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June 2012

Recipe Request

Potato salad

Maybe it's our Irish roots, but we're big potato fans here. It's the one vegetable every one of us likes! We especially like roasted potatoes, but at this time of year I'd like to cool things down a bit. Potato salad would seem the perfect answer BUT, we have some dietary issues to deal with first ... 

So, I'm looking for a dairy-free, non-mayo based potato salad recipe. If you have one to share, please leave a comment below! 

Thanks in advance for any and all help ... and have a great weekend my friends!

A Little Sewing "Advice" & a Giveaway!

Sewing advice

My mother received this from a friend of ours, and I just had to share. :)

How far we've come, ladies! I'm not much of a sewer myself, but I'd wager a guess it's difficult to find time to sew period - let alone worry about your lipstick and powder! And yet, the part about taking care of distractions before starting in on something you enjoy makes sense. Bill always kids me that before I sit down to write (or craft or bake or putter) I "need" to clean the house first. Lol, I can't have my fun if I'm distracted by chores left undone.

But I suppose sewing was more of a task than a hobby back then, wasn't it? Back when torn clothes were mended and curtains were homemade?


Now ... about that giveaway! Just because I don't sew often (or well), doesn't mean I don't have a fair size stash of sewing paraphernalia. So I've been sorting through my craft boxes downstairs - trying to discern what I have and what I need - and I came across this little book I've owned for years ...

Mary francis book

... and I thought, I would love to pass this on for someone else to enjoy. :)

Not that it's not lovely - it is! But it was something of an impulse buy, and it's not something I need anymore ...


If you'd like to enter my giveaway, please take a moment to answer the following question:

Do you sew? And if so, is it a hobby or part of your homekeeping routine? If you're not a sewer, please feel free to tell me what it is you do enjoy as a hobby. I'm all ears ... :)

At the close of the weekend I'll choose a name from the comments, and announce it here Monday morning. So good luck, and I hope to hear from you! I love to talk hobbies and I'm eager to hear about yours.

Have a great weekend, my friends!

Feel Good Friday

Watching nature always makes me feel good ...

Red squirrel eating spruce cone 3

I enjoy it so much - because I find it at once stimulating and soothing. There are things to learn and things to recall ... it's at once familiar and new.

The above little fella is the same one I posted a picture of here, but this was taken a little while later ... once he'd made a full, messy meal of that spruce cone!

And here's our wee bunny ...

Wee bunny 1

He's been a delight to watch these past couple of weeks. But as much as I love watching this bunny, I do worry for his safety. He's always alone (where is his mother?) and we have a lot of predators around here, living next to the woods as we do. And we may live on a quiet road, but there are still plenty of cars that go by - and for some crazy reason our bunny's particularly fond of the grass that grows along the edge of the street ...

I guess I can only hope for the best and enjoy him while I can. :)


Well, right now it's raining (a rumbly, dark rain), and I'm sitting by a cracked open window ... because I love rain on muggy mornings like this. It makes everything quiet, and the air smells soooo good. The skies off to the west are starting to clear so things will dry out before long ... and then we're in for a very hot day. This is such a peaceful "summer" moment ... a moment to feel good. So many things going on around us ... our lives are so busy and full ... it's important to take time to find moments like these.

Have a lovely Friday, my friends!

Weekly Kitchen Routines

I actually began this post yesterday on "Kitchen Day," and what I mean by that is, on Wednesdays I focus my "housekeeping energy" on the kitchen. This week I put a little extra effort in my cleaning, and it got me thinking about all the steps that are involved in running a family kitchen. I have all these steps listed on my daily chore cards, and though I don't do them all every week, I do have a routine that I stick to as closely as possible. Without it, I'd have a pretty messy kitchen and some pretty hungry kids!

Of course as I was cleaning (and thinking), a post started formulating ... so I took pictures as I worked and I thought I'd do that through the rest of the week, so I (we!) can take a closer look at my (and perhaps, your?) kitchen routines. :)

So on Wednesdays, I look through the food supply "spaces" (kitchen cabinets, fridge, freezer, pantry) and make note of what needs replacing. I start a shopping list in my small shopping notebook. And some weeks (but certainly not all) I give these spaces a thorough cleaning - vacuuming crumbs and wiping surfaces, allowing them to air dry before replacing (and re-organizing) the contents.

This is one of our food supply cabinets - it had some pretty old things collecting in its corners! (Valentine's candy, anyone?)

Kitchen tab 1

In here we store, from top to bottom:

Cereal (hot and cold), as well as Earlybird's cocoa rice bars. We keep them up here because he can't reach them and he would eat these all day long if we let him!

Crackers, cookies, croutons, peanut butter (Fluff/Nutella/Cookie Butter), applesauce and dried fruts.

Bread items, like rolls, sandwich bread, pita pockets, etc. (Some of the more perishable "whole grain" products move to the fridge in very hot weather.)

Once that space was tidied, I turned to the refrigerator ... and goodness, that was a mess!

Kitchen tab 2

The main section is now pretty much sorted and streamlined, but the stuff on the door is another matter, entirely ... for example, the expiration dates on some of the dressings? Yikes!

Next I took a look inside the freezer:

Freezer 1

Freezer 2

I got rid of some old stuff and voila, there was light! But those bags of frozen vegetables really need pruning - for a family that doesn't like peas, we sure have a lot of them!

So once I've finished cleaning the kitchen, I work a little more in my shopping notebook. I try to look at the pantry/fridge/freezer and see what can be used up and transformed into dinners. 

Kitchen tab 3

I still use my marketing binder for coupon sorting and storage, but I found it a bit bulky for actual marketing. So currently I am using a small spiral-bound notebook for my grocery lists. I clip current coupons (ones that are soon to expire or match up with sales) onto the notebook page itself. The clip marks my place and holds my coupons (keeping them in sight, in mind).

Kitchen tab 4

(By the way, I can never have enough bulldog clips - I use them in all sizes!)

And here is my daily chore card on display ...

Kitchen tab 6

If you see at the bottom of my chore list for Wednesday, I have written, "organize trash and recycling." (Thursday is our trash collection day). Well, as you can see I had to table that task for a bit ...

Kitchen tab 5


And here is one more thing in my kitchen to show you - my little index card file box.

Kitchen tab 7

I'm not doing much with it currently, but I really like having it close at hand. Inside are multicolored index cards which I use in different ways. I love the idea of the SHE system, but can't seem to commit completely.


So that was yesterday's role in the overall kitchen routine. Today (Thursday) I am working on next week's dinner menu. On this day I prepare a new weekly planning folder, and take a look at the calendar - upcoming activities, events, celebrations, etc. Getting a feel for what the next week brings helps me plan dinners accordingly. Also, the sales flyers arrive in today's paper so I can look those over and add things to my shopping list (notes/coupons). 

Flyers 1

My actual shopping trip will take place either tomorrow (Friday) or Saturday morning. I try to go as early as possible in the day, before the crowds and the heat builds. I will do a post about the excursion, along with a little "shop talk" if you will. (Much like my "beauty shop" post, but this time listing preferred grocery items.) So stay tuned for that!

As always, you know I love to hear from you, so if you'd care to share your thoughts on kitchen routines (or anything!), please leave a comment below. Either way, I hope you all have a nice Thursday, and please take care of yourself and your loved ones...

I'll see you here again very soon!

Tea & a Good Book

Betsy-tacy 1
True confession, my friends: I've never read the Betsy-Tacy books! But as you can see above, I plan to remedy that issue this summer ...

Well, we just got in from a stop at the library, and the June air is just cool enough and the turbulent sky is just dark enough, that I made myself a cup of warm, comforting teaAnd then I sat down in my corner, with said tea, and the aforementioned book (as well as my laptop, of course) and decided to pop in to say hi.


So, hello! I hope your week's going well! What are you reading this summer?

I'll see you here again very soon ...


A Super Supper!

Chicken cacciatore 1

We had a lovely visit today with Bill's sister Ami, and his brother Greg (who is on from Chicago), and for supper I tried (with fingers crossed) a new recipe: crockpot chicken cacciatore ...

Well, I'm happy to say it was a hit! It smelled amazing all day long, as it simmered away in my slowcooker ... to serve, I made up a pot of linguine and some crusty wheat ciabbata. Everone seemed to enjoy it, and it made plenty so Bill has a few lunches ready to go ...

I'm definitely adding this to my dinner plan rotation!


Hope you all had a nice Tuesday ... see you again very soon!

How badly do we miss Downton?

Oh, so much!

And Sherlock, too. What are you watching these days? Bill and I are still working our way through The Tudors, but we've just put that on hold in order to re-watch the John Adams miniseries from a few years ago. And we watched the first episode of The Newsroom last night - we found it quite interesting! I think we'll give it a go.

Now, while I'm here, I wanted to share this very brief video I found online this morning. It "debuts" Shirley MacLaine's Downton character greeting her "old" friend, Lady Violet:

>> play clip <<

It's not much, but isn't it nice to hear that soundtrack again?


Have a wonderful Tuesday, my friends!

A Little Slice of Whole Foods Heaven

Whole foods

Speaking of hot spots, the boys had an art workshop today, and while they were at class, I spent a whole hour and a half ... ON MY OWN ... at Whole Foods. Oh my goodness ... such bliss! And if you regularly shop with children in tow, you know what I mean by that.

So I spent extra time in the "smelly" aisle (as my boys call it) ... and smeared myself with some thick, herb-y lotion. (Then promptly found the ladies' room and washed it off before the smell drove me crazy, lol!)

I examined the bulk foods aisle ... even reading the literature provided! Who knew they had so many neat things in those bins ... my "pantry wheels" started turning.

I perused the gluten-free products and picked up a few things for Earlybird to try.

I talked with the man behind the seafood counter. Like, had a conversation. 

I looked at all the register aisle ends - so many neat things there I always miss! Like seasonal displays and neat lip balms and organic candies ... and oh, the magazines! (Tempting, so tempting!)

Before I left, I bought myself a "peaches and cream" scone ...

... and I took time to smell the flowers.


Many thanks to my mum who has been watching the boys for me during the week so I can get out and do my shopping on my own before the weekend rush. It has made such a difference in my shopping overall, but it's an especially nice treat for me to have that little bit of time to myself.

I'm thinking of doing another "shop talk" post, but this time instead of sharing beauty products and routines, I'll do a food shopping rundown. I think that might be fun, don't you?

Have a GREAT Monday night, everyone ... see you here again very soon!

Midsummer Beauty

Midsummer 5
Midsummer 3

Midsummer 2

Midsummer 1

Midsummer 6

Midsummer 4

Yesterday was Midsummer's Day - also known as St. John's Day (the Birth of St. John). The weather was lovely and we spent a good bit of time outside ... I roamed the yard taking pictures of this and that. Above we have a tea rose blooming at sunset ... my pink and orange coneflower plants  ... an abandoned bird's nest ... the tiny bunny who calls our yard home ... and the Midsummer Eve moon - a milky crescent perched high in the western sky.

Today brings a gray and mild morning ... it feels nice, actually - the soft breeze coming through my window as I type up this post. Heavy rain will be arriving in a few hours - thunder and all - so we'll plan our day accordingly. How I enjoy having the freedom to do that. :)

Thanks so much for stopping by, my friends - I hope you have a wonderful day! Take care of yourselves and your loved ones ... I will see you again sometime soon!

A Birthday Dinner for Bookworm :)

Dinner @ TH 4

Last night we took the older boys to a favorite family restaurant, in celebration of Bookworm's 17th birthday. I've been coming to this restaurant for special dinners since I was a little girl, so it's more than just a really good meal - it's a place where many fond memories were made. Both Bill and I said last night we felt my grandparents, especially, were "with us" in spirit ... they loved treating family and friends to a special meal here. And oh, how they would have enjoyed treating these boys ... they truly savored the whole experience!

So Nana (my mum) came over to have dinner with Earlybird and Bill and I headed out with the older two ... we were just a few minutes ahead of this crazy storm:

Dinner @ TH 7

As we arrived at the restaurant, the skies opened up and we just made it inside ... where there were fireplaces going, and soft candlelight. So very cozy!

Here are the boys with their salad courses: Crackerjack's is nothing but lettuce, while Bookworm's has just about everything on it!

Dinner @ TH 10

And here is Crackerjack with me ...

Dinner @ TH 11

And Bookworm with Bill ...

Dinner @ TH 9

Lol, I think my wine glass is present in each and every picture! I truly savored this glass, though ... it's a Rodney Strong Cabernet Sauvignon.

Dinner @ TH 3

The food, as usual, was fantastic. We don't go out to eat much at all - for one thing, it's expensive (and we do live on one income) and for another, we have a special needs child so restaurants are not always easy for us. But a few times a year we do treat ourselves, and most of the time it's here. It's hard to pick anywhere else because the food is always excellent! And as I said above - this place is so special to us. :)

In the top picture you see Bookworm with a lava cake they brought out to him (a lovely courtsey). He shared that with CJ and enjoyed that very much - but he still ordered (and almost finished) his favorite dessert: a Swiss Chocolate Bread Pudding au Caramel. (And yes, it tastes as good as it sounds!)

When we left the restaurant, the skies were starting to clear, and look what we spied!

Dinner at TH 14

And a little further up the road, we saw the full rainbow - and it was complete!

Dinner @ TH 12

I don't think I've ever seen a complete rainbow before!

So it was a very nice night, and now I think the birthday celebrations have come to a close. (Though Crackerjack leaned over at Mass and whispered in my ear: "Hey Mom, it's St. John's birthday - are you making a cake?" Lol, I probably will.)

We have more summer birthdays to look forward to - several famliy members enjoy summertime birthdays, including Bill in July and Crackerjack in August. Will we end up at our favorite restaurant again? We just might!


Well, my friends, I hope you are enjoying a nice weekend. Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing in our joy. I hope you enjoy the rest of your Sunday ...

I'll see you again very soon!

Happy Birthday, Bookworm!

Seventeen! 2

(I know I say this every year, but when did my baby get so big?)

My friends, 17 years ago today, I achieved my greatest goal and fondest wish in life ... I became a mother. And today, if you'll indulge me, I have some thoughts to share with my son - my first son of three - our Bookworm.


Dear Bookworm,

I fear I may be bragging here (but I'm your mother, so I'm allowed, especially today!), but you are one of the kindest and gentlest souls I know. Your dad and I are SO proud of you, it's hard to find the right words to say why ... but I'm going to try. :)

First of all, your family and friends think the world of you, especially your brothers - who truly look up to you - because you treat them like equals, like friends. We could not ask for a better role model for them ... every day you show your brothers how to conduct themselves as young gentlemen, with quiet dignity and self-assuredness. And you readily share with us your wonderful sense of humor ... how we love seeing things through your eyes! You're such a hard worker - you work diligently at your studies and when something is asked of you, you do it without complaint or fuss. Your mind is so awesome - so open, eager and sharp. We are constantly amazed by that mind of yours! But it's your heart that really impresses us ... because it's so big and true, and you share it so readily ... and we're all better for it.

You know, one of our reasons for deciding to homeschool was because we wanted our kids to be free to be who they are - without pressure to change their ways or to try to be like anyone else. We didn't want their "zeal" to be squelched. We're so happy to see, Bookworm, in all these years, you have remained true to yourself in all things.

God bless you today and always, Son. WE LOVE YOU SO MUCH! Happy 17th Birthday, and here's to many, many more ...

~ XOXO ~

Mom, Dad, Crackerjack, Earlybird, Archie & Oliver!

Let's Discuss: The Household on Hot Days

KG hot day

"It was hot and she did her housework early, then closed the windows and drew the shades as she had seen her mother do. When Joe came in from work, he remarked with satisfaction that their apartment was the coolest spot in town."

~ Maud Hart Lovelace, Betsy's Wedding

Well it's going to be scorching here in New England today - again! I'm going out very early to do the food shopping and then we'll stay in, and try to stay cool. Thankfully, this heatwave will be brief, and we do have AC, so I really can't complain ... but I often think of my grandmother on days like these. She had such a knack for keeping her house cool, even on the hottest of days. My grandparents' house never had air conditioning ... they just relied on good air circulation, drawn shades and several well-placed fans. My brother and I often stayed overnight at my grandparents', especially during the summer, and I can't remember an unpleasant night's sleep. Gram's bedsheets were the coolest things you could imagine, smooth and so comforting ... with a light bedspread and a fan blowing, sleep was surprisingly easy to find.

So with respect to the upcoming season - which brings heat and humidity to much of the country (and world) - how do you "beat the heat" in your household? How do you keep your home and family comfortable on the hottest days of the year? Do you have air conditioning in your home or do you manage using other measures?

What are some of your "keep cool" methods?

Summer's upon us and I'm thinking about how we prepare and adjust ... for both the pleasures and challenges of the season. So if you have time, please leave me your thoughts!

And as always, I thank you ... and wish you a wonderful day!

Simple, Summery Fun

To celebrate the arrival of Summer, Earlybird and I worked on two simple, seasonal crafts today. The first thing we did was to make a pitcher of "Sun" Tea ...

Sun tea 1

We set this on the deck as the heat began to build (it's a doozy of a day here - high's near 100!). We just filled a clear pitcher with plain water and added five tea bags ...

Then we let The Sun do its work!

And about four hours later ...

Sun tea 2

We had fresh, naturally-brewed Sun Tea!

EB had no interest in trying the tea himself, though he did like smelling it, and he did enjoy helping me "doctor" it with ice, sugar and lemon.

Sun tea 3

 I thought it was absolutely delicious!

Now, the other craft we worked on was a festive, fruity kitchen garland ...

Sun garland 6

We (meaning me, weilding a serrated knife) sliced lemons and clementines into 1/4-inch thin rounds, and then threaded them with twine ...

Sun garland 7

Sun garland 1

Sun garland 4

Then we strung them up above the kitchen sink to dry!

Don't they look pretty in the soft window light? I plan to hang some small bunches of herbs here (from our garden) as the summer goes along. I told EB that this fruit - so juicy and jewel-like right now - would dry out (preserve) as time went on. Of course, the fruit flies think they've died and gone to fruit fly heaven ... so we'll see what breaks first - my patience or their perseverence!

Earlybird and I also looked at the calendar and talked about the cycle of the year ... how we're just about mid-way through, and that at the opposite end of the year we'll arrive at the first day of winter. I suggested we save the (eventually) dried citrus rounds to use in a homemade holiday potpourri. We even marked it down on the calendar - a craft for the winter solstice - so he can see how time passes ...

And so we'll turn Summer's bounty into Winter's gifts. :)


So a very Happy Summer to you all! I hope this new season brings your family much joy and contentment. Summer is notorious for flying by so enjoy it while you can!

Thanks so much for stopping by ... see you again very soon!

Talk About Tuesday: Summer Plans?


I'm wondering what your plans are for your children this summer ... Travel? Camp? Classes?

Whether you homeschool or not, do you make any formal plans for your kids' education/entertainment at this time of year? Or do you just take a breather and let learning (and living) happen as it happens?

I think we do a little of both ...

I truly savor the slower pace of summer ... I love seeing all that free space on my calendar! I appreciate the freedom to spend more time at home ... if we wish ... and I also enjoy the flexibility for family outings and road trips. But I also like to keep my kids' "wheels turning," if you know what I mean, especially when it comes to math and reading.

So this summer we will continue (mostly) daily math lessons, and I'll have a summer reading "project" set up for the younger boys. (I don't worry about Bookworm anymore - he's never not reading, lol.) I don't have a set book list in place yet - but I'm working on it - and I'll share it here just as soon as I can. :)

Senior-to-be Bookworm will also work through a formal science curriculum this summer, but for the younger two, "summer science" will be all about nature study ... gardening, too.

I've also made up a small list of "life skills" I'd like to work on this summer *as well as* a BIG list of summer pleasures I don't want us to miss ...

... tidepooling ... ice cream nights ... fireflies ... bike rides ... picnics ...


So what's up for your brood this summer? Will this summer be different from last?

Please leave me a comment if you have time!

And I'll see you again very soon ...

Summer Office Hours :)

Summer office 2

Sitting outside while the kids play ... I've got my laptop, a library book, some wildflowers, a light snack and a glass of my favorite summer cooler ... peach iced tea. Virgin of course (this was taken midday!), but I must tell you it's also fantastic with a splash of spiced rum ... after the sun goes down. ;)

And I'm surrounded by my (very modest) herb garden, our hummingbird feeder, and - in the distance - the canopy under which I'm envisioning lots of summer crafts, reading and nature study ...

Summer office 3

It's going to be a great summer!

A Dual Celebration ...

... celebrating dads ...

FD party 2

... and a very dear son!

FD party 1

So today we celebrated, not only Father's Day, but also Bookworm's upcoming 17th birthday! Unsurprisingly, I took a bajillion pictures so I have many to share with you all - though a few were actually taken by my father-in-law on his *beautiful* new Nikon. I bet you can spot the difference. ;D

So, ready to roll?

FD party 3

We were very fortunate that the day was not only sunny, but cool. Or at least, not at all hot. To encourage outdoor seating, we set up our canopy in the yard, with a table and chairs underneath. It felt a little bit Emma. :)

FD party 20

(Just a wee bit ... there was no tea service or archery.)

But I must give credit where credit's due ... Crackerjack did the hydrangeas in the pitcher. And Bookworm brought these pink spirea blooms in for my favorite little vases ...

FD party 6


As guests arrived, the front window filled with gifts ...

FD party 8

And Earlybird was all smiles ...

FD party 29

While Bill got the grill ready ...

FD party 7

And I set things up inside ...

FD party 9

My mum made the cake, by Bookworm's request: a yellow cake with chocolate fudge frosting.

FD party 10

And I made a grasshopper pie, my dad's favorite ...

FD party 11

(This was a new recipe for me - I crossed my fingers it tasted OK!)

After some cocktails and appetizers, the main meal was ready ...

Fd party 34

We did kabobs - both chicken and beef. On the beef, I used a homemade garlic-rosemary oil blend, while the chicken was marinated in a store-bought sauce called "Texas Turbano." This was a bourbon-molasses style marinade.

After the meal, it was time to open gifts!

Here I am with the older two boys ...

FD party 32

And here's my Bill opening his gifts.

FD party 15

Earlybird found a front row seat on Papa's lap. :)

FD party 24

Everyone gathered 'round while the men of the day opened cards and presents ...

FD party 25

And then there was cake!

FD party 16

(Earlybird always makes himself scarce during cake-time .. even though we assure him there will be NO singing. He won't take any chances!)

Bookworm got many nice, thoughtful gifts but I think he was especially touched by the "Luigi" statue his brother Crackerjack made for him.

FD party 14

Here we have Papa, checking on his races ...

FD party 28

And here's my mum ... 

FD party 31

I really love this picture of her!

The boys made all their cards, so in this picture, CJ is "explaining" his verse to Daddy.

FD party 33

This is my sister-in-law Ami and her boyfriend, Eric. It's always a pleasure to spend time with them. :)

FD party 27

Eric actually brought our cats some fresh catnip ... 

FD party 18

They were quite enthralled.

At the end of the day, after our guests went home, we just relaxed and hung out. I like this shot because it has all my guys (save for Ollie) ...

FD party 23

I think it was a very nice day had by all. :)

I hope, dear readers, that you too had a nice day ... and I wish all the dads out there a very Happy Father's Day. Especially my own dad, Bill's dad, and my dear husband himself ... I am so very blessed to have all these great men in my life. Their love and support mean so much! 

Have a great night, everyone ... I'll see you here again very soon!


(I think that's the correct term, lol.)

I'm having such fun reading through all the responses to my Home Management Binder Q&A post, I wanted to "bump" it a little so we keep it fresh in our minds. I'd love to get some more replies (and I know the readers who've already commented would like that as well). So here it is again, just in case you missed it ... ;)

Re ~ The Home Management Notebook ...

I'm quite inspired by everyone's ideas and find myself puttering with my own ...


Of course, it's Father's Day weekend, and we're hosting a cookout here tomorrow, so I don't really have time to putter much at all. But that's ok ... it's better sometimes to go slowly.


I hope you're all enjoying a pleasant weekend. Have a nice night, tonight, and a great day tomorrow ... I'll see you here again sometime soon!