Advent Tea Feed

Holiday Tea at Dawn's: O Christmas Tree!

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Hello my friends, and Happy Monday! Welcome to our third week of Holiday Tea - and today I'd like to talk about Christmas trees! First though, a quick word about my beverage-of-choice this week ...

As you can see, my mug is pretty big - and also, very pretty! I bought this last year at HomeGoods (for all of $5!) and loved it immediately for its generous size as well as the lovely seasonal images. It has a big sturdy handle, too!

Inside my mug today is a wonderful hot tea I "discovered" this year, made by Twinings:

 

 

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This delicious Christmas Tea has a smooth and lightly spiced flavor - and for me, "lightly" is a very good thing, when it comes to spices - because I get heartburn very easily! And sometimes, as much as I like the idea of a spiced tea, the flavor can be too reminiscent of cinnamon gum. Like I've steeped my tea with a stick of gum, lol! Weird, I know ... but once I had that impression from a previous tea, it just stuck with me! So clearly I'm a bit persnickety when it comes to flavored teas, but happily this one is smooth and subtle. :)

Now, I'm afraid I don't have any goodies to share today - the past few day have been busy and I just didn't have time - though honestly, if you were coming to visit, I'd be sure to have a few tempting things to offer! In case you were wondering, here's what's on my baking to-do list this week ...

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Do you have any special baking planned this week?

Well, how we talk about Christmas trees now? Here is ours ...

Our christmas tree 2018

This is the first year we've had a tree in our family room and I must say I love it here! This is an 8-foot Frasier Fir and I think it fits the room nicely. Would you care for a quick tour?

We use all white lights, two different garlands - one made of red wooden beads and another made from a golden ribbon festooned with festive red squirrels - and a red punched tin star as a topper. Many of our ornaments are "woodland inspired" and lots of them were made by my kids through the years.

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The glittery pinecone was made by one of the boys - the softly shaded maple leaf was hand-painted by my mum. She gave us a collection of them last year, and I just love them! They remind me of my favorite season (fall), my favorite state (Vermont), my favorite colors (soft orange and gold) AND of course, my love for nature.

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I'd wager many of us have popsicle stick crafts on our Christmas trees!

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Another leaf and a cute little pinecone-y hedgehog.

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The star was made for me by a sweet girl in our homeschool co-op years ago, while the moon was something I made myself. There's a little verse on the back, and a matching (or contrasting, I should say) ornament just around the corner ...

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I don't do handcrafts nearly as often as I'd like to, but I'm thinking of making that a goal for the New Year - to indulge more of my favorite hobbies.

We have LOTS Of cardinals all over our tree, one of our favorite winter songbirds.

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Birds in general enjoy a strong presence on our tree!

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This is one of the few "fragile" ornaments we have on the tree - made of porcelain, it's a bit "clinky" (as Little Bear calls it). 

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This is a very special ornament - a gift from Crackerjack's girlfriend, Jen, to our Little Bear who just this year discovered the excitement of "Minecraft."

Last year it was this guy ...

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Little Bear's never even seen Star Wars, but somehow - youngest of four boys that he is - he just "gets" it! "That's BB8 Mama! He's a good guy robot!"

We have name ornaments here and there and as uncommon as my name is, my mother-in-law found this one for me last year:

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And one last ornament which I just treasure, a gift from my boys:

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I'm sure many of you mamas can relate! (p.s. That's a hand-painted sand dollar in the back ground. Well, painted with glue and then sprinkled with glitter! I made that one several years ago when we were celebrating National Poinsettia Day.)

And here's the cozy corner where I'm enjoying my tea today ...

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We have no snow to speak of here in New England, but the skies seem to hold promise - thick gray clouds, a chill in the air. That said however, the forecast is not looking promising for a white Christmas! (It always pains me when we miss snow at Christmas ... and then spend the next three winter months absolutely inundated!) But boy do the days get so dark now, and so early!

And yet - we must take heart, my light-loving friends - the sun makes its triumphant return this Friday! In teeny-tiny increments perhaps, but each day going forward we'll have  just a little more light than dark each day. So, Happy Winter Solstice, everyone!🌞

Right now I'm all curled up on the family room couch, admiring the tree lights, enjoying a moment of quiet (while the boys are all occupied elsewhere in the house) and on my tv screen ...

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Show of hands now - who loves The Great British Baking Show??

Our local PBS station ran a marathon this weekend of TGBBS's Holiday Masterclass series. This is not the same as the ABC special airing each Thursday night this month - this is not a contest, but rather a cheerful and cozy hour's worth of holiday home baking with show hosts, Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood. It is so much fun to watch Mary and Paul recreate their own family favorites! If you're looking to get in the "holiday baking mood," look no further than this program ... I especially recommended it for Anglophiles like me. :)

You know what else I'm doing right now as I enjoy my tea? I am looking through old December journals, remembering past Christmases and holiday ideas I've gathered over the years. Journal-keeping is another hobby I'd like to make time for in the new year ... it's something I've done since I was a young girl, but have seemed to let drop recently. 

Here's a peek at a few page spreads ...

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As you can see, I fill my journals with clippings from magazines and random notes about our home, our family, craft ideas, recipes and just about anything that comes to mind! It's such a pleasure to look back over these journals - the plainest little spiral-bound notebooks but they serve their purpose! - and reconnect with my self and my thoughts on various things. I especially love seeing things like this ...

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This journal was from December, 2012 - the year I was pregnant with Little Bear. I remember that ultrasound on New Year's Eve, vividly. A particular blood test had come back elevated and we were having a level two ultrasound to check on our little guy's development. They were going to do it after the holidays but we insisted on being seen as early as possible. We had to drive into the city mid-afternoon on New Year's Eve ... and oh, the nerves! Thankfully, everything was just fine with our wee one and we found out that night that our fourth born would be a fourth BOY! We gave him his name that night and celebrated the new year feeling immense gratitude for our blessings, most especially the health and well-being of all our children.

(And all that came rushing back from those brief cryptic notes!)

Well, my friends - that is all I have for today but as always, I thank you for joining me and wish you all the very best! I hope this next week is one of peace and joy for you and your loved ones ... I will see you again NEXT Monday, December 24th, for a cup of Christmas Eve cheer!


Holiday Tea at Dawn's ~ Cozy Winter Nests (Pt. 1)

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Hello my friends, and Happy Monday! I hope you all had a nice weekend and that your December is off to a great start! β€οΈ

Well, I just had so much to share with you today, I decided to split this post in two! More on that in a bit, but first of all, WELCOME! Thank you so much for joining me for another weekly tea. Today we'll chat about crafting a little "cozy" for ourselves before winter sets in. We'll also talk about my favorite tea, my homemade planner and few of our Advent plans for the week!

But let's begin by talking about tea - which for me, is pretty much synonymous with "cozy" - so let me ask you this if I may:

If you could conjure up the perfect, most comforting and appealing "tea" you could imagine (with or without goodies), what would that tea look (and taste) like?

Well for me it would be a big mug of a preferred and special hot beverage, accompanied by just a little something sweet and homemade, such as a plain cookie or biscuit. I usually just drink black decaf (tea) through the day, but lately I've been indulging in an extra special evening tea that - though it requires a little more prep - is entirely worth the extra effort!

So, have you ever heard of a London Fog Latte?

< Now, here is where I would have posted a picture of this very special and preferred tea beverage of mine, only - real life got in the darn way! So today's afternoon tea became a less "special" affair, though certainly no less satisfying. Earlybird had a physical this afternoon at 1:30 and, as many of you know, our autistic son has some BIG anxiety when it comes to doctor's appointments. Happily, the appointment itself went really well ... but unfortunately, Bill got called into work, so he had to miss the doctor's visit (we usually go together to the kids checkups) AND so, he was not on hand this afternoon to make me my very special beverage!! (He's quite involved in the prep work, and it's just not the same without him!) Anyhoo, the appointment (though great) went long, we had some food shopping to do (natch), and we just got home now (at 4:13 p.m.), so I've made myself a very "regular" cup of tea - my old standby - and this is what I'm having right now as I type ...

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It's so dark at this time of day!! I know that bothers a lot of people, but I don't mind so much. The sun was going down as we finished up our errands, and it just felt SO GOOD to get home ...

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... I might have had to slow down and take a dashboard pic of this sunset! For me, whatever the season, watching the sun set is always a cozy moment - but perhaps all the more so in late autumn.>

Ok, let's get back to our tea discussion now! In my NEXT post I will show you what my favorite drink looks like, but for now you will have to just take my word for it: it's a very pretty drink!

I stumbled across a London Fog Latte - on Pinterest maybe? - but the first time I ever had one was at Starbucks. They don't list the drink on their menu, but I heard it through the grapevine you could ask for such a thing, and so that's just what I did! Admittedly, I might have felt a little silly asking for something off-menu (much as I did the time I requested a "Franken Frappuccino" or some such nonsense one Halloween) but the barista barely blinked at my request and got right to work. It was a very good and memorable drink - but I like the ones we make at home even better!

Here is how I make this comforting and delicious hot beverage:

I first prep a cup of Earl Grey tea just as I usually do. I use Bigelow's decaf version with one sugar and a good splash of milk. As my tea steeps, Bill starts steaming some whole organic milk. He uses a Breville Milk Frother to steam and froth the milk (a gadget we've had for years but I've never used myself). You could just heat some milk in a saucepan but then you wouldn't get those lofty peaks of dairy delight!

Once the tea is prepared, I add a splash of vanilla, and then I top it off with the delicious and creamy frothed milk Bill has prepared ... and it is just so, so good! It would perhaps be really nice to make some lavender sugar to dust on top sometime ... but I am a little hesitant to mess with perfection!

Now, I don't drink this every night but maybe once or twice a week. I started drinking it a few months ago, when I found myself needing more of a "ritual" for unwinding in the evening. It's soothing and just a little sweet, and it just presses a button in me somewhere that says, "slow down and settle yourself." :)

Also, fyi, I recently found a loose tea blend from Harney & Sons called "Victorian London Fog."

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I have yet to try it but will let you know once I do!

Now, let's talk about the cookie portion of my "tea" and for me, I can think of no "cozier" cookie than shortbread. I made these little "bites" on Friday, in honor of  St. Andrew's Day. They are incredibly easy to make and keep really well!

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Shortbread cookies have long been my favorite - to me they are an absolutely perfect treat: small, simple and suffused with a soft buttery flavor. I use a recipe I found online and it is just so super easy! Just three ingredients: butter, flour and sugar. What's not to love??

I usually cut the baked dough into simple rectangles (with the iconic fork marks) but I decided to try star shapes in light of the first week of Advent. (As many of you know, we follow a nature-based Advent tradition, and this week our theme is "seeing the light of earth & sky." For more on our family traditions, please see my Advent Crafts and Plans archive and in particular, for this week, this post.)

Now at this time of year, it's all too easy to spend time inside, where it's warm and bright and ... yes, cozy! But there is something to be said for getting outside when we can ... and creating a little light of our own to hold fast against the gathering darkness. So the other night we took advantage of dry conditions and had ourselves a little "Welcome December" bonfire ...

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(Pop on over to this post to see a quick bonfire video!)

You all know I love to talk weather, so I must ask: how's the weather where you are? Is it chilly and gray, inspiring you to seek your comforts indoors? Or is it mild and bright, luring you outside? It's been up and down here in New England. As I began the draft of this post, it was a very dark and rainy Sunday ... but as I finish up at Monday teatime suppertime, the day has been sunny and unseasonably mild!

Speaking of weather, one thing that can be tricky when planning out an Advent Countdown is, in fact, the weather. Sometimes I have a particular activity in mind, but if the weather turns foul a change in plans becomes necessary. So one of the things I like to do when I sit down to plan out our week - any week of the year - is to consult the Weather Channel app on my phone. 

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Not that the weather can't change, but usually the weekly forecast gives me a pretty good idea how easy it will be to get the kids outside! (Happily the week looks great for finding nests, gathering branches, and taking an evening "lights" walk!)

On that note, since we're now talking about plans, here is a better look at this week's spread in my homemade seasonal planner ...

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This week's seasonal theme: "Cozy Nests." Our first week of Advent theme: "sticks, stones, stars."

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The left-hand page is an overview of the week ...

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While the right-hand side is set up for the week's agenda (schedule) and homeschooling notes ...

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It was important to me to include a section in my planner for seasonal crafts & comforts ... 

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(We don't do it all, but I do keep the plans from year to year!)

This corner shows where I write out all the "events of note" for the week, as well as our dinner menus plans.

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And finally, here is where I write in my little weather notes!

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All these pages shown here are in my spiral-bound planner, but I have been experimenting with keeping these pages in a three-ring binder instead. Each planning platform has its merits - I just need to figure out which works better for me!

Now before I go (for now) ... I feel I need to tell you about some really wonderful holiday programming on this Thursday night!

First, at 8 p.m. ...

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A Charlie Brown Christmas ... :)

It's family tradition to all sit together and watch this show WHEN it is airing on national TV. Sure we could watch it anytime on DVD, but that's just not the same.

Amiright?

And then, immediately following ...

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The Great American Baking Show: Holiday Edition!

I'm very much looking forward to watching both of these shows. The Baking Show is on after my bedtime, so thank goodness for that DVR!

Well my friends, I'll be off for now since I've kept you here for so long. We have more "cozy" concepts to discuss, so I hope you'll join me later this week in a follow up post. I will share thoughts on enhancing the comforts of home, as well as some pictures of my own "winter nesting spot." And if anyone would like to share their own nest, please feel free to email me your pics (with a brief description) and I will include them in my post!

drhanigan AT gmail DOT com

Thanks so much for stopping by everyone ... see you here again very soon!


❀️Looking Ahead: Tea & Christmas Planning!

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Hello again, my friends!

Well, it's a rather dreary November afternoon here - sleety, cold, and DARK - so I'm taking a break from our Thanksgiving prep to sit down for a cup of tea and to share a couple of quick things with you all. The first thing is what you see above ... this year's Christmas Planner is ready to go!

πŸŽ„ Dawn's Christmas Planner for 2018 πŸŽ„

Now, I'm really excited to dive into holiday planning - but I do like to live in season, and be mindful of our present blessings - so this week is all about thankfulness - and preparing turkey for 25! I also, however, like to get my ducks in a row asap, so I printed out a fresh copy - updated for the new year with a new, pretty cover (and back) page - and added it to my planning binder. There it will wait for me until Friday morning when I'll be raring to go! (Over a cup of mulled cider and leftovers!)

Okhere is a little sneak peek at the inside pages ...

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I hope this 16-page booklet will be helpful to you as you plan out your holiday season, but more than that - I hope it helps you think about HOW you want the season to feel. Christmas is about so much more than just the nitty gritty details - not that there's not a lot of things to do and keep on top of in order to make everyone's holiday  happy - but it's really about creating an atmosphere, crafting a vision, cultivating and carrying on with traditions that make the season so special for everyone. It is also, if I may be so bold as to suggest, a time for making time for ourselves. A time to connect with the true spirit of the season - whatever that may mean for YOU - touching base with the memories and values you hold dear. These weeks go by so fast, let's give this special time some real forethought and plan a Christmastide that will bring not only happiness, but harmony - inside and out.

Well ... more on all that in posts to come, but on that note ... the other thing I wanted to tell you all today is that I've decided to bring back my WEEKLY WINTER TEAS!

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And so ...

Tea at Dawn's will commence next Monday, November 26th and continue (fingers crossed) every week throughout what I like to call, "nesting" season.

I am still hammering out my thoughts on this special project, as well as my weekly Tea themes, but come next Monday we can start by sharing a little of our Thanksgivings as well as our hopes for the season ahead - not to mention, of course, a lovely cup of late autumn tea!

Guests are always welcome at Teatime - to simply read, or share thoughts, or to participate with pictures - so I hope you'll consider joining me! Grab that Teacup image above if you'd care to spread the word, and if you'd like to send me a picture, please email me:

drhanigan AT gmail DOT com

Our 1st post:

November 26th: "Thanksgiving Memories and Holiday Hopes."

Well friends, I will be off now as dinnertime has approached and I am actually now typing these last words with a five year old in my arms who is complaining of a bellyache! So for now ...

Thanks so much for stopping by, have a nice evening, and I'll hope to see you here again very soon!


Tea & Mitten Strings: A Pause & a Plan!

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Hello my friends and Happy Sunday! I hope you are all doing well. β€ I'm popping in today to share a cup of Advent tea, and announce a little change to my December blogging schedule ...

Now, I know had promised to pick up where we left off in our Mitten Strings for God book study, and to continue on with our weekly tea schedule as well, but - and I know you all saw this coming - I think what I really need is to keep things simple this month. I have a lot going on at the moment - there's a season to savor, my concussion to coddle, and college applications to finish for my son!

So what I would like to do for now is to hit "pause" on my blogging for the rest of the month. In early January we'll gather here again for a cup of Winter's tea and hit "play" on our MSfG book study. I'm thinking there may even be a little giveaway involved ... 

But to touch on our current chapter, "Wants and Needs," I would like to say a few quick things before getting on with today's tea ... Here is a link to my post on this chapter from 2008 which I just re-read last week, and in doing so I thought:

You know what? I really like what I had to say back then!

So here's a little excerpt:

I think helping our children find and feel contentment, is vital to their happiness later in life. We grown-ups know, in our hearts, that contentment doesn't come from things, but rather, from having our needs met consistently. Because once those needs are met, we feel comfort, and comfort provides plenty of space for joy. (Did I just talk in a circle? Possibly, but please bear with me.)

There are so many places this post could go, but in the interest of time (mine and yours) I'll just offer up a few notes I jotted down for myself re this particular endeavor (and as always, these are just things I am trying - I don't presume to know what would work for your family):

  1. Expose the kids to less media/commercialism.
  2. Shop as infrequently as possible and be more thrifty with our spending.
  3. Make giving thanks a bigger part of our everyday life. Hone in on our non-material blessings.
  4. Volunteer more as a family.

Now, I think I had good intentions back then, but I know my family could definitely use a little refresher! So as we approach the new year I'll be brainstorming ways to work these four goals (back) into our life. In particular, I'd love to spend less time shopping - and make the shopping we do do more meaningful and focused. I'm pretty sure Bill would love the idea of less spending, too!

But for today, let's share some Advent tea and revel in this season of twinkling lights and sparkling snow ... and first, I am so pleased to share my friend Gill's lovely pics with you all. I can always count on Gill to share a cozy cup of tea and a peek into her life across the pond!

From Gill:

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"We are just beginning to put a few things out for Advent, and I was given this little tablescape decoration yesterday. It had rather a Scottish feel to it, so I have had a little St Andrew’s day tea beside it this afternoon ...

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"Whilst I was doing that, my menfolk were cutting down a Christmas tree for our front yard! They had a lot of fun and we now have a tree to rival the one in Trafalgar Square!"

Thank you, Gill, for sharing your warm and welcoming tea here with us! Your views are so pretty ... and I have to say, I was a little jealous of your snow when I first opened your message. ;) (We've since gotten some of our own.) But that tree - wow, it's a beauty! I especially love those large lights - so pretty! And who's that sweet little doggie posing in front? What a love!

Speaking of loves, here's my Oliver, whose favorite haunt is the library ... 

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Isn't he handsome? ❀ Archie finds his way into more of the pictures because he gets into more trouble he's always wherever we are ... whereas Oliver tends to snuggle up and sleep in quiet corners when he can find them. His favorite spot? Behind the loveseat, sidled up next to the heating register ... where I keep his preferred pet bed, natch. :)

But speaking of Archie?

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Yes, he's just LOVING the Advent season as you can see ... with all the little knicknacks to bat around and fresh greenery to nosh on ...

#andthisiswhywecanthavenicethings πŸ˜‚ 

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As part of our Advent storytelling, I made this peg doll St. Nick and, as an extra surprise, purchased that sweet little cat, one of a few new wooden figures from Bella Luna Toys. The story I told had to do with a lost cat finding a new home at the Farm, in thanks to a kind stranger in the woods (St. Nicholas/Father Christmas). I was inspired by the book seen below, one of my favorite Christmas stories of all time ...

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The Christmas Cat by Efner Tudor Holmes (and illustrated by the beloved Tasha Tudor) is such a beautiful story - especially for those of us with a soft spot for animals. What is extra sweet about this photo is that BOTH of my younger boys were sitting at this table, listening to me read aloud. (While sipping their traditional St. Nicholas Day treat, candy cane cocoa!) Earlybird is usually very uncomfortable being read to, but he was really calm and content to hear the story! Such progress he has made ... it makes this mama so happy. :)

And here's another festive spread, one I arranged a few days later, when I expected a dear friend for morning tea ...

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This is my favorite Christmas china, a set I started collecting several years ago. "Winter Greetings Everyday" it's called, and I love it most of all for the birds! Several species are represented on these dishes ... cardinals, chickadees, titmice, goldfinches ... downy woodpeckers even!

Here's another shot of my tea table last Friday ...

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This was *before* we got our first snow of the season!

Speaking of ... here I am with Little Bear on our way home from Whole Foods Saturday morning. We made a quick run to get bread, milk and a few other sundries before the storm set in!

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This chapter sprung to mind several times as we shopped ...

"Hey, can I have that?"

"Mama, I want that!"

"Wait! Mama go back, I want to look at that again!"

And me: "Honey, we don't need to buy that today, but it IS a really neat [insert desired item here]."

The snow was light as we left the store, but within a few hours, it was falling in earnest ...

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With all of two inches on the ground, Little Bear said: "This all has to go. Let’s get to work.” 

(This boy has the strongest work ethic I've ever seen in a 4 year old!)

Next morning ...

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All was calm, all was bright ... β€

I do love a December snow. An old-fashioned Christmas just isn't complete without at least a dusting of snow! (We had about 6 inches and are expecting more in the next week or so!)

And finally, here is our Christmas tree ...

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I'm quite fond of our tree this year ... and as you can see, so is Archie. :)

Well everyone, thank you very much for stopping by and taking the time to read. I hope you are all having a nice December! And Mitten Strings friends - I hope you will excuse this little break from our study and join me back here again next month!

Now, that's not to say I might not pop in again before January ... and I'll definitely be around on Facebook and Instagram! But for now, I will say ...

Blessed Advent, my friends. I wish each of you a love-filled, perfectly peaceful and happy holiday season. God bless you all and thank you so much for your friendship, kindness and care!

See you here again very soon ...


Tea & Mitten Strings: Ch. 8, "Secret Places"

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Hello my friends, and Happy Sunday! I hope you all are having a nice weekend, and I hope my fellow Americans enjoyed a very happy Thanksgiving! Ours was quite nice - and I do have some pictures to share - but for now, I'd like to serve one last cup of Autumn Tea and talk about our next chapter in Mitten Strings for God, chapter eight, "Secret Places." 

Now, despite the "Christmassy" look of my tea pic above, it actually is still Autumn! But I think most of us are switching gears at the moment ... tucking away Thanksgiving (and maybe Halloween) decor, and working on our December calendars and this year's holiday plans ...

But outside my window the world still looks very autumnal! There are crunchy leaves underfoot, and some still clinging to the mostly bare trees ... and oh, those late, glowing sunsets! But the chipmunks have gone underground now - we realized that the other day, shortly after we spotted our first dark-eyed junco on the front lawn. These two species disappear (the former) and reappear (the latter) around the same time each year and it's always a highlight in our household - right along with that first hard morning frost!

Who saw the first junco? Has anyone seen a chipmunk lately? Wow the grass is crunchy this morning!

Autumn's ending ... winter's nearing ... it's time to turn inward and "switch on the lights." β€

Here's a peek at our Saturday afternoon, roundabouts 3:00 ... 

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See how dark it gets around here?! And though my Little Bear is wearing a winter jacket in this picture, the temperature was strangely mild today - very near 60Β°! And, according to our local forecast, all next week is looking unseasonably mild as well - which doesn't bode well for our pre-assigned seasonal theme of "Welcome, Jack Frost!" Lol, we may be hard pressed to celebrate "frosty weather" next week, with highs near 50Β° ... though the nights will dip down to the 20s, so there is hope! (I contemplated switching themes, but I think we'll stick with it ... and if it stays mild we'll talk about how elusive that ol' winter sprite can be at this time of year!❄️ )

(p.s. The wooden structure is an Advent project in the works - more to come next week on that!)

Ok, enough with the weather talk now, let's talk about tea! This week I'm drinking my favorite decaffeinated black tea in a sweet mug I bought at Home Goods a year or so ago. It's a good sturdy mug that holds a nice amount of tea - and I love the bright red letters spelling out HOME - and the four birds heading straight for it!

(Note - I find the cutest mugs at HomeGoods for very little money. Well, they're not free or anything - as Bill would remind me - but they're a nice enough price I don't mind splurging once in a while! πŸ˜‰ )

So I took my tea yesterday in our sunny kitchen nook while filling out my December calendar -  because GOODNESS the new month arrives Friday! (Calendar post to come soon!) And though most Advent calendars begin on December 1st, technically, according to the liturgical calendar, Advent begins on the first Sunday of Advent, which in 2017 is December 3rd. And that's a week from today!

Either way you look at it though - whichever calendar you follow - Advent is coming - and SOON!

Before we get on with our chapter talk though, and speaking of tea and Advent, I have to share this with you all ...

Advent teas

This is MY Advent calendar this year, an extremely generous and incredibly thoughtful gift from a dear friend! It arrived in a wonderful surprise package last week, a lovely and festive box filled with special teas for each and every day of Advent ... 24 in all! I am so excited to try them all, and I love the inspiration they represent - a perfect reason to sit down and savor a few quiet moments each day throughout the season ... to soak it all in and think it all through. Advent goes so fast and we can easily get caught up in the hustle and bustle ... but as we tea lovers know, a hot cuppa something special is all the invitation we need to slow down and press pause. I am planning my teatimes already and making room for these special moments in each day. I hope to share most, if not all, of these teas with you all on social media this Advent season!

Ok, let's now move on to our next Mitten Strings chapter ... and today we are discussing the concept of "Secret Places." Here is a link to my post from 2008 and once again I had a chuckle reading back through my thoughts back then. Different house, different (aged) kids (plus one more kid now) ... unsurprisingly things were so ... different back then! Our house has more floors and our yard now has more acreage - so there are more nooks and crannies to explore - but my primary "secret place finder" is only four years old! So I'll have to adapt the concept of a "hideaway" this time around ...

"Every child needs such a place, a place that invokes the processes of the imagination and the possibility of transformation. A place that is at once a haven from the adult world and a source of mystery and wonder, a place that a child can discover and shape and lay claim by virtue of his or her own quiet presence there, and deep observation." (p. 62)

Little Bear is just at the right age for seeking out such special, secret places - though again, he's too young to be left to his own devices just yet. I hope next spring to help him explore a little more around our property, to find some little nooks in which he might find "a sense of ownership and mystery," (p. 58).

Here is one such place he has taken a liking to recently ...

IMG_0151

As you can tell from my posts, we are surrounded by woods here - even our front yard has "a small wood" of its own! Well, Friday afternoon, as I walked down to get the mail (taking a break from Thanksgiving cleanup!), I heard Little Bear calling ...

"Mama, come see what I found! Come see, come see! Me and Daddy are here now!"

IMG_0171

A little nook right inside this cozy wood, just a slight dip down below our driveway ... with big, moss-covered rocks to climb and (unbeknownst to Little Bear) a vernal pond to explore come spring. (No actual peepers, though. Just lots of muck and murk.) I was so pleased he stumbled upon this spot which is clearly visible from the house but feels "secretive" to him. Four is such a great age, and LB has such an adventurous spirit ...

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This will make a fun, out-of-the-way place for him to explore ... and "claim."

"The best ones are the ones that children discover on their own, the ones that are imbued, from the very first, with a sense of ownership and mystery; places that no adult would ever think to go, that are hollowed by the shapes of small bodies and furnished by wild nature and rampant imagination." (pg. 58)

Kids are magnets for these kinds of interesting outdoor spots, especially when and if allowed to roam (and lead). Their sharp eyes see such possibilities! But winter is coming and the weather will soon be turning inhospitable; outdoor explorations will be put on the back burner for awhile ...

So as we spend more time indoors, I thought I'd take a look around the house and see where else LB might find his own special nooks ...

Here's a great place for a little "fort" ...

IMG_0333

In the library, where Mama reads (and drinks tea) ... in between the chair and the loveseat, just beneath the (rickety) end table. :)

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He'd be snuggled up right next to the heating register, too! And just under the tablecloth there, you see a glimpse of the cats' soft pet-bed. This is used mostly (always) by Oliver, who is our quieter of the two cats. (There's a reason you see Archie in most of my photos - he's my constant sidekick!) Oliver though, likes being out of sight and prefers being somewhere dark and warm. I'm thinking Little Bear could make good use of this space, too!

And here's another possible secret (ish) place ...

6a00d8341bfe1853ef01a3fd13cfee970b

Well, there's really nothing too secret about the loft bed in Little Bear's bedroom, but I think it has "secret place" potential ... maybe with a curtain of some kind providing some privacy ...

Loft bed 1

He's too young to sleep up here just yet (and he has a separate single bed in this room as well) but I think this will be great fun for him as he gets a little older and more adventurous! And there's that neat little cubby just beneath the bed as well ... currently it holds out-of-season clothing but that too could make a wonderful "fort" or hidey-hole someday!

You know, "Secret Places" was another wonderful chapter, with some lovely inspiration for those of us with young children ... but I think the whole idea of a "secret place" is of value to all of us. Our imaginations might not be quite so active as we age, but the need to feel out of the limelight and "off on our own" on occasion ... really never goes away.

"Children need their privacy just as we adults do. In the secret places of childhood, the soul drinks deeply, is refreshed, and flourishes." (p. 63)

Do you have a secret place you retreat to? Do your children have such places they call all their own? I'd love to hear about them and your thoughts on this chapter, if you have time! Or how about the weather where you are, or the tea you are drinking these days? Do you, like me, feel called to pour a cup of tea and "hide away" as the days grow dark and cold?

I'd love to read your comments if you have time to leave them, or send me a link, your thoughts and/or pics if you have a moment!

---> drhanigan AT gmail DOT com

I hope to hear from you and I thank all of you who have been reading along and sharing your thoughts as you can! Sorry I am a bit late in my replies - last week was a busy one! I will be catching up with you all again soon (and sharing some pics from our family's holiday too). Next week's Sunday post will be our first Advent Tea and very fittingly our chapter is all about "Wants and Needs." Something to ponder as we head into the busiest shopping time of the year, and choose gifts for our loved ones ...

So until then (or next time, whenever that may be) I wish you all well and a very lovely last week of November! Take care of yourselves and your loved ones, my friends ... 

See you here again very soon!


And the Giveaway Winner is ... ❀

LISA!

Congratulations, Lisa - you've won my "Winter Comforts Basket!" I hope you'll enjoy it! I will be in touch this week to organize all the mailing details. :)

And a heartfelt THANK YOU to all who participated in our Advent Teas and Christmas Teas this year! (Including those who left kind comments on all those posts, too!) I had such fun with this series, and I hope you all did as well!

More teas - and comforts and joys - and all kinds of homey happy stuff to come in the new year! I hope you will join me here in the months ahead for a little company and conversation. My word of the year is "Radiant" and I aim to look for the light in the world - and to shine my own light where it is needed! πŸŒž

Wishing everyone here a very Happy, Healthy and Peaceful New Year! Blessings to all ... 

See you in 2017!

❀


Christmas Tea with Friends ... ❀

IMG_2144 (1) copyHappy New Year's Eve, my friends!

Our giveaway is just about at its end, but I have two more lovely tea moments to share! Below we have a submission from dear friend and longtime reader Gill - who was actually the very first person to send me a tea picture! But it somehow got lost in the shuffle of pictures and posts! Just came across it this morning as I was looking back over my emails. I apologize Gill, for my oversight - I remember how excited I was to receive my very first tea cup! And Mason was my very last entry - having heard from her just yesterday ... and she was hoping she was not too late to be part of our project. And Mason, you're not! :)

As I mentioned before I will include anyone in the giveaway who sends me their cup up until 6 p.m. tonight. Then I will be doing a drawing (randomly) to see who will win that "Winter Comforts Basket!" (Announcement to come shortly thereafter ...)

So let's pop in at Gill's and Mason's. Wishing you both a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Gill: This is a photo of the corner of my kitchen, where I stand to make tea or coffee, cook and bake, or turn 90' to wash up! I spend many contented hours exactly here working or dreaming or gazing out of my window to the front yard, where the dog, cats, hens and wild birds all interact!

In the summer the troughs against the yard wall are overflowing with flowers, now they are stuffed full of daffodil, crocus and narcissus bulbs, covered over with pine branches. The tree is the one we went into the forest to cut down last weekend. The bird feeders are usually busy. It is the funniest thing that the wild birds throw down seed to the hens beneath, and the hens keep the cats away!

You can just see that I have hung my Christmas curtains and that they are swathed with fairy lights. I have my breakfast ready: Norwegian brown goats cheese on bread and a cafe latte in my favorite Emma Bridgewater JOY mug. The board I have my bread on says " A friendly word can work wonders" which is so very true. I had just poured my coffee when your post pinged in, so I snapped the photo and hope you won't mind an Advent breakfast instead of tea!

Tea gill

Wishing you a very peaceful Advent...

(I remember when you sent this, Gill and thinking - that is just about the coziest Advent breakfast I can imagine! Tea is a special moment - whatever we might be drinking and wherever we might be drinking it!)

*❀*

Mason: I love what you said below, Dawn . . . It's how I feel about tea! Any tea, all tea, hot or cold!

"It's much more than a beverage - it's a mindset!"

My favorite tea cup is one of a set of two that I purchased last Easter. I bought the tea pot, two cups, sugar bowl, creamer and a plate for tea cakes. I love that the cups are LARGE - lots of room for milk and tea.  
 
My favorite tea is Earl Grey, by Twinings. But I love everything else, too.
 
My favorite way to drink tea is with friends ...
 
Tea mason
 
Happy New Year!

*❀*

Thank you, ladies! I'm happy to post this final "Tea with Friends" post today while I'm sipping my own mug on a cloudy and cool December afternoon. What I love about your pictures (and all the photos sent in throughout the series) is how we have each composed a moment of peace and enjoyment. Whether we're treating ourselves or sharing with friends. What a lovely way to move forward in the new year ...

Well, stay tuned my friends ... I'll be back tonight to announce that basket winner! Until then, enjoy the rest of your LAST day of the year. Stay safe and have fun!


Christmas Tea with Friends ... December 30th ❀

IMG_2144 (1) copyHello my friends, and Merry Christmas! Thank you so much for joining me for another teatime. :)

All throughout December I've been sharing readers' favorite cups and mugs, in my "Tea with Friends" series, returning on Fridays with my own special Tea post. Advent and Christmas Tea has been such fun! Thanks to all for joining me, whether you shared a peek at your cup or simply stopped by to check in and share your kind thoughts. It's been a lovely cozy project ... but I can hardly believe it's coming to a close!

But December IS at its end ... and so too is my giveaway contest! Tomorrow evening I will be announcing the winner of my "Winter Comforts Basket" (randomly drawn from all entries) and then I will follow up on Sunday with my own New Year's Tea post. :) (You might notice I'm skipping my last Friday Christmas Tea ... back issues are keeping me from working at the computer as much as I'd like today so I'm shooting for Sunday instead!)

Anyhoo ... today I am very happy to share with you three final readers' teatimes. Let's visit with Michelle, Darla and Raven ... Merry Christmas, ladies!

Michelle: Hi Dawn. I'm adding a photo of this morning's tea. We got hammered with the tail end of that nor'easter and I'm currently sitting on about 6" of fresh powder snow. My ducks, shown in the photo, are less than thrilled, but are out. My chooks, however, won't even leave the hen house. I enjoyed some Sleepy Time tea while I fed them this morning, in a funny mug I bought my husband last year. The chamomile and mint soothes my irritable stomach ...

Tea shell

Hope the holidays were good to you. 
Blessed be.
 
*❀*

Darla: I'm just beginning my mug collection so I don't have many favorites, but this is one of them:

Tea darla
 
 
Best wishes ...

*❀*

And now, let's pop over to Raven's Instagram page where she is sharing three of her favorite mugs - hooray for snowmen and kitty cats! Such cozy comforts and joys ... :)

*❀*

Thanks so much, ladies! It was so fun sharing tea with you ... I loved seeing your mugs and hearing about the kinds of teas you prefer. I love that there are so many of us who share a love of tea! (Or cocoa or coffee or cider ... or whatever we prefer to drink in our own special cups. It's all about the mindset, I think. Creating a familiar ritual for connection, calm, creativity and coziness. Making a little space in our day for ourselves. β€

Well, thanks to all for stopping by today! I hope you enjoyed our Teatimes! I've just loved hearing from you all and seeing your mugs ... imagining we're truly sitting down together, chatting over a cup of something warm and comforting. This has been such a nice time, and I'd love to do it again ... maybe we'll do a Winter Tea series later in the season? Or Lenten Teas in the spring? And I'm already making plans for a "Garden Tea" project this summer ...

But for now, please stay tuned for tomorrow's exciting announcement! (If I receive anymore submissions I will add the names to the drawing and perhaps share the cups after the holiday.) And I will have my own New Year's Tea post coming very soon ... I am ALMOST finished updating my weekly planning sheets for the new year and would love to make them available to you all. I will get them posted just as soon as I can ...
 
Enjoy your evening my friends, and Happy Friday!
 
See you here again very soon ...

Christmas Tea with Friends ... December 29th ❀

IMG_2144 (1) copyHello my friends, and Merry Christmas! Thank you so much for joining me for another teatime. :)

All throughout Advent I shared readers' favorite cups and mugs, every weekday at 4 p.m. ... and returned on Fridays with my own special Tea post. Advent has come to an end, but our teatimes will continue ... so now we are celebrating Christmas Tea together! Anyone who participates in our teatime - by sending me a picture of their favorite cup or mug - will be entered in my "Winter Comforts Basket" giveaway ...

And on New Year's Eve I will announce the basket winner!

p.s. Each Friday throughout Advent I gave a little peek at something that will be tucked inside that basket. There was soap, body butter, a pocket calendar and a pretty mug as well as a tin of cocoa and a small blue notebook ... and finally, a package of notecards and a favorite magazine! :)

If you'd like to join us, please read more giveaway details in this post - but today I am honored to have Grace and Lisa welcoming us into their homes! Merry Christmas, ladies! :)

Grace: Today I am term-planning. All four children are with their papa, so it is a good time for a (still) picture! My tea mug is a Mikasa from their French Countryside line. We received a pair of these 18 years ago, as a wedding gift. Today my cup is filled with strong chai tea and a bit of raw honey ...

Tea grace

Blessings to you and your family.

*❀*

Lisa: Well, I'm running late as is usual for this year, (though I'm determined to get ahead in 2017 and make it shine!). But I have been enjoying your teatimes this Christmas season, and wanted to send you some pics of my favorite mugs, well - my favorites right now at least. ;)

This first one is a longtime favorite - one I take out at Christmastime, and (usually), put away for safekeeping till next year. Next to it are a couple of lovely and delicious cookies (store bought of course - I wish I could make such pretty pastries!). 

Tea lisa 1

I drink hot tea year round - all kinds. We have a large collection of teas (and cocoas) at our house, even more so in the last year as one of my sons worked at Starbucks over the summer where employees receive a free box of tea (or bag of coffee, which I don't care for though my older sons and husband enjoy it), every week. 

I can usually be found sipping black tea with just a bit of sugar, *or* black tea with a dollop of Italian Creamer, *or* peppermint tea (with perhaps a chunk of peppermint in it for extra kick and sweetness). I also love Earl Grey, Chai, English Breakfast Tea, & lemony, citrus teas. 

Next is a new mug - given to me by Son #3 (I have four), just this Christmas. It's a nice size for my hand, and is lovely and sparkly! (Goes right along with my plans for 2017 to Shine!) Here it's sitting on my 'family room desk' alongside my favorite saltrock lamp (also a gift), and my 'Christmas Tide Bird' who arrives to hang out with me each Christmas!

Tea lisa 2

Finally, (yes I know three's a lot - but I have literally 100's of mugs, many boxed awaiting the day when our basement may be finished and they're given their own place to live), here's the "trailer mug" - you may have seen this one at Target this year? Because that's where I bought it! Then wrapped it up, tagged it to myself, and added it to the Family Christmas Box, (though honestly it's more often been a basket these past years), a traditional present we gather to open each year on whichever evening we choose. There's always a little something in it for everyone, as well as something for all - such as some "food treat" (Japanese candy, baked goods from the local Indian restaurant, one year a coconut for my youngest who was intrigued with them for some reason!). Maybe a movie, and always a book!

I was so drawn to this mug. Due to its Christmas theme of course, and it's odd shape. Plus I think it'd be lovely to have a "Christmas Trailer" to travel around in all year long. 

Tea lisa 3

Wishing you and your family a bright, healthy 2017 ...

*❀*

Well, ladies - thanks so much for welcoming us into your homes and sharing your teatime with us! What fun and pretty mugs! Everything looks so cozy and warm. I think that's part of the tea allure for me ... because like Lisa, I too drink hot tea all year long. It's much more than a beverage - it's a mindset! :)

And thanks to all for stopping by today. I hope you enjoyed our teatime - and I hope you are all enjoying your Christmas! I just love hearing from you all and seeing your mugs ... imagining we're truly sitting down together, chatting over a cup of something warm and comforting. And I'd love to have you join us! Please drop a note if you have a moment and send me your own favorite cup when you have a chance ...

 
(drhanigan AT gmail DOT com)
 
I'll look forward to hearing from you ... :)
 
We might have one more day of "Tea with Friends" this week - if I have more submissions I'll fit them in somehow! - but tomorrow (Friday) I will host my own Christmas Tea ... and then on Saturday (New Year's Eve) ... dun dun dun ... I will announce the winner of that basket!
 
So please stay tuned and enjoy your evening, my friends ... I will see you all here again very soon!

Christmas Tea with Friends ... December 28th ❀

IMG_2144 (1) copyHello my friends, and Merry Christmas! Thank you so much for joining me for another teatime. :)

All throughout Advent I shared readers' favorite cups and mugs, every weekday at 4 p.m. ... and returned on Fridays with my own special Tea post. Advent has come to an end, but our teatimes will continue ... so now we are celebrating Christmas Tea together! Anyone who participates in our teatime - by sending me a picture of their favorite cup or mug - will be entered in my "Winter Comforts Basket" giveaway ...

And on New Year's Eve I will announce the basket winner!

p.s. Each Friday throughout Advent I gave a little peek at something that will be tucked inside that basket. There was soap, body butter, a pocket calendar and a pretty mug as well as a tin of cocoa and a small blue notebook ... and finally, a package of notecards and a favorite magazine! :)

If you'd like to join us, please read more giveaway details in this post - but for today I am very pleased to welcome Libby Jane, Barbara and Sherrylynne to our teatime. Merry Christmas, ladies!

Libby Jane: This tea cup and saucer I was just given from my grandmother's house as she moved recently. I have a little collection of the loveliest teacups and saucers. Some gifts, some thrifted, all cherished. So if you stop by, I will lay a tablecloth and pull out the china!
 
Tea libby

I like oolongs, and a good English Breakfast, unsweetened. Even more, though, I love to make teas with lemon or bee balms, peppermint or rose petal, from the garden. I also love cedar and balsam fir tips. Bee balm cheers me up and balsam fir tea is the best winter tonic for all that ails!

I like yellow for cheer in these dark days of winter.
 
You can also see some of my favorite Christmas books, much loved - the Christmas Nutshell Library. Nearly loved to death, in fact!
 
"Winters come and winters go, summers come and summers go; soon the swallows will be here." (The Tomten, by Astrid Lindgren)

The merriest of Christmases to you!
*❀*
Barbara: I have three favorite mugs and three favorite teas! The first mug is a recent purchase from Goodwill! I couldn't resist the old-fashioned winter scene from Currier & Ives. I use it every morning with my Yogi Green Tea Kombucha Decaf. 
 
Tea barbara 1
 
The next mug was a gift from a friend who knows my Dutch heritage. It's Delft and as you can see from the photos, it has the front of a Dutch girl on one side, and the back of her on the other!
 
Tea barbara 2
 
Tea barbara 3
 
The last mug is another favorite due to the lovely scene which looks like an Impressionist painting.
 
Tea barbara 4

The two other teas I regularly enjoy are Bigelow Constant Comment and Twinings Chai.
 
Happy New Year to you and your family!
*❀* 
Sherrylynne (who shared her beautiful picture at her IG page): Here's a little shout out to Dawn at By Sun and Candlelight for helping the rest of us relish each season ...
 
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Happy Winter!

*❀*

Oh, how fun and kind, Sherrylynne! I am not quite as IG savvy as I could be but I saw your post and boy did it make me smile! And I love so much about your tea spot - the cup, the candle, the books - and that jaunty British robin in the background! Barbara, I also love Constant Comment - especially at this time of year! And your Currier & Ives mug brings back memories of a lamp my grandparents had in their den - it had a lampshade featuring the four seasons by C&I. Boy do I wish we still had that lamp! And Libby, how lovely that you assemble your own teas! I might have to pick your brain on that a little bit ... I am a budding herb grower and would love to try my hand at tea crafting sometime. Maybe I'll host another tea series in the summer ... Garden Tea with Friends? :)

And I agree with you that yellow is perfectly cheerful, and especially so in the wintertime ... it's been my favorite color since I was a little girl and my birthday arrives in the cold, dark days of January!

p.s. I adore the Tomten books ... two of them are tucked in our winter book basket right this very moment! :)

Well, ladies - thanks so much for welcoming us into your homes and sharing your teatime with us! And thanks to all for stopping by today. I hope you enjoyed our teatime - and I hope you are all enjoying your Christmas! I just love hearing from you all and seeing your mugs ... imagining we're truly sitting down together, chatting over a cup of something warm and comforting. And I'd love to have you join us! Please drop a note if you have a moment and send me your own favorite cup when you have a chance ...
 
(drhanigan AT gmail DOT com)
 
I'll look forward to hearing from you ... :)
 
There will be more "Tea with Friends" posts this week - roundabouts 4 p.m. And this Friday I will host my own Christmas Tea ... and then the next day ... dun dun dun ... I will announce the winner of that basket!
 
So please stay tuned and enjoy your evening, my friends ... I will see you all here again very soon!

Christmas Tea with Friends ... December 27th ❀

IMG_2144 (1) copyHello my friends, and Merry Christmas! Thank you so much for joining me for another teatime. :)

All throughout Advent I shared readers' favorite cups and mugs, every weekday at 4 p.m. ... and returned on Fridays with my own special Tea post. Advent has come to an end, but our teatimes will continue ... so now we are celebrating Christmas Tea together! Anyone who participates in our teatime - by sending me a picture of their favorite cup or mug - will be entered in my "Winter Comforts Basket" giveaway ...

And on New Year's Eve I will announce the basket winner!

p.s. Each Friday throughout Advent I gave a little peek at something that will be tucked inside that basket. There was soap, body butter, a pocket calendar and a pretty mug as well as a tin of cocoa and a small blue notebook ... and finally, a package of notecards and a favorite magazine! :)

If you'd like to join us, please read more giveaway details in this post - but today we're visiting with Andrea and Greta! Welcome ladies, and Merry Christmas ... 

Andrea: Hi Dawn, I wanted to pop in with our tea time. My 8 year old daughter has her snoopy mug with her "honey tea" which is just honey and water. I am taking my tea in my little honey bee cup given to me by my sweet sister-in-law. The candles are an early Christmas present from my 14 year old son ...

Tea andrea

We love our tea time. It's daily for me and my daughter joins me often.

Merry Christmas to you all!

*❀*
Greta: Hi Dawn - I'm not a tea or coffee drinker (even after living in Brazil for a year!), but I do love a good mug of hot chocolate. This glass Santa mug is one of my favorites. We inherited it from my mother-in-law, so I always remember her when I use it ...

Tea greta
 
Thanks for the opportunity to share. Merry Christmas! 
 
*❀*
 
Thank you so much, Andrea and Greta! Your teatimes are lovely ... the marshmallow floating in that mug of cocoa looks so inviting and that honey "tea" sounds yummy! I will have to try that with my Little Bear sometime (though he does love a warm cup of tea!). Everything looks so cozy and warm ... I hope you both are enjoying this beautiful new season!
 
And thanks to all for stopping by today. I hope you enjoyed our teatime - and I hope you are all enjoying your Christmas! I just love hearing from you all and seeing your mugs ... imagining we're truly sitting down together, chatting over a cup of something warm and comforting. And I'd love to have you join us! Please drop a note if you have a moment and send me your own favorite cup when you have a chance ...
 
(drhanigan AT gmail DOT com)
 
I'll look forward to hearing from you ... :)
 
There will be more "Tea with Friends" posts this week - roundabouts 4 p.m. And this Friday I will host my own Christmas Tea ... and then the next day ... dun dun dun ... I will announce the winner of that basket!
 
So please stay tuned and enjoy your evening, my friends ... I will see you all here again very soon!

Christmas Tea with Friends ... December 26th ❀

IMG_2144 (1) copyHello my friends, Merry Christmas and Happy Boxing Day! Thank you so much for joining me for another teatime. :)

All throughout Advent I shared readers' favorite cups and mugs, every weekday at 4 p.m. ... and returned on Fridays with my own special Tea post. Advent has come to an end, but our teatimes will continue ... so now we are celebrating Christmas Tea together! Anyone who participates in our teatime - by sending me a picture of their favorite cup or mug - will be entered in my "Winter Comforts Basket" giveaway. On New Year's Eve I will announce the basket winner!

p.s. Each Friday throughout Advent I gave a little peek at something that will be tucked inside that basket. There was soap, body butter, a pocket calendar and a pretty mug as well as a tin of cocoa and a small blue notebook ... and finally, a package of notecards and a favorite magazine! :)

If you'd like to join us, please read more giveaway details in this post - but today we are popping in at Helena's and Tanya's. Merry Christmas, ladies! Thanks so much for having us in ... :)

Helena: 

I finally got around to snapping photos of my two favorite mugs - I couldn't decide. :) The Jane Austen mug was a Christmas gift from my husband last year, and I use it every morning to drink my only caffeinated tea of the day - 95% of the time it's Tasha Tudor's Welsh Breakfast Tea, with milk and sugar.
 
Tea helena 2
 
The turquoise "Mama" mug was a gift from my sister - she knew I'd love it because it's my favorite color and that's what my kids call me. :) I use it in the evenings because it holds heat longer than any of my other mugs, and my hands are often cold at night, so I tend to cuddle my tea a little. :) Tonight I'm drinking Harney and Sons Vanilla Comoro (the decaf version) with milk and a smidge of sugar - so delicious!
 
Tea helena 1
 
Thanks for sharing everyone's photos - I love seeing the variety of mugs and teacups (and reading about all the teas everyone's drinking!). Wishing you and your family a lovely Christmas and all the best in the new year!
 
*❀*
 
Tanya: Here (at long last!) is my tea time picture ...

Tea tanya

This is my very favourite tea mug in my favourite tea time place. It's filled with strong Yorkshire Tea and this picture was from a few moments stolen to drink my tea, sit in quiet and read my Advent devotional. Our household is so busy and loud that finding a few minutes here and there to recharge my batteries is absolutely essential. I just absolutely love this tea mug. It is an *enormous* David's Tea mug and I love the beautiful Christmassy design on the outside! Being able to sit with a cuppa and watch the skies darken in the late afternoon is something that truly refreshes me for the busy evening ahead. Thank you so much for the inspiration to make tea time a part of my day!

Many blessings on you all ...
 
*❀*
 
Thank you so much, Helena and Tanya! You are both long-time readers and friends, and it's just lovely to hear from you both ... and see your mugs! I love them all. Now, I've had Yorkshire Tea before, as well as Harney & Sons Vanilla Comoro - and both are delicious. But I've never had the Tasha Tudor Tea, Helena! I've always wondered about it though (since I love pretty much all things Tasha Tudor, lol) and now you've got me thinking I might order a tin for my birthday next month! (I also think these beeswax candles are lovely.)
 
Well thanks so much to all for stopping by today! I hope you enjoyed our teatime - and I hope you are all enjoying your Christmas! I just love hearing from you all and seeing your mugs ... imagining we're truly sitting down together, chatting over a cup of something warm and comforting. And I'd love to have you join us! Please drop a note if you have a moment and send me your own favorite cup when you have a chance ...
 
(drhanigan AT gmail DOT com)
 
I'll look forward to hearing from you ... :)
 
There will be more "Tea with Friends" posts this week - roundabouts 4 p.m. Sorry this one was a little late today ... I must admit, though our weekend was wonderful, we are a little behind on cleanup today! Ah well, it's a slow week ahead and there is time to "put things to rights" as they say. This Friday I will host my own Christmas Tea and then the next day ... dun dun dun ... I will announce the winner of that basket!
 
So please stay tuned and enjoy your evening, my friends ... I will see you all here again very soon!

Advent Tea, Week 4: Happy Hearts at Home

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Hello my friends and Happy Friday ~ Merry Christmas Eve! As I feared might happen this week, things just got too busy, and I didn't have time to finalize my post yesterday. But I'm here today - on this rainy and mild Christmas eve - to share with you one last cup of Advent Tea. For tonight we begin a most beautiful and blessed new season ...

"Blessed is the season that engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love." ~ Hamilton Wright Mabie

❀

In our final week of Advent my family continued our celebration of God's amazing creation. We had previously explored the wonder of earth and sky, the peacefulness of plants, the joys of wild (and not so wild) creatures and now, we aim closer to home. This week it's all about God's greatest creation - humankind - and the love He has for us - that we have for each other! So this week we relished our family being together and rejoiced in our beloved home ... while remembering the holiest family, their humble first home, and the noble journey that started it all ...

Let's start with a look at our Advent Garden. This was a really fun project and I am sure we will do this again next year ... remember how it started?

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In week one (earth & sky) we added pebbles (and later soil) and surrounded our garden (a shallow glass terrarium) with beeswax tealights. Well here is how it looks now as Advent comes to a close ...

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Soil was topped with moss from which frosted tiny trees soon sprouted ... then a pretty spotted deer appeared. And this week, up rose a cozy little neighborhood. β€

(Note: I bought the trees, deer and houses at my local Michael's craft store. They were fairly inexpensive. The houses were plain but I spread the rooftops with a little white paint and added a few shakes of white glitter. The moss and pebbles came from our yard and the earth was found in a bag of potting soil parked in the garage. The candles I ordered through Amazon.)

Today I moved the Garden off the kitchen table (which will soon be set up for a Christmas buffet!) and into a small nearby alcove ...

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Above it I hung a pretty wooden ornament also embellished this week ...

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This was a very inexpensive wooden craft, one of several I've picked up this season ...

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I actually really love the look of unfinished wood, but the addition of a little white paint and glitter lends a soft and simple touch ...

A few more nativity scenes around the house ...

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This is a new lawn decoration this year! Bill and the boys "gave" me this as a gift last Christmas - but it took me till this fall to find one I really liked. We have this nestled beneath - appropriately enough - our family room windows. :)

Let's pop on out to the library and take a peek at the tree for a moment ... 

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Isn't this ornament gorgeous? You'll probably tire of hearing me say this but this is another treasure I found at Michael's. This was discovered in one of the boys' Advent pockets this past week.

And how about this one? :)

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I found this picture frame ornament up by the registers for a couple of dollars. So very pretty and perfect for a small family photo. I think I'd like to make this a tradition - add a new family picture ornament each year.

Speaking of ornaments, one of our crafts this past week celebrated our family members and what Mama loves most about each of them.  

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I started with a plain plastic ornament ball ... wrote our family names on small heart stickers and placed them all over the ball's surface ... and then filled the ball with colorful strips of construction paper. Each slip of paper was curled up tight, with a hidden message inside.

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I think this might also become a new family tradition ... :)

One more peek at the tree, a few new ornaments were added this week ...

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I found these pretty red glass initial ornaments at Target, and bought one for each of my boys. (The "H" is actually made out of cardboard or some such material.)

And since we're talking about my boys, here's a peek at our Christmas card this year!

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It's the first time we've done a collage and I rather like it! It was such fun to look back over all the photos from last year ... though it proved a shocking reminder just how quickly time has flown. We even added a couple of photos to the back - one of the chickens and one of the cats!

I absolutely adore Christmas cards, don't you? We display ours here on this door leading into the library ...

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Bill sets up the ribbons and then I attach the cards with tiny clothespins. I love to see this doorframe fill up! Visually, it's a wonderfully decorative spot - but also a lovely reminder of the friends and family we have been blessed with over the years.

And though we've been doing "photo cards" for years, I still love traditional Christmas cards. We always bought ours from a company called LANG, and when I spied some boxes of Lang cards at Joann's Arts & Crafts recently (marked down 60%!) I just could not help myself. I bought a few varieties for next year ...

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❀ 

Switching gears now - because we haven't even talked about tea yet! Now, if you scroll way back up to the top of this post I showed you my teatime spread this week ... or, here it is again ... :)

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As you can see, I was in my glories at Tea this week, surrounded by all my boys. They were supposed to be helping me with neatening the tree - I bribed them with cookies! - while I sat down to look over my holiday notes. In my "Blessed" mug (a new favorite) I had a large serving of my preferred black tea with a lot of milk and a bit of sugar. The cookies are store bought, but were still gobbled up quickly! I had hoped to make Bill's grandmother's much-loved gingerbread recipe this week but that just did not pan out. (I'm going to try again at Epiphany.) So a box of "Gingerbread Family" cookies had to do. Thank you, Pepperidge Farms!

Yes, it is wonderful having our Bookworm home! I never sleep as well as I do when all my sons are home. The older boys do love to sleep in though if they are allowed ... but this morning we needed to get an early start so I made up a platter of cinnamon-sugar toast in hopes that the fond and familiar aroma would get them out of bed!

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Cinnamon-sugar is without a doubt, one of the best things in my kitchen. (Along with my fresh coffee beans and a large bottle of vanilla.) I grew up eating cinnamon-sugar toast made by my mum or grandma and its scent still says "cozy, home, comfort" to me. :)

It's little things like this that make a home feel warm and welcoming. Because a home is so much more than just walls and windows and a (hopefully) sturdy roof. Home is where our loves live ... it's where we come together to share our journey, our thoughts and our memories. We are nurtured and encouraged and accepted here. We are allowed to crave comforts and seek solace ... it's the place we can relax and rejuvenate and gather our strength when we once again face the world outside that front door ...

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Jane Austen had it right. Home is where it's at ... and that's that. :)

❀

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Oh, and how could I forget? Here's another "Giveaway" sneak peek! January is a perfect month for letter writing - in fact, 1/23 is National Handwriting Day! So here are some pretty notecards to help you catch up on all those holiday thank-yous. :) And once the busy-ness of Christmas has past, time frees up again (in theory!) for leisurely pastimes like reading for pleasure ... how about a nice issue of Mary Jane's Farm? Both of these things will be tucked into that Winter Comforts Basket! :)

I am having such fun putting together this basket, and although only one reader will win it, I really wish I could send a little wintertime "comfort and joy" to each and every one of you. I am so grateful for you all - for all your support and kindness and encouragement over the years. I know most of us have never actually "met" in "real life" but I count each of you as my friends. I always look forward to hearing from you and I keep every one of you in my prayers. My wish for you on this beautiful Christmas eve morning is that your coming days are filled with the blessings of family and home, that you know friendship and love, good health and happiness, and that your new year will be an AMAZING one. I look forward to sharing 2017 with you all!

Now, before I go - I am still accepting teacup (mug) submissions! And I have several more friend posts stockpiled to share next week ... if you'd like to join the Giveaway contest, please send me a picture of your favorite mug - whatever you most enjoy drinking your tea (or coffee, cocoa, cider, etc.) from ... and you are entered. I will announce a winner on New Year's Eve - a week from today!

You can reach me at: drhanigan AT gmail DOT com.

Next Friday I'll have a Christmas Tea of my own, but in the meantime, I wish you all a wonderful weekend. Take care of yourselves and your loved ones and see you all here again very soon ...

MERRY CHRISTMAS!


Advent Tea with Friends ... December 22nd ❀

Advent tea with friendsHello my friends, and Happy Thursday! Thank you so much for joining me for another teatime. :)

All throughout Advent I am sharing readers' favorite cups and mugs, every weekday at 4 p.m. ... and returning on Fridays with my own special Tea post. Anyone who participates will be entered in my "Winter Comforts Basket" giveaway ... and on New Year's Eve I will announce the basket winner!

p.s. Each Friday I give a little peek at something that will be tucked inside that basket! So far there's been soap, body butter, a pocket calendar and a pretty mug as well as a tin of cocoa and a small blue notebook ... wonder what tomorrow's post will bring? :)

If you'd like to join us, please read more giveaway details in this post - but today we are popping in at Karen's and Adie's! Two friends who shared a few pictures each ... :)

Karen: My favorite mug? I have three! :)

Tea karen 1

Tea karen 2

Tea karen 3

Blessings to you and your beautiful family!

*❀*

Adie: My daughter and I were way overdue for a tea party - so today was the day! We had a few hours without the boys.  =-) So that means we did not get interrupted! This is our tea party set - I know it is not very wintery - but we don't have a lot of room for extras here ... 

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So we had very hot, strong black tea, with foamed milk and lots of sugar ...  

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We were also hungry so we had a mini lunch to go with it! The teens made Christmas cookies - and we each had one of those too! I made gluten-free ones this year, and they were pretty good ...
 
Tea adie 1
 
Now that we are done with our tea party - we are on to our hour of planning. My daughter and I do this together each week with our planners!
 
*❀*
 
Just lovely, ladies! Karen, I love all three of your mugs - they are each beautiful in their own way! (Introverts unite! No one ever believes me when I say I'm an introvert, but it's true!) And Adie, I just adore that pale yellow honeycomb china! And those cookies look scrumptious and festive. How special to enjoy a tea party with your daughter - followed by a weekly planning hour! Thanks so much to you both for sharing your favorite mugs ... I hope these final days of Advent are filled with much peace and contentment. :)
 
And thanks to all for stopping by today! I hope you enjoyed our teatime. I just love hearing from you all and seeing your mugs ... imagining we're truly sitting down together, chatting over a cup of something warm and comforting. And I'd love to have you join us! Please drop a note if you have a moment and send me your own favorite cup when you have a chance ...
 
(drhanigan AT gmail DOT com)
 
I'll look forward to hearing from you ... :)
 
There will be more "Tea with Friends" posts next week, each day at 4 p.m. - but tomorrow I will be back with my final Advent Tea Post ("Happy Hearts at Home"). I'll take a break over the weekend (natch) and then we'll continue our teas right up until the day before New Year's Eve ... just before I announce the winner of that basket!
 
Enjoy your evening, my friends, and I will see you all here again very soon!

Advent Tea with Friends ... December 21st

Advent tea with friendsHello my friends, I'm wishing you all a happy Wednesday ... AND a Happy Winter Solstice! Thank you so much for joining me for another teatime. :)

All throughout Advent I'll be sharing readers' favorite cups and mugs, every weekday at 4 p.m. ... and returning on Fridays with my own special Tea post. Anyone who participates will be entered in my "Winter Comforts Basket" giveaway ... and on New Year's Eve I will announce the basket winner!

p.s. Each Friday I give a little peek at something that will be tucked inside that basket! So far there's been soap, body butter, a pocket calendar and a pretty mug as well as a tin of cocoa and a small blue notebook ... wonder what this Friday's post will bring? :)

If you'd like to join us, please read more giveaway details in this post - but today we have the opportunity to join FOUR of my readers for tea. Let's pop in at Tammie's, Shelly's, Mary's and Andrea's, shall we? :)

 

Tammie: Here is a mug that is not particularly Christmas-y, but I wanted to share it with you anyway because of your affinity for all things British! My husband surprised me with this mug earlier this year and I just love everything about it! It is obviously a lovely mug to look at. The coat of arms is very formal and majestic. But the blue roses and sweeping ribbons gives it a friendly air. And the tiny little gold flowers are just so sweet!

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If you look closely, you will see that they are the flowers that represent the United Kingdom. But my favorite part of the mug are the words inscribed on the back.  These are from a speech that the Queen gave on her 21st birthday. They are particularly touching to read, now that she recently turned 90 years old and is still honorably serving the Commonwealth! And I find these words to be very inspirational ... although I'm not a queen (!), I am devoted to my family and want to serve them as best I can. As for the tea that is contained in the mug, it is Newman's Own Royal Tea, which is a nice strong black tea.
 
Tea tammie 2
 
Thanks again, Dawn, for inviting us to share tea with you! May God bless you and your family.
*❀*
Shelly: Here is a photo of my new favorite mug! I recently got it from a friend and I love it because it is much larger than a standard mug! More room for hot cocoa! I am not a coffee drinker, but I love cocoa and tea ... 
 
Tea shelly
 
Merry Christmas to you and your family!
*❀*
Mary: About my favorite mug: It is a Spode β€œChristmas Tree” design mug, made in England; one of a set of six given to my family and me by my parents. We get them out each year right after Thanksgiving, and they remain within easy reach on our kitchen island for a couple of months. So, they are very special mugs that we look forward to using seasonally. The children use them for hot cocoa or apple cider; mine is usually filled with blackberry cobbler flavored coffee or caramel cream flavored coffee.
 
Tea Mary V
Peace to you during this final week of Advent, and blessings to you and your family for a very merry Christmas! 
*❀*
Andrea: I wanted to pop in with our tea time. My 8 year old daughter has her snoopy mug with her "honey tea" which is just honey and water. I am taking my tea in my little honey bee cup given to me by my sweet sister-in-law. The candles are an early Christmas present from my 14 year old son. We love our tea time. It's daily for me and my daughter joins me often ...

Tea andrea
 
Merry Christmas to you all!
 *❀*
 
Oh ladies, thank you SO much for all your happy pictures and lovely thoughts! It was wonderful to visit with each of you and I hope the rest of your Advent unfolds with much peace and joy. :)
 
And thanks to all for stopping by today! I hope you enjoyed our teatime. I just love hearing from you all and seeing your mugs ... imagining we're truly sitting down together, chatting over a cup of something warm and comforting. And I'd love to have you join us! Please drop a note if you have a moment and send me your own favorite cup when you have a chance ...
 
(drhanigan AT gmail DOT com)
 
I'll look forward to hearing from you ... β€
 
There will be more "Tea with Friends" posts this week, each day at 4 p.m. And then on Friday I will be back with my final Advent Tea Post ("Happy Hearts at Home") ... only to pick right up again the following week for a series of Christmas teas! We'll continue right up until the day before New Year's Eve ... just before I announce the winner of that basket!
 
Enjoy your evening, my friends, and I will see you all here again very soon!

Advent Tea with Friends ... December 20th ❀

Advent tea with friendsHello my friends, and Happy Tuesday! Thank you so much for joining me for another 4:00 teatime. :)

All throughout Advent I'll be sharing readers' favorite cups and mugs, every weekday at 4 p.m. ... and returning on Fridays with my own special Tea post. Anyone who participates will be entered in my "Winter Comforts Basket" giveaway ... and on New Year's Eve I will announce the basket winner!

p.s. Each Friday I give a little peek at something that will be tucked inside that basket! So far there's been soap, body butter, a pocket calendar and a pretty mug as well as a tin of cocoa and a small blue notebook ... wonder what this Friday's post will bring? :)

If you'd like to join us, please read more giveaway details in this post - but for today, it's Charlotte's turn to host Tea! And happily, she's sharing not just one mug ... but four!

(A girl after my own heart! β€ )

 I am loving your daily Teatime Posts! I thought I would share my favorite mug(s) with you. :) I know it's a bit of an overload, but I truly love a fun mug to drink from!

Tea charlotte 1

I use this through the year - it says it all!!

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My daughter bought this for me two years ago from NY...

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This is my winter mug - cold, snowy days will find this guy filled with yummy hot chocolate piled high with cream!!!

AND ...

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My Christmas mug!! I have had this for many years and I have so much fun using it during the Christmas Season.

Thank you for allowing me to share!

Blessings to you + 

 *❀*

Thank you so much for sharing your mugs, Charlotte! They are all lovely. :) One of the things I love about collecting mugs is that they don't have to be very expensive. They're a fun indulgence and what delight that small purchase brings over time! Because if you're like me (and I know many of us are on the same page here!) those mugs get used a lot! I start my day with my coffee mug then switch up for tea in the afternoon. It's a treat to have several (ok, dozens) to choose from. Just a tip - if you have a Home Goods store near you (I'm not sure if they're regional?) they sell wonderful mugs for generally under $5. There's a HG next to my Stop N Shop and I have a very hard time NOT popping in every week to see what's new!
 
Well, thank you all for stopping by today! I hope you enjoyed our teatime. I just love hearing from you all and seeing your mugs ... imagining we're truly sitting down together, chatting over a cup of something warm and comforting. I fear I fell a bit behind these last several (busy) days with my replies so if you've sent me a submission and haven't heard back, I apologize! I will be catching up this week ... :)
 
Dear friends, I'd love to have you join us ... please drop a note if you have a moment and send me your own favorite cup when you have a chance!
 
(drhanigan AT gmail DOT com)
 
I'll look forward to hearing from you ... β€
 
There will be more "Tea with Friends" posts this week, each day at 4 p.m. And then on Friday I will be back with my final Advent Tea Post ("Happy Hearts at Home") ... only to pick right up again the following week for a series of Christmas teas! We'll continue right up until the day before New Year's Eve ... just before I announce the winner of that basket!
 
Well, thanks so much for stopping by, everyone. Enjoy your evening and I will see you all here again very soon!

Advent Tea with Friends ... December 19th ❀

Advent tea with friendsHello my friends, and Happy Monday! Thank you so much for joining me for another 4:00 teatime. :)

All throughout Advent I'll be sharing readers' favorite cups and mugs, every weekday at 4 p.m. ... and returning on Fridays with my own special Tea post. Anyone who participates will be entered in my "Winter Comforts Basket" giveaway ... and on New Year's Eve I will announce the basket winner!

p.s. Each Friday I give a little peek at something that will be tucked inside that basket! So far there's been soap, body butter, a pocket calendar and a pretty mug as well as a tin of cocoa and a small blue notebook ... wonder what this Friday's post will bring? :)

If you'd like to join us, please read more giveaway details in this post - but for today, let's push the pause button on our day and enjoy a little refreshment together. Happily, today we have not just one friend to visit ... but three! Let's pop in at Melyssa's, Shaquanna's and Kelly's ... :)

Melyssa: I just wanted to thank you for inspiring me to dig out my old teapot and put it to use with a monthly tea subscription I signed up for recently ...

Tea melyssa

I am making a daily ritual of it and really enjoying it!

*❀*

Shaquanna: I have so many favorite mugs, many being pop culture. Here is my newest one, not necessarily pop culture, but if you look carefully there is an Easter egg in this photo. This is a smaller frame of my larger set up when I was watching the last episode in the new Gilmore Girls series. 

Tea shaquanna

I LOVE this polka dot mug. It's so heavy and thick and just makes me happy. I was drinking sparkling apple cider, which when I noticed it was almost empty in the photo poured some more.

Cheers!

*❀*

Kelly: I really wanted to pretty up my picture but it is more real to let it be plain and simple because that is just how things are right now. The Christmas mug is from my 11yo son who purchased it for me a few weeks ago at a white elephant sale - he said it was for our tea times! And the blue mug belonged to my grandma (who just passed away right before Thanksgiving) and I have been enjoying drinking from it ...
 
Tea kelly

I also inherited three lovely tea cups from her as well (maybe I can share those some other time). The good news is that after trying for a long time, I have finally learned to like tea! (As long as there is enough honey in it!). As someone who loves British literature and enjoyed Downton Abbey, I simply *had* to figure out a way! :) It has become a nightly ritual lately that I fix a cup for my husband and for myself.  

*❀* 

Thank you so much for sharing your tea (and cider!) with us ladies. Your cups are lovely as are your thoughts on the ritual of tea. I hope you each of you are enjoying your Advent. :)
 
And thanks to everyone for stopping by today! I hope you enjoyed our teatime. I just love hearing from you all and seeing your mugs ... imagining we're truly sitting down together, chatting over a cup of something warm and comforting. I fear I fell a bit behind these last several (busy) days with my replies so if you've sent me a submission and haven't heard back, I apologize! I will be catching up this week ... :)
 
Dear friends, I'd love to have you join us ... please drop a note if you have a moment and send me your own favorite cup when you have a chance!
 
(drhanigan AT gmail DOT com)
 
I'll look forward to hearing from you ... β€
 
There will be more "Tea with Friends" posts this week, each day at 4 p.m. And then on Friday I will be back with my final Advent Tea Post ("Happy Hearts at Home") ... only to pick right up again the following week for a series of Christmas teas! We'll continue right up until the day before New Year's Eve ... just before I announce the winner of that basket!
 
(Hard to believe we're now talking New Year's! But goodness, it's not far away ...)
 
Well, thanks so much for stopping by, everyone. Enjoy your evening and I will see you all here again very soon!
 

Advent Tea, Week 3 ~ Finding Joy in Creation ❀

Animals advent 39

Hello and happy weekend, my friends! Welcome to another Advent Tea ... may I pour you a cup of something tasty and warm? :)

Well, our third week of Advent has arrived and the pink candle has been lit ... Oh Joy! And you know how they say "all good things come to those who wait?" Well, that old adage is perhaps never more true than during the season of Advent, because in these special weeks we are a people who wait and wonder ... enjoying the here and now, yet knowing there is a greater joy that lies ahead ... β€

Which is why this mug seemed perfect for today's Tea ...

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:)

Now, I am not a patient person by nature, but like most moms I've had plenty of opportunities to work on developing this particular habit. I've learned that life is easier when patience is a daily practice, not just an admirable (if abstract) idea or something left to people with loftier ambitions and/or holier lives than mine. Patience is perhaps the greatest of all virtues when one is a parent ... and if I may so, especially when one is a special needs parent. (Progress can be slow ... perfection is overrated ... patience is essential.)

But whether we're born with a patient nature or not, the world-at-large rushes us all right along, urging us onward with its message of now-now-nowInstant, immediate, super fast results ... no waiting necessary!

If we're aware of this influence we can recognize when it is affecting us falsely or adversely. It's good to pause and ask, whose time clock are we following anyway? Sometimes time is of the essence, but it's important, I think, to remind ourselves to appreciate the here and now ... to savor the wait if you will. Learning to be patient is an excellent exercise in humanity - and humility - and I think one of the greatest teachers of patience (aside from our children!) is nature. As you all know I love nature! I respect its cleverness and consistency. It doesn't rush ... it always has a plan. A plan that has worked for ... well, eons. It glories in every turn of every season, knowing everything happens in its own time ...

"Adopt the pace of nature. Her secret is patience." ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Case in point - yesterday was brutally cold with temps barely in the teens, and this morning it's snowing! It's the Saturday before Christmas ... and the weather is just not getting on board with my to-do list! But admittedly, it is doing my spirit a world of good. Because it's been a long - and, frankly tiring - week. We've all been running here, there and everywhere, getting our busy-ness accomplished. But now nature is advising me to sit back and take it slow. Leave the errands for later. Breathe in, breathe out ... maybe let Amazon Prime do the leg work today.

Even my page-a-day calendar is sending me a message ...

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So, ok. Balance is necessary. We can't always rush and we can't always lag ... managing my time and energy accounts is an-going #lifegoal for me! 

But ... that's a topic to explore further, in the new year perhaps. For now, let's get back to the here and now. We're deep in Advent, halfway through December, and it's snowing ... I'm happy in a well-insulated snow globe today. :)

Here's a look outside my window this morning ...

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So glad we made sure to fill our feeders yesterday!

As I've been describing, our family's Advent is a celebration of God's beautiful creation ... because the whole world waits together for the miracle of life (and light) to return! Just as the earth goes quiet and dark at this time of year, we too slow down and turn inward, looking for ways to light the path before us. So in our first week of Advent we explored the wonder of earth and sky, and in the second week it was the serenity of plants and trees ... and this week we are finding joy in the beautiful wildlife with which God has graced our earth ...

And as we've ambled along our journey, our Advent Garden has slowly been coming to life ...

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Stones and soil were topped with moss and trees ... and now we spy a pretty deer in this tiny forest. Meanwhile, outside there is much evidence of creation all around!

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We've been enjoying a snowy December here in New England and the boys have fun checking for tracks left behind by the creatures who call our habitat home. Mostly it's the usual suspects, but you never know ... sometimes there's something new to investigate!

Now from my pictures you can probably guess we live in a woodsy area, and that's true. We live next to a state forest and our town, while suburban, has old agricultural roots. Our own property is not quite a farm per se - though we are sort of heading that way! This past spring we began keeping hens and I must tell you - they just bring us such joy! The fresh eggs are wonderful, but our girls are such dears ...

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I do relish my "farm chores" such as they area ... walking out to the hen pen to bring them food and checking their water. 

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Good morning, pretty girls!

And how fun to gather eggs with my fellas ... we're still getting several eggs a day even though we were warned they would stop for the winter. Not sure what our girls' game plan is but we're thrilled with our daily harvest!

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I love to tour the corners of our yard and I especially love the mornings when the sun is just rising in the east ...

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Those are my neighbor's horses - aren't they lovely? They also own three goats, six dogs, a flock of ducks and lots of chickens! They are the very nicest people, too. I took this picture yesterday morning as I was visiting the hens. I was channeling a little bit of Tasha Tudor here, walking about my own homestead and tending to my critters, the domestic and the wild. (Only I was in a parka and pajama pants ... not quite Tasha's pretty red cloak!)

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We regularly set out several types of food - black oil seed, suet cakes and nyjer seed for the finches. We use a variety of feeder designs - both tubes and trays - and I throw out seed on the deck every day ...

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Yes, my beloved squirrels get fed right alongside their feathered friends - I don't play favorites! (Well, except when it comes to predators like hawks, owls and foxes. Those creatures I shoo off as best I can.)

But speaking of Tasha Tudor, this is a page from the beautiful book, Forever Christmas, the chapter called, "The Animals' Christmas" ...

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This is a wonderful book, full of old-fashioned goodness and gentle reminders to slow down and let nature be our guide. Tonight we're watching the video Take Peace, which is a tour of Tasha's Corgi Cottage at Christmas. And then perhaps we'll catch the latest episode of "The Great American Baking Show." (Anyone else watching that?) 
 
So yes, there is much joy in creation to be found, all around us and even right in our own backyards - but it's awfully bitter today so let's head back inside! I'm greeting you in the kitchen, wearing my favorite winter apron, a gift from my parents ...

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I find such joy in cooking for my family, especially in preparing seasonal foods! And though I love baking from scratch, sometimes you just have to cut a few corners, right? For example ...

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Last Tuesday was the feast of St. Lucia and once again I did not make the traditional saffron buns as I'd hoped to - BUT! I did throw some cinnamon rolls into a tube pan, baked them, glazed them, decorated them, and then set them aflame. Voila - feast day morning joy!

More joy in our week ... Earlybird celebrated his 15th birthday on Wednesday! Yes, this little boy is now FIFTEEN years old ...

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(That was a book about trains, his FAVORITE subject. He was very happy to receive a couple of books about the planets as well.) And I thought this birthday card was rather fitting - true in every word but also, such a lovely woodland design!

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Ok, since I'm keeping you so long, how about another cup of something hot?

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Snow days call for cocoa, don't you think? Tea soothes me, coffee revives me ... and cocoa brings me joy! And ding-ding-ding ... this is another one of those giveaway gifts! Yes, there will be a tin of this "Warm Me Up Chocolate & Cream Cocoa" in my Winter Comforts Basket! (More giveaway details at the bottom of this post.)

Oh, and that pretty blue notebook sitting beneath the tin?

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There will also be one of these in that giveaway basket! I have strong opinions on notebooks, and this is a notebook I just love! It's so nice to write in - smooth paper, soft lines - with a solid spiral-binding. I also have a pink one (that says, "Create a little magic everyday") that I'll use for a new diary project, but I use this particular blue notebook for my "to-dos, weekend plans and projects." I know I've been asked to post a little more about how I use this notebook and I will ... soon. :)

But since we're talking about notebooks and planners for a moment, let me give you a quick glimpse at a new planner I picked up recently ...

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(If you're thinking I might have a bit of a planner problem ... well, you might be right.)

I found this Woodland Tales planner at Barnes & Noble - it was the last one on the shelf, but I've also seen it online. I liked the layout and just could not resist the charming design! It's a smaller size - nice for the pocketbook - and it's specifically for week-at-a-glance planning. This will be used in addition to my Day Designer and my master planning binder ... and all that too, will be blogged about after the holidays!

Now, getting back to Advent, how about a look around our Christmas room (aka the library) where a woodland theme reigns ...

Starting with the children's nativity set where "all creation waits ... "

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You can just imagine the kinds of stories that get played out in this corner!

This display is set up on a table behind our loveseat and stretched out along the wall behind that is one of my favorite Christmas books, Woodland Christmas ...

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A lovely (and long) fold-out book that tells the tale of the animals preparing for Christmas. It is an Advent countdown too - with flaps on one side and labels for all the creatures on the other. I highly recommend this book if your children love animals! The drawings are soft and pretty but quite realistic.

Now our Christmas tree has a woodland theme going as well ...

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A ribbon of gold encircles the whole tree - featuring a holly-bedecked red squirrel! - as well as several strands of wooden cranberries. We've collected woodland ornaments since we were first married and some of these ornaments we've had for many years. (The birds above are from when I was little!) The reindeer lantern was new this year, though - the boys found it in one of their Advent pockets last week. :)

Even my daily Advent reading has a nature theme this year ...

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All Creation Waits - the very theme of our Advent! - has been a wonderful read so far. Every chapter (25 in all) presents a short meditation on one of God's creatures as it adapts for the long cold winter ahead - never fearing the darkness, knowing there is a new beginning ahead. Accompanied by gorgeous woodcut illustrations ... these reflections are certainly a new take on Advent, but they resonate deeply with me. 

And while we're speaking of books - I am so thrilled for this one! I stumbled across it at B&N yesterday ...

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Yes, a little early Christmas present to myself! Earth Psalms is a weekly devotional reflecting on how God speaks to us through nature. I am beyond excited to read it this year and I don't even feel badly I splurged on myself! (It was 50% off!) Now, I did offer to wrap it up and place it under the tree, but Bill let it slide ... ;)

Another early gift, this one from my husband who knows how much St. Francis means to me ... 

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Such a lovely wooden rosary bracelet. Something comfortable - and comforting - to wear every day. :)

Now, before I go (and yes I am planning to wrap this huge post up!) I'd like to share pictures of my very favorite animals of all - our cats, Archie and Oliver. It gives me such satisfaction and true joy to care for these two sweet boys ...

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Oliver by the heating element, tucked behind the loveseat in the library ...

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And Archie, snuggled up next to the chimney in the dining room. :)

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Well my friends, as always I thank you for stopping by and I leave you with my wish that each of you are filled with joy, wherever you might find it. I hope your weekend brings you the rest and relaxation you need ... snow or shine, whatever challenges you might face, whatever comforts you crave ... may your time be full of the things that mean most. :)

I'll be back again on Monday - we've a week more of Advent Teatimes to go! I may even double up some of our friends as more readers share their cups with me ...

But oh, yes! So about that giveaway ...

At the start of the year I will be sending out a "Winter Comforts Basket" to one lucky reader. This basket will be filled with little random seasonal comforts and joys. I've been giving you "sneak peeks" each week during my Friday tea posts, and there will be one or two other surprises, as well. To enter the giveaway, all you have to do is send me a picture of your favorite cup or mug - whatever you use to drink your beverage of choice in the cold winter months. Please email me your picture(s) with description here ...

drhanigan AT gmail DOT com

I will share your submission in one of my daily teatime posts and then on New Year's Eve I will announce a winner!

I hope to hear from you! In the meantime, take care of yourselves and your loved ones ...

I will see you all here again very soon!


Advent Tea with Friends ... December 15th

Advent tea with friendsHello my friends, and Happy Thursday! Thank you so much for joining me for 4:00 teatime. I can hardly believe we're nearing the end of another week! :)

All throughout Advent I'll be sharing readers' favorite cups and mugs, every weekday at 4 p.m. ... and returning on Fridays with my own special Tea post. Anyone who participates will be entered in my "Winter Comforts Basket" giveaway ... and on New Year's Eve I will announce the basket winner!

p.s. Each Friday I give a little peek at something that will be tucked inside that basket! So far there's been soap, body butter, a pocket calendar and a pretty mug ... wonder what tomorrow's post will bring? :)

If you'd like to join us, please read more giveaway details in this post - but for today, let's pop in at Elizabeth's and see what she has brewing on this blustery afternoon ... β˜•οΈ 

Here is my 13-year-old son's favorite tea mug! 99 cents from Goodwill ... :)

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And this mug, as you can see, holds a lot of tea! Trader Joe's Spiced Chai is Aaron's favorite. :)

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Oh, I love this mug! Earlier in Advent we talked about the simple pleasure of a glass mug - it's such a nice way to enjoy one's tea doubly! (Seeing and tasting all that goodness!) I like the measurements on the side, especially - that's a clever design. And that Trader Joe's tea sounds yummy! (I find TJ's has the best kinds of seasonal beverages - both hot and cold.) My own boys enjoy tea, too - especially my youngest who basically will drain my (decaffeinated) tea mug if I let him. I learned my love of tea alongside my grandparents - Grama took hers in a fine Irish teacup, while Grampa drank his in a tall sturdy mug. Irish Breakfast blend was their drink of choice!
 
Thank you so much for sharing tea with us Elizabeth - and Aaron! I hope you are enjoying your Advent. :) And friends, thanks to all for stopping by today! I hope you enjoyed our teatime. Please drop a note if you have a moment and remember to send me your own favorite cup when you have a chance! (drhanigan AT gmail DOT com) I'll look forward to hearing from you ... β€
 
See you all tomorrow at teatime! Our theme this week is "Joy in the Woodland: Animals at Advent."

Advent Tea with Friends ... December 14th ❀

Advent tea with friendsHello my friends, and Happy Wednesday! Thank you so much for joining me for another teatime. :)

All throughout Advent I'll be sharing readers' favorite cups and mugs, every weekday at 4 p.m. ... and returning on Fridays with my own special Tea post. Anyone who participates will be entered in my "Winter Comforts Basket" giveaway ... and on New Year's Eve I will announce the basket winner!

(p.s. Each Friday I give a little peek at something that will be tucked inside that basket!)

If you'd like to join us, please read more giveaway details in this post - but for today it's time to make ourselves comfortable at Kimberly's ... β˜•οΈ

It is a cool, rainy Saturday afternoon here in Texas, perfect for enjoying a few reflective moments over the Country Living Christmas Edition (UK) with a cup of my favorite Harney & Sons Holiday Spice tea and some yummy cookies ...

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I love taking moments like these during the holidays to unwind from all the going and making and planning. The coffee cup is one of a set of four with matching dessert plates, a Christmas present from my step-daughter a few years back. I save this set specifically for this time of year and special moments like these. It's always nice to have these simple personal traditions to look forward to this time of year! 

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I agree completely, Kimberly! This picture is just everything I love about this special season ... December days can be so dark, but our inner lights keep things bright and cozy. There might be something warm to drink, something special to eat, something to inspire and refresh our tired minds ... "simple personal traditions," as you say, Kimberly, that bring such comfort and joy. I love your china and that particular tea is a favorite of mine, too! And I think everyone who reads here regularly knows my feelings on British Country Living! :)

Now because I know Kimberly and I share a love of "vintage" things, and because I'm a little bit nosy, I poked around a bit and came upon this lovely display ...

Kimberly's victorian cards

Isn't that gorgeous? I absolutely love to collect greeting cards (especially vintage and seasonal ones) and this would be a great way to enjoy them! I'd love to know where you find yours, Kimberly - I know of one nice resource, the Victorian Trading Company. Readers, do you have any other "vintage" paper suggestions?

Thanks so much for sharing a bit of your Advent with us, Kimberly! And friends, thanks to all of you for joining us here at teatime ... I hope these posts are a little bright spot in your day. β€ 

I'll be back tomorrow to share another friend's Tea and then on Friday, it will be time for my own weekly post, the "Animals' Advent" Tea ... :)
 
Have yourselves a wonderful Wednesday and ... see you here again very soon!