature" Christmas cookies ~ the pretty little lemon snowballs I bake every year.

So as I've done before, once the poll closes I'll gather all the reader names ... then pull a name from the pile ... and we'll announce our "cookie package" winner on Friday morning!

~****~

For today, we'll be baking again - as well as doing about a hundred other things, lol. Bill has the day off from work and we have a Christmas "to do" list as long as my arm! Everything seems quite doable right now, at 7 in the morning, but I guess I'd best get a move on ... a quick shower and one more cup of coffee and I should be good to go! (But I bet I'll need that 4 p.m. tea break as much as ever today!)

So I hope to hear from you ... and I look forward to reading your answers! I also look forward to seeing you again here, sometime later today ...

Tea in one hand ... cookie in the other!

:)


My Tuesday Teatime

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Today's teatime is a bit different from yesterday's. For one thing, the boys have a friend over - so there's a different kind of energy in the house, and naturally I feel the need to be somewhat "present."

For another, Bill's home from work today, and though he ran out to do an errand, I expect him home any minute ... so I'm paying too much attention to the cars passing by on the road.

In short, I'm feeling a bit scattered ... my head's here and there ... but I'm still determined to "take time for tea!"

So I've just placed this pretty mug down beside me ...

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My "tea" today is a bit of a splurge: a gingerbread latte with whipped cream and a dash of cinnamon sugar.

Delish.

And as I sip, I'm watching the sky darken and change, while the sun sinks behind milky clouds ...

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At this time of year I'm grateful for every bit of that late afternoon light!

Turning my focus inside, I'm also very grateful for all the cards lining our windows ...

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So many lovely faces, so many happy memories. Today I say a prayer for each family and friend ~ for health and joy, and peace and plenty. Not just at Christmas, but all the year through.

**

Well dear readers, my teatime was brief, but refreshing. I only drank about half the latte - it was a bit too rich and spicy for me! Though I did relish that whipped cream - I didn't let a drop of that go to waste!

I thought of you all, and wondered about your day. I hope it was a good one, and I hope you were able to find a moment to sit and reboot ... with tea or without.

:)

Well now there's a great deal of buzzing all around me - apparently there's a supper that needs to be made and I guess that involves me - so I'll be off! 

(But I'll be back here again very soon.)

Good night!

Somehow not only for Christmas
But all the long year through,
The joy that you give to others
Is the joy that comes back to you.

(John Greenleaf Whittier)


A last-minute (child-friendly) gift ...

Now I know I keep revisiting this tissue-candle craft, but honestly, I'm a little in love with it! It's such an easy project and it makes such a pretty gift ... something you could make with your kids (of all ages) in a jiffy. Keep the supplies on hand and in the space of an hour you'll have a wonderful last-minute gift ... for a teacher or coach, your pastor, a neighbor or anyone, really. Because who wouldn't love a sparkly, colorful candle handmade by a child just for them? 

Crackerjack made one yesterday morning for his Art teacher ...

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(Two things to note in this picture (aside from the kid and the craft) ... 1. the cat (helping as usual) and, 2. the new yellow paint in my dining room. I love it! :D)

Supplies:

glass candle holder

tealight candle

colorful art tissue paper

dry-clear glue

paint brush

clear, white or iridescent glitter

(*fixative?)

(Note: I think tearing the tissue paper into bits and setting out the pile for the kids to work from, saves time and makes the whole project less fussy.)

Working in small sections, let the kids brush the glass with glue, and then stick on bits of colorful paper.

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Once the glass is covered (encourage the kids to fill in any gaps), apply one final *very thin* coat of glue all over the outside. This will smooth down any edges and keep the paper from peeling over time. (Depending on the age - and patience - of your child, this might be best done by Mama.)

The glue also creates the perfect sticky surface for sparkles! Just shake glitter over the candleholder (or roll it in glitter set on a paper plate).

Now let it dry!

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The glitter idea was my mum's, and it really lends just the right festive touch to the final project. My mum made so many crafts with us when we were kids - all year long, but especially at Christmas. (I think that's why Christmas is so linked with crafting in my mind!)

One thing I wondered, though, (and it's too early right now to call Mum up and ask) is whether or not we should spray the final project with a fixative of some sort. If only to keep the glitter from shaking off. Any thoughts, dear crafty readers? :)

While I cleaned up the mess, CJ set our projects in the sunny front window ...

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And before heading to class, we packed CJ's craft in a pretty little bag. We also added a small "tin" of our favorite holiday cookies:

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But as pretty as the candle looks sparkling in the sun, I think it looks especially lovely shining in the dark:

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:)

So there you have it! A quick and easy last minute gift - or a New Year's craft? - or maybe just a nice winter's day project. Something to keep in mind for after the holidays when Winter really sets in - as does cabin fever!

(Now, I promise to lay off the tissue-candle craft for a little while, lol!)

And it was so lovely to "have tea" with you all yesterday. As soon as I finish this post, I'll be jumping into the comments to catch up ... Maybe you'll consider joining me again today?

4:00 my time ~ I'll be here with another cup and another kind of tea ... or maybe something stronger, lol. ;)

Whether you join me or not, I do hope you all have a wonderful day! Take care of yourselves (and your loved ones!) and I will do my best to do the same.

See you all again sometime soon!

**


A Party for Papa & Earlybird

Good Morning, my friends!

I hope you all had a nice weekend. Ours was very busy ~ but quite nice as well. I thought you might like to see some pictures from our family party on Sunday ...

Here's our 10 year-old birthday boy:

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And here's the appetizer spread:

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As I've mentioned before, EB shares his birthday with his Papa, so I made up some of my dad's favorite appetizers: baked artichoke dip with French bread, "Ruffles" chips with "Hannaford" brand French onion dip, shrimp dip with Bugles and cream cheese stuffed celery.

The birthday cake was just a simple box mix (dark chocolate), but I made up a homemade peppermint-buttercream frosting ...

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... and I dusted the edges with crushed candy canes.

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While we all enjoyed the appetizers, EB tore into his presents. :)

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(He was especially fond of the Thomas plushie, wooden train set, giant art pad and the "Monster Jam" Wii game.)

After all that unwrapping, it was time for lunch! Now, I told EB he could request any menu he wanted for his party, and not surprisingly his request was quite kid- friendly: hot dogs and macaroni and cheese!

Or what we like to call ...

"The Earlybird Special"

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EB likes uncured turkey dogs and Annie's mac and cheese, but I also served ~ nitrate-free beef hot dogs, homemade macaroni and cheese (thanks, Mum!), maple baked beans and a big garden salad. For dessert, of course there was birthday cake, ice cream and lots of freshly brewed coffee.

Humble and homey, and just right for a cold December day.

:)

And so here we are at Monday again, and dear readers, I hope your week is a good one ... in between all the "hustle and bustle," I hope you are able to find some quiet moments for yourself. With this in mind, I've scheduled a cup of tea for myself every day this week at 4:00. Right about the time the sun slips from the sky and the dark descends ... a few moments to sit and relax and reflect ... and just be for a bit.

Perhaps you'll join me?

~****~


Coffee Break

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My mum and I went Christmas shopping this morning, and we stopped in at the Barnes & Noble cafe to refuel. This is a piece of spinach-artichoke quiche and a creme brulee latte. Delicious on both counts!

:)

And I'm happy to report, I am just about done with my shopping! Aside from a few last minute orders, we're all set. Wrapping however, is a whole different story ... and as for baking, well, I haven't even started that yet ...

But we got all our cards in the mail!

So this week brings the solstice, as well as Christmas itself. We'll clean and bake ... and wait and wonder ... and craft a little when we can. The week will start off rather quiet - purposeful and preparatory - but by week's end there will be much merriment all around!

But for right now my focus is on the weekend at hand - and my hope is that you all have a good one. Before I go, though, may I share some "Friday Felines" with you all?

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(Note the dangling lights and mangled tree skirt.)

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The cats just LOVE Christmas.

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Almost as much as they love each other.

:)

Good night, everyone ... I'll see you here again sometime soon!


Many thanks!

From Earlybird (and me) for all the kind birthday wishes!

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Here's his homemade "hot cocoa" cake.

(Not much to look at, but it did taste really good!)

Now, truth be told, EB kind of freaked out when we lit the candles - even though we haven't sung "Happy Birthday" in years, he still stresses out whenever those candles are lit. He usually just leaves the room, but sometimes he melts down a little ... and last night was one of those times.

I had just finished setting the cake up on a small table by the tree, when EB went into hiding ...

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"No, birthday cake! I don't want it!" 

I felt so bad - torn between wanting this familiar "tradition" to be part of his day, and keeping in mind that it's HIS day after all. It's not about what "should be" but rather, what works best for him. But as much as Bill and I try to just accept the way things are, sometimes it's hard to let go of certain expectations - you know?

Anyways, I was just removing the candles from the cake, when EB reappeared by my side. Peering at the cake (probably getting a good sniff of all that chocolate!) he quietly asked to help re-light the candles. Well, of course, I couldn't allow him him to "help" with matches, but I did let him watch as I re-lit the candles.

I think because he was in control - he came to the cake, not the other way around - he relaxed and had his "make-a-wish" moment. So, without further ado, Bill grabbed the camera and we blew out the candles right then and there!

Crackerjack was happy to help:

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Earlybird's gift today was a long-hoped for train video - one we owned years ago but somehow lost. Bill uploaded the video onto his iPad and EB was in railroad heaven. :)

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And happily, aside from the brief cake "mishap" (lol), EB had a very nice day. (We all did!) He loved reading all the birthday wishes left at "his post" and he got some nice emails from friends and famly. He also got "Happy Birthday" phone calls from his Nana (in the morning) and his Papa (in the evening) which made him so very happy! (He's getting much better at phone conversations!)

EB has his challenges of course, but one of the ways he is (we are) blessed is that he's very aware of (and loving to) his family and friends. He is constantly talking about them! For instance, at least three times a day we cover just WHO will be coming to his birthday party on Sunday. :)

***

Well, my friends, thank you for listening to me "ramble" and thanks again for the lovely birthday wishes for our little boy. I hope you all have a great day ... I will see you again very soon!


Happy Birthday, Earlybird!

Can it be true? Our sweet EB is really turning TEN?

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Yes, indeedy ~ we're in double digits now, folks!

As any parent knows, each child is unique and brings his or her own special gifts to the family. Our dear Earlybird, our youngest son, has blessed our life in so many ways ...

He's always Eager to start the day!

He's incredibly Affectionate - he gives the best hugs.

He's learning to Read - and he loves it! 

He also Loves trains, planets, monster trucks, cooking and crafts.

"Oh Yeah," is his catch-phrase of the moment.

He's blessed with Brightness: his eyes, his smile, his mind.

He's working so hard to be more Independent.

He's our only Right-handed child.

He shares his December birthday with his beloved Papa!

**

Yes, Earlybird was due on December 21st, but - true to his name and nature - he came a week early, right on my Dad's birthday. :) 

So we'll be celebrating with family over the weekend, but today we have a few fun things planned. For one thing, Bill took the day off (yay!) so we'll take the boys to lunch at "Wendy's" - EB's favorite restaurant. And Bill will join us on EB's afternoon routine ... we'll do a little marketing and we'll stop at the library, as well as the post office ...

And I'm sure there will be some cake and candles at day's end - but no singing - never any singing, lol! EB has never liked the "Happy Birthday" song so we skip that part entirely. Wishes, though? Yes, there will surely be wishes - as well as plenty of prayers. For health and happiness and many more birthdays like this - enjoying our day together and celebrating our wonderful boy.

Now, as I finish up this post, I'm sitting with EB while the rest of the family sleeps on. It's super early in the morning and the sky is just starting to lighten. EB knew his birthday was coming this week, but when I said "Happy Birthday!" to him this morning he looked at me in surprise for a moment ... then over at the calendar ... and then he threw his arms around me and said, "It's my birthday, today! Oh, thank you, Mama!"

No, my sweet little man ... THANK YOU! Earlybird, we are so proud of all you do, but most of all of who you ARE. You bring us so much joy and laughter - and you remind us every day to count our blessings and never take anything for granted.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, EARLYBIRD!

We love you so very much!

Now, let's have a fantastic day!

:)

What lies behind us and what lies ahead of us are tiny matters compared to what lives within us. ~ Henry David Thoreau