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December 2023

Tea @ Dawn's ~ Lattes, Leftovers & Family News ❀️

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Hello my friends and Happy New Year's Eve!

I wanted to pop on and share a post before the new year begins ... in a matter of about 10 hours now! How are you spending the holiday? Do you enjoy going out to celebrate or is staying in more your style?

Back when Bill and I were in our 20s we loved going into First Night in Boston with friends, but we haven't done that in years decades! Nowadays on New Year's Eve, you will find us at home, with our kids, and most likely asleep before midnight! We say our "cheers to the new year" with our younger kids at bedtime, and then do our true celebrating in the morning. πŸ₯³

When we first wake, we try to remember to say "rabbit-rabbit" before anything else. Saying "rabbit-rabbit" (or "white-rabbit" as some folks do) is an old British custom that's supposed to bring you good luck πŸ€ - and we've done this with our kids on the first of every month since they were born! πŸ‡πŸ‡

Typically on January 1st we have our family over for a New Year's Day Lunch, and that was the plan this year ... only Earlybird and I have started yet another darn cold - #tistheseason I guess - so we'll just be keeping things quiet around here, with lots of hydrating fluids and rest!


Now, in today's post I'd like to share a few pictures from our Christmas last weekend (it was lovely, hope yours was too!), some recent journal pages and the links to my planning sheets for the first half of 2024.

I also have some family news to share - something I've been wanting to talk about for a while now, but just have not really felt wholly comfortable doing so. The time has come, however, for me to be open and *real* and I know this is a community that will listen with equally open and loving hearts ...

So what I want to share is that a few years ago, Bookworm came to us and shared that he was pretty sure he was transgender - meaning that he felt he identified more as a woman than a man. He said he'd been unable to pinpoint what exactly felt "off" for many years (and especially since puberty), but with the support of dear friends he'd come to this issue as the answer. He was anguished, yet resolved, and - God Bless him her - she had notes in her shaking hands so she could remember all the things she wanted to say. She also asked to be called "Alice," along with the corresponding pronouns.

My friends, as you can imagine, my heart just broke ...

Now, Alice had already come out to us as bisexual the year before, so I'd like to say this did not come as a huge shock to Bill and me - but it did. We were afraid of what this would mean for her and we worried how hard things would be for her moving forward. And at first we didn't understand exactly what it all meant, but what we did understand above all - is that our precious child was hurting badly and needed help; in fact, she was severely depressed. So we immediately embraced her - physically and spiritually - and let her know we would be there for her however and whenever she needed us.

Right away we helped Alice find a relevant therapist who worked with her over the course of a year or so, up until the pandemic hit. The therapy definitely got her started on her path to healing, but I think once she came out, the stress over not knowing what was wrong, or how to fix it, seemed to lift a weight off of her - and slowly but surely she has emerged from that dark time - safe, strong and well.

Now, this is not really my tale to tell, and I do want to keep her journey private, so I will just say that Alice is doing so much better today. Most importantly, she is no longer depressed - thankfully, she is happy and healthy and fully accepted and embraced by her family and friends. She has a wonderful support system and a fantastic job she excels at. This is not to say she won't face challenges and who knows how things will change over the coming years. As her family, we can only hope and pray she will continue to thrive and find joy.

I know this will be a shock to many of you who have read my blog for many years ... and as I said, I just had such a hard time finding the words to share all of this. It's been such a weight on my heart, and I think, in a way, I was waiting to see if things might change. It seems ridiculous now to have thought that ...

But it was so hard for Bill and I to accept this, and it took us a long time to figure out our family's new reality. We worried and prayed and we stumbled over the pronouns, and we refused to use the new name - at first. We were so anxious over how Little Bear and Earlybird would react, and yet - wouldn't you know it, they adjusted so quickly and easily it honestly put us to shame. (It was Crackerjack in fact, who sat us down two summers ago and gently reminded us we were not fully loving Alice if we weren't respecting who she was.) And goodness do we love her, just as we love all our kids. And each of our kids have had challenges, some greater than others, and we've somehow found the way to be the parents they've each needed ...

 It just all seemed so very private and easier to keep to myself, and yet, over time, Bill and I have adjusted (mostly) and accepted (fully), and now it's just part of who we are, as a family. We are so thankful that our whole family has been accepting and loving and I know that has meant everything to Alice. For example, right after she came out to the rest of our family, Bill's dad, God bless him, passed away. But thanks to the sensitive and loving hearts of our family, Alice was included whole-heartedly in the service; even the deacon saying the homily used her preferred name. I was sitting with her at that moment and the look on her face is not something I will ever forget. It might not have been a moment I ever imagined but I was deeply grateful for it just the same. 

The bottom line is we could not be prouder of Alice and just as we do with all our kids, we want only the best for her. And we don't get to decide what that "best" is - that's for her to figure out. It's been one of the hardest things we've learned as being parents. Above all we want her to be happy and healthy and live a fulfilling, authentic life.

What's been important for us too, as parents, is connecting with other parents who also have transgender kids. Some were friends we already had (whose kids came out recently or years ago) and some are new friends we've met over the past couple of years. All are so dear to us and their support and fellowship have been life changing for us as a family.

Well my friends, I feel like I'd better wrap this up now because I have a suspicion I'm rambling at this point. But please know I am very grateful for all of you - your steadfast kindness through the years has meant so much to me. So I thank you very much for "listening" and if you'd say a prayer for Alice, for her health and happiness, I'd be so very grateful.


Ok, now - let's move on to Christmas!πŸŽ„

Well, Christmas was a whirlwind, but wonderful as always. Our family tradition is to host two separate Christmas gatherings - Bill's side of the family on Christmas Eve day and my side of the family on Christmas afternoon. Here are a few snapshots of our home ...

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The tree just after Santa's visit!

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The dessert table filling up ... that's my grandmother's tablecloth. :-)

And in the middle of the table ...

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A lovely pair of reindeer candlesticks, a gift from my brother, filled with real babyberry tapers from my mum and dad! They smell soooo good.

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Speaking of Mum, above is shown her two signature Christmas recipes: triple layer brownies (on the bottom)and penuche fudge (above). Have you heard of penuche fudge? It's a New England thing, I believe, and my FAVORITE holiday goodie of all! It's made with brown sugar, vanilla, powdered sugar and cream ... I mean, who needs chocolate when you can have penuche??


Above are my cousin's sugar cookies - a family tradition and must-have every year! She always makes a few plain for Earlybird since he can't have artificial food coloring.

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A tray of homemade treats, including Aunt Anne's candy cane cookies, our neighbor's gingerbread men and spritz cookies, plus Bookworm's peppermint pretzel sticks ... and my brother's (Trader Joe's) peppermint sandwich cookies. YUM. So very much YUM.

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And here we have the coffee, tea and cocoa bar! As you can imagine, I have so much fun setting this up. :-)

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And of course, it wouldn't be party at our house if there wasn't a punch! (This one was a blend of orange, cranberry and pineapple juice with ginger ale and fresh fruit. Refreshing!)


Ok, so how about a peek at a couple of my journal pages?

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Above is a page I set up for jotting down thoughts about this Christmas and what I want to remember for next year's holiday. The trick will be remembering to look at this next autumn!

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And above here is a page I really enjoyed creating, "Goodbye 2023." I did this last year and it was so much fun! I went through my journal(s) and just jotted down little snippets of memories - events, movies, family happenings. It was surprisingly easy to fill up the page! 

The journal shown here is my Wonderland 222 notebook, the accompaniment to my W222 planner. I keep them both in a canvas cover. This is the notebook I write in every single day. It's not always super neat, but I capture it ALL in these pages! I also keep daily to-do lists in this notebook. The "planner" is separate from the notebook, and I use it for monthly and weekly planning.

Here are the January pages - overview and monthly calendar:

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And speaking of planning ...

I wanted to (re)share my 2024 planning sheets for those who might find them helpful. I had hoped to have July through December ready to print by today but unfortunately, that just was not in the cards this month! 

Cover/beginning pages







End Pages


I'd like to finish up my post by sharing a picture of my new mugs from Bookworm because there is a bit of a neat story to go with them. You see, years ago I bought a set of three mugs at Stop 'n Shop (of all places) and they quickly became my favorite mugs of all. I loved the shape and size - just perfect for tea or coffee - and if one of them was clean in the cupboard, I always reached for it first.

Well, the yellow one broke several years ago (I forget how) and I was down to only the orange and the green star-patterned mug. You can see the latter here in this pic ...


... and I used it all the time, but especially at Advent!

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, however, that pretty mug recently was broken (by my puppy) and I was so bummed. Bill said it was beyond gluing back together, so I gave a half-hearted try at googling the brand wondering if somewhere they might still be sold ... but alas, I had no luck!

So, on Christmas morning when Bookworm handed me her present, little did I know that inside the box, wrapped in layers of shredded paper, were two ORIGINAL mugs from that line! One yellow and one green! She had somehow found them on eBay.

I was so moved and excited! I use them every chance I get.

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And here in the above picture I am enjoying a hazelnut latte (green mug), while Bill is having an iced Americano (yellow mug). We recently were gifted an espresso maker (my folks won it in a raffle!) and Bill has been making me the most delicious lattes this Christmas season. I confess though, Im a little bit addicted! (I just ordered decaf beans so I can enjoy them without the excess caffeine.)

(The very top pic shows my vanilla decaf tea from Friday along with a plate of delicious cookie leftovers!)


Well my friends, I'm going to (finally) let you go, because I know I've kept you here even longer than usual. Thanks so much for reading - especially if you've made it to this last bit! I hope you all have a wonderful New Year's, however and wherever you celebrate. ❀️

Goodbye for now then - and if you are over on Instagram, please join me for my January photo challenge! I have a theme for each week of the month, and hope to post as often as I can!

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See you next year, my friends! 


~ Dawn

Advent Tea @ Dawn's ~ Animals at Advent 🦌

Hello my friends and Happy Yule! Merry (almost) Christmas! And cheers to the (imminent) New Year! I hope this post finds you all well as we head into the long holiday weekend. I can hardly believe how quickly this month has flown by and here we are sitting down to our very last Advent tea!

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So I'd like to begin my post with a little chat about the delicious tea I'm enjoying today - and boy, am I enjoying it! I so wish I could pour you a cup. This brew is a lovely new holiday blend called "Gingerbread Festival" and it's made by Harney & Sons, a company I've mentioned a time or two before.☺️

Here's the description from the website:

Sweet, spicy, and full of holiday flavors, our Gingerbread Festival tea summons up the familiar tastes of old-fashioned gingerbread. We begin with a base of mild yet full-bodied black tea, then swirl in pieces of ginger root, cinnamon, and a touch of molasses flavor. A final layer of sweet vanilla flavor and spiced cloves finishes the brew for an easy-to-drink cup that sparkles with richness.

Ok, full disclosure - it is almost a little too spicy, but that opinion is coming from someone with chronic heartburn, so take it as you will. I enjoyed it all the same - with a little sugar and a generous splash of whole milk it tastes just like a fresh slice of gingerbread. As for the goodie I'm indulging in today - and keeping in theme - this, my friends, is a frosted gingerbread donut ...

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I've baked donuts for my family many times over the years, a tradition that began when I was looking to replicate a "Halloween decorated" Dunkin Donut for Earlybird. He so wanted one of those beautiful treats, but couldn't - and still can't - tolerate artificial colors and flavors very well. (They increase challenging behaviors and can trigger neurological tics.) Anyhoo, I actually baked the donuts shown here as gifts for Earlybird's therapists, but I managed to secure a few extras for tea. πŸ˜‰


Now, this week our Advent theme focused on the third kingdom of creation - the animals! So we thought about our JOY for the animal friends in our lives - including our pets, our friends' and neighbors' pets, our backyard birds and squirrels, and going even further, the creatures that are local to our area as well as endangered species around the world. Our activities centered around this theme and in our homeschool this week we learned about how animals in our region prepare for the harsh winter ahead. 

And on that note, here are some pictures from Little Bear's Audubon program titled: "Gather, Gorge and Store." The kids (and parents) learned all about hibernation and some facts were rather surprising!


This kid just loves to be outside!

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Our Audubon teacher, Miss Lisa, setting up a presentation for the kids. These finger puppets represent local species and each one has a unique way to prepare for and weather the winter season.

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And did you know that only three mammals truly hibernate? The jumping mouse, the bat and the groundhog!

During the program the kids looked for signs of animal activity ...

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On this log we found a red squirrels cache - spruce cones that had been nibbled on and black walnut shells.

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Here the kids and Miss Lisa were looking under logs where insects and invertebrates (and some amphibians) hunker down for the winter. We were hoping to spot a salamander but all we found was a pill bug of some kind.

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It was a chilly day, but not uncomfortably cold. A great day to be outside exploring the nuances of a mid-December day!


But back at home, inside my warm and sunny kitchen, things have been busy this week as both Bookworm and I get out Christmas baking on! I didn't end up making as many cookies as I would have liked - but I say that every year. I mean, can you ever make enough cookies? And then usually friends and family give you cookies too, and so there are always plenty of cookies to go around!

The first ones I made in honor of the Winter Solstice last Thursday were these Yule Crescent Moon cookies ... 

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So delicious - a ruch buttery cookie livened up with some lemon zest and glazed with a vanilla icing. I also dusted them with some sparkling sugar.


Other cookies on our Christmas menu include: lemon thumbprints, gingerbread folk, pistachio wreaths, peppermint sugar cookies, eggnog logs and some more of those orange-cranberry shortbread cookies I made last month!

Bookworm will help me with the baking, thank goodness! Other things I'll be making this year include mince tarts, a Christmas cake (easy, store-bought, made with EB) and a no-bake pumpkin cheesecake pie. (Again, very easy! But so darn good.)

You know what else we baked in honor of the week's theme and our beloved pet friends?

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Carrot-bone broth biscuits! 

I used a King Arthur Flour package mix and it was so simple. The kids got a kick out of it - and yes, Fenway was our taste-tester! (Unsurprisingly, he approved.)

We bagged up these cookies and gave them to neighbors and friends with beloved dogs - tag signed "from Fenway," natch.


And in the midst of all this baking, I did squeeze in a little crafting, of course! 

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Another Yule craft, honoring the return of the sun at Winter Solstice - these dried orange "suns" are so pretty! I found the craft idea on Pinterest and it was so simple - you stick wooden toothpicks around an orange slice, then bake it in a 200 degree oven for 3-4 hours, flipping every 30 minutes. I think the suns would look pretty in a winter window after the tree comes down!

I also tried making some wooden ornaments using pretty napkins ...

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I just coated an unadorned wood slice ornament (found on Amazon) with Mod Podge and pressed a single ply napkin onto it. (I had centered it first, cutting out the desired area with craft scissors.) 0-48 (1)

I applied another coat of Mod Podge to the top of the napkin and then let it set.

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I trimmed the rough edges ...

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... and all that's left to do is drill a hole for a twine loop. I used napkins I've been saving because the designs were so pretty - almost too pretty to use!

I really didn't craft as much this Advent as I usually do. I'm not entirely sure why - I think some years just lend themselves to more "homey" time than others.


Another fun outing last week was a Solstice hike we did with our homeschooling friends ...

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It's been an unusually mild December here in New England - but I was still quite surprised to see skunk cabbage growing in the bog!

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And mullein growing in the protection of a great big tree!

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The hike provided so many gorgeous views

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... and at the very top of the hill there were solstice stones to tell the time by!

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What was especially nice about this hike was Bill took the day off from work so he could join us!

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More family time - a lovely cup of holiday coffee at a local cafe with Bookworm and Little Bear. (White hot chocolate for LB, Iced Chai Latte for BW and an Eggnog Latte for me!)

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And before I wrap up, since this is Animals week, I must share some photos of my favorite animals of all - our pets. 

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'Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house not a creature was stirring ... 

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Well, my friends, I will let you go now as the sun is setting and there is still much to do before morning! Thank you so much for joining me this Advent and sharing a special cup of tea with me each Friday - or Sunday as the case may be! I have more Teas planned for the future so please stay tuned! I will be back soon to share more ...

And from my little corner of the world to yours, I wish you all the best for a wonderful Christmas - I hope you have a day full of peace, and joy and contentment.

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Happy Holidays from the Hanigans! See you all again very soon!


~ Dawn


Advent Tea @ Dawn's ~ Season's Greenery πŸŽ„

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Hello, my friends and welcome! I'm so happy to have you here with me today, sharing in our second cup of Advent tea! It's hard to believe how quickly we are marching towards Christmas - as I type up this post, we have but 10 days left till THE day!

Now, as I mentioned in my last post, our family follows a Waldorf-inspired, nature-based Advent journey in which each week is assigned a different "kingdom of creation," and the second week is devoted to the Plant Kingdom. So over the past week, we have been exploring the many wonderful plants (herbs, trees and spices) of Yuletide - in our homeschool activities as well as our holiday cooking and crafting!

As for my "tea," well, today I'm enjoying a version of a German Christmas drink called, "Gluhwein." As I sip, I envision this might be the very hot mulled beverage I'd enjoy if I were to one day visit a European Christmas Market. Our blend today however is child-friendly, so we skipped the traditional red wine and opted for fruit juices instead.


The recipe I followed is one I found online, with a base of grape juice, pomegranate juice and orange juice. If I were to make it again, I think I would tinker with the spices a bit. This time out I used a cinnamon stick, some cloves, star anise and a single bay leaf. (Im actually not a fan of anise, as pretty as its star-shaped pods look!) I loved the orange and lemon zest however, as well as the addition of a cup of gently-brewed black (decaffeinated) tea.

I served our Gluhwein - or Kinderspunch as it is known in its non-alcoholic version - in mugs I've had for YEARS and dearly love. The pattern is "Berries" made by Harstone Pottery. Nowadays I believe it is only available on eBay or perhaps

I bought these mugs before I was even married, back when I worked in the home department of a large department store. I remember seeing these mugs in the stock room and immediately squirreling a set of them away for myself! They are a bit heavy in the hand, but worth it - they feel so nice and sturdy and hold a large serving of a hot beverage beautifully.

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These mugs are so special to me because I remember fondly tucking them away in my hope chest, thinking that maybe one day I would share a special cup of holiday cheer with my children ... and here I am doing just that!

Now as for my cookies, well - this week they are unapologetically store-bought because this week has just been NUTS! After a couple of quiet weeks at home while we fought off a nasty virus, we found ourselves back in the busy homeschool saddle again ...

On Monday, I took Little Bear to his Food Art & Science class which then became a little more involved due to a dead car battery  ...

On Tuesday we attended our homeschool group's weekly gathering where we made homemade candles (the moms) and holiday cards for foster children (the kids). LB and I brought one of our favorite party dishes to this event: a cheesy, pull-apart Christmas tree!


This is so easy to prepare and is always a hit! Our group loved it and it paired nicely with my friend Jess's crockpot Wassail!

Ok on Wednesday, I got my hair cut and colored! Which is always a treat to be sure - a little ME time - but it takes so much time out of my day! As soon as I got home which was just after lunchtime, we caught up on lessons and Bill headed to his office holiday party. All told, we had a much later supper than usual!

On Thursday - Earlybird's 22nd birthday! - we took EB and his therapists and my folks to a local toy museum, which is one of EB's very favorite places to visit because they have gorgeous model train layouts!

And today, Friday, we had our last Audubon nature class of the year (so much fun!) and while we were supposed to go out to lunch afterward, we ended up coming straight home - because our sweet and lovable, yet highly mischief-prone dog got into a trash bag yesterday and then spent all morning "throwing and going!" So we headed home directly from our outing, and put a call into the vet ... and now Fenway will be enjoying a diet of chicken and boiled rice for a few days!

(Just to sum up the week - tomorrow is cookie baking and (hopefully) wrapping while Sunday is a birthday brunch for EB and my dad! Next week looks to be pretty quiet though ...)

ANYHOO! Let's get back to today's cookies because I'm now getting wildly off-topic!

So these yummy little wafers are Bill's favorites, and you can find them in any supermarket's cookie aisle.

I found this lovely description online Anna's Swedish Ginger Thins :

Some things you just do not change... like Anna's Thins. A lot has happened since Anna baked her very first Swedish Thin in her little backstreet bakery in downtown Stockholm. Since 1929, Anna's secret family recipe has used all natural ingredients to create a cookie that is perfectly thin and deliciously crisp. A traditional symbol of love and goodwill, Anna's Thins are also known as "Swedish wish cookies." To make a wish, place a cookie on the palm of your hand and tap it gently with your index finger. If it breaks into three pieces, your wish will come true. Lycka till! Today Anna's Swedish Thins are known all over the world.

 How charming!


When arranging my tea pic, I added a pretty vase of dried hydrangeas from my parents' front garden (I just LOVE the colors in these blooms!) as well as a pitcher of hemlock branches gathered from along our driveway ...


We have so many of these handsome evergreen trees in our yard and I just love their cute little cones! They start out in the spring as these smooth, bright green ovals and then slowly over the growing season they turn brown and unfurl. They are absolutely perfect for crafting!

And speaking of crafting ...

This week's tea and goodie - as well as a few recent crafts - were all inspired by our homeschooling this month,  as we learn about Christmas customs and legends around the world. This past week we focused on Germany and Scandinavia. (Spoiler alert: next week we'll be focusing on Great Britain!)

I also thought it would be fun to learn about the myths and cryptids of different cultures, because Little Bear is fascinated by all things relating to monsters and mystery. So last week we read about the fearsome old German legend of Krampus, who arrives on "Krampusnacht," (the night before St. Nicholas Day), to take a switch to naughty children or perhaps drag them off to (presumably) his lair ...


And since Krampus makes his dreaded switch out of birch branches, I decided to use some birch-patterned paper straws we had in the craft cabinet to make a couple of ornaments for our tree:


And as I worked on the log pile and the popsicle stick tree shown above, Little Bear read from an interesting, seasonal chapter book called, Krampus and the Thief of Christmas by Eldritch Black. It's quite an absorbing tale!

This week we also read an old favorite picture book, Peter & Lotta's Christmas by Elsa Beskow. In it, the children learn about the Swedish legend of the Christmas Goat and so of course, I had to find a craft to go with that ...

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... and happily, I did at One Mama's Daily Drama - some easy instructions (plus free printable) for making a yarn-wrapped Yule Goat!




As I worked on the Goat, Little Bear got to work making some air-dry clay ornaments. I recently bought some alphabet stamps specifically for this craft ...


... and boy oh boy did he have fun with them!


Honestly, it's all about poop with these 10 year olds ...

On a finer note, and in keeping with the Scandinavian theme, we enjoyed our traditional St. Lucia's Day breakfast on Tuesday morning ...


And one of these years I will try making St. Lucy's "Lussekatter" - aka saffron buns - but for now, Pilsbury cinnamon rolls do the trick. ;-) Here I used three star candles to represent the seasonal "star boys," but maybe a few longtime readers might remember this picture from the very first year I blogged?


If you can believe it, these two precious kids are now 28 and 24 years old! And that was the year Crackerjack tripped over a chair and landed head-first on a Lego. No stitches needed but it sure did bleed a lot ... and he still has that scar!

Ok, moving on...

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Every year during our Plant Kingdom week we make a stop into a local nursery - to pick up some plant-related craft supplies as well as to absorb all that lovely warm greenhouse air! This year we just could not get OVER the zillions of poinsettias for sale! An enchanting purple one really caught my eye - though sadly we cannot have poinsettias in our home because we have pets. (And there are mixed reports on whether poinsettias are toxic to pets and as mine could make a career out of eating greenery, I'd rather not take the chance!)

So instead we enjoy the silk version such as the ones gracing our front door wreath ....


(It gets a little more crushed in the attic every year, but this wreath has lasted us a good long while!)


And now for a few pictures from a recent outing with two of my kids - my "evens" I call them, #2 and #4. These photos were taken at a local event called "Winterlights" and as you can see the atmosphere was just magical!

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So as I mentioned, this week we had a special family birthday - Earlybird turned 22! Here are a few pictures from our visit to the Wenham Toy Museum with my folks and EB's amazing ABA therapists ...

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We're having a brunch on Sunday to celebrate these two special men who share a birthday. And they not only share a birthday but a deep love for all things TRAINS!


Now, EB is also a great lover of sweets, but his favorite of all is that old Colonial American classic - the whoopee pie. So yesterday Little Bear and I decided to make some! This was my first time making whoopee pies and I was so pleased with how they came out ...




We followed this recipe and I will definitely be making them again!

Happily it just so happened we learned this summer that our beloved Audubon teacher also loves whoopee pies, so we made up a batch for her too! And for the two lovely volunteers who accompany us on many Audubon outings, LB and I potted paper white bulbs in mason jars: 

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A perfect project for celebrating Plant Kingdom week! I really love when crafts make pretty and useful gifts!

And you know what was especially nice about today's Audubon class, the last of 2023? Dad got to come, too!

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Well dear friends - have I kept you here long enough, lol? I fear I have ... I got awfully chatty this week, but I guess I just had a lot to share with you! I hope you enjoyed hearing about our week and our Advent activities. And I hope you enjoyed sharing a cup of virtual tea with me - I so wish we could do this in person!

But for now, I will wish you all a peaceful and restful weekend which is the LAST ONE BEFORE CHRISTMAS - BUT DON'T PANIC!

I will see you all here again very soon!


~ Dawn

(At the very latest - next Friday with my third Advent tea of the year!)

Advent Tea @ Dawn's ~ Heaven & Earth 🌟


Hello my friends, and Happy first week of Advent! A very Happy Hanukkah to those who celebrate as well!

Well, the holiday season is now underway and as usual, it seems to be FLYING by.(For example, I just realized we have only TWO solid weekends left before Christmas - and by that I mean THIS weekend and the next. Because a week after that it's CHRISTMAS EVE weekend, and, well ... YIKES. 😳

So how are you feeling these days? Are you getting in the spirit of things? Feeling a little behind? Maybe you're wishing it would just hurry up and get here already, lol? 

I myself do not feel quite ready, and I'd like Christmas to slow its roll a bit! I still have many things left on my to-do list (cards to mail, gifts to buy and wrap, cookies to bake etc.) and without some careful strategizing, there might not be enough time to do it all! #isaythiseveryyear

I am however, in the holiday spirit - that's for sure!

Take my new mug shown above for example. Isn't it festive? I got it on sale at Joann's last month. My usual mug for the first Tea of Advent (a soft green with white stars) is an old standby which, sadly, was broken by he who shall not be named - but who answers to "Fenway" - last month. So I splurged! And this one holds a nice amount of tea, or coffee as the case may be, and has a smooth, solid feel to it. (Still miss my old mug though!)

Anyhoo, my seasonal beverage today is Harney & Sons Holiday Tea. It's been my favorite holiday blend for years now, because it's a strong black tea with subtle Christmas flavors ...

From the H&S website:

Holiday Tea, spiced with citrus, almond, clove and cinnamon has become a year-round favorite black tea. Delicious hot or iced, it's a wonderful addition to a holiday table, served piping hot on a cold winter morning, or anytime you crave a holiday-inspired brew.

Ingredients: Black tea, cloves, almond flavor, orange flavor, vanilla flavor, safflowers, three types of cinnamon, orange pieces. Contains natural flavors.

I really love a bit of citrus in my holiday blends. I feel it pairs perfectly with the traditional holiday spices - keeping them from being too spicy, if you know what I mean, while adding a fresh and bright note.

(Do you have a favorite tea for this time of year? Please let me know in the comments below if you do. I'm always on the lookout for new blends to try!)

As for my "baked goodie" this week I'm enjoying a batch of shortbread that I made up last week. (I've kept an extra log of dough in the fridge just for this occasion!) I always make Scottish shortbread on the last day of November, in honor of St. Andrew's Day as well as my family's Scottish heritage ... but this year I decided to try a new recipe, one that featured fresh chopped cranberries and - yes, a bit of orange zest!

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They are truly delicious - definitely, a new favorite! I love how they look too, so merry and bright. :-)

Now, you might notice in the background of the above picture a whole bunch of numbered paper stars. Well, the other thing I do on the last day of November (or hopefully a few days before) is to get the kids' Advent countdown project ready!

As with most annual traditions, I like to try something a little different every year, but always I look to nature for inspiration. This year I decided to use the branches we had on our Thanksgiving table (from which our family's grateful leaves hung) as a base -


- taped (much to Bill's chagrin) to the kitchen door.

Now, as I've mentioned in previous posts, I love the rhythm of a Waldorf-inspired Advent, with each week focusing on a different "kingdom of creation" (1st - mineral, 2nd - plant, 3rd - animal, 4th - humankind). I use these themes to create a specialized, family-friendly, nature-based Advent calendar.


In this first week of Advent then, we explore stones, crystals and shells as well as bare branches or sticks (which are the "bones" of the garden). I also include sand, salt, sun, moon and stars in our first week's activities, hence the theme, "Heaven & Earth." 

Ok, let's get back to our branches! 


I used some pre-cut Kraft paper stars I had on hand and on each one I wrote a number (24 in all). I used red and green crayons for this and you'll see why in a bit ... 

I then taped each star onto the door (using decorative Washi tape) around the bare branches. This made such a lovely visual!


(And miraculously Fenway has only tried to down them down once!)

Each day the boys remove a star from the door, and we enjoy a special (yet easy) Advent activity. My thought was that Earlybird and Little Bear would take turns coloring in the day's star (with the aforementioned crayons) which would then be hung on a branch as decoration. They're also sharing a chocolate-a-day calendar and I figured one could color while the other could eat the candy ...

As it happens however, my kids are not as excited about coloring as I am - so it's Mom who's doing the coloring, decorating and hanging, lol. (Funny how I don't get any chocolates though!)



Anyways, it's still a wonderful visual for them, seeing all those plain stars slowly disappear to be transformed into festive ornaments. Because the more the stars disappear from the door and reappear on the branches, the closer to Christmas we get!

As for the activities ... well, I've learned a thing or three in my 22 years of (special needs) motherhood - and that is to keep expectations REALISTIC, be FLEXIBLE and don't OVERPLAN! But as a somewhat idealistic, semi-rigid, very type-A planner this is a lesson I need to learn again every day! 

So instead of writing the activities on the back of the star tags (as I've done in the past only to have something not fit right - whether it be the weather, our energy levels or the logistics of the activity itself) I leave the stars blank. Instead, the kids bring me the numbered star and I consult Mom's "Advent Calendar Key" to see what's in store for us that day.

The Key is basically a page in my master home planner (an A4 discbound notebook) where I jotted down potential activities for the days leading up to December 25th

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It might look like a lot, but I work on it in increments. I start by brainstorming simple individual activities, writing them on small sticky notes, and then organizing them by weekly theme. (For example, painting rocks would go in minerals week, while drying orange slices for decoration would take place during plants week.) There are also activities tied to special events - such as Earlybird's birthday on the 14th and the Winter Solstice on the 21st.

I then sketch out a schedule and, using ERASABLE ink, match activities with days. This is only for Mom's eyes!!

I already had to make a change to my schedule when I came down with the cold that Little Bear and Earlybird had been fighting and a "nighttime star walk" just was not to be. Instead we made star-shaped sun catchers! 


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Had the kids read a tag promising a nighttime stroll, they would have been sorely disappointed when told it couldn't happen! The craft - though admittedly, less flashy than the stroll - was fun, took all of 10 minutes (with a bit of easy prep by me) and the stars look so darn pretty in our living room window!


So our first Advent star revealed a familiar but super exciting activity and that was to put up the Christmas tree! And this year we had a big reveal for the kids - because Bill and I decided to purchase an artificial tree! To be perfectly honest I do prefer a live tree. Unfortunately though, it's just not practical for our family. For one thing, we really like to put the tree up very early and no matter how hard we try our trees always end up near death come Christmas morning. A very ugly and depressing (not to mention potentially dangerous) situation. Also, we have two cats and a dog who absolutely LOVE to drink up that pine-needle-enriched tree water. Then get sick under said tree.


Archie sampling the new plastic needles - he was (thankfully) not impressed.


Here we have Bill and Little Bear working the branches, by "fluffing" out the tips to fill in the empty spots ...I have to say we were pleasantly surprised by just how "real" our new tree actually looks!



Let there be peace on earth ... and, fingers-crossed, under our tree!

Finally, on Sunday I set up our Advent Spiral. I have done some variation on this idea for years - using apples, salt dough, acorn caps, stones, or pine branches etc. Usually I set it up inside, but one time we had it outside! That was so fun - Little Bear was a toddler and it was just magical. :-)

Maybe we'll do that again one year, but this year I'm trying to keep it - yup, you guessed it - simple. Recently though, I saw this beautiful craft on Pinterest, and knew I had to try making it!

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I started with a wood slice I had on hand and painted it with celestial colors, then added a silvery star path with a metallic marker. In the center I glued a small wooden star. This would represent the Christmas star, where our Advent journey ends!

Next I took a small wooden candleholder and painted it in matching colors. I then found an image online of the holy family and traced it onto very thin paper. Once I had the outline how I liked it, I colored it in with black ink and then cut it out using fine-tipped scissors. I attached the image to the candleholder using a coat of Mod Podge.

Final touch - a blue beeswax candle the boys and I made last year!


I placed the Spiral in our front window, and every day we move the candle one star further along the path, with the idea that on Sundays we'll bring it to the table to light at Sunday dinner.


(I was in bed most of the day this first Sunday so we'll start the dinner lighting this weekend, I hope!)

I also placed a cool little geode that Little Bear cracked open some time ago, in the middle of the Spiral as a representation of our current kingdom. (Next week there will be a pinecone, the week after that a small wooden animal and in the final week, a felted heart shape.)


Well, my friends - I am so happy to be back here again and especially to be sharing some tea, cookies and crafts with you all. I feel I must apologize that I have basically abandoned my blog this year. I truly had all intentions of getting back into the blogging "groove" this past year and then, well ... life happened. And as you might know, Earlybird had a rather serious injury requiring multiple surgeries and a prolonged recovery. (I'm happy to report he is back to his normal cavity level and feeling great!)

And while I hesitate to promise the frequency of posting I once managed (HOW, I wonder - how on earth did I manage that??) I do hope and INTEND to renew my blogging habit once again, even though I know blogging has become somewhat passeΒ΄ ...

It's been so fun to sit down and share a little bit of what we've been up to and chat about the season at hand. Thanks SO much for joining me and I will see you all here again for TEA next Friday afternoon!

Our Advent theme next week will be: Season's Greenery. :-)

Take care, everyone!


~ Dawn

Advent is here! Please join me for tea ...

Unnamed-1 (2) Hello my friends and Happy Advent! I hope this post finds you and your loved ones doing well.

I'm stopping in today on the Feast of St. Nicholas to let you all know I will have some Teatime posts coming up over the next few weeks! (And if you follow me on Instagram you may already have heard about this!)

To the left is the schedule I have in mind for my Advent Teatimes ... and that means the first one will be THIS Friday - in just two days!

I have a bunch of things to share with you, including of course, a special cup of tea and a freshly baked holiday goodie! Some crafts and some family updates and some plans for the season ahead ...

I hope you will join me! Look for my posts around Teatime (aka 4 in the afternoon).

But before I go, I have to tell you that as I type up this little post, I am watching the sun come out from behind a thick blanket of snow clouds ... and indeed, we woke to a light dusting this morning! It really is so lovely when it snows before Christmas. We don't always get a white Christmas here, but every year we hope for it just the same!

Speaking of hopes - the theme for my first Advent Tea will be HEAVEN & EARTH, which our seasonal focus of the week, in accordance with our nature-based Waldorf-inspired Advent. And the questions we are pondering are. ... what is our HOPE for this Christmas season? And what HOPES (and/or goals) do we have for the new year?

Well, I do hope you will consider popping by on Friday - here or over on Instagram - and sharing in a cup or two of Advent comfort and joy. I know my blogging has been basically non-existent for several months now, but I felt so compelled to revisit my Teatimes here at the blog. It just wouldn't be Advent (for me) without them! 

Take care my friends, and see you here again very soon!


~ Dawn