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Tea @ Dawn's ~ All Creation Waits, Welcome Winter & Gingerfolk!

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Hello my friends and Happy Sunday! Thanks so much for stopping by for Tea today.  :-)

With Christmas just around the corner, this is the last of my Late Autumn Teas - but I would like to continue in the new year with a follow-up series of "Deep Winter Teas." I haven't an official schedule or a list of tea themes in place yet, but will let you all know my plan just as soon as I can ... most likely I'll have information to share in my very next Tea which I'll host on January 3rd.

Well, we're really down to the wire now aren't we?! So how are you all doing? If you celebrate, are you ready for Christmas? Or do you (like me) feel like you could use just a little more time? And I mean this both practically and spiritually speaking. As much as I try to absorb the beauty of Advent, and to make the season meaningful for my family - it always seems like the weeks fly by ...

And then there's me, torn between trying to slow down and trying to keep up. I do love to be organized and efficient - but I don't want any of us to feel overwhelmed or over-spent. I think that's perhaps one of the best arguments for keeping a planner and using it consistently - not necessarily to get MORE done, but to make room in our days for MORE of what's meaningful to us ...

A calm and peaceful home environment is very important to me - especially as the mom of an autistic child who struggles with anxiety and overstimulation. This is why I come up with these detailed plans for keeping Advent in such a way that our time is spent on slow-lane activities - like making homemade gifts, baking goodies, watching holiday specials, and getting out in nature. Inevitably however, reality intrudes upon my "quiet little Advent plan" and then there's a last minute flurry of activity thrusting me out into the world for things like forgotten gifts, tip monies, feast day ingredients - batteries! - etc.

For the most part however, these past couple of weeks have been quite lovely - and now this mama bear has all her cubs around her in the ol' family den! Bookworm (24) is taking his last final as I type up this post and Crackerjack (20) came home from college a few days ago ... Earlybird (18) finished school on Friday and Little Bear (6) and I are on a little break from (formal) homeschooling. The younger two will be back to school/homeschool after New Year's and the older two will be back at classes later in January.

Speaking of all my kids - here is our Christmas card this year!

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(front)

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(back)

(With thanks to my cousin, Kristen, for taking our family photo on Thanksgiving Day! The photos of the younger boys on the back are their "class pictures" this year.)

Now, let's get on with our Tea, shall we? As you see in my top photo, it's a rather basic tea for me this week - a favorite seasonal blend served in one of my sturdiest holiday mugs. I've had this set of mugs (and a matching pitcher) before I was even married! I like to serve the boys cocoa or wassail in these mugs (and eggnog in the pitcher), but they do a bang-up job holding a generous amount of tea, too. I snapped this pic as I worked in my bullet journal the other night, sitting beside our tree. I didn't even have a snack with me at the time, though I do have some lovely ginger "folk" cookies in my oven right now and oh my GOODNESS do they smell good!

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Cookie making is a holiday activity I've unfortunately let slip the past few years, and everyone misses it. Especially my husband who fondly remembers Christmases when his mom was busy baking in the kitchen and he and his siblings were gobbling up his grandmother's snappy and spicy gingerbread men. So Little Bear and I made up a batch of dough this week to keep in the fridge so we could bake cookies whenever the mood struck.

Here's my little kitchen helper ...

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So earnest ...

So as I've mentioned in previous posts, our Advent journey is nature-based, celebrating the wonders of God's beautiful creation. The first week was all about the HOPE of heaven and earth (stars, stones, shells) and the second week focused on the PEACE of the plant kingdom while in this third week of Advent we are finding JOY in the animal realm - in particular those that live in our local habitat but most especially those that live in our own home!

Here's a peek at my planning for this week in which "all creation waits" ...

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And here is my journal spread open and set on our sunny work table ...

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I love our wooden animal collection but perhaps never more so than during Advent!

Here are some of the books we read this week ...

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... and this is the verse I read aloud:

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(The lovely poem comes from this book, a favorite resource among Waldorf homeschoolers. I use each seasonal volume ALL THE TIME in our seasonal homeschooling!)

Speaking of books, do you have favorite holiday stories you return to year after year? 

The page spread below is from one of my favorite Christmas books - Baby's Christmas by Eloise Wilkin. It's a very simple little story depicting sweet and precious Advent activities in a home with a few small children and every page is just like this one here ...

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This picture just says Advent to me - that sky, that snow, the birds at the feeder and the natural decorations in the window. Not to mention the little ones bundled up singing carols! I read this book with Little Bear this week and we really looked this page all over. I pointed out the birds and how beautifully they blended in with the celebration - perhaps the birds were listening to the children's voices, maybe they were singing along themselves? We noticed how the sunset sky looked just like the one outside our own windows - Advent colors, in fact! I thought this whole scene complemented our theme this week nicely ...

We also spent a lot our "school mornings" making crafts this month. I love to craft, but try to be mindful of making things with a purpose and using materials responsibly. Here's what we've been up to ...

HOLIDAY SPICE SACHETS 

Exploring seasonal spices on St. Lucia's Day ...

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I placed whole cloves, cinnamon sticks and star anise in a small bowl and then let Little Bear go at them with a pestle ...

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Boy did he enjoy grinding those spices! A satisfying activity and wonderfully fragrant as well!

We next filled a little muslin sachet bag with our "holiday spice" blend...

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... and then hung it in the tree!

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(I made the little tag using a snowflake craft punch and some natural brown card stock.)

This is the book we read on St. Lucia's Day ...

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... and this is the cinnamon-maple biscuit bread ring we made for tea!

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("Tea" being a child-friendly, gently spiced juice blend - but we called it "Glogg.")

Also last week, we expanded our little Advent Garden ...

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The beeswax candle (supervised closely and nestled in pebbles for safety) represents a gift of the bees.

Meanwhile, Oliver stood guard ...

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Let me tell you, it's been quite a challenge, keeping the cats away from this little shell-, stone- and moss-filled garden ... but look how prettily it it sits on our table, echoing the late-setting sun in the distance:

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(Not to worry - I blew the candle out as soon as we were done taking pictures!)

Another craft we had much fun making last week was a merry mini mitten made from sheep's wool and felt ...

MITTEN ORNAMENT

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We began by cutting out mitten shapes from the red felt, and a snowflake shape from the white. (This was mama's job and I used that craft punch again to make a snowflake stencil, then traced the shape onto the felt with a marker.)

We placed a bit of sheep's wool in the center of one mitten half, and sprinkled it with a wee bit of catnip ... that was all Little Bear. ;-)

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I could have sewn the edges together and honestly that might have been the better plan, but instead, we used glue to seal the mitten and attach the little snowflake embellishment.

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This is a project that might be too fiddly for little hands alone, but with a big person's help it should turn out ok!

Although ...

We hadn't taken into account just how NUTS our cats become when there is catnip in the house!

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I'm not sure about other cats, but catnip does not make my fellas all dreamy and happy and relaxed. Oh no ...

MY cats go absolutely feral ... beserk, even! So we quickly realized the pretty mitten with its bits and bobs would be torn apart in a heartbeat (and most likely ingested) so instead we decided to hang the mitten high up on our tree.

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(I just glued on a little ribbon edging and made a loop for hanging.)

A wonderful story to go with this craft - and for wintertime in general:

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The Mitten by Jan Brett.

We are BIG Jan Brett fans and have nearly all her books in our collection. I have a very happy memory of taking two (or maybe three) of my kids to a small bookshop in Cambridge many years ago, to wait in line for an author signing. The wait was long and I remember my kids were a little cranky but Ms. Brett was quite lovely!

Returning to the present though ... because if you get me waxing nostalgic this post will become very long indeed!

On another day we stumbled upon a wooden shape I had in my craft stash, and when Little Bear declared it "the perfect stable," we decided to fancy it up a bit to represent each layer of creation ...

COZY CREATION CRECHE

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We first gathered some stones and sticks from the yard ...

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... and brought the lot of it inside.

(As  usual, Archie considered himself project supervisor ... ahem!)

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Stones were applied to the foundation of the creche, and trimmed branches were fitted along the framework ...

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Our last step was to glue bits of (craft) moss and lichen to the rooftop:

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A very simple but very satisfying craft!

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I asked Little Bear what should happen inside our stable as we move closer to Christmas - and he's mulling that one over, considering our vast animal collection and some wooden peg dolls his mama has set aside for a nativity scene ...

But in the meantime, we talked about another big event approaching - the changing of seasons this weekend! So as the week drew to a close and the first day of Winter loomed near, we made up little treats to honor the many types of wildlife that visit our backyard ...

SOLSTICE "TREE" TREATS 

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Oranges are such a lovely wintertime treat - healthy and delicious, their shape and color reminds us of the sun which is now growing stronger every day. I sliced some oranges for Little Bear's critter treats but set some aside for drying in my oven (200° F for 2-3 hours). I love using dried oranges in festive winter garlands.

Little Bear meanwhile, set to work ...

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Crunchy peanut butter smeared on pinecones and tp rolls, rolled in black oil seed ... orange and apple slices, too!

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All ready to go!

We like to choose a tree (or bush) for an outdoor "Solstice Tree" each year, and this is where is where we hung our treats!

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We also remembered to honor our chickens with a few treats on this cold snowy day ...

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Our hens just love black oil seed and (not shown) a tray of sweet corn kernals is always a hit.

But we were not yet done with our Solstice gifts!

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We made a sun shape from seed on the patio - how fun!

And as we watched the last sunset of autumn slip behind our western woods, we spied squirrels enjoying our simple offering ...

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Goodbye until next year, dear Autumn ... and welcome back, Sun!

Now before I go I want to remind you all that there is just one more day left to enter my "Winter Comfort & Joy Box" Giveaway!

Thank you to all who have left comments and/or shared my posts here and elsewhere online. You may leave comments again here on this post if you'd like and tomorrow evening (Monday, December 23rd) I will go through all the names and then ...

I will be announcing a winner!

So please stay tuned and as always, I thank you for joining me for Tea! I hope you all enjoy your Sunday ...

I'll see  you here again late tomorrow!

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