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November 2014

Our Thanksgiving Day, 2014

  Thanksgiving 50

Happy Friday, my friends!

I hope you all had a nice week - and a lovely Thanksgiving Thursday, if you are American like me. We had a wonderful holiday and I'd like to share a few some a LOT of pictures from our day if I may ... some food, some family and some festive touches around my home. :)

Thanksgiving 4

Love this sign my mother bought ~ I'm grateful for all those things!

Thanksgiving 8

 This is my grandmother's crystal punch bowl, filled with this year's "signature holiday cocktail" -  a Bourbon Wine Punch. I am such a sucker for punch! This was a mixture of chilled white wine, bourbon, cranberry juice, lime juice, sprite and frozen grapes. I added sliced apples for an autumn touch. It was so very yummy.

Thanksgiving 6

Thanksgiving cupcakes - made by my mum and decorated by my boys. My initial plan had been to make "turkey cupcakes" but as the hour drew late, I called uncle. I think I like them like this even more. The chocolate frosted ones were made in such a way that my sensitive EB could still indulge.

Thanksgiving 3 

Some pretty candies on the windowsill ...

Thanksgiving 10

My brother in his silly turkey hat. :)

Thanksgiving 9

Crackerjack with my Aunt Marcia who brought, amongst other things, this delicious shrimp dip - a family favorite.

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Mum and me - two cooks in the kitchen! But I bet you can guess which one of us was responsible for this situation:

Thanksgiving 11

This would be burnt crostini tossed onto the front doorstep ... in a snow-filled planter, no less. There were smoke alarms blaring inside and I might have panicked a bit. Lol.

(Luckily I bought a LOT of French bread!)

Thanksgiving 13

Here I am with my Earlybird, who had a great day after a bit of a rocky start. Party prep sets him on edge, but once his loved ones arrived, he relaxed and enjoyed himself.

Thanksgiving 20

My cousin, Kate and her husband, Paul - their first Thanksgiving as husband and wife!

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We served appetizers and drinks in the sunroom ... I like spreading the party out as much as possible. Keep bodies - and conversation - moving!

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The aforementioned shrimp dip ... so good. I have a real weakness for this stuff.

Thanksgiving 14

A Thanksgiving Blessing Snack Mix: Bugles, pretzels, sunflower seeds, dried cranberries, m&m's. I think there was supposed to be candy corn too, but they got used up on the cupcakes. I found the recipe on Pinterest.

Thanksgiving 15

 Cranberry jam-goat cheese toasties - a recipe from Family Fun Magazine.

Thanksgiving 16

 Desserts of all kinds lining the windowsill ... pies, cake and cookies!

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This is a Gingery Pear-Apricot Pie , a recipe I found in Woman's Day Magazine. It called for a crust made up of overlapping pastry cut-outs - which looks neat, but is very labor-intensive. It had a nice filling though - pears, dried apricots, golden raisins, real grated ginger, orange zest ... 

Thanksgiving 17

 Yes, that's snow you see out there - we had a white Thanksgiving this year!

Thanksgiving 56

We had two tables for our party of 14; the first was set for eight in the dining room ...

Thanksgiving 23

And the second was set for six in the living room.

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 I like how this table fits in this room, and might keep it here for crafts and homeschool projects. Without the china and glass, of course. 

Thanksgiving 49

 Our Bookworm, home from BC, where he is a sophomore this year.

Thanksgiving 60

 Little Bear was napping till the very last minute - he woke up just after grace!

Thanksgiving 24

"Who's coming to my house?"

Thanksgiving 29

 Loving a new ride-on toy, a gift from Grandma and Grandpa.

Thanksgiving 28

Hard to believe this little guy is now 18 months old. Such joy he brings to our family!

Thanksgiving 34

My mother's birthday cake - a cranberry spice cake with cream cheese frosting, dried cranberries and golden candles ... November's colors!

(Note my brother photo-bombing the shot.)

Thanksgiving 36

The living room mantel all aglow at the end of the day ...

Thanksgiving 38

 My four boys, relaxing after dinner ... so good to have them all home!

Thanksgiving 25

Pretty lights ... a taste of things to come. :)

***

Well my friends, thank you so much for letting me share these pictures (and my thoughts) with you all. I just love Thanksgiving - it is perhaps my favorite of all the holidays! But I am now turning my attention to the season of Advent which begins this Sunday! And I will be back on Monday with my next Tea Journal post and some thoughts on the new season ... until then I wish you all a very happy weekend!

See you here again very soon ...


To my mother, on her birthday ... ❤

Mum and I at kate and paul's wedding

Today is my dear mother's birthday, and as many of you know, I am very close with my mum and so grateful for all she has brought to my life ... beginning with my own life, of course! There's that to begin with, of course!

My mother, Maureen, has always been my best friend, and I talk with her every day about ... well, pretty much everything! Bill and I are grateful for how involved she and my dad are in our family's life but, truly, it has always been that way ...

My friends, may I reminisce a bit while I have a moment?

My brother Matt and I were so blessed to have Mum at home with us and I can honestly say my childhood was pretty much idyllic. My parents have a wonderful marriage and my mother was truly happy raising her children and taking care of her home and family. I could not have asked for a better role model and I knew from a very early age that what I wanted more than anything was to be a mother just like her. Because to my mind, and from what I saw and experienced, nothing could bring greater happiness.

I loved how she read all the time, and seemed to know so much about everything. I loved how she sang along in the car as we drove around, but especially when she sang folk songs with my dad and his guitar. I loved how she was always doing something creative - crafts of all kinds. I loved how she fed us and and to this day I wish I cooked as well as she does ...

I loved how my brother and I always felt involved and important to our parents. Our opinions counted and our feelings mattered. I especially loved how - even when we chose paths that were slightly off center, my parents supported us and encouraged us ...

I loved how my mum was always volunteering in the community and especially at my school - as leader of my girl scout troop, or a chaperone on field trips, or the mom in the front office making photocopies. I loved knowing she was close by and involved in my life. It's no wonder my house was the one all the kids wanted to be at! It was bright and happy and inviting and I was just so proud that she was my mum.

I loved how she had such a friendly and lovely way about her - whomever we met - whether it was familiar friends at a party or a perfect stranger in a checkout line, she was always gracious and kind. I hoped to emulate her as I became a woman myself.

As I got older and became a mom myself, I loved watching her become Nana. I love the special bond she has with my children and that she knows them so well (and they her). I love how I feel I can always ask for her help when I need it (though it's often offered before I even have to ask). I love learning from her and sharing our thoughts on everyday and worldly events. I loved watching her care for my grandparents as they aged and grew fragile ... I loved how she took on every responsibility without question and always with much love. Setting another example for me to remember and emulate as life moves forward ...

Most of all, I love how she loves us. I felt it then without thinking about it much - a child takes their parents' love for granted perhaps - but these days I find myself thinking about it all the time. I know how blessed I have been and continue to be every day I have my mum in my life.

Happy Birthday, Mum. I hope you don't mind that I just blathered on about you here, but I really felt it in my heart to share you with my readers today. I share a lot of myself here and who I am here is all because of who I have been my whole life: your daughter. ❤

With Much Love and a Grateful Heart

~ Dawn

 Blessings to all on this snowy Thanksgiving eve ... thank you so much for stopping by!


My Tea Journal ~ Thanksgiving Week

November tea 13

Happy Monday, my friends, and welcome! I'm so glad you could stop by. Would you care to join me for tea? 

This is one of my favorite weeks all year. Thanksgiving is upon us and folks are bustling about, making their way homeward. Families are reunited, nostalgia abounds, and home cooks are doing what they do best: taking care of their families ... feeding them, body and soul! 

I think it's clear I am someone who likes to look for the simple joys in life. I have always felt this way and try to bring that positivity to my blog as much as I can. We all know life is not always (often, ever?) perfect or easy - but there is always much for which to be grateful. Family and home, good health, good work, good food, good friends. And always, above all, God's love and grace. More than anything, I hope and pray my boys are blessed by all of these things throughout their lives ...

In my weekly teatime journal, I hope to sit down and take a moment to feel grateful for, not just the "biggies" (as mentioned above) but also, the little things that I might easily overlook or take for granted. I would love to have you join me when you are able. :)

(And let me just say right here and now, I am grateful for every one of you dear people who take the time to stop by and read whatever I might have to share. I am humbled to think you spend some of your time here and honored by your encouragement and friendship.)

Now, I'm still sort of piecing together how these teatimes will work ... how I'll make them happen for myself and how I will share them with you all. (I fear this first one is a bit rambly.) So please bear with me as I find my way, but for today, here are some pictures of my teatime and the happy things surrounding me right now ...

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 Thankgiving decorations along the mantel ...

November tea 2

A few favorite seasonal books ...

November tea 4

Vases along a sunny windowsill, stuffed with a last bit of autumn. 

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A lovely "vintage book" filled with children's poems and prayers.

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One pretty tablecloth, fairly new ...

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And another, fairly old ... but much loved. This woven cloth belonged to my grandmother and was one of her most often used kitchen linens. It's faded now, but so very soft, and I love the memories it brings to mind ... 

November tea 9 

And I think it looks rather pretty beneath an apple-filled cornucopia. :)

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A lovely season's greeting card. (I like to prop special cards on a small art stand like this. Gets them out of the mail basket and into the open!)

November tea 11

 A cocktail napkin for Turkey Day, featuring Good Ol' Mister Tom, himself. 

 

 My Tea Journal for 11/24/14 

In the Natural World ...

The day started out drizzly and gray - wonderful tea-drinking weather! Though strangely warm for this time of year, as well and overcast skies parted as the afternoon waned. There's a rather large flock of robins in the neighborhood that seem out of place (though are quite welcome) in November.

What I'm drinking (and eating!) ... 

My cup (pictured at the top of the page) is an old favorite. Part of a set I grew up with, famliar in my parents' kitchen cabinets. They're mine (and Bill's) now and I think they originally came from Vermont. Which of course, makes them all that more special to me. :) Today I'm drinking Constant Comment Decaf - another old favorite of mine and just right for the holiday season: black tea + orange + spices. Quite fitting for Thanksgiving, too - the blend was first formulated by a home cook here in New England!

To nibble on: a couple of THESE COOKIES which OMgoodness I cannot stop eating. My parents gave me a box last month - well, they gave it to US, but they quickly became MINE - and I am hooked. Hooked, I tell you. For me, they are quite possibly the perfect cookie - buttery and dense with a scant touch of salt. The kind of cookie I truly have no business ordering in bulk.

 What I'm reading ...  

Not a lot right now - too busy! But I did get this from the library after reading an interesting review and I also picked up this today (again from the library). Magazines are piling up - the Christmas issues look amazing.

What I'm working on ... 

Aside from Thanksgiving Day preparations, I am also working on my Advent planner and the kids' Advent calendar. I'm using library pockets, index cards and stickers - and I will post about it very soon!

Words to inspire gratitude ...

 For each new morning with its light,
For rest and shelter of the night,
For health and food, for love and friends,
For everything Thy goodness sends.
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson  

** 

And now, I'm very grateful to two dear friends, longtime readers, Michelle and Emma, for sharing their thoughts on teatime ...

From Michelle:

Good Afternoon Dawn! I am sitting here reading your blog with a hot cup of apple cider. So yummy on this wintery day in Indiana and to go along with it 5 inches of snow! It was so beautiful this morning to awake to a winter wonderland. This is our first snowfall for the season and my boys are loving it. I am so excited that you will be starting up your Tuesday teas again. When the boys were younger we would have tea/story time. I would try to coordinate the tea and sweet treat (of course) to go along with the book. One of our favorites was a gingerbread tea with a little dab of sugar. Precious memories! Thanks for letting me share.
Blessings!

 And from Emma:

 Dear Dawn. Thank you for making me even more mindful for all my everyday blessings, you and your blog are so dear to my heart. Tea time in my kitchen: a favorite cup of warm, sweet earl grey, a piece of pumpkin gingerbread cake, the last Autumn greeting to mail out later today, a shopping list  - and in the background a CD with Thanksgiving hymns and one of my very favorite Yankee Candle" Cranberry Chutney", so wonderful. A calm, joy filled moment. Thank you for inviting me, have a lovely afternoon.

November tea 16

Thank you for the lovely thoughts and kind words, Michelle and Emma!

I would be so happy to hear from more friends about their teatimes this week (or next week or whenever you are able). If you'd like to participate - with words and/or pictures - please send me an email at your earliest convenience ...

>> bysunandcandlelight@comcast.net <<

I look forward to hearing from you!

Next Monday we'll begin our Advent Teas, so there will be lots to to talk about and share. Some thoughts on our hopes and ideas for the season ... so please stay tuned! 

But before I go, how about a recipe for the week? If you were all coming for tea I might make this since it is so seasonal and yummy-sounding! (I'm making it for Thanksgiving, so I'll let yo know how it turns out!)

Cranberry Spice Cake

 

Cake

1/2 cup unsalted butter

3/4 cup sugar

3 large eggs

1 cup currants

1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts

1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon cloves

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt 

1 cup jellied cranberry sauce 

1 tablespoon orange zest

 

 Cranberry Cream Cheese Frosting

 

1/2 cup dried cranberries, chopped

 3 tablespoons orange juice

 1/2 cup (4 oz.) cream cheese, softened 

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, softened

 Pinch of salt 

1 pound confectioner's sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a tube pan or two 8" round pans.

 

For the Cake

 

In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar. Add the eggs, one at a time, scraping the bowl after beating each egg in. Stir in the currants and nuts. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, cloves, baking soda and salt; mix into the sugar mixture. Stir in the cranberry sauce and orange zest.

Pour evenly into the tube pan or divide between the round pans. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the cake begins to pull back from the edges of the pan(s). Remove from the oven and cool completely before frosting.

For the Frosting

In a medium microwave-safe bowl, combine the cranberries and orange juice. Microwave for 30 seconds in high, to allow the fruit to soak up the juice. In another medium bowl, mix the cream cheese, butter and salt until no lumps remain. Add the confectioner's sugar and mix well. Add any unabsorbed orange juice, and vanilla and mix until creamy. Use the cranerries for garnish or mix into the frosting as you please.

Yield: 16 servings

(From The Baking Sheet (published by King Arthur Flour) which is SADLY going out of print. I have many years' worth of back issues. Earlybird loves to read them as well.)

 ***

Enjoy your Monday evening, my friends ... see you here again very soon!

 


Thursday Thoughts & Dinner Plans

Thanksgiving plate

"Cooking demands attention, patience, and above all, a respect for the gifts of the earth. It is a form of worship, a way of giving thanks."

~ Judith B. Jones

This is a wonderful quote to ponder, don't you think? Especially so close to Thanksgiving!

Today I am working out the final details of our holiday dinner ... talking it over with my mum, looking through my folder, writing out final lists. We usually stick to a pretty familiar meal plan but we also like to work in a few new twists. There must, of course, be roast turkey - as well as stuffing, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie ... but we can have a little fun with apps, drinks, desserts and sides. Are you trying any new recipes this year?

I thought you might like to hear what we're serving next Thursday ... and if you have a moment, I'd love to hear about your dinner plans!

Drinks & Apps

Thanksgiving Cocktail: cran-apple bourbon punch

Also: cold beer, cider, wine, asst. soda

Shrimp Dip

Thanksgiving blessings snack mix

baked brie with figs and pistachios

cranberry jam toasties

and/or

sweet and sour cippolini with goat cheese on crostini

Main Meal

roast turkey

stuffing (plain and "dressed up")

cranberry sauce (canned and homemade)

mashed potatoes

gravy

corn

squash

peas and/or beans

soft dinner rolls

brown bread muffins

and/or

cheddar-chive biscuits

Desserts

coffee/tea

assorted pies (tbd)

cranberry spice cake

maple cream liqueur (if I have time!)

and perhaps ...

sweet potato cupcakes with toasted marshmallow topping

(because they just sound uncommonly good)

:)

Now, my friends, I must stress to you all that I am not making all of this (or even most of it) myself! My mum does the bulk of the cooking, while family and friends bring along contributions. I generally make a couple of desserts and an appetizer or two, the biscuits/muffins as well as the signature cocktail. I do love to cook, but I especially enjoy organizing tables and dishes and centerpieces and trying to be sure the house is all tidy and arranged for comfortable socializing ...

Which is why I have all these lists!

Speaking of lists, I'm also working on my Advent plans this week because the season comes up rather quickly once Thanksgiving is over. Lots to think about, much to plan ... but I will talk more about that subject next Monday when we gather for tea.

:)

Hope you all enjoy the rest of your Thursday ... see you here again very soon!


Happiness is a warm blanket ...

O new blankie 2

Especially one made by someone you love!

I just had to show you all this beautiful gift we received in the mail - a new "blankie" knit for Little Bear by his Great Aunt Pat. Aren't the colors just wonderful? So cheerful and soothing at the same time. And the texture is extrememly plush and thick. I know he will love it for years!

O new blankie 1

Do your children have special blankets? Remember the "woobie" from that wonderful movie, Mr. Mom? I do remember my brother had a colorful "blankie" he carried around everywhere and pretty much loved it to smithereens. I think there were several salvage attempts - decreasing its size a bit each time - before it was finally let go. 

So yes, as the Peanuts say: Happiness is (indeed) a Warm Blanket!

Speaking of blankets, I think that's one of the charms of November ... preparing for warmth when the weather turns cold. I'm going to turn my attention to warming up my home this week, and today I will gather all the throw blankets and launder them so they'll be fresh for the season. Once they're all clean and dry, I will place them in strategic places - folded at the foot of a bed, piled neatly in a basket or slipped onto the back of a favorite chair in the family room. When someone is in need of a little warmth, there'll be a blanket within easy reach ...

And that's a simple but true November blessing: warmth when we need it.

Winter bedding

My favorite throw blanket - a soft plaid that matches the floral of our quilt!

:)

I hope you've all had a nice Tuesday ... enjoy your evening, my friends! Keep warm and snug!

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


A Monday Hello ... and Tea notes

Mary melcher card

Isn't this the sweetest illustration? Doesn't it capture the colors and feel of a November day? This is a detail from a Thanksgiving card designed by one of my favorite artists, Mary Melcher. Are you at all familiar with her work? She mostly does greeting cards but has also illustrated a few children's books. (One of Little Bear's favorites, in fact: Good Morning, Sun.) I can never resist her cards - they're hard to find, but I snatch them up when I find them - and those I wish to actually send I buy in double!

:)

Alas, November does not look quite so lovely today as it does in that card; it's a cold, wet and rather gloomy Monday here in New England! A good day to stay in and fortify oneself with warm socks, comfort food and hot cups of tea ... if at all possibile. :)

And speaking of tea, a week from today we'll begin our Advent Tea gatherings. Advent does not actually begin until November 30th, but I thought it would be nice to have tea during Thanksgiving week. So next Monday we'll talk about gratitude and sharing life's blessings, as well as our hopes for the season ahead. I usually have tea (baby-willing) around 4 p.m. so my post will go up around then (or just thereafter). If you have a blog and would like to join me at tea, please send me a link and let me know! Or, blog or not, if you'd like to send me pictures and comments to include in my post (how do you do tea?), I would love it. You can send me submissions for our November 24th Tea here:

bysunandcandlelight@comcast.net

**

But for now I will wish you all a good day and hope to see you here again very soon. And as always, thanks so much for stopping by!

Enjoy your Monday, my friends ...


Sweet Little Red Tables

Happy Friday, my friends!

I wanted to show you a couple of neat new things in my home office space ... both are gifts from my mother. The first is a pretty red and blue skirt, tailored to fit around an old table that serves as a second desk in this room.

Red tables 2 

This table is actually the bottom half of a little white hutch we had in our very first kitchen! The skirt dresses it up a bit and hides the age/wear and tear. I picked the fabric out and Mum sewed it up for me - we attached it with sticky-back velcro dots!

Red table print

Next is this tiny and cheerful red table, just the right size for Little Bear ...

Red tables 1 

Long ago, it was once mine (though it was a soft yellow then) ... and before that it was my mother's ... and before that, it belonged to my Great Aunt Frannie! We think it's about 80 years old or more. Clearly it's well made to have lasted so long!

For now I placed a favorite puzzle of LB's and a few books on it. Eventually I'll add a small chair and he can sit and draw/color etc. while Mama works at her desk just beside. 

Red tables 4

(And p.s. I know it's been some time since I followed up on that Desk Do-Over post ... it's a-comin' I promise!)

My friends, I hope you all have a lovely weekend ... did you see any snow today? We woke to the prettiest, softest snow falling ... everything was just covered ... but then it melted away as the sun came out later in the day. Still very cold, though! Unseasonably cold through the weekend!

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


Cheers!

Starbucks-BOGO-Drinks-2014

I wanted to mention this fun little promotion here because I know many of you, like me, just love those Christmas coffees! On occasion, you know. Not all the time or anything. But this is a very brief offer so I thought I'd pass it on. For more details, read here.

Which drink would you choose? Peppermint mocha, gingerbread latte, eggnog latte? I heard a rumor there is also now a "chestnut praline" drink ... and that sounds very interesting to me.

(For the record, I almost always go with peppermint.)

Now, while I'm here I also wanted to mention that starting on Monday, November 24th I am going to host a weekly tea here at the blog that will run throughout Advent. This will be a post about what I'm drinking and making and thinking in regards to the season. Details to come in a bit - still working them all out - but I would love to make it a group effort if we could.

:)

Cheers to yummy Christmas drinks, my friends! Have yourselves a good night.


Lovely Lanterns for Martinmas

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Good Tuesday evening, my friends. I hope your day has been nice!

Today is Veteran's Day/Remembrance Day as well as the Feast of St. Martin of Tours - aka Martinmas. Much to honor and celebrate today! And though I think I say this every feast day - boy, do I love this feast day! I truly do. I love the story of St. Martin - the simple message of giving of oneself and sharing one's warmth - and I love the simple traditions behind his celebration. Warm clothes, nourishing food, offering a light in the darkness ... all good themes (and goals) for November.

So, all this "celebrating" unfolded in the mid-to-late afternoon ... there was some crafting while the baby was sleeping (I've never spread glue so fast!), and a gingerbread went into the oven ... then, a bit later on, as the sun slipped low in the sky ... there was a lantern walk ... of sorts. And I say "of sorts" because there was really not much formal or organized about it. Or much actual walking to be honest, and the sticks were much preferred over lanterns, but that doesn't matter ... it was another dear memory etched in our hearts ... another day spent remembering who we are as a Catholic family ... another day chasing a toddler around (and around). 

;)

Anyhoo - the first thing I did (after getting said baby to sleep) was to set out some lantern-making materials. A glass jar, a clear plastic cup, paper and paints ... glue, glitter, brushes ... paper punches, staples, colored wax paper (the kind you make window stars with).

Then EB and I started in on the watercolors ...

Martinmas 1 

(These are actually done with an EB-friendly plant-based powder, mixed up with a little water.) The colors are beautiful, don't you think?

Martinmas 20

Once the paper was dry, I used a tiny snowflake-shaped paper punch to make a pretty border. I then shaped the paper into a cylinder and stapled it together at the seam (covering the seam and staples with washi tape). A hole punch created a spot to attach a twine handle and strips of colored wax paper were glued in back of the cut-outs. (The other paper lantern had a large heart shape in the middle.)

We also coated a small plastic cup with glue and glitter. I attached the twine handle with bits of washi tape and then we added a battery-lit votive candle. This was to be Little Bear's lantern. Light to carry and easy to handle. (Except for that darn glitter, lol.)

Martinmas 21 

Once Crackerjack was home from class and the gingerbread was out of the oven, we headed outside to the patio ...

Martinmas 6 

There were so many pretty lanterns to choose from ... I might have gotten a tad carried away.

Martinmas 7

 Hmm ... glass is better left to the oldest ... or mama.

Martinmas 12

Martinmas 14

Martinmas 2

 For me?

Martinmas 3 

What about this one? I like this one - it's on a STICK.

Martinmas 4

My Crackerjack.

Martinmas 15

My Earlybird.

Martinmas 10

My Little Bear.

( There are sticks aplenty in our yard. :)

Martinmas 13

I love the way this lantern looks with the sun setting in the background ...

Martinmas 17 

Pretty sunset! We enjoyed a touch of St. Martin's "Little Summer" today ... it was 60 degrees and so lovely!

Martinmas 18

Supper was simple but filling - good ol' meatloaf, baked russet potatoes, steamed broccoli and corn ... and that still-warm gingerbread for dessert. And last of all, those lovely lanterns set in our big picture window ... our own happy lights shining steadfast into the darkness around us.

**

Well my friends, thanks so much for stopping by today - or tonight as the case may be! - and as always, for your time and attention. Did you have a touch of St. Martin's Summer today where you live? I know much of my country is engulfed in brutual cold this week, but here in the northeast we're savoring these last warm days of fall ... However, the Cold (with a capital C) will be upon us all too soon ...

Take care, everyone - see you here again very soon!


A Few Weekend Photos ...

 Happy Monday, my friends! I have just a few things to share today ...

Harvest tea 

Here's a box of tea I picked up at Trader Joe's the other day. And I'm actually not a big herbal tea fan, but I simply could NOT resist this box! Has anyone tried it? How do you take your herbal tea? I just seem to need that milk and sugar ...

Red squirrel on deck

 Some of my longtime readers might remember from my old house what a fondness I have for red squirrels. This little guy is fairly shy, but he's been visiting our deck (beneath the birdfeeders) for a while now. He's scrappy and quick ... and I just love him.

Fantasic Mr. Fox

This is our current audiobook - The Fantastic Mr. Fox by Roald Dahl - and Earlybird is LOVING it! (We all are.) So we're jumping down the rabbit (er, fox) hole this month to learn about foxes and other burrowing animals, tunnels, great feasts (favorite foods) and food storage. This is a great story and the movie they made of it a few years ago is one of my favorites. :)

O and daddy yard work 1 

Here's my Bill and our Little Bear, catching some sun and a few falling leaves late yesterday afternoon ... that pretty fleece jacket was once worn by Bookworm! I adore this photo ... might make its way onto the Christmas card!

And now some of you saw this on Facebook already, but ...

Frosted leaf

I thought I'd share it here, too. I just love the way a touch of frost looks on late autumn foliage. It makes it look all gilded with glitter! Which makes me think of crafting, and glittery Christmas projects ...

:)

Well my friends, hope your week's off to a great start! Is it cold where you live? Have you seen frost yet? We're actually up in the 50s today (and tomorrow) but it looks to get quite chilly here after that.

Enjoy your evening, my friends ... see you here again very soon!


A Little Love for November ❤

Image

Now I'll just say this upfront: I know November can be a hard month to love. The weather is often dreary (even downright lousy) and the sun is growing weaker day by day. The foliage has dimmed and mostly blown away - what's left behind lies all dull and damp on the driveway.

But I must confess I do love November - just as I love every month of the year! There truly is much to enjoy in spite of, or even because of, the weather ...

The landscape has faded but the shades are only more subtle - auburn, brown, pale gold and blue-gray. The sunlight is weak, but soft, as it slants down to earth at that late-in-the-year angle. This change in light sets our primitive clock back - to run at a slower pace and heed nature's rhythm - though we don't always pay it mind. Jack Frost has stolen our gardens away but even the earth needs a good rest - a long winter's nap if you will. It might be a good idea to take our cue from nature and in the lull between now and Christmas, encourage ourselves to slow down and take a breath - as we make quiet preparations for the season ahead.

 So on that rather lengthy note, lol - here are my notes re ~ November "tasks." I typed these out on my phone the other day as I sat with a sleeping Little Bear in my arms ... the wind was howling and leaves were whipping by the window and the heat had come on and there was such a feeling of comfort around us. I let myself love on November a little and brainstorm ways to embrace the season in my home and in my heart.

**

(Please note: I formulated these notes with my own home and family in mind. I don't mean for them to sound like "must-do's" for everyone! But I always like reading other people's seasonal plans, so I thought I'd share.)

*

One of my favorite things to do at this time of year is to set up strings of white lights here and there around the house - woven into a leafy garland on the mantle, above the kitchen sink, or around the porch door, etc. When the afternoons grow short, instead of cursing the darkness, we celebrate the blessing of light.

*

Time to make a cozy nest! Change our bedding to flannel perhaps, and warmer colors. Add thick throw blankets to the end of the bed and a pair of slippers by its side. Dress up the night-side table with woven mats (instead of lace doilies), a few good reads, lip balm, a rich hand lotion and a candle or two (battery-lit for safety).

*

Wrap up new warm pajamas and slippers (if needed) for the boys on Martinmas. Decide on a lantern craft and plan for a short lantern walk, while horseshoe-shaped oat cookies bake in the kitchen.

*

Make sure everyone has proper outerwear for the winter season: hats, gloves, scarves, boots, jackets for warmth/weather. Check sizes and condition.

*

I can't wear perfume, but I do like a lightly scented body wash. I like to change my scent with the seasons and at this time of year that might mean ginger, apple, vanilla, mint and/or pine.

*

I'm also not big on nail polish but I do like my hands to look pretty at the holidays. I might splurge on a new nail polish - something deeply hued and perhaps a bit sparkly. 

*

 Before the holidays, I like to clean my wedding rings and other special jewelry. I do this at home with a little mild dishwashing liquid, warm water and a toothbrush. I shine up my Miraculous Medal with a bit of baking soda.

*

Set up a simple remembrance altar on All Souls' Day ... refresh tiny mums as they wither, light tealights during family meals.

*

 Visit the post office and purchase Christmas stamps. I am always excited to see the new designs!

*

Organize this year's Season's Greetings - choose outfits, do hair trims, take pictures, order cards. Set up a basket with cards, envelopes, stamps, favorite pens, seasonal note paper, etc. Do a few cards each night beginning after Thanksgiving.

*

Happily, holiday cards start arriving right after Thanksgiving, so I like to have an idea how we'll display them ahead of time. I always like to do something a little different. Pinterest is a great place for ideas!

*

Look through the pantry and make note of what supplies need re-stocking ahead of holiday baking. It's also a good opportunity to vacuum/wipe out those pantry shelves!

*

Write out this year's Advent plans - how do I envision this time of year? How will I share the beauty and peace of the season with my children? How will we resist the frenzy and keep things siimple? Decide on an Advent calendar platform - gather supplies.

*

On a clear dry day, bundle up and go for a walk - enslit the boys' help in looking for winter craft items: acorns, pinecones, branches of evergreen, etc.

*

Cozy up living spaces with inviting reading corners (book baskets, throw blankets). And clean up the hearth - order wood and stack in the side yard. Inventory woodstove implements.

*

Make a list of in-season foods - like root vegetables, cabbage, brussel sprouts, squash, cranberries, clementines, apples and pears. Work those items into my November menus. Brainstorm hearty/delicious cold weather meal ideas (baked apples, crockpot stews, meat pies, etc.)

*

Prepare for the church coat drive and food drives. Discuss as a family: charitable gifts (time/talent/treasure).

*

Hot drinks bring such comfort (both physical and psychological!) on cold, dark afternoons. Pick up ingredients to make up a fresh batch of cocoa. Stock favorite teas, cinnamon sticks, mulling spices and candy canes, etc. 

*

Talk with Bill about house and garden chores that need to be completed before winter. Fall cleanup and winter storm prep, etc. Work these tasks into our November weekends.

*

Make sure the birdfeeders are ready for the winter season ahead - stock up on seed and suet.

***

I was on quite a roll with my thoughts ... as you can see! And then my Little Bear woke up - all sleepy face and soft murmur - and I texted myself this list.

:)

It goes without saying, of course - all these things will NOT happen. Not in one given year. But I do like thinking them all out ... and writing them all down ... and of course, sharing them here. I think that's something I truly enjoy doing - helping others find joy in the most everyday blessings. It's what I try to do I think, and have always done, since I was little. I  rose-colored glasses because clearly I see that there is unhappiness and hardship and sadness in life. Sometimes too much and too often. But these little blessings are always there for us ... to take a bit of joy from and tuck into our hearts.

Ok I'm getting sappy now so I'll wrap up! I would love it if you might share with me what things you like to do in November - whether they be practical or sentimental - how do you find joy in a month that can sometimes be hard to love?

Aside from all that, I do wish you all a lovely Sunday ... and I hope your new week gets off to a great start! As always, thank you for stopping by and I will see you here again very soon!


HELLO! My Name Is ...

But first:

Happy Thursday, my friends!

:)

And I'm happy to say, I am writing this post using my very own laptop! Which means that it is finally back in action and I feel like I can breathe again! Lol, first world problems, right? Honestly, there was a bit of a "free" feeling not having the (all too) easy access to the internet to begin with, but that got old, real fast. And not only is my laptop restored, but it seems *knock on wood* we have all our old pictures still intact!

Anyhoo ...

I thought I'd take a few minutes of your time (if I may) to re-introduce myself and my family. I know many of you have been reading here for several years but there are (happily) always new readers and I shouldn't presume you all know what (or whom) I'm chatting about!

So, to begin with, I am Dawn, a 45 year old wife to Bill and mama to four boys, ranging in age from 19 years to 17 months! We live in a suburb of Boston, and have been homeschooling since our oldest was five, which - wow - is 14 years now! That hardly seems possible ...

I've been a stay-at-home mom from the get-go. Before I was married, I was an assistant editor at a small Boston-area newspaper and had lots of fun writing articles about food, families and holidays. Once Bill and I were married I gave freelancing a shot, but then motherhood took over and I've never looked back! I've been very fortunate to be able to stay home all these years. Living on one income is not always easy - as many of you know! - but we've done what we had to (and had lots of support) to make it possible.

I enjoy reading (on my own and TO my kids), writing/blogging, journaling, photography, crafting, baking and all things "organization." Not that I'm the most organized person you'll meet, lol. Hardly! I just love caring for my home and family (honestly, this "job" is a blessing) and trying to find ways to make it all work! I also love the rhythm of the year and all of the seasons - both natural and liturgical - and observing them with my family in everyday (and big day) ways. I would love to write a book some day ... if I ever find the time!

I have a weakness for magazines and library books, coffee and comfort food, calendars and pretty paper. I don't watch a lot of tv, but I love the Today Show and PBS and Patriots football. I'm on Facebook quite a bit and recently I found (and fell for) Pinterest. I also love our two cats, red squirrels, red foxes, songbirds, and though I'd love to visit many other places in the world, I'll always be grateful I live in New England! The winters may be fierce, and the summers dang hot, but I love experiencing all four seasons so distinctly.

Ok, that's enough about me - now here's a bit about my boys!

Bookworm, our oldest son, is 19 and a sophomore at Boston College. He is a Computer Science major/Math minor and is enjoying his college experience very much! He comes home on weekends quite often so we get to see him and he gets some home cooked meals, laundry "services" lol and quiet(ish) study time. He's also able to stay connected with his brothers, including the (quickly) growing baby which has been very nice for us all. He loves gaming and reading and photography - though he doesn't have as much time for those things these days!

Crackerjack is 15 and a (homeschooled) high school sophomore. This year he is taking several "outside" classes - and by that I mean, in small groups of homeschooled teens who meet with a tutor. His classes include Chemistry, World History, World Literature, Spanish I and Art. At home he is working on Algebra and Composition. His course load is a heavy one but he's adjusting pretty well. CJ is thinking very seriously about art school (and has been for years) so we'll start investigating that option soon. He is also in his final year of Confirmation prep at our church ... he'll make this Sacrament next fall.

Earlybird will be 13 (!) next month! He is our very sweet special-needs boy. He is autistic, developmentally delayed and, as of last year, epileptic. He is on medication to control the seizures as well as a vitamin supplement to help with the side effects of that med. We are having him re-evaluated this year to see where he's at and what more we can do for him (outside the home). He is (we are) enjoying his home education so much. At home we are able to work at his speed (which varies day by day, hour by hour!) and with his sensitivities (which also fluctuate). We build our learning activities around his interests and into real-life experiences whenver possible, as this almost always makes concepts more meaningful to him. For instance, this year we are learning American history through a multi-subject study of the railroads (he is a huge train buff, just like his Papa). Science right now is all about tunnels and earth engineering - rocks, landforms, soil. We listen to audiobooks and jump down rabbit holes to explore subjects like crickets (last month) and burrowing animals (this month). Life skils is perhaps our most important subject and that's something we work on every day, all day. I can blog more about EB's "learning adventures" at a later date if anyone is interested.

And then finally, we have our littlest man, our Little Bear ... who will be 18 months old on Thanksgiving Day! My how time has flown - it seems I was just announcing my pregnancy here at the blog. As you might know (or can guess) LB was our very happy surprise - a true gift from God who knew better than we what our family should look like. I thank Him every single day for entrusting us with one more little soul! 

Little Bear is a very active little boy these days - running and climbing and playing all day - especially with trucks! But for as active as LB is, he loves to slow down, climb up in his Mama or Daddy's lap and read books, and I am so grateful for that. Not just for the time spent sitting down (rather than running behind!) but for the fact I have another "reader" to raise on all these wonderful books we've gathered through the years! He's also my little nature boy (another particular joy for me) who loves nothing better than being outside "puttering" about - picking up sticks, rocks and leaves. He adores his big brothers and he in turn is doted on as the little prince. :)

**

Well my friends, I have kept you long enough, so I will wrap up and let you go! I didn't mean to go on so long but you know how I get when talking about my favorite subjects ...

Now, I would LOVE to hear from you, if you have a moment to say HELLO! Tell me as much or as little as you'd like ... how you found your way here, what you'd like me to blog about, prayer requests if you have them ... and I always love to hear about weather around the world! (Rainy and raw here today.) I am always eager to "greet" friends old and new here!

In the meantime, thanks so much for stopping by and taking the time to read. I hope you and yours are all doing well, and enjoying these early days of November ... 

Take care, and see you here again very soon!


My Thanksgiving Day Planner

Thanksgiving folder 1

Hello and Happy Wednesday, my friends!

I'm coming to you from Crackerjack's computer once again - good old CJ, he's very patient with his mom - but there's a light at the end of the indisposed-laptop tunnel. I.e. I might have it back soon!

What had happened you see - which I could barely stand to mention I was so distraught - was that when Bill did the backup, and then went to restore my saved "old stuff" (for lack of a more technological term) onto my brand spankin' new hard drive - only a few things actually transferred. Some documents, a few folders ... and that was it. NONE of our precious photo library seemed to have been saved ...

So as you can imagine, we were quite upset. Incredulous, frustrated  ... but mostly, just so very upset. Well, fast-forward several ideas, suggestions and keystrokes later, and - *knock on wood* *fingers crossed* - it seems we've recovered the photos and they are slowly being restored. 

*phew*

So, anyhoo - on to today's subject. I thought I'd write up a quick little post about my Thanksgiving Day Planner. I've talked about it here before - I use the same format every year - but I thought for new readers (or those readers who, like me, can talk planners incessantly, lol) I'd revisit the topic.

Now, I suppose it's mostly folks who host the actual dinner who would be in need of a Thanksgiving Day "planner." But whether you're hosting or not - and especially if you have children - there can be a lot to work into the celebration of this beloved American holiday ...

Books to read, songs to sing, foods to enjoy, crafts to make, tv shows to watch - and traditions to uphold and begin!

Bill and I are blessed with a large family as well as the honor of serving dinner each year at our home. And we always have such fun with the endeavor - but admittedly, it's a lot of work! So a planner of some sort is a must if we're going to get it all done. There are lists to make and recipes to clip and craft ideas to consider ... and time is already a-tickin! So I set up my T-Day planner just before the first of the month.

I find a file-folder format most useful for entertaining events (holidays and parties, etc.). I can staple a master time-frame/brainstorm page on the front cover and inside keep all the loose items like lists and magazine clippings ...

It's as basic as that, but it works!

On the calendar I write in when we'll do what (shop, farm pickup, bake pies, set tables, polish silver, wash wineglasses, iron linens ...). I look at my master monthly calendar first (the one in my planning binder) and see where there is time to get things done - what days we'll be home and what days I can run errands. I also jot down random "Thanksgiving" joys that come to me.

And finally, of course, I add stickers and washi tape. Just to make it all pretty.

:)

My planning lists include (in case you're interested):

Guests

Menu

Cleaning/To-Do List

Baking/Cooking Timetable

Crafts/Activities with Kids

Decorating/Table Settings

Outfits

Shopping/Errands

***

I'm keeping the folder front and center at my planning station so I can add to it/consult it each day.

Folder 4

So there you have it - a quick (ish) look at my Thanksgiving Day Planner!

Please let me know if you have any questions and as always, I'd love to hear about your Thanksgiving plans! 

In the meantime, thanks so much for stopping by, and take care ...

I'll see you here again very soon!


Counting our Blessings (2014)

Turkey 7

Many people enjoy creating and keeping a gratitude project throughout the month of November. For parents, this can be a simple but meaningful way to share the joy of a thankful heart with our children. (And a good reminder for ourselves!)

We've enjoyed gratitude projects for many years, and I always like to tweak things a bit - stretching my creative muscle and appealing to the boys on a new level. This year I thought I'd make something very kid-friendly, colorful and fun - I was looking to involve Earlybird especially as he seems to be really coming into his own this year. Leaving the sidelines and getting into the thick of things. :) So I decided to use the the kitchen wall as a base, which is a conveniently central location. No missing this spot, no sir!

I started with the red poster board hanging between our two maps - this has been the base for our sticky note classroom calendar. I made a turkey shape out of a paper plate bottom ...

Turkey 2

EB and I colored the bottom of this plate brown, orange and gold as you see ... I then used construction paper to cut out a turkey head, beak and wattle. The eyes I drew with a black Sharpie pen on plain white adhesive labels.

Next, I cut feather shapes - one for each day in November leading up to Thanksgiving (27 this year) ...

Turkey 3

(I used a library pocket to hold the feathers-in-waiting.)

Then I used several harvest-hued post-it-notes, some round, red-rimmed labels and colorful alphabet stickers to title our project: "Blessings." The purple underscore is a length of Washi tape. Have I confessed my passion for Washi tape to you all? :)

Turkey 8

 So here's how it looked on November 1st ...

Turkey 4

And here's how it will look eventually ...

Turkey 1

Except the feathers will all be filled out with our blessings ...

Turkey 6

No blessing is too small or silly ... we write them all down!

:)

So far so good! It's fun to add our daily feather - a really nice way to get the boys thinking about the good things that happened/they noticed. And I love all that color in my kitchen! In fact, I'm thinking this might be a great spot for our Advent calendar at the end of the month ... I'll have to give that project some thought!

Tomorrow I will show you my Thanksgiving Planning Folder ... a place to keep all my lists and clippings for the holiday!

***

Thanks so much for stopping by today ... hoping your Tuesday's been a good one! See you here again very soon ...


Remembrance

On this All Souls' Day, a cold and snowy Sunday ...

All Souls 2

I set up a small remembrance altar in the kitchen window ...

All Souls 1

Some pretty purple mums, a few tiny tea lights - and a picture of Bill and I with our beloved grandparents. All beautiful souls, all dearly missed ...

Praying for them today - and for all those we love who have passed.

***

Wishing you all a pleasant evening ... thanks so much for stopping by!


Happy Saints' Day! (and Hello!)

Hello, my friends, hello! I hope you are all doing well!

It's been a very long time hasn't it? Weeks now ... my goodness. And I apologize for being away so long ... I do wish I could tell you all is well with my computer but sadly - frustratingly, maddeningly - it is not. Still a work-in-progress, I'm afraid ... so I am currently hijacking Crackerjack's computer so I can write up this post!

While I'm here, I thought I would share a few photos from our weekend, beginning with some Halloween pictures. What a fun evening it was - I hope yours too was happy and safe!

:)

Here is our Little Bear - aka Tom Brady of the New England Patriots - all of 17 months and looking like quite the little man on his 2nd Halloween!

O Tom Brady

And here's our pumpkin this year - designed by Crackerjack and carved by Yours Truly.

Halloween 2

The treats table all arranged in the foyer ...

Halloween 5

This is a bit blurry - Bill was trying to catch the pretty sunset in the background, as well as the boys and me in my (good) witch's hat. :)

Halloween 3

The evening was cool but not cold, and cloudy with just a hint of milky sun. As night descended, things got rather spooky!

Halloween 7

Little Bear was fascinated by the pumpkin lights lining our front walk ...

Halloween 8

***

So another All Hallows' Eve come and gone ... and this morning brought us a new month. And a day all dark, wet and dreary as November is known to be - Rabbit, rabbit! But as lousy as it gets outside, it is always cozy and warm inside. In honor of today's feast (All Saints') and tomorrow's feast (All Souls') I baked an autumn cake ...

All Saints Cake

The boys were rather pleased.

:)

Also, before I go, here's a quick peek at our gratitude project this year ...

Gratitude project 1

I will post more about that as soon as I can!

Hope this "note" finds you all well ... take care of yourselves and your loved ones ... and see you here again sometime soon!