Previous month:
March 2016
Next month:
May 2016

April 2016

Themes & Plans for May (Updated!)

Violet in grass

(Note: This is a post originally composed in 2008. I have fixed any broken links and updated the content to correspond with the current year, 2016. Hope you enjoy!)

May brings flocks of pretty lambs, skipping by their fleecy dams ... 

It's no wonder it's called the merriest month of the year - there is just so much to love about May! And it's no surprise this post is a day or two late - the call of "the wild" gets stronger every day. :) I hardly ever find myself at my desk anymore - and boy, does my inbox show it!

So, what follows is just a sampling - of things to do, things to notice, and things to remember this month. I hope you might find something useful in my ...

~ Themes & Plans for May ~ 

Nature

  • Flowering trees at their peak.
  • Lilacs bloom around Mother's Day.
  • Tulips are up now.
  • Violets and wild pansies in the grass.
  • Warblers in the tops of the trees.
  • Orioles passing through.
  • Goldfinches are brilliant yellow.
  • Cool rainy days are possible ...
  • ... but so are 80 degree days!
  • The lawn might need mowing ...
  • ... but watch for toads in the yard!
  • The orchard is frothy and white.
  • Wood ducks are returning.
  • Nests spotted at the pond.
  • Tent caterpillars in the trees.
  • Morel mushrooms sprouting.
  • Spring butterflies are here.
  • Watch for hummingbirds.
  • Jack-in-the-pulpit in the woods.
  • Last frost occurs this month.
  • The Full Flower Moon rises on the 21st.

Folklore

  • Birthstone: emerald
  • Flower: lily-of-the-valley
  • "A swarm of bees in May is worth a load of hay ..."

Food

  • sweet onions
  • rhubarb
  • early strawberries
  • new potatoes
  • radishes
  • artichokes
  • asparagus
  • baby lettuces
  • morels
  • peas
  • spinach
  • mint juleps
  • pecan pies
  • edible flowers
  • spring herb soup
  • first barbecue of the year

Faith

  • May Devotion ~ The Blessed Mother
  • Season: Easter; Ordinary Time (Summer) begins
  • St. Joseph the Worker (1)
  • Minor Rogation Days (2-4)
  • Ascension Thursday (5)
  • Our Lady of Fatima (13)
  • Pentecost Sunday (15)
  • St. Isidore the Farmer (15)
  • Trinity Sunday (22)
  • Corpus Christi (29)
  • The Visitation (31)

Household (& Garden)

  • Mow lawn; leave grass clippings down as mulch.
  • Clean and arrange deck/porch furniture.
  • Clean the grill; fill the propane tank.
  • Inventory/organize the kids' backyard toys.
  • Hang hummingbird window feeder.
  • Visit the family graves on Memorial Day ~
    • Tidy and add new flowers.
  • Purchase citronella candles or torches.
  • Famly physicals this month.
  • Launder spring linens and hang in the sun to dry.
  • Make travel plans for summer.
  • Clean car and organize for summer activities:
    • Beach
    • Picnic
    • Road trips
  • Plant garden on Memorial Day weekend.
  • Hang the American flag.

Life

  • American Bike Month
  • National Duckling Month
  • National Salsa Month
  • National Strawberry Month
  • National Egg Month
  • Be Kind to Animals Week (1-7)
  • National Postcard Week (1-7)
  • National Wildflower Week (2-8)
  • National Nurses Week (6-12)
  • National Herb Week (1-7)
  • National Police Week (8-15)
  • May Day (1)
  • Mother Goose Day (1)
  • Star Wars Day (4)
  • Cinco de Mayo (5)
  • Midwives Day (5)
  • The Kentucky Derby (7)
  • Mother Ocean Day (7)
  • Village Plant Sale (7)
  • Mother's Day (8)
  • National Apron Day (12)
  • Leprechaun Day (13)
  • Tulip Day (13)
  • Letter Carrier Food Drive (14)
  • National Train Day (14)
  • World Fair Trade Day (14)
  • Chocolate Chip Day (15)
  • Hug Your Cat Day (27)
  • Indianapolis 500 (29)
  • Memorial Day (30)

Book Basket

Field Trips & Outings

  • Visit the apple orchard to sketch trees in bloom.
  • Nature walk to the pond.
  • Visit the cows at a nearby dairy farm.
  • Purchase herbs at the garden store.
  • Lilacs walk at the arboretum.

Crafts & Activities

  • Make homemade bread and butter
  • Decorate fresh butter with clover.
  • Look for 4-leaf clovers in the yard.
  • Find a special spot in your yard for a Mary Garden.
  • Celebrate Derby Day:
    • Read the papers and choose a horse to cheer for.
    • Make "Juleps" for Derby Day (herbal iced tea)
    • Wear big fancy hats while watching the race.
  • Make a paper bag piΓ±ata on Cinco de Mayo.
  • Decorate a canvas (field) bag with leaf prints.
  • Decorate a plain canvas apron (smock) on Apron Day.
  • Make nature playdough.
  • Collect and press wildflowers; begin a herbarium.
  • Plant a sunflower house.
  • Make a toad home.
  • Attract orioles passing through.
  • Spend an afternoon coudwatching.
  • Learn about waterfowl: ducks, geese, gulls.
  • Visit a duck pond and observe nesting behavior.
  • Play Duck, Duck, Goose!
  • Make a feather collage.
  • Make wind chimes with flower pots.
  • Go on a mushroom walk after a few damp days.
  • Make a catnip toy (with real catnip!) for the cats.
  • Eat rhubarb stalks with dixie cups of sugar for dipping.
  • Paint and fill herb pots for Mother's Day gifts.
  • Mix up some herbal mosquito repellant.
  • Make a handloom; weave it with rainbow yarn.
  • Fill a box with food for the letter carrier on the 10th.
  • Work ahead on handcrafted Father's day gifts.

Whew! As posts go (and mine can go long) that was a big one! ;) Thanks for reading through, and thanks, as always, for stopping by. I hope you'll enjoy the lovely new month which begins in but a few days ... and I hope you'll let me know what you love the most about May!

See you all again very soon ... :)

"What is so sweet and dear
As a prosperous morn in May,
The confident prime of the day,
And the dauntless youth of the year,
When nothing that asks for bliss,
Asking aright, is denied,
And half of the world a bridegroom is,
And half of the world a bride?"
~ William Watson, "Ode in May," 1880


A Home for Our Hens!

Coop 1

Happy Friday, my friends! And Happy Earth Day, too!

πŸŒŽπŸŒžπŸ•ΈπŸšπŸŒ™πŸπŸπŸŒ³πŸ”πŸŒ»

I just wanted to pop in this morning to show you the progress we're making - or I should say, Bill is making - on the chicken coop! He's such a talented guy, my fella. :) It's been many years since he's flexed his woodworking muscles, but I think he's really enjoying this project - as well as the time off from work! We have not ordered our chicks yet - I think we want to get the coop a little closer to "done" before we do that - but we'll be keeping our flock on the small side. Maybe a half-dozen hens or so ...

We've wanted to raise chickens for so long - going way back to the old house where the endeavor would not have been as welcome - but the time seems right now. I think this will be a wonderful focus for our family and I'm looking forward to learning as we go ... and of course, collecting "farm fresh" eggs sometime down the road!

(If any of my readers have chicken advice, I'm all ears!)

Now, before I go, I'd like to offer my apologies for being so slow with posting this month - as well as with emails, comment replies, etc. It's been a rather trying time here lately, with a few pressing medical issues and some anxious days awaiting test results. It's just kind of sapped my energy, to be honest. Everything so far is ok though, so I'm feeling mostly relieved and just trying to focus on all that is good and true ... not what could be or might be ... but what IS, in the here and now. Remembering to trust that God will carry us through whatever comes our way ... but boy, it is hard to let go of worry and stop over-thinking things, isn't it?

"Worrying does not empty tomorrow of its troubles, it robs today of its strength."

Wow, is that quote ever gosh-darn true. I spent too many days this month absorbed in anxiety and what-ifs. Too many hours not appreciating the blessings in front of me. Worry is such a clever thief and unfortunately, lately, I've been an easy mark ...

But I've turned a corner in attitude and I'm trying to get back on track. And for me, with blogging, it's either "on" or "off" it seems, and right now I'm just trying to find my groove again. I hope you'll bear with me while I do just that. I am here and will always return, even if it seems like a long pause between posts. I do pop in at Facebook and Instagram - oh, and Pinterest - fairly often, if you happen to frequent any of those online spots. :)

OH! Also, if you are one of my "Happy 10 Year Blogging Giveaway" winners, those packages will be going out soon! So sorry to have taken so long in getting them to you ... but I do plan to get over to the post office this weekend, now that I have all the packages organized and ready to mail!

So I will be off for now, but I do wish you all a very nice weekend. Enjoy your loved ones, and thanks so much for stopping by ...

I will see you here again very soon!


Spring Garden Plots & Plans ...

Happy Tuesday, my friends! :)

It's been such a nice day here - for one thing, Bill is on vacation all week, so our days have been fairly slow and easy (what a treat!), but also, the weather is just so deliciously "Spring!" Today started cloudy and a bit damp, but by afternoon the sky had brightened and the air dried out - and now this evening is just lovely! We've been out and about in the yard a lot lately, so I thought I'd share a few pictures. Are you doing any gardening this spring? Do you have any new projects planned? We have a few things going on ... :)

Spring yard 9

First off, this is my new garden journal and matching mug - aren't they pretty? I bought them at Joann's Fabrics last month, and could hardly wait for the first nice day to sit in the garden, sip tea, and "plan." 

Spring yard 3

And here we have the beginnings of our ... chicken coop! Bill is building it himself (coop + pen) so it will take a little while before we actually have chicks of our own. (The play set will be moved to the other side of the yard ...)

 Spring yard 7

This doesn't look like much but it's a nice little sloping garden bed beside the patio - I have some things growing here (coneflowers, coral bells, snapdragons, sedum, yarrow, thyme, lavender) but would like to make it a little more formal and add a few more bee- and bird-friendly things.

Spring yard 2

Along the back of the house is a bed that, though shaded in this picture, gets a lot of full, southern sun. Our rhubarb plant thrives here and last summer we had good luck with tomatoes and peppers. I'd like to try growing things upright against the house, too - something climbing perhaps. (Currently, Little Bear considers this his personal digging spot.)

Just beyond the edge of the house is a hedgerow in front of which last summer I parked my herb pots. I'm moving those to the patio this year for easier access (and a better view).

Spring yard 4

I love these stone steps that lead from the driveway to the backyard ... I'd like to do something more creative in the beds on either side. They get good sun in the summer.

Spring yard 5

This here is an untamed "bed" beneath a large maple tree. It doesn't look so shady at the moment, but once the leaves are formed, this is a really nice, cool "alcove." I forget the name of the ground cover here, but that's about all that grows in this spot. The chiminea has been parked here since we moved - it was just where it landed! (We don't burn in it anymore.) In the summertime I love to step into this "bed" - it feels a bit secluded, all shady and enclosed. I was thinking of making it into a little shade garden of sorts. I might use the chiminea as a planter and weed out the ground cover and establish this as a true bed ... with shade-loving herbs and flowers, stepping stones, a wind chime, a thistle sock for goldfinches, and a comfy chair for nestling in ...

Well, these are all just thoughts for now, but this is such a fun stage of the process! The "planning part" when so many things seem possible ...

So these are a few of the gardening "areas" I'm concentrating on this year. I hope to grow lots of herbs and flowers plus a few kinds of vegetables. I hope to grow things we can use and that are attractive and beneficial to bees, butterflies and birds. I am also hoping to have garden areas that are fun for the younger boys to work/play in! I'd like to be better about harvesting and preserving what we grow. I have organized a binder (green of course!) with alphabetical tabs - her is where I will record information I glean from research, friends and first-hand experience!

Garden journals

This month we are concentrating on preparing the beds - next month we will get our plants. The average last frost is in mid- to late-May for my area. We don't really grow much from seed - I keep things simple and buy plants! Next month I will visit the local village plant sale as well as a local farm that specializes in herbs of all kinds. Hopefully this year I will have better luck with finding the best spots to grow what I buy!

🌱🌱🌱🌱

Well my friends, I'd best be off now, but I thank you very much for stopping by! I would love to hear about your gardening plans for the growing season ahead! Drop me a note if you have time! :)

Wishing you a pleasant evening and a lovely day tomorrow ... 

See you here again very soon!


A Fresh Start: Using a Brainstorm Board

Brainstorm board

Hello and Happy Thursday, my friends!

Today I'd like to talk a bit about one of my planning tools - the brainstorm board I showed you (very briefly!) during my planning chat with Jen Mackintosh and Mystie Winckler last winter. I made this board up last fall, a larger version of something I usually do on a piece of notebook paper or loose-leaf attached to a clipboard. I was inspired to create this one since an earlier version worked really well as I worked out my Housekeeping Calendar. (You can read about that project here: part one, part two.) A brainstorm board is obviously not a grand or original idea, but I thought I'd break down how I made mine and the way in which I use it. :)

1. For one thing, my board helps me "plan my planning!"

(Does that make any sense, lol?)

Now it's no secret that I enjoy making my own planners but unfortunately I have yet to make one that truly "sticks." I'm always happy to try again though (I really enjoy the handwork of it), but it can be a tricky business - trying to make a tool(s) that will cover all the bases I need to think about/work on/plan for. When I begin the process, I'm often unsure just what kind of planner I want as well as how many planners make sense for me. A binder with tabs and interchangeable sections? A spiral-bound planner that can easily be tossed in a bag? Something that everyone in the family can see and use regularly? Daily pages or weekly spreads?

There are so many possible variations and so many areas to cover, it kind of boggles the mind!

(But of course, I love this kind of boggling!)

So I use this tool to harness my scattered thoughts and make sure I'm covering all my bases. Once I can see my ideas in print, I can start organizing them - categorizing and connecting, grouping things together - and slowly I begin to see some reason in the randomness. There's a lot of thought that goes into "planning," especially for we mums - and one of the first things to consider is, just what exactly do I need to include in my planning? What are my responsibilities? What kinds of information do I need to store/manage for myself and my family?

And here's where the brainstorming comes in!

2. My board helps me recognize and prioritize my responsibilities.

The base of this board is a plain posterboard and the notes are formed using all kinds of sticky-backed "post-it" notes. Since I always have a HUGE stash of these on hand I was able to use colors and sizes to differentiate bigger and smaller ideas. So for instance, my BIG areas currently include: Blogging/Writing, Home & Family, Community, Home Education, Household Tasks, and Seasonskeeping. In the next "note" size down I have: Family Calendar, Friends, Parish, Town, Garden/Yard, Nature, Faith, College, Cleaning Schedules, Gratitude, Special Needs.

So, Homeschooling is one of my "BIG" areas to plan, and College is under that, as is Special Needs. Smaller ideas include field trips, resources, school contacts, organization, lesson planning, groups/support. I have since added more small stickies not shown here: weekly rhythm, writing curriculum, internships, outside classes, goals, motto/logo.

The next step is deciding on my materials and finding all of these "brainstorms" a home! Will it be binders, notebooks, file folders, index cards or a combination of all those things? As I look over the notes I think about the information that each one represents. How would I want to access that information? Would I need to see it daily or once in a while? Would I need a binder-type of storage where I can easily add things and take things out? (Field trip ideas and school contacts might warrant a folder or a binder pocket for copies of signed letters, brochures, etc.) Would this be information I'd want to share with others in the family? (For example, medical information or emergency contacts). Is this something I want to look "pretty" (journaling, seasonal ideas) or should it be strictly no-nonsense (automobile information, employment records)?

And how about the time component? How often do each these aspects of my life need my attention? When will I sit down and plan out blog posts? When will I work on lesson plans - by semester or week? How often must I look at our budget (yearly goals? monthly ledger? weekly spending log?)? When will I plan out special activities that enhance our experience in faith and nature? And when will we work said activities into our already busy family calendar?

As with my Housekeeping calendar - I take the "whats" and find them "whens." If I have a spot for something in my calendar, it's far more likely to happen. This is something I am still tweaking - finding space in my schedule for planning - but I do find that having a firm set of "office hours" is vital for my own sanity and sense of organization. During this set time I devote myself to whatever needs planning that week.

3. My board reminds me how full and blessed my life is!

Just looking at this board makes me feel happy, inspired and so full of gratitude. It's quite colorful and a bit chaotic, but that's life isn't it? My board reminds me of the commitments my husband and I have made together. We have a home and a family ... we have the privilege to educate our children at home ... we are supported by and invested in our communities ... we are raising our children Catholic ... I get to blog when I find time. We are stewards of so many blessings! And finding ways to keep up with, and provide for, those blessings is at the heart of my planning. Sure, I enjoy all the pretty papers and pens, all the schedules and routines - but my end goal is simply doing my best for my family, thereby honoring God's amazing generosity. I can make all this planning sound so complex, but really, it's as simple as that. β€

And on that note, I will wrap up ... but I will be doing a few follow-up posts in the near future. I'd like to talk more about office hours and making space in the schedule for planning. (Planning to plan!) Also, it's time for a planner check-in - what's working, what's not? It's been several months since our Planner Party! And I have not forgotten about updating my Themes & Plans series, either ... May and June are up next and I will have them tweaked before April's end ... promise! :) 

Well my friends, thanks so much for stopping by today and checking in. I hope you are doing well! How is your April going so far? Has Spring sprung where you live? We're having lovely weather here at the moment - and you would know that if I took time to update our nature blog, lol! I'll do that soon, too ... now that winter has passed and we finally have things to talk about!

Enjoy the rest of your day, everyone ... see you here again very soon!


Happy 5th Birthday, Archie & Ollie!

Archie and ollie in sink

Hello my friends, and Happy Monday! This is my favorite picture of our cats - they were so little then!

It's hard to believe our kitties are five years old ... boy, has time flown! I hear it is also "National Pet Day" so this is a great time to talk about pets ...

Do you have any? Are you a cat or dog person? What kinds of pets did you have growing up?

I like to say I grew up with dogs, never realizing I was actually a cat person! But the truth is, I love all animals. I really do. When I was very young, like four or five maybe, we had a large tankful of fish and then I got a pretty green and yellow budgee at Grant's Department Store ("Gypsy" I named her). And as a pre-teen I had a couple of hamsters, "Cuddles" and "Pumpkin" ... fluffy little things who each lived a scant year or more.

But when I was seven my folks took my brother and I into Boston one Sunday afternoon, to a breeder of Cairn Terriers, and that was where we got our first dog, "Duncan" - or, Sir Duncan of Cork, as was his official name. ;) He was a sweet little dog, if a bit of a curmudgeon at times ... and boy, did he think he was about 20 sizes bigger than he actually was! My mother had grown up with Cairn Terriers (Penny and Pat were still alive when I was a baby) so it was kind of a nice family tradition. Several years later, when I was in 7th grade, we adopted another dog from a local rescue shelter. This was Natasha (or Tasha as we called her) and she was a small/medium-size, black-and-white terrier mix of some sort - a mutt, or so we thought. Years later we found out she was actually a Portuguese Water Dog! (Though perhaps not purebred.) What was funny was Tasha LOVED water. We would visit my aunt and uncle's Maine camp in the summer and Tasha would run into the water, leap onto the dock to shake and then jump right back into the lake. She was a dear little dog, a real "nana," always taking care of us. :)

Duncan passed away when I was in college and then Tasha several years later when Bookworm was a baby. Aside from a stray pit bull ("Annie") we took care of for a short time, they were the only dogs I ever owned, and I remember them both so fondly. 

So cats didn't come into the picture until 1990! My folks found a newborn kitten left behind by a stray mother cat and decided to keep him. He was named "Timothy" and was a gorgeous cream-colored cat with taupe and brown markings and pretty blue eyes. Timmy definitely had a little Siamese in him! And he was very much my dad's cat. This happened while I was away at school and it all seemed a bit surreal to me! We were a dog-and-cat family now? Wow! A year or so later, my folks were throwing a graduation party for my brother and me (he from high school, me from college) when we came to discover the aforementioned stray mother cat had delivered yet another litter of kittens - this time, beneath our family room addition!

Fast forward a bit - we kept all the kittens and the mother cat because, A. it was hard to find them good homes and B. we kinda fell in love with them. And because Mama Kitty did NOT get along with Timmy (and vice versa), when Bill and I married, we took the small feline family with us to our tiny 1-bedroom house in the woods. I jokingly called them my "dowry!" 

Early readers of my blog (going 10 years back) might remember our original cats - Mama, Midget, Smokey, Penny and Patty - because I blogged about them a lot. They were mostly black and white, though Penny was calico. They all lived good long lives and were wonderful pets. I enjoyed them so much and at some point though the years I came to realize, I was in fact, a cat person! When our last cat, Smokey, passed away at 20 years old in 2011, we thought we might take a little break from pet ownership ... but that idea didn't last long!

In August of 2011, we found ourselves ready - eager! - to adopt new cats, and this time I wanted orange cats or "marmalades" as they are sometimes called. Mostly because they would look quite different from our original cats. Well, after a brief search - keeping track of available rescue kittens online, orange cats are fairly rare - we found two gorgeous marmalades at a nearby feline rescue organization. They were four months old and had been part of a litter of nine abandoned kittens found in an alley. One visit was all it took - Archibald (nee "Jerry") and Oliver (nee "Josh") were absolutely endearing. Archie was all over us, a real little fireball ... whereas Ollie was quieter, laying happily in our arms. They've stayed pretty true to their original impressions these five years later!

Archie and Ollie 5 Years Old

Oliver (in the foreground) is still our "gentle giant" ... he's a marshmallow, just so sweet and quiet. A bit shy, he tends to stick to out-of-the-way corners during the day, but you can always find him somewhere near Crackerjack. He is very much CJ's cat. :) Archie, on the other hand, is what we call our "alpha" ... he definitely thinks he is in charge around here! And he is very much "Mama's cat." He can be found wherever I am through the day - right in the mix of things - and he sleeps at my feet every night.

They are such good cats - absolute loves - and we are looking forward to many more happy years with these fellas. So on this special day, I'd like to say:

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, ARCHIE & OLLIE!

Treats twice today and lots of belly rubs ear scratches!

❀

Thanks so much for joining me today, friends and indulging me in this little bit of pet nostalgia! I know I've been very slow at blogging lately, but that's just how I need to roll at the moment. (Could I beg a few prayers if you have a moment? I'd appreciate it so much and please know I think of you all and pray for you, too!)

I am defintely not giving up on my space here - though I am fairly active over on Facebook and now Instagram, too. I do have lots of post ideas and drafts in queue and when I have time I will be sharing my thoughts and discoveries and queries with you all here. But for now, I will wish you all a lovely evening and hope to see you here again sometime soon!


Announcing the Giveaway Winners!

Happy Friday, my friends! Happy April, too!

Today I'd like to announce the winners of my "Happy 10 Years Blogging Giveaway!" I picked them randomly (using an online number generator) and below are the names of the 11 ladies who won a giveaway prize. I will be in touch with each of you soon to arrange mailing details. :)

I want to thank everyone who took the time to comment and tell me a little about how you found my blog and what kinds of posts you like to read best. I am so grateful to have such kind and supportive readers! My hope is always that this blog is a place of warm welcome and that my posts are of interest to some folks!

I though am pleased to be able to name so many winners in this giveaway, as always, I wish I could send something to everyone ... and, that said ... I will be contacting each of you who left me a comment in my Celebration post to ask for your mailing address ... I'd like to pop a little "spring note" in the mail if I may! :)

Ok, without further ado, here are the 11 giveaway winners ...

Baby's Morningtime book and CD - Kellylynn Vega

The Life Giving Home - Irina

Collection of children's books - Terri

Montessori & Oak Meadow books - Amanda

Break in at the Basilica and Lost in Peter's Tomb - Maria R

Seashore journal and sticker book - Jess McCarthy

Organic baby food books - Grace

Children's Books of Prayers & Blessings - Cassidy

Little Boys' Bible Book - Sarah Reed

Golden Children's Bible - Teresa in Ohio

Downton Abbey DVD - Sara R.

 ***

Well my friends, I thank you all for taking part in my blog's birthday celebration! This was so much fun! And to all who stop by, I thank you for spending a little of your time here with me. I will be back again before long with a new post, but for now I wish you all a wonderful weekend. Take care of yourselves and your loved ones and I will see you here again very soon!

❀