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January 2024

Rest in Peace, Dear Sweet Archie ...

(Archibald Fred, 4/11/11 - 1/21/24)

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Hello my friends, I hope you are all doing well ...

To be honest I dread writing this post. I feel like I'm all cried out and yet I can't seem to stop crying ... But I want to share this news, as sad as it is, with people who knew and loved our wonderful cat, Archie. And I know many of you did, because I've shared all about my kitties from the time we brought them home 12 - nearly 13 - years ago. But sadly, yesterday we had to have our sweet Archie put to sleep. It was such an awful decision but really, the only one that we could make.

Over the past month Archie had been having some significant medical issues, and we'd been trying to figure out what was wrong. He was losing a lot of weight and vomiting pretty often. We had many tests done and for the most part those all came back ok...

Then over the past week or so he really declined rapidly - he was hardly eating at all and sleeping or hiding a lot. An x-ray last Friday showed his intestines were filled with fluid and our vet was concerned there was a blockage. So we scheduled an ultrasound for Tuesday of this week, only yesterday (Sunday) he was so ill and lethargic we brought him to a local emergency vet. And there, after many hours of waiting, an ultrasound showed that Archie actually had a very large cancerous mass blocking his colon, and his lymph nodes were swollen suggesting that the cancer had spread. There really was no viable way for him to survive this terrible thing and we had come to understand that he was absolutely miserable. And we were absolutely heartbroken.

As all pet owners know, there will probably come a time when we have to make this kind of difficult decision. And that as hard as it is, it is our responsibility as loving owners (parents) to put our beloved pets first. Bill and I briefly thought about - even asked about - bringing him home so the kids could say goodbye, but the vet gently suggested that would only prolong Archie's pain. She was right of course, and so we suddenly found ourselves saying goodbye.

The vet and staff were wonderful and I was able to hold Archie as he was euthanized. He was alert and knew he was with Bill and me. He was purring and I was loving on him as hard as I could. He passed quickly and peacefully.

Saying all that should make me feel better - and it does on some level - but right now, I just can't get past the pain. Archie as you all know was SUCH a big part of our family. He was always around, wherever we were, keeping tabs on his fam, and feeling like the alpha he most certainly was. He was smart, proud, funny, feisty, and bursting with personality. And he was MY cat, most of all. Always near me and aware of my comings and going ... reminding me when it was time to go upstairs to bed, following me up and staying until lights were off before heading back down the staircase to where his special mat was. This is where he could keep an eye on everything.

In the mornings as I creeped down the dark stairs roundabouts 5 a.m. in blind search of coffee, his little face would be sitting right there, waiting for me. Always. Every morning. Without fail.

But not today, and not again. And I just don't know how I'll move on from here.

Oliver (his quieter brother) spent the whole night sleeping by my side - not something he usually does. Fenway, our 2 year old Labrador retriever is looking around for him and looking to us for reassurance because he knows something's not right. The kids are all processing differently - but all of us are just utterly devastated.

It will take us a while to feel normal again. Right now, we're just missing our Archie fiercely, and wishing things had been different for him.

Thank you friends, for letting me share all of this. And thanks so much for all your kind comments, interest in, and love for, our pets through the years. I've so enjoyed sharing Archie's antics with you and will continue to share about Oliver and Fenway in the days to come. Once things feel a little lighter.

But for now - please take care of yourselves and your loved ones and I will see you all here again very soon ...


~ Dawn

A Birthday Brunch & Winter Blessings

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Hello, my friends and happy mid-month! How is your January going so far?

Now, I know January can be a tough month for a lot of people. It is, in fact, considered the most depressing month of the year if you can believe it - and I do. I mean, I myself don't find it depressing, but I understand why many would ...

The holiday parties are over - whereas the holiday bills have come due. The days are short and the weather is often uncomfortable (if not downright brutal). It's a long month of readjustment and melancholy as we return to "reality" after several weeks of warm greetings and good cheer.

As a January baby, however, I can hardly find fault with my birthday month! I happen to really enjoy the wintertime - with its frosted windows and frequent snowfall and quieter days spent hunkered at home. I need the downtime that winter provides between the busier seasons of the year.

When you stop to think about it though, there really are some lovely blessings that are enjoyed best in the wintertime ... such as sledding on a cold, bright day...

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... and tending houseplants in sunny windows. (Such as our lemon tree which has finally blossomed after three years!)

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And although they come early, the sunsets in winter are breathtaking ...


Surrounded by woods as we are, we only catch fiery glimpses of the setting sun. Still, I find it every evening through my kitchen window and it's always a magical moment. 

Not to be forgotten of course, there is the wonder and joy of watching birds at the snowy feeders ...


*Mourning Dove*

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*Northern Cardinal*


*Carolina Wren*

Fyi, the Carolina wren was my "first bird of the year!" Have you heard of this birding tradition? On January 1st the first bird you see may be considered "your" bird for the year. We do this every year and it's always a fun way to spend our New Year's morning. It's neat to look up the symbolism of the species and learn a little about its specific habits and needs. The Carolina wren, for such tiny bird, has the loudest and most beautiful song. I will link it below for you so you can hear it too:

Carolina wren birdsong

Ok, so by now I have rambled on for so long you're all wondering what in the heck that top photo was all about!

Well as I mentioned above, my birthday is in January and last weekend my family gathered for a lovely birthday brunch. I had fun setting the kitchen table and buffet with my wintry pinecone pottery ...

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... while my mum cooked up a wonderful meal.

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Best of all though was my birthday cake! A dense and delicious butterscotch cake topped with homemade penuche frosting. Without a doubt, my favorite flavor combination! 

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Here are some pictures of my family on Sunday. I feel so blessed to have each of them in my life. (Sorely missed was Crackerjack who was too sick to come to brunch. We're hoping to have him up this coming Sunday instead.)

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(Can you believe how big this little guy is getting?!)

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Aw, poor Pups didn't get any cake!

Mum surprised me by brining some of my grandmother's recipe card collection for us to look through ... 

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Some of these are in my grandmother's handwriting, some were written out by my mum, and a few were penned by me. As you can see in my Gram's note at the top of the pile, she had asked me to copy some of these out for her. I remember when I was young I absolutely loved poring through my mother and grandmother's overflowing recipe boxes. I keep saying I'll set one up for myself, but I have yet to do so. Pinterest may be efficient and, let's face it, addictive - but it really can't compare to a collection of handwritten recipe cards.

Family favorites in this pile include peach cobbler, poorman's cake, cherries jubilee pie, lobster bisque (an old Boston Globe recipe my grandmother improved on), blue cheese dressing (so yummy on my grandfather's homegrown garden salads), and perhaps best of all - picalilli, typed out on a card several decades ago. It shows the battle stains of many years of use!

And here's another lovely birthday surprise - this beautiful drawing was mailed to me by my darling niece, Amelia. 

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She and I share a love of rainbows! I think of her every time I walk into the kitchen - which on any given day is about a hundred times. ;-)

And lastly, I spent a little time (and birthday money) at the bookstore and craft store, and found a few goodies!

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Just some pretty "vintage"  stationary supplies, a slim calendar booklet, and the latest issue of MaryJane's Farm.

And lastly, I felt like a dork but I took a car selfie, anyway ...

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This was 11:45 a.m. precisely - the very moment I was born, 55 years ago! Gosh it's strange to type that number - how on earth did that happen? Wasn't I just a young homeschooling mom with three little kids under 10???

Sometimes it feels like those days were soooo long ago, and then somedays I could swear they were just yesterday. Life is funny that way isn't it?

(Side note: I absolutely love this scarf. It admirably combines two colors that wouldn't seem to go well together - the burgundy of my vest and the butter yellow of my favorite cardigan.)

So, another year gone, and another year to come - the best gift of all to be sure!

Thank you so much for allowing me to share a bit of my life with you all. And thanks especially to the very kind readers who have reached out in different ways to say hello, share a bit about themselves and let me know they're happy I'm blogging again. (I am too!)

I hope you all are doing well - keeping healthy and happy and enjoying your winter days as best you can. Thanks again for joining me here and I will hope to see you here again very soon!



2024 Planning: My Lesson Planning System

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

I thought I'd kick off a series of "2024 Planning" posts by giving you a peek at my lesson planning system. I've been using this particular system since September of 2022, and it's really working well for me!

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As you can see in the above picture, I am using two notebooks for my '23-'24 lesson planning: a 5x8 quad-ruled bullet journal and an 9x12 (or thereabouts) discbound notebook.

I chose a sunny golden yellow this year and I really love it so much. (Yellow just happens to be my favorite color!) And the super cute apple stickers were from this Happy Planner "Seasonal Whimsy" sticker set. That link goes to Amazon where it appears it might be sold out - but I wanted to give you a good look. I think there will be a 2024 version of this set at some point, but in the meantime, if you happen to have a Joann Fabrics near you, you could check their planning aisle. That is where I purchased my set (on sale!) and I'm pretty sure they still had it in stock last time I was there. Oh, and also - I replaced the plastic discs that came with the notebook covers with a set of slightly larger, red aluminum disks. I liked how the color looked, but more importantly I find metal discs enable the pages to turn much more smoothly. The larger size also allowed me to keep more papers in my notebook. I also purchased these at Joann Fabrics!

Allrighty, moving on ... 

So let's look first at the discbound notebook. I use this large and flexible notebook for holding my weekly lesson materials. I like to photocopy my Oak Meadow teacher's guide pages and then highlight information of note. I have several sections in this notebook, simply made with colorful card stock and adhesive tabs.

1. Nature/Seasonal Activities

2. Oak Meadow English & History 

3. Oak Meadow Science

4. Saxon Math 

5. Other Subjects

6. Weekly Reviews

(I also use small binder clips to hold loose papers inside the front cover. These include spelling worksheets, writing projects and mapwork, etc.) 

In the first section I keep seasonal activity ideas and nature-education information. For example, the January Almanac published by Mass Audubon ...

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... as well as an animal tracks field guide:

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After that first section I have the academic sections as well as some pockets in the back for math recording papers and tests.

Every weekend I go through this notebook and take out what's been used (file it in a monthly folder shown in top pic) and then photocopy and add in next week's materials. I've found it so helpful keeping all the papers we need for the week together in one place like this!

Now, for the bullet journal ...

If you follow me on Instagram then you might know that I've shared a lot of pictures of my lesson planning journal (this year's and last's). In September 2022 I did a post about the general setup, and for the most part this year's journal is structured in the same way.

What I'd like to share in today's post is a peek at my most recent pages, created for the mid-year, as well as the current season of Deep Winter.

I have three spreads like the one shown below: Deep Winter through Early Spring (1/1-3/24), Early Spring through High Summer (3/25-6/16) and High Summer through End of Term (6/17-7/28).

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I try to look ahead and plan out the remaining lessons in our curriculum, lining them up alongside seasonal themes and weekly activities. This spread I filled in only through the end of Winter term, so I can adjust as needed before going on to plan out the spring.

Next, I have a Deep Winter Overview ...

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On the lefthand page, activities and academic topics. On the righthand page ...

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... all the weekly seasonal themes for the season and some events and potential activities.

Next we have the current month's vision board and title page:

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And following that, the January calendar spread: 

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I actually haven't finished this spread! I might add some more poetry or monthly correspondences like flower/gem/tree/bird of the month, etc.

Next, each week of the year gets its own spread with one page for photos and one for a breakdown of the seasonal theme: poem or quote, activities, books and a tea.

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This week we are exploring the concept of wintertime comforts and joys. When it's cold and dark (and the holidays are over) how can we create an atmosphere that is happy and cozy and content? What are our needs in the winter? Physically and psychologically? And the same goes for the wildlife that call our yard home - what would make their lives easier at this time of year?

We also happen to be reading a wonderfully illustrated version of The Hobbit and of course, nobody knows "comfort" like a hobbit! I'm sure we'll be trying out some new recipes for "elevenses" this month - using this lovely cookbook, a gift from my brother-in-law, Greg.

And because we usually have our seasonal teatime on Fridays and this Friday just happens to be my birthday, I'm planning on making a cake I've long wanted to try - a London Fog Tea Cake

(Our seasonal teas are pretty low-key - a fun beverage, a yummy snack and a craft that coordinates with the seasonal theme. It's a really nice way to wrap up the "work week!")

Note: the photo page is only half filled in because we're only halfway through the week! We had a big Sunday snowstorm so Little Bear and I enjoyed two days in a row sledding with friends! The rest of our week will be fairly quiet - catching up on schoolwork and ending with a long-anticipated, and oft-postponed, family brunch on Sunday.

And finally - at last! - we have our lesson plan proper -

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It's a pretty basic lesson plan grid - blocks for the days of the week and each of the subjects. I used to have a separate planner for this kind of planning, but then I decided to keep it all in this one journal. Yes, it takes a little time to set up, though really, not very much. And I'm showing you last week's grid because truth be told I haven't yet finished setting up this week's! (And here it is Wednesday already!)

I keep all of the lesson planning tools at my desk in a handy wooden organizer. This is the left side of my computer desk and off-camera to the left, not shown, is Little Bear's desk. It's in this cozy corner where we do much of our homeschooling.

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And that my friends, is a wrap! I hope you've enjoyed this little lengthy tour of my lesson planning system. The journal in particular is something I absolutely treasure and find very satisfying to create and then later look over. I love how it tracks, not just Little Bear's academic progress, but so many nuances of our homeschool journey. To my mind that's the perfect kind of planning tool - something that works well AND makes you happy.

So for now I will say goodbye and wish you all well - and I will plan to see you here again very soon!


~ Dawn