Previous month:
November 2014
Next month:
January 2015

December 2014

Making My 2015 Planner ...

Well, it's going about as slow as molasses ...

New planner 5

But I sure am having fun!

New planner 4

These are pictures from my planner-making session yesterday ... such as it was, lol! I was crouched at the foot of my bed, my baby snoozing soundly above me, settled in cozily amongst the laundry I should have been folding. There was a hope chest for my desk, a floor for my, ahem, seat and a (clean) diaper as my coaster. (Note the tea mug, please - it's part of a new set of dishes my folks gave me for Christmas! More on that later ...)

New planner 6

We do what we have to, don't we Mamas? :) Not perhaps "ideal" working conditions, but I got about two hours' worth of creating done!

New planner 2 

I enjoyed my tea, the sounds of soft snores and an abundance of natural light as the winter afternoon waned ...

But I ended up moving my work to the floor because my knees were killing me!

New planner 9 

Below are the master sheets for the weekly spread ...

New planner 1

I'm under a deadline, folks - trying to get it all drawn, assembled and bound by New Year's Day! (I love a deadline don't you?) It's a fairly humble work of art heart, but I'm rather fond of it already. And I'll be showing you what it all looks like once I finish ... so do check back again in a few days!

Enjoy your Tuesday, my friends! See you here again very soon ...


Merry Christmas, One and All!

Our xmas card display

Wishing everyone "here," a most joyous Christmas season! I hope you all had a lovely week ... it all went by so fast I can hardly believe it! (And I say that every year, lol.) I have some pictures to share from our family's celebrations, and I will hopefully get a post up soon ... but I had to pop in quickly this morning to say:

Hello, and Happy Christmas! 

Wishing you all Peace & Joy in the New Year!

(See you here again very soon.)

**


Advent Tea Journal ~ Lighting Our Candle

Advent tea light 1

Good Tuesday evening, my friends ... I hope your week's going well! Thank you for joining me for another (our last!) Advent Tea. Today's topic is "light."

For at this time of year the nights are long and dark ... and the days are short and gray. By 4 p.m. the sun has set, and our homes are engulfed in the dim aura of a winter's evening. Weeks pass and it seems we hardly see the sun ...

Many people dislike the darkness of the season, and I can understand that - I think as humans we are "wired" to desire the sun - but I myself really enjoy the contrast of dark and light. Maybe it's because I'm usually at home (where it's warm and relatively calm) and I can relish the soft lamplight, the candles in the window, and our lovely Christmas tree. Or the post down by the driveway, wrapped in a string of lights ... the copper snowflakes lining the kitchen shelves, small votives tucked inside cabinets ... a reminder that when we find ourselves in darkness we can always make our own light. And with just a little effort we can spread it to those who need it as much as, if not more than, we do.

But then, I also love sunlight. In fact, I adore it. If you look back over my blog you'll see many if not most of my photos are taken in natural light and often my subjects (the living and non) are basking in the rays of the sun. I love light, in both forms - "real" and "manmade" - and this is perhaps why my blog is named as it is. That line from Browning's poem has always resonated with me ...

"I love thee to the level of everyday's most quiet need, by sun and candlelight."

My love for my family knows no set time or date. It is for always and ever ... for big and for little ... in darkness and day. I strive to be a light for my loved ones and serve them as God compells me to do.

What is it that lights up your life? What stirs a fire inside you? And (or) ... how do we bring light into our life at this dark time of year?

☀️

These are the things I am mulling over as the New Year draws near.

It's no secret my life revolves around my family. My faith is deeply important to me, as is my love of nature and home. I have been working on a personal weekly guidebook entitled, Living the Seasons ~ at Home, in Nature, with Faith. A kind of planner/journal. This a huge undertaking for me, one that I hope leads to that book I've always longed to write. (One that I will ultimately share with all of you.) I have always had a fire inside me to write ... since childhood it has been my fondest hobby.

I feel I am finally at a place where I'm able to write this much-imagined book. Even if my time is not always my own, I have become creative about carving it out where I can. My family is so good about helping me out in that way. And these days I am deeply immersed in motherhood - I have children ranging in age from 19 years to 19 months! On top of that, I am a special needs parent, and I know what it means to be grateful for the small things. I thank God for those small things because they sustain me when I grapple with the Big Things. And I do - grapple - just like anyone else. And I am growing in my faith everyday ... opening myself up to God and where He is bringing me. What He is asking of me.

I am also taking the time to think about myself ... what do I need in order to maintain balance? I give all I can to my family, but I must remember to take some time for myself. What do I need to be at the top of my game? Good health, surely, in order to be there - here - for my loved ones as long as they need me. Energy and strength ... and bright spirits. :)

As for physical light - as I described above, I like to set up lights through the house during the late autumn and winter. Soft and warm, cheerful, welcoming light ... while we wait for the return of the sun. And last Sunday evening, as Winter arrived, the sun began to grow in strength once again. I love how this ties into our sacred time of year ... with the birth of Christ,  our world grows bright once again.

Here is the Solstice cake I made ...

Solstice 3

And our traditional Solstice supper, a rustic cottage pie, topped with butter and thyme ...

Solstice 6

As well as some wassail to toast the new season!

Solstice 4

(Simply organic apple juice with floating apple slices!)

Solstice 5

Welcome back, oh wonderful warm sun!

~ My Tea Journal ~

In the natural world ...

Rainy and cool, but not cold. It will be a green Christmas here, and unseasonably mild (like, over 60 degrees mild). Oh well, there's always next year! And I'm sure snow will be coming our way before long.

What I'm drinking/eating ...

Today I'm taking tea in my favorite mug - I've shown you it before, I'm sure. I love it's shape and feel, the soft green and the festive stars. It holds coffee and tea equally well. This week I'm enjoying some "Holiday Tea" (Harney & Son's) and a delicious molasses-clove cookie - which I may or may not have snuck out of a holiday package that arrived today ... ;)

I took my tea out in the sunroom today because it was where I could grab a quiet moment. I watched the birds flocking to the feeders (they know a storm's coming!) and admired the soft lights all around me. :)

What I'm reading ...

No time to read this week, other than Christmas cards of course! I'm listening to carols on the radio, though, and tonight I'll be watching this as I wrap. One of my all-time favorite movies (with a wonderful Christmas scene).

What I'm working on ...

Well, it's all about last minute preparations of course! Baking mince tarts and readying the house for our family gatherings. Wrapping, wrapping, wrapping ... and once we're on the other side, I'll return my attention to the aforementioned planner. I hope to have it ready to bind next week. (Certainly by Thursday!)

Words to inspire ...

"There are two ways of spreading light; to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it."

~ Edith Wharton 

**

And now to hear about light in the lives of two lovely friends ... Mary and Tammie. These are wonderful reflections, so please read on and enjoy. :)

From Mary ...

"This past weekend we were in Dallas to see the ice show at the Gaylord Hotel. One of the pictures below is Mary and Joseph and baby Jesus all carved in ice. It is huge! Just magnificent and all lit up … It definitely brings light into my life in more ways than one. Also, it is my Husband and my Son who bring light into my life every day. They both really light up my life … Always smiling, always there to support me and help me during the ups and downs of daily life. But through it all, they are my constant, my light … My light along the way.

While we were in Dallas, we ate at the Corner Bakery Café. It was so cute with great food. Plus I enjoyed a fancy chamomile citrus tea. The teabag was made of some type of cloth. I was so impressed! And the tea was delicious. Perfect for the cold, drizzly Dallas day. It certainly lit up my day. :-)"

Mary tea light 1

Mary tea light 2

Mary tea light 3

(Oh that tea sounds - and looks - wonderful, Mary!)

And from Tammie ...

"Light has long been one of my favorite themes to ponder. It is such a vital part of our daily lives, yet we so often take it for granted. But if we stop to think about it, light is absolutely fascinating! It provides so many interesting analogies. To me, light represents everything that is true and authentic. Think about it - if you want to get a true picture of what something is really like, you hold it up to light. And it is just our natural human tendency to be drawn to light. Deep down, I think we all desire what is true & authentic. Lights also serve to guide, comfort, welcome, and cheer anyone who is in the vicinity.
 
Above all, God is the greatest source of light in my life. My personal belief is that all truth is found in him. Through his scriptures, he gives us the light we need for each day. Psalm 119:106 says, "Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path."
 
And then God sent his son, Jesus, into the world as a light. John 1:9 says, "The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world." How appropriate it is that we celebrate the coming of Christ during the darkest days of our year! And it just seems fitting to celebrate the season with all kinds of lights. Who doesn't thrill at seeing bright colorful lights nearly everywhere we look at Christmas-time?
 
The lights of our Christmas tree shine through one of our front windows and I've placed LED candlesticks in the other windows, to give a friendly, cheery glow to our neighbors and anyone passing by. And throughout the house, I've placed LED votives in various candleholders. (I've replaced all of my wax-burning candles with flickering LED candles.)
 
I'm sharing some photos of a couple of my favorite spots of light in our home. The Welsh dresser in our dining room is holding our winter dishes, which consists of the colorful Polish pottery and my blue snowflake dishes. The yellow in the Polish pottery reminds me of warmth & light. And there is a photo of the windowsill over my kitchen sink. My daughter Caitlin (who is now 26) made the colorful Christmas tree when she was in elementary school. I love how it reflects the glow of the votives and gives me a warm, nostalgic feeling as I'm working in the kitchen!
 
 God's blessings to everyone as we get ready to celebrate this glorious time of year!"
 
Tammie tea light 1
  
Tammie tea light 2
 
Tammie tea light 3
 
(That pottery is gorgeous, Tammie!)
 
***
Thank you, dear Mary and Tammie, for sharing your thoughts on light at this time of year. It seems we share similar "lights" in our life, and an appreciation for shining light in the face of the darkness! And I love how you each found light's beauty both at home and "out in the world!"
 
 
My friends, I am so thankful for your visit, and I hope as you notice the lights around you tonight, or perhaps as you sit down for tea, you will know that I am thinking of you, and praying that the greatest of blessings will be yours in this most holy season.
 
And a very Merry Christmas, to all ... I will see you here again very soon!

About Tea Tomorrow ...

Good morning, my friends!

I just wanted to pop in quickly this morning to tell you I am moving my Tea Journal post to tomorrow, because today looks to be quite busy! (Did you all know it's just THREE days till Christmas???) Also, my tea theme this week is "light" and I look forward to talking with you all about what things LIGHT up our life. (In both the spiritual and physical sense.) As always, you are welcome to send me your thoughts and/or pictures - I'd love to include them in my post! 

(bysunandcandlelight@comcast.net)

Oh, and also, by the way ... Happy Winter!

Solstice 5

We had a lovely Solstice supper last night which I will tell you more about in my Tea post. But for now I best be off ... there's a to-do list calling my name!


Friday Felines ~ Soaking up that Sun

Archie in sun

The Winter Solstice arrives on Sunday, roundabouts 6:03 p.m. ... and with it comes the Sun! (or the return thereof!) Yes, there will be a little more sunlight each and every day until the June solstice - so soak up those rays like my Archie is doing above! They feel extra warm (even if it's just psychological) at this time of year!

Enjoy your weekend, my friends ... :)


Our Earlybird's 13th Birthday!

Paparileybday 5

It's hard to believe, but the little boy who was just four when I started this blog, is now 13 years old! Earlybird shares his birthday with my dad, and so we always celebrate these two special guys together. On Sunday we had a lovely brunch and I thought you might like to see how we celebrated this happy day.

:)

First of all, up top is the "snowy marshmallow mountain" cake I made for our two train buffs. My dad is a model railroader and Earlybird has loved trains since he was tiny. He loves them as much as - if not more than! - the planets! As most of you know, our EB is autistic, so while he may be 13 in physical age, he's developmentally much younger. So even at this milestone birthday, it's hard for me to say - "Oh my goodness, my boy is a teenager!" - because really, he's not. He'll get there someday, I know he will ... but this is not that day. And that's OK - I pray to God daily that it will be. 

You all know this is a positive place. And I don't mean to sugarcoat things, because parenting a special needs child is very hard at times. (Many of you understand that, I know.) But I mostly try to share how joyous our life is with EB ... how well he does in certain areas. We struggle with many things, though - make no mistake about that. It's easy (easier) to be home in our comfort zone, working together on simple projects - baking, crafting, playing, asking and answering, observing - and learning about life at his speed. But things like outings, restaurants, road trips, community events, church and parties - not to mention doctor's appointments and testing and meltdowns and rigidity and extreme emotional behavior is not. The list of things he (we) struggle with is long, but we take it all day by day (and sometimes hour by hour).

It's hard sometimes not to wish things were different, but what I try to focus on is that we love him, dearly, for all he is right this minute. And for all that is inside him even when he can't get it out. We try not to worry about where he's not - but we work on addressing his challenges while cherishing all of his strengths.

Ok, enough of the heavy - on to the pictures!

Paparileybday 15

 Getting ready to make wishes! As you can see, EB is a bit apprehensive. He does not like the "Happy Birthday" song (we have to promise not to sing) and only recenly became comfortable with the candles.

Paparileybday 6

Here I am with my dad, who is so important to me - to all of us. He jokes that it's no longer his birthday - that he's given it to Earlybird, but I am so grateful to celebrate both of them together. Every year is a blessing.

Paparileybday 2

My brother making funny faces at Little Bear. (With a half-decorated tree in the background!)

Paparileybday 1

Three of my best guys - Crackerjack, Little Bear and Bill. Bookworm is in his finals week at BC -  we'll have him home for break later this week! (There may have to be another cake ...)

Paparileybday 3

The boys gave their Papa a "Papa Bear" mug for his coffee. So cute! :)

Paparileybday9

And for Earlybird - some dvd's, a book, a Monster Truck, a terrarium kit and this jacket - a gift from my folks and us. He can't stand wearing zippers so we're always on the lookout for a "button-up" (or snap-front) coat. This one will do nicely - thank you, LL Bean!

Having family support makes such a huge difference - not just in the life of a special needs person, but to his immediate family as well. We are so grateful for our support system, and that we never feel alone on our path. This was a lovely day, a memory to treasure - certainly not perfect, but really and truly good.

And remember yesterday's post? I count it all joy.

:)

Enjoy your Tuesday, my friends - thanks so much for stopping by!


Advent Tea Journal ~ Finding Joy in our Midst

(Or mess, as the case may be.)

Advent tea joy 20

"Joy is what happens to us when we allow ourselves to recognize how good things really are."

~ Marianne Williamson

My friends, this day did not go as planned, and the "vision" I had for this post went seriously awry ... but what I ended up with was not only very real, but as I look back at my day, truly filled with joy. The kind of joy I am talking about here ... as is Ms. Williamson above ... is when things are really good. They are not always pretty or neat or well-rested - but they are always good. And there is always joy.

So today, as we take tea together - however we manage it, if we manage it - we are talking about Christmas joy. This is, without a doubt, the most joyous time of the year and there are as many reasons why, as there are people on the planet, but here are a few photos of my holiday joy, and my tea journal below, with some lovely input from a few readers and then ... drumroll please ... the winners of my book giveaways!

Where do I find joy in the holiday season?

Advent tea joy 18

They say scent is the strongest sense when it comes to remembering. Well, I love both peppermint and vanilla, and to me, that is the smell of Christmas joy. Goodness knows I'm here at this sink a lot during the holidays (all the days!) so I take particular joy in the scent of these suds. (I also love the scents of clove, orange and evergreen. Those are also distinctly "Christmas" to me.)

*

When baking with my kids - even when it's chaotic and there's perhaps some yelling - there is such joy in creating for those we love ... with those we love.

Advent tea joy 6

Please excuse the mess - the one behind me and the one on my head, lol. Earlybird and I are working on fruitcakes here ...

Advent tea joy 7

And then there was supposed to be tea, after the baking, before the crafting, and during the baby's nap, but ...

Advent tea joy 11

Well, a clean kitchen was not to be part of today's joy. (And I do take great joy in a clean kitchen!) But to be perfectly honest, my kitchen still looks like this as I type up this post (without the running water, of course) and once again the baby didn't nap.

So ... THIS had to wait:

Advent tea joy 4

;)

Another year-long joy that seems especially rewarding at Christmas is crafting with my boys ...

Advent tea joy 2

Advent tea joy 10

No crafting happened today, though. These are the star-boys I began on St. Lucy's Day - very much a work in progress.

And there's much joy in receiving and sending Christmas cards each year ...

Advent tea joy 12

I love to post those wonderful faces where we can see them all season long. I love to talk about each family as we open and read each card. I love to pray for family and friends as I write out our own cards to them ...

There is SUCH joy in those connections.

And with the fruitcake finally in the oven, and the warm milk spiced with eggnog, I was ready to sit down and relax, and begin my post ...

But see, there was this little guy, and tea was not on his agenda.

Advent tea joy 13

A bottle of milk in his mama's arms was, though.

Advent tea joy 21

 And a good book or two ... and some toys ...

Advent tea joy 22

But then, hey ...

Advent tea joy 16

 Hmmm.

Advent tea joy 23

Slurp.

:)

So you know, if you had come to my house for tea today ... it would have been cold (because the heat's not working), and there would have been messes all over ... as well as one sick kid and one kid who wouldn't turn down the tv ... and a baby running a bit wild ... but.

There would have been joy. I guarantee it. 

:)

My Advent Tea Journal

In the natural world ...

It's a mild (40s) and mostly dry week for us here in New England. Which is fine by me. For now. I'd love to see some snow next week!

What I'm drinking ...

I saw this spiced eggnog mix in the Williams-Sonoma catalog a few weeks back and it intrigued me. I'm a big warm-milky-drinks fan, so I decided to give it a try and oh, I'm so glad I did! It is delicious ... comforting and custard-y tasting. You can have it cold or warm as I did (with whole milk) or you could add a spoonful to your coffee. My pretty mug is one of a set of six, a gift from my parents a few years ago. Also, coincidentally, from Williams-Sonoma.

What I'm reading ...

Lots and lots of children's Christmas books and lovely December issues of my favorite magazines.

What I'm working on ...

I can't wait to show you all this ... I am putting together a hand-drawn weekly home + seasons planner for myself for 2015! It is definitely a labor of love, but I'm enjoying all the line-drawing and calendar-checking. It's all quite involved, so I will have to do a separate post about it soon. Here are some of the materials so far:

Advent tea joy 19

Words to inspire joy ...

Please see the very top of my post. :)

*

And now to hear from Denise and Mary, two dear readers and friends, about their tea and seasonal joy this week. I love to hear from you all, honestly. I feel like I yabber on so much here and tell you all - well, probably more than you want to know, lol - so when I read about your thoughts and families and teatimes and faith ... I am so humbled and grateful.

Please read on ...

From Denise ...

Dawn, thank you for hosting this lovely tea theme! I enjoy reading
all the entries, and virtually visiting others' homes! This morning I am having tea by the Christmas tree. (This is my snow tree. The only tree I put up this year, due to not being home enough!) Such a lovely sight with all the lights, which seems to be my Advent theme.

 I normally have early morning tea, by myself, in communion with my Heavenly Father. Such a peaceful, restoring time, to sit, have something hot to sip, and to open His Word. Tea time with the Grands, well, now, that is a whole other story! I don't have a steady place to enjoy a cuppa & communion. It varies with the season and my mood. The actual cup is one my Mom & I found at a flea market. That's where all my tea cup and saucers have been purchased from. Over the years, having tea with my grands, some have been broken, so I have to replace them. ~smile~

This morning I am having Constant Comment, decaf. However, it has a taste of coffee (which I do not drink) in it, because I forgot to run a cup out of the Keurig (which was a Christmas gift to my dear husband). I have to admit, the last year or so has been hard. We have been dealing with a lot of family issues. So, I find myself this year, in the same place I was last year: Intentionally looking for JOY in this Holy Day Season.

As I discovered last year, even when our world is not right, we can STILL find JOY.  (Joy ¡V a passion for expectation of good!) This year I am finding JOY in the re-telling of the Christ story of old with my grandchildren (whom I help homeschool.) I am finding JOY in spending time homeschooling! I am finding JOY in spending time with family members. I am finding JOY in ministering to my mother. I am finding JOY in ministering to those I meet on the street, yes, even just with a smile. I am finding JOY in calling the young mom who needs encouragement to share a Scripture and a prayer with her. I am finding JOY in spending time with a youth group who are on a quest to find the LORD. I am finding JOY in spending time with dear friends whose wife half of the couple has dementia. I am finding JOY in coming home, just to be with my husband. I am finding much JOY in my early morning time with the LORD!

 The key for me has been to be intentional in finding, looking for,
seeking JOY, that passion that leads to expecting good to come!!! I
have found much JOY in the following Scripture:

JOY in that HE is our salvation! (Is. 61:10, Ps. 35:9, Ps. 21:1)
JOY in that regardless of what is happening in my life today, in
HIS presence, there is fullness of JOY!  (Ps. 16:11)
JOY in that one day there will be everlasting JOY, and sorrow &
mourning will flee away! (Is. 51:10)
JOY in that He is my strength!  (Neh. 8:10)
JOY in that HE defends me!  (Ps. 5:11)
    Let all those that put their trust in You rejoice, let them ever
shout for JOY, because You defend them, let them also that love Your name be joyful in You.
JOY in that HE promises JOY in the morning 
For His anger endures but a moment, in His favor is life; weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning. (Ps. 30:5)

 JOY in that HE restores JOY! Restore unto me the joy of Thy salvation. (Ps. 51:12)

JOY for me, can be summed up in the following Scripture:  

Fear not, for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which will be to all people. (Luke 2:10)

God had good tidings of GREAT JOY to deliver to ALL people!  His name is
JESUS!!

Denise's joy tea

*

From Mary ...

What we are drinking...

We've expanded our repertoire to included some teas by Twinnings. I am usually not a huge fan of Earl Grey but I absolutely love this one. The Lady Grey (Love the name!) is also delicious...sort of a milder version of the Earl Grey.

And also ... I found some organic green tea on sale at Whole Foods and decided to give it a try. I was very pleased. It's quite smooth and mild. Very nice.

And finally, we are still enjoying our Celestial Seasonings Peppermint Tea ... it's a winner! Also, we're branching out and trying a Celestial Seasonings variety pack. The Sleepy Time is lovely and perfect for right before bed! ;-)

Have a lovely evening ...

Mary's joy tea 1

I am so grateful to both Denise and Mary for sharing their thoughts and photos this week ... and a bit of themselves, as well. I am so glad to know you both and look forward to more weeks of tea together!

And my goodness, I've made you all wait to the very end of my (typically) long post, but I am happy to announce the winners of my book giveaways!

So without further ado ...

Nori Coleman has won A Miracle for St. Cecilia's,

and ...

JeNae has won The Christmas Shoes/Christmas Blessing duo!

Nori and JeNae - congratulations! I will be in touch soon to arrange mailing details. I hope you both enjoy these books (I know you will!).

And now I will wrap up at long last and thank you all for reading today. I hope your week is off to a good start, and that your evening is restful for you. Until we "speak" again ... take care of yourselves and your loved ones ... see you here again very soon!


Some Fun Friday Giveaways!

Giveaway books 1

Happy Friday, my friends!

I'm so excited to share a couple of book giveaways today! All the details are below, but before I get to that, I also want to mention that Monday's Advent Tea Journal topic will be: JOY. How do we infuse our family's holiday season with a simple, sustainable joy?

(I bet you saw that coming, didn't you?)

;)

Now, about those books!

They are pictured above, and I'm offering them as two separate giveaways - A Miracle for St. Cecilia's is one, and The Christmas Shoes/The Christmas Blessing is another.

I enjoyed these books very much  - especially, A Miracle for St. Cecilia's, which is the first in a wonderful series of books about a small Catholic parish in Vermont - but since I find myself with extra copies, I'd like to pass them along for someone else to enjoy. If you would like to enter the giveaway contest for these books, please answer this question in the comments box below:

What holiday joy do you look forward to most?

 Baking cookies or cutting down the tree or lighting candles or visiting the creche? I'd love to hear your thoughts, and will include them in Monday's Joy Tea post. Feel free to leave me an answer of any length - a few words or a few paragraphs, either is fine! I will choose the two winners randomly on Monday afternoon.

And I will announce the winners in my Tea post Monday evening!

(Please feel free to comment even if you're not interested in the books, and also, if you have a preference of one book (or books) over the other, please specify which option.)

Also, for my tea-drinking friends, if you would like to send me pictures for my post, I would love it! I'd love to see what your tea looks like, and hear about what you're drinking (or eating) these days! Please send those pics and/or comments to me at ...

bysunandcandlelight@comcast.net

Thanks so much, everyone ... and have a good weekend! I'll be busy with family things - especially Earlybird's birthday! - but I will see you back here on Monday for sure!


More Advent Fun: "The Snowman"

Snowman 3

Yesterday's Christmas vocabulary word was: snowman.

And so ... I planned to watch The Snowman with the boys, which is an animated version of an absolutely wonderful storybook by Raymond Briggs. I have loved this short movie for many years - I adore the soft animation, the dreamy music and the simple, sweet story. If you're unfamiliar with the plot, well, in a nutshell - a young boy (in what appears to be the English countryside) awakens to a snowy day and so, of course, rushes outside to build a snowman. And then, overnight (this is Christmas), the snowman comes to life and befriends the boy - taking him on a scenic journey to the north pole.

Magic.

I can watch it again and again - or just listen to it! - and all my boys have been riveted by it through the years. EB gets a little nervous sometimes so we have to skip forwards here and there ... and we also have to talk a bit about some of the boy's riskier behavior! (Leaving the house without his parent's permission, plugging in the tree lights, getting in a freezer, turning the key on his Dad's motorcycle, for instance!) Little Bear loved the motorcycle ride through the woods especially, and all the woodland animals that dashed out of the way.

Once the video had ended, we talked about how it's hard to say goodbye to someone we love. But then - when someone is gone from our life, can they still be with us in a way? I asked Earlybird: Why did the little boy feel sad in the morning? (The snowman had melted.) How could he remember the snowman when he was missing him? (Draw pictures, tell stories about him, build him again, believe he'll be with him again someday ...)

After the movie we set to work on a simple snowglobe craft. (Another Pinterest idea!)

Snowman 4

All we needed were a few pieces of construction paper, some white paint, colored Sharpies and a few cute thumbs. 

Check, check, check and double check!

Now, you'll notice there are no pictures of the baby making his thumbprint snowman ... and that's because it was very much a four-hand project (his and mine). As you can probably imagine, I held his hand and assisted him with the thumbprint making. (Keeping the paint on the paper and out of his mouth!) There are also no pictures of Earlybird making a snowman -and that's because he just flat out refused to do it, lol. Oh well, it happens that way sometimes ...

But here's how LB's craft looked (once I "finished" it up for him) ...

Snowman 2

Cute, right?

And then, while the baby napped, I had time to make some simple snowball cookies. These are a variation of the lemon snowballs I've made (and blogged about) for years - but in keeping with the snowman story, I used clementine zest and juice to flavor the dough ...

Snowman 5

I just dusted them with confectioner's sugar but they'd be such fun glazed with an orange-tinted icing (powdered sugar + milk + food dye) to look just like The Snowman's tangerine nose!

(Are oranges generally used for snowmen noses in Europe? As opposed to carrots which are the norm in the US? Just curious!)

Snowman 1

 Ah, a hot mug of tea and a tiny bite of cookie - enjoyed in a warm kitchen while the rain pelts the windows and the baby sleeps upstairs ...

* advent ❤ peace *

Well my friends, thanks for once again joining me for a little crafty fun. I hope you all had a nice Thursday! Enjoy your evening and I will see you here again very soon ...


Advent Activities: Think, Do, Read

Advent calendar 23

Well my friends ... here, at last, is my Advent activity outline! Below I have listed each date in Advent, the sticker (vocab word) I've chosen for that day, and the activity ideas I have noted in my plans.

As we are a Catholic family, many activities tie into our liturgical calendar and family faith traditions. There's also a good bit of baking and nature study, some simple conversation as well as several crafts. There are not too many outings, as we tend to stick close to home at this time of year. And it goes without saying there will be days when only a fraction of my "plans" are put into action. I try to respect energy, interest levels and moods (theirs and mine) as much as possible.

(Note: The books listed are ones we own as well as some I have on request from our local library. With the exception of the book for 12/23, which I purchased new for our collection ... because I couldn't resist!)

November 30th: evergreens

Today is the 1st day of Advent and a new Church year begins! We'll gather evergreens in the afternoon to place next to our Advent candles. Why are they called evergreens? (everlasting life) Light the first purple candle tonight.

Read: The Littlest Evergreen

December 1st: cookies

Happy December! "Rabbit, Rabbit!" Today we'll bake some cookies and talk about our favorite kinds at Christmas. (Who could we surprise with cookies who might not expect it? Let's make a plan.)

Read: The Gift of the Christmas Cookie

December 2nd: nuts and spices

Today we'll check our stock of baking supplies, especially spices. How do they smell? What makes spices so special? Why did the Magi bring spices as gifts for the Baby Jesus? We'll place our wise men dolls at the start of their journey (in a far corner of the house).

Read: We Three Kings

December 3rd: presents

Today we'll write (and decorate) a letter to Santa and then compose a list of gifts to give to our loved ones this year. What would make people happy and feel loved? (Stress actions and gestures over material gifts.) Also, we'll watch the lighting of the Rockefeller Christmas Tree on tv tonight!

Read: The Carpenter's Gift: A Christmas Tale about the Rockefeller Center Tree

December 4th: winter birds

Today is the Feast of St. Barbara! We'll say a special prayer for Grandma Barbara and later on we'll snip a forsythia branch to place in water. (Might it bloom by Christmas eve?) While we're outside, we'll check the state of our birdfeeders and feed our hungry bird friends. 

Read: Merry Christmas, Merry Crow 

December 5th: ornament

Today we'll bring our Christmas ornaments down from the attic and take a look through the boxes. We'll talk about family favorites and the stories behind special ornaments. We'll make some homemade ornaments together in the afternoon.

Read: The Spider's Gift: A Ukranian Christmas Story

December 6th: St. Nicholas

Today is the Feast of St. Nicholas, EB's patron saint! We'll watch St. Nicholas: A Story of Joyful Giving (Veggie Tales) with a snack of popcorn and hot cocoa (there might be a bishop's staff/candy cane stirrer in our mugs!). We'll clean the corner for the Christmas tree and at nightfall look for the Full Cold Moon in the dark, cold sky ...

Read: The Baker's Dozen: A St. Nicholas Tale

December 7th: Christmas tree 

Today is the 2nd Sunday of Advent and tonight we light our second purple candle. Where did the custom of Christmas trees come from? We'll read "The Song of the Christmas Tree Fairy," by Cicely Mary Barker. After Mass we'll head to the woods and cut down our Christmas tree! (Can we identify what kind of evergreen it is? Bring a field guide to the farm ...)

Read: The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree

December 8th: dove 

Today is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception! We'll set up our children's nativity and arrange star candles and flowers around our Mary statue. How can we be more peaceful - at home and in the world? Let's brainstorm some ideas and write them in a peace & prayer journal. 

Read: Can You Say Peace?

December 9th: bell

Today we will listen for the afternoon bells at church, and make some bells of our own at home! We'll listen to Mama's favorite carol, "The Carol of the Bells," which is based on a Ukranian folk chant. We will also read: "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day," a poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

Read: Jingle Bells

December 10th: snowman

Today we'll make thumbprint snowglobes and once we're done, we'll watch The Snowman on dvd. After Little Bear's nap, we'll have some warm milk with honey and almond and Mama's tangerine snowball cookies. We'll also read The Snowman aloud to LB. (And naturally, if we have snow, we'll build our own snowman!)

Read: The Snowman

December 11th: pinecone

Today we'll make pinecone seed ornaments for our bird tree, as well as some silver (glitter) pinecones to give as gifts. We'll attach tags that describe "The Legend of the Silver Pinecone." After dark we'll walk out to the bird tree and there will be a surprise ... colorful lights!

Read: Night Tree

December 12th: poinsettia

Today is the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe! We'll visit a local nursery to see all the poinsettias - the greenhouse, with its steamy warmth, will be a nice break from the chill December air. While we're there, we'll buy some amaryllis/paperwhite bulbs to prepare as gifts. At home, while Mama works on a poinsettia ornament, we'll watch Frosty the Snowman (note the scene when he gets stuck in the greenhouse!). For snack, we'll have cinnamon-sugar tortilla stars and "sangria" (fruit punch with chunky winter fruits).

Read: The Legend of the Poinsettia

December 13th: orange 

Today is the Feast of St. Lucia! For breakfast we'll have orange-cranberry muffins (lit by beeswax candles!) and spicy Swedish "glogg" (non-alcoholic version). Later on we'll slice oranges and hang them to dry in the kitchen window - they'll smell so good! We'll also say a prayer for big brother Bookworm who starts his final exams today!

An Orange for Frankie

December 14th: gingerbread

Today is the 3rd Sunday in Advent, and today we celebrate one of our greatest joys - our Earlybird himself! It's his 13th birthday!!! Earlybird (and his Papa, with whom he shares his birthday) will be honored at a special lunch with all his favorite foods and a delicious gingerbread cake! Tonight we light the pink candle.

Read: The Gingerbread Pirates

December 15th: fruitcake

Today we'll bake mini "fruitcake" breads for our neighbors. We'll be using the delicious fruits and nuts we ordered from King Arthur Flour. Once the breads are cool we'll wrap them well and store them somewhere cold. Then we'll make tags for the breads (which will be delivered on Christmas eve).

Read: The Polar Express

December 16th: reindeer

Today we'll watch Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer and talk about what made him special and how it's ok to be different! How that which makes us different can also make us shine! We'll do a little research: Where do reindeer live? How do they live? Let's add some reindeer stickers to our map. Weather permitting, we'll visit our local farm to feed their beautiful reindeer.

Read: The Wild Christmas Reindeer

December 17th: stockings

Today we'll hang our Christmas stockings along the mantel and make a donation to a local toy drive. These will be items we've been adding to a bag all month. We'll talk about why it's important to help those who have less than we do, and sometimes that is in material form and sometimes it's through our time and actions. Let's brainstorm ways we as a family can help others in the new year.

Read: The Legend of the Christmas Stocking

December 18th: mint

Today we are going to bake all-natural candy-cane cookies and enjoy them with homemade hot peppermint cocoa. We will also have some homemade play-dough to shape and bake into letters. (upside down candy cane = j for Jesus) Before bed we will enjoy a minty herbal foot bath.

Read: The Legend of the Candy Cane

December 19th: candle

Today we'll roll beeswax candles to give as gifts and enjoy our supper by candlelight. We'll discuss light - the type and amount of light at this time of year (natural world) and also, why do we call Jesus the Light of the world? And tonight, a special dinner to welcome Bookworm home for Christmas break!

Read: An Early American Christmas

December 20th: snowflake

Today is the last day of Autumn! Let's talk about how seasons change, and how the Winter season is different from the Christmas season (natural/liturgical). We'll make snowflakes to celebrate the new season (either paper ones or these depending on energy and time) and brainstorm ways to get ready for winter storms!

Read: Snowflakes Fall

December 21st: yule log

Today is the 4th Sunday in Advent! It is also the Winter Solstice (6:03 p.m.), the shortest day of the year! After Mass we'll go for a walk (weather permitting) and listen to the silence of the woods. We'll bring home a fallen branch to make a 12 Days of Christmas Log. We'll talk about why we love our cats and how we can show them our love (care, kind words, special attention). As a special treat there will be a yule log for dessert at Sunday dinner!

Read: The Christmas Cat

December 22nd: holly

Today we'll walk around our property and look for what's still green. Are there any holly and ivy plants? As we walk, we'll listen to the old English carol, "The Holly and Ivy" (on Pandora). Back inside we'll have a coloring picture to do (this will be the first entry in our new nature logs) and we'll copy "The Song of the Holly Fairy" to accompany the picture. Why is the holly plant like a crown? (pointy edges) Who is the newborn king - why/how/when does he wear a crown?

Read: The Story of Holly & Ivy

December 23rd: star

Today we'll put the star on top of the Christmas tree and make some simple star ornaments using cardboard and yarn. We'll find Bethlehem on the world map (approximately) and place a glittery star sticker above it. Let's look at the night sky and see what stars we can pick out. And before bed, a special surprise! A new Christmas book for our collection ...

Read: Song of the Stars: A Christmas Story

December 24th: heart

Very simply: What (Who) is the heart of Christmas? Let's talk about the love Jesus has for us ... the love His parents had for Him ... and how we can we show Jesus we love Him this year? (stress the idea that Jesus is in everyone we meet) As the sun goes down we will pay a visit to the outdoor creche, and inside we'll light all our Advent candles and say a special prayer (one we've composed) together. Before bed, EB will have an herbal "Christmas" bath - soothing and softly scented.

Read: Manger

25 - Holy Family

Merry Christmas! Let's have a wonderful day!

**

Now, this calendar is primarily organized with Earlybird in mind (my 12 year old autistic son who is, developmentally, much younger than his calendar age) but as you can see, many activities involve the whole family and can be adapted for children of all ages. And as I said before, this will not all flow as smoothly as described - some days will just not go as planned. And that's ok, I've come to accept this aspect of special needs parenting! Each weekend I'll prepare in advance in hopes that things will work out, and then we'll take it day by day. I'm looking to establish a hopeful mood and make warm memories - not wear anyone out (most of all me!)

I hope, overall, that my children will remember the days of Advent as time well spent together - in a peaceful spirit, with present minds - as we prepared our hearts for the coming of Christ.

Blessings to all on this late Thursday eve ... see you here again very soon!


Advent Tea Journal ~ Peace Be with Us

  Advent tea peace 15

Happy Monday, my friends! Welcome to another afternoon tea. :)

Today we begin the second week of Advent, and it is also the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, one of those lovely Marian feasts we enjoy celebrating at home in small, thoughtful ways. At this time of year, we are reminded of Mary's motherhood and her role in the life of her son, Jesus. I have four sons, and they're my whole world; together with my husband, and our home, my life revolves around them. So I often find myself in prayer, thinking of Mary, asking her to guide me in her gentle, peaceful ways. Goodness knows, I can use all the help I can get!

Now, whether we're talking about world peace or inner peace, it certainly means different things to different people. But right now I'm thinking about peace in the weeks before Christmas: how we can find it (create it?) in the midst of all the holiday bustle? Not just for ourselves, but our loved ones as well?

Here are a few of my thoughts - and I'd love to hear yours!

 * Keep the December calendar as low-key as possible. I know it's hard to say no to the myriad invitations and activities that take place throughout the holiday season, but there has to be a limit. Make room for peace in your life by setting a less-busy stage.

* Create cozy corners in your home that encourage folks to sit down a spell. Stock some lovely books on the table beside a favorite chair or couch corner (Christmas books would be perfect of course), and add a pretty coaster that will remind you to make yourself a hot cup of tea (or cocoa).

* Find yourself noticing nature. I purposefully filled our Advent calendar with "nature moments" - watching the moon rise, walking in the woods, feeding the birds, apprecating the beauty of a poinsettia. Cultivate a habit of observation - brainstorm simple activities that connect us with nature and remind us to slow down as the earth stills itself for the Winter. 

* Light up the darkness - with string lights and candles, real or electric. The days are so short and dark now, I find my home all the more peaceful when there are soft lights to welcome us, and comfort us, late in the day. This only enhances the feeling that our home is a haven from the outside world. Sitting in a quiet room illuminated only by tree lights is one of my favorite things about these short December days.

* Make time to sit quietly in thought or prayer each day - 10 minutes before the kids wake or 10 minutes after they go to bed? Try not to let your mind go right to your to-do list, but instead, keep your thoughts on spiritual matters. A quick "thank you" for the day's blessings, a simple prayer for a loved one, a fond memory, a favorite carol. (This can be done with a sleeping babe in your arms, too!)

* (But, speaking of to-do's) make your list and check it twice. A well-organized list and an internet connecton are great for keeping stress down. Because let's face it - we all have things to buy or make or do, and lots of people rely on us to make their Christmas merry. Peace is hard to cultivate when you're panicking, and if we didn't start early, then the to-do's are best addressed sooner rather than later. Nothing wrecks my Christmas spirit like last minute shopping, whereas feeling prepared gives me true peace of mind. Noble? Maybe not. But realistic.

**

Ok, here are a few peaceful moments from my day ...

Advent tea peace 10

Bill took this picture of Little Bear and me (without my knowledge!) and I just love it. This is quite early - if you can't tell by our "bed hair," lol - and we are starting our day as we usually do ... in the library, in "our" chair, with a few good books (and a cup of coffee for Mama). We're in this chair reading, many times throughout the day ... but there's something so special about that first snuggle of the day. :)

Advent tea peace 1

A little "sneak peek" at our Christmas card this year - it reads: "Peace on Earth." 

(I'll share the card in its entirety after we've mailed them all out!)

Advent tea peace 2

The absolute glee on my little boy's face when he noticed the nativity stickers I placed on the window behind our chair ...

Advent tea peace 12

Where's the baby, Little Bear?

Advent tea peace 6

Working on the Christmas mantel, here's a pretty corner: flowers and stars for the Mother of God.

Advent tea peace 8

Our Oliver, mid-scratch. :) It's impossible to see in this picture, but there's a cardinal at the feeder just beyond this window. Also, it is lightly snowing and this is what I'm looking at as I drink my tea ...  a little bit of domestic tranquility, with some serene nature thrown in.

And speaking of tranquil ...

Advent tea peace 11

Here's what else I am looking at as I enjoy my tea ... a sleeping Little Bear who opted not to stay in his crib for the entirety of his nap. He slept for a good hour here while I sipped and worked on this post.

A happy, sleeping baby = a happy, refreshed Mama.

Peace personified.

:)

~ Tea Journal

In the natural world ...

A cold day of clouds and flurries here, and a Nor'easter arriving tomorrow! High winds and heavy rain in our part of the region (if it was snow, we'd be buried!). Here's our front walkway as I stepped out to get the paper this morning:

Advent tea peace 4

What I'm drinking & eating ...

Oh my goodness!

Well.

I wanted to do something white in honor of today's feast, so I chose a London Fog Latte for my beverage. I had heard from friends that it was a simply delicious drink - and now I can happily agree - it is! Sweet and milky, with a nice citrus-y bergamot flavor. And as you can see in the picture at the top of my post, I once again used a pretty "vintage" tea cup, another from my grandmother's collection. It is called "Yuletide," and fittingly, it was made by Royal Albert of England. :)

Keeping with the "British Christmas" theme - and more stars for the Feast! - I made mini orange-mince pies for a lovely holiday treat!

Advent tea peace 13

I have always loved the look of these traditional English confections, and knew someday I would try making them! (Though admittedly, pastry intimidates me.) Well, my dear friend Shirley Ann inspired me to give them a try this week, after she shared a picture of her own on Facebook! I made these up Sunday afternoon while the baby slept - very easy to do - and goodness, did the house smell like Christmas!

And I must tell you - they are so very, very yummy. A tender crust with orange flavor and a spicy-sweet filling ... gah, so good. Bill had one on his way out this morning and he absolutely loved it! And this is a man who had never before tried mincemeat because "it frightened him" lol. I will definitely be making a large batch of these for Christmas day ... I wonder if I can freeze them ahead?

What I'm reading ...

Advent tea peace 7

I've just started reading back through my annual domestic journal pages, which are kept in this gigantic binder. (Only the current month is kept in my primary binder.) Also, lots of board books. (A post on LB's favorites to come soon!)

What I'm working on ...

Well, the big thing this week is setting up the tree ... we just brought it home yesterday. Also, still packing away all the fall decorations and finding all the Christmas books. Then there's lunch for Earlybird and Dad on Sunday ... and oh, getting the Christmas cards mailed out! 

 Words to ponder ...

Peace:

It does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble, or hard work. It means to be in the midst of all those things and still be calm in your heart.

~ Anonymous

I love this quote so much - I have the magnet, I have the mug! - it's kind of my personal mantra. And, it's a skill I'm working on all the time - because as nice as it is to slow down and "make room" for peace - life just doesn't always work that way. My life as a mum - a special needs mum, especially - is filled with all the things mentioned above. But I know how I want to be. I want to be a source of peace for my children, their beacon in any sea. It's important, especially as a mother, to carry peace with me, and keep it with me for when I - we - need it most.

(I plan to revisit the theme of peace next month. I'd love to hear your ideas on the subject.)

**

And now, my friends, I'm finally going to stop talking, lol. This really was a rather long journal entry! But I'm so pleased to share my dear friend Mary's contribution to our Advent Tea Journal this week. Here are her thoughts on keeping peace in the season ...


What a lovely theme for a tea - Peace - especially since slowing down to make and drink tea can definitely bring peace into one’s life during the hustle and bustle that leads up to the Christmas season.

As a family, things that help us to find peace during this season is the simple process of eating a family supper together at night and starting by saying grace before we eat. We do this all year long but during this season, in particular, our family meal continues to serve as a wonderful anchor to slow us down, light the advent candle, and talk with one and other remembering to focus on all that we are grateful for.

We also enjoy walking around different “trails of lights” hosted by different towns around the Texas Hill Country. (We avoid the Austin Trail of Lights because it is a zoo - and definitely doesn’t bring peace to our lives!) The cool nights, the lights, and sipping hot chocolates as we all walk together as a family is always so peaceful.  

And this may sound funny - but we also enjoy walking around an open air shopping mall looking at the lights - and watching the other people hustle and bustle to shop. Instead, we walk slow, look at the lights, and chat. It’s funny how peaceful it is for us. At Christmas we exchange very few gifts freeing us of the need to rush and shop. It is so liberating - and brings peace to our lives. 

Here is a picture of me with our teenage son, walking around a festive open air shopping mall.

Mary tea peace 1 

On our Tea menu...we are continuing to enjoy Celestial Season's Peppermint tea and also some decadently rich double chocolate hot chocolate. And for a real treat - we twirl both with a candy cane!

Mary's tea peace 2

 Thank you so much, Mary, for this wonderful reflection on how you bring peace to your family at this time of year. I love the picture of you with your son - those smiles are beautiful! Family togetherness is a gift he will remember all his life!

**

Thank you, all, for joining me here today. If you are so inclined, please leave a comment below with your thoughts on finding peace in the hoilday season. Also, what are you drinking for "tea" this week? Baking anything special?

Hope to hear from you, but until next time, take care of yourselves and your loved ones ... I'll see you here again very soon!


Our Advent Calendar this Year (2014)

Advent calendar 15

Happy Tuesday, my friends! I hope your week's going well ... :)

Today I'd like to share our Advent calendar with you all. In keeping with my hopes for the season, I tried to keep this project simple and use mostly what I had on hand. Not that I don't love me a craft store trip, but I haven't been able to get over there in a while, so I worked with what I found in various old craft bins (that have yet to be organized since the move!).

Anyhoo ... I decided to use the posterboard in the kitchen where the Blessed Turkey sat last month. I ordered adhesive library pockets online and, as neatly as I could, arranged 25 of them on the front of the posterboard ...

Advent calendar 3

The envelopes needed some decoration, so I scattered paper-punched snowflakes across them (applied with a glue stick). (Stamping would have been nice here.) I also trimmed the edges of the board with some seasonal washi tape. 

Advent calendar 4

So far so good!

Earlier last month, I ordered a book of 400 reusable Christmas stickers. It's filled with all kinds of very life-like, photgraphed images. Realistic pictures work best for EB.

Advent calendar 5 

I went through the book and chose 25 stickers to use as Christmas vocabulary. Then I rifled through my index card stash and pulled out 25 cards: 21 white + 3 purple + 1 pink. After trimming about an inch off one end (so it would better fit inside the library pocket), I wrote the date at the top of each card in green pen. (Holding the card vertically.) Each card has a sticker with a vocabulary word describing what it is. 

Advent calendar 7

And then on the back of the card there is a note about the date and a simple seasonal activity we'll do that day.

Advent calendar 8

Here they are all laid out ...

Advent calendar 17

Now, though I have all the dates organized in my planner, I am writing the cards out each night before bed. This buys me some time and discretion. For one thing, EB is quite likely to pull out a card in advance - thereby ruining the surprise! - but also, I need to gauge mood/energy and weather on a day-to-day basis before committing to an activity. (Such is life with a special needs kid!)

So here's how it all shaped up ...

Advent calendar 9

Hope 3

 (Sorry the pictures are all kind of dark. I took these photos late on a cloudy day!)

To jazz the calendar up a bit, I used some sparkly letters in the empty bottom right corner ... 

Advent calendar 1

... and some vintage silver-lined postcards along the top of the calendar.

Advent calendar 13 

(I've had these cards for years and years - I'm glad to finally put them to good use!)

So there you have it - an Advent activity calendar to guide a young child through the weeks leading up to Christmas. We are on day three and so far it has been really nice for EB. He was SO excited for Thanksgiving I was afraid he'd have a hard time switching gears, but now it's all about Christmas is coming and how many more days? With this calendar, he'll have a visual way to see The Day get closer and some fun to make the waiting a little easier!

***

(By the way, we follow Advent according to the church calendar, so it doesn't always begin with December 1st as do most Advent calendars. This one began on Sunday, November 30th (the First Sunday in Advent) and will continue through Christmas Day. And yes, we include Christmas Day itself, because that just makes sense to EB. When that last card is read he will be told that Advent is actually over and Christmas has finally begun!)

:)

Thanks so much for stopping by, everyone ... have a great night and I will see you here again very soon!

 p.s. I will do a post on the 25 images and the proposed activities next!


My Tea Journal ~ Advent Hopes

Hope 8

Happy Monday, my friends ... Happy December! And a Blessed Advent to all! Thank you so much for stopping by ... now, how about a nice cup of tea while we talk about our hopes for the season?

**

What are your hopes for this Advent and Christmas? Are you hoping the season will be different this year? Are there specific activities you hope to see happen? For myself and my family, my biggest hope this year is to keep things as simple as possible. I find it very easy to get overwhelmed in December - it feels like I have all the time in the world to prepare, but in truth, Christmas comes quickly  - and I'd rather meet it with a peaceful spirit and present mind. Lots of breathing room and thinking space is what I need and want to share with my family as we prepare our hearts (not just our homes) for Christmas.

I think it's important to think about our hopes because they are all important, the big and small - as are the hopes of our spouses and children. Stop and let them roll through your mind, write them down in your planner or post them on the fridge - figure out how to work the ones that matter most into the weeks ahead.

In a world in which Christmas is equated with presents and ornaments and lights and toys and trees and all kinds of stuff ... the simplest way to celebrate is to just share our love for one another. With kind words and thoughtful actions, gestures of understanding and a little bit of our time when we can. I do love the bustle and wrapping as much as anyone (just see my Pinterest folders, lol) but I try to remind myself that simple is a good thing ... the best thing, actually ... after all, the Holy Family had little, but loved much.

**

Speaking of simple, here are our Advent candles ...

Hope 4

I love the idea of a proper round wreath adorned with tall gorgeous tapers, and set in a place of honor. But for now, we keep our "wreath" in the window - the safest place for candles in a house full of curious children and cats! These are glass votives we decorated with pink and purple tissue paper years ago - we stuck some evergreen branches in the corners ... and you know what? I think they look lovely. Even if they do sit above a sink which is quite possibly half full of dirty dishes - they won't be overlooked, that's for sure! And in a way, this is kind of a place of honor ... we spend a lot of time here (somedays it feels like most of my time!) this is my favorite window and what I do at this sink, under this window, is to serve my family - cooking, cleaning, washing up and taking care. Which I know in my heart and soul is my gift to them and to God. A good reminder that there is sacred in the every day. :)

My Tea Journal

In the natural world ...

It is again, a strangely mild day - though there is still a healthy smattering of snow on the ground! Any leftover Thanskgiving snow ... will be melted by the end of the week. Temps near 60 today - down in the 30s tomorrow!

I am drinking/eating ...

Hope 5

I chose a very special teacup today, one that bears the pretty thistle, Scotland's national flower. As it is the Feast of St. Andrew of Scotland (observed), it is a nice pick for today. This cup was part of a collection that belonged to my maternal grandmother who would tell you (with no small amount of pride) that she was in fact, Scotch-Irish, not just Irish alone. ;)

I'm drinking Harney & Son's Holiday Tea - a delicious blend of black tea and Christmas spices - and my snack is a simple but sweet clementine, in season just now. Clementines make me think of that scene in Little Women when the March family gives up their meager Christms meal for a poor hugry family. The way Amy hangs on to that big orange makes me realize how far we've come (or not) in food appreciation ...

Amy with orange

At that time a sweet juicy orange was a true indulgence, not just for the cost, but for the flavor itself. Nowadays we assault our senses with all kinds of brash flavors and artificial foods. An orange might seem ordinary - something we might have to cajole our kids (or ourselves) into eating - but in so many ways it is truly spectacular. I'm savoring every bite. 

p.s. You might notice the teacup is perched on my kitchen island above (and the front windowsill at the top). I am not actually sitting in my comfortable "tea chair" this time ... as there was no nap for Little Bear today! So tea was pretty much taken in spurts, while standing ... stil tasted good!

What I'm reading ...

Mostly I'm reading the Magnificat Advent Companion, a small section each day, as well as my latest library book, Sunday Suppers. A lovely book that has me thinking up posts for January (keeping Sundays special per my dear friend, Emma's suggestion). Other than that it's just all board books, all the time. I would like to put up a post about what Little Bear's reading now, because he definitely has his preferences!

Speaking of Little Bear, may I ... ?

Hope 1

:)

Working on ...

An Advent Calendar for Earlybird ... 

Hope 3

It looks pretty busy but it's really a pretty simple project. I used mostly what I already had on hand. (Craft store trips don't happen as often these days!) I'll do a thorough post about this project and our children's Advent activities tomorrow (or possibly the next day, but soon). 

Words to ponder this week ...

 "Hope is some extraordinary spiritual grace that God gives us to control our fears, not to oust them."

~ Vincent McNabb

(I LOVE this.)

**

And this week I have another dear friend, Mary sharing tea with me. I am so happy to share her thoughts with you here ...

Mary wrote:

"Below is an electric tea kettle that my husband gave to me as a gift a number of years ago. I love it because it heats water quickly, keeps it hot, and turns off automatically. I would often leave the other kettle on the stove, which did not have a whistle, and forget about it! I also keep a jar near by with our favorite teas and a little lemon shaped tea caddy that belonged to my Mom. :-) My family and I regularly enjoy our "tea time" after supper. It's a nice way to finish our meal."

Mary's teatime

Thank you so much, Mary! I adore that beautiful kettle! And I also love how you store your sundries in those pretty glass jars ... and ooh, the silver platters behind them! All so inviting and lovely ... like a picture from Victoria Magazine!

***

My friends, thank you so much for joining me for another Tea Journal post! I would love to hear about your hopes for this Advent, if you have time. And of course, I always love to hear about your tea!

Next week's Advent Tea theme will be >> Peace. How do we find (create) peace in the midst of a hustle-bustle season? If you have thoughts or pictures for next week's post, please send them to me at your earliest convenience:

bysunandcandlelight@comcast.net

Hope to hear from you soon!

* Ooh wait, I forgot a recipe to share! 

How about Scottish shortbread in honor of St. Andrew? Quite possibly the simplest cookie - three ingredients! - and best tasting in my opinion. Much like those cookies I posted about last week! They can be dipped in melted chocolate to dress them up (and even sprinkles), but I like them best plain:

Shortbtrad

:)