Baking Days Feed

Crackerjack's Confirmation!

 Confirmation 2

Good Monday morning, my friends!

Well, it was quite a weekend here for our family - our Crackerjack made his Holy Confirmation! There was a beautiful Mass on Saturday morning, and afterwards there was much celebrating back home! I took loads of pictures and I'd love to share them here with you all. I have a few of the prep, and some of the party itself ...

Now, at the top of this post is the Confirmation cake my mum and I made - using a cross pan I had on hand, and basing the design on a project I saw on Pinterest. It probably looks a lot more complicated than it actually was to make ... it just took a lot of time! We used a "classic white" cake mix (1 box) in the aforementioned cross pan ...

Confirmation cake 1

The cooled cake was frosted with homemade buttercream ... my Mum made a ropey edging all around the bottom edge of the cake.

Confirmation cake 2

I used a butter knife (flat edge) and a toothpick to trace the design first - we referenced the Pinterest pic as I went - then I filled in the outline with black decorating gel. By the way, we used Wilton Sparkle Decorating Gels - easy to use and the taste was just fine. (I'm not crazy about artifically-colored frosting for a variety of reasons, but this special cake called for an exception!)

Confirmation cake 3

Next we filled in the "panes" with various bright colors, emulating the stained glass windows one might see in a church. We made the center symbol a sun because CJ brings so much warmth and light into our lives! You'll notice I had Bill take over once my hand got tired ...

Confirmation 3

As a final step, I added a clip-on dove to the corner of the serving board and, using red and gold gel, made flames to represent the Gifts of the Holy Spirit. Technically, there are only seven gifts ... but I got carried away with the gel, lol!

Jacks confirmation 29

We finished the cake on Friday night and as the weather was quite hot, we left it in the fridge to keep cool overnight. On Saturday, I set up the dining room table with a pretty white cloth, the cake and other decorations I'll describe below ...

 Jacks confirmation 26

Crackerjack chose "George" for his Confirmation name - in honor of two of his great-grandfathers as well as his patron saint. We had St. George prayer cards for guests to take as favors from the day. The candle is one we use for liturgical celebrations and the wooden stand was ready to hold the Confirmation certificate.

Jacks confirmation 27

This is our much-loved, somewhat worn out, copy of Saint George and the Dragon ... open to Crackerjack's favorite (and most dramatic!) scene. We read this story every year on St. George's Day (April 23rd) and Michaelmas (Sept. 29th) ... CJ has loved this book, and had a fascination with knights, since he was a little boy.

Jacks confirmation 18 (1)

 In addition to the cross cake, my mum also made these cupcakes - another Michaelmas/St. George's Day tradition. These are chocolate cake topped with buttercream and red and gold sprinkles - with cocktail swords piercing the devil's food underneath ...

Get it? :)

Jacks confirmation 9 

And you all know how I feel about punch ... it's just not a party without punch! This one, a new recipe, was very nice - it's called "Autumn Orchard Punch." And I forget where I found it - might have been Facebook or possibly Pinterest - but anyhow, it's pretty simple: apple juice, frozen cranberry juice concentrate, a bit of orange juice, ginger ale and floating apple slices. So refreshing on a warm autumn day! And I think it looks gorgeous in my grandmother's crystal punch bowl.

Confirmation 20

One of my favorite things about hosting a party is it's the perfect excuse to buy pretty     flowers! The above photo was taken the day before our party - my mum arranged all the flowers for me and I hid them here in the living room from the cats (and little curious fingers). I bought bunches and bunches at Trader Joe's where I find the prices are quite reasonable and the blooms are fresh and interesting. I love all these autumn shades!

Jacks confirmation 28

 I really love how Mum did these Mason jar arrangements - the purple looks fabulous with those flowers! These went on the dining tables set up outside under the canopy. I meant to do something more with these tables - like a vine twisted along the center line between the vases or perhaps along the canopy - but I never got around to it. (Go figure ... )

Confirmation 21

 And finally it was Confirmation Day morning! Here's CJ's robe, hanging by the front door to release some of the wrinkles.

Confirmation 5

CJ needed a little help tying his tie. :)

Jacks confirmation 1

And here's our young man with his sponsor, his Papa (my dad). Papa's been pressed into sacramental service twice now - he was also Bookworm's sponsor three years ago.

Confirmation 22

 We were not allowed to take photos during Mass, but I snapped this before things got rolling. Apologies for the odd lighting and purple splotches -  my phone does not take the very best pictures ... and my camera, as I explained a while back is out of service. But I could not miss capturing this moment ... :)

Jacks confirmation 8 (1)

Just moments after Mass with the freshly confirmed, his dad, and his little brother ... who had clearly had enough of his tie.

Jacks confirmation 3

I love this picture because I'm with my two "bookend boys" - my oldest (Bookworm, 20) and my youngest (Little Bear, just 2 years old!).

Jacks confirmation 14

Pictures outside church ... it was a bit hectic and the sun was in everyone's eyes, but we managed to get a few nice shots.

Jacks confirmation 15

Happy, happy day ... the Mass was held, not in our own parish church, but at a local Catholic college. Our church is too small to hold so many people.

Jacks confirmation 16

Group shot! With grandmothers, aunties and dear family friends ...

Then it was time to get back to the house and meet up with the rest of the party! I didn't get any pictures of the luncheon buffet but I can tell you there was a LOT of food. (I just can't cook small, lol.) The day was so nice we ate outside, but cake and coffee were served back inside ...

Jacks confirmation 18

Soon it was time to cut the cake!

Confirmation 11

(Crackerjack could not WAIT to get out of his "spiffy" duds. But in a way, the Star Wars shirt works with the (jedi) knight theme ...)

Jacks confirmation 20 

Just love that smile! When did he get so grown up?

Confirmation 7

"May I have a cupcake, pretty please?"

Jacks confirmation 17

 It was a great day to spend outside, catching up with family and friends ... so grateful to have so many wonderful people in our family. β€

Can't resist another flower shot - at the end of the day, guests gone home, sun going down - we gathered up all the arrangements and left them outside. So pretty in the soft light.

Jacks confirmation 13

 Crackerjack's special cards were placed along our living room mantle ... he also received a St. George medal to wear on a chain, a daily devotions book for teens, a St. George and the dragon figurine (he loves collecting figures) and just before Mass, Bill and I gave him this to wear. :)

Confirmation 23

We are just so happy for our Crackerjack - this is such a big day in the life of a Catholic child - and for the family who's raising him! We are very proud of our CJ ... for who he is, his kind spirit and all that he holds in his heart. It's a dear and brave heart, one we've nurtured these past 16 years as best we could ....

Jacks confirmation 2

Dear friends, may I ask you to say a little prayer on our boy's behalf - that he continues to grow in his Faith and know God's love for him always? That he also knows just how much his family and friends cherish him?

Thank you so much, everyone - for those prayers, and, as always, for stopping by and sharing in our joy. I hope you are all doing well and that your new week is off to a nice start!

Take care of yourselves and your loved ones ... I'll be back here again very soon!


Ripe & In Season: Rhubarb Crisp!

Rhubarb crisp 1

Happy Monday, my friends!

Are  you enjoying the fruits (and veggies, herbs, etc.) of the season? So much to look forward to, but right now our rhubarb plant is growing like mad! With our latest harvest I made a nice crisp and thought you all might like the recipe ... 

Rhubarb Crisp - Taste of Home Magazine

When I have rhubarb on hand, I usually make a "grunt," which is very much like a cobbler ... but as the recipe calls for whipped cream in the batter - and I had no cream in my fridge - I decided to try something else. Bill really loves "oat-y" fruit crisps (or "gluks" as his family calls them) and so I went with this one because it was chock-full of oats!

Rhubarb crisp 2

One thing I like especially about this crisp recipe is its versatility - it calls for 3 cups chopped rhubarb and 2 cups chopped strawberries (which we had on hand, thanks to our farm share) OR you can use 2 cups chopped apples in place of the berries. I was thinking if we freeze some of our rhubarb it might be nice to make this later in the year when apples are fresh and plentiful. :)

And OH BOY let me tell you, the house smelled incredible as it baked ...

Rhubarb crisp 3

The filling is nice and jammy and quite sweet - to be honest, I might cut back on the sugar next time I make this. I don't mind my rhubarb a bit tart! But it's definitely a keeper for sure ... it's now pinned to my "Seasonal Fruits and Veggies" board. :)

Summer's bounty is certainly upon us and I can't wait to see what our local farm brings us this year! I'm told our pickup this week will include three kinds of peas - English, Sugar Snap and Snow - so I'll be looking for ways to use them up! (Suggestions, anyone?)

Well my friends, thanks so much for stopping by - I hope you all had a nice weekend. And thank you again for your continued patience as my blogging rhythm stalls for a bit. I am trying to find time here and there to blog as I can ... for instance, I thought I might post about my summer pocketbook next. I would love to talk "bags" - style and organization - as it's been a while since we'd chatted about that. How 'bout you? Would you care to share with my what your summer purse (tote, satchel) looks like this year? And what's tucked inside?

If so, feel free to email me a picture and your thoughts on summer bags (bysunandcandlelight AT comcast DOT net). I'll have a post up, hopefully, by the week's end.

Enjoy your week, everyone - see you here again very soon!

🌞

 


Scenes of Spring ...

Happy Monday, my friends! I hope your week is off to a great start. :)

Are you enjoying the unfolding of Spring as much as I am? Oh my goodness, it's just one happy surprise after another ... and yet there's such a comforting sense of familiarity as well. This is what I love about the seasons ... there's so much joy to be found on so many levels! I've been out and about taking pictures like crazy (with my phone, that is - unfortunately my camera is on the fritz) and I'd like to share them this morning if I may ... 

Purple and white crocus

Prettiest little crocus I've ever seen - love how these tough little blossoms push their way through all manner of leaf litter and rocky soil.

Forsythia joy 1

Forsythia branches for the nature shelf ... they keep getting moved as Oliver (the cat) keeps finding them and knocking them over.

Flower books

 Some inspiring library books - we're planting lots of flowers this year!

Grunt 2

Remember that lovely rhubarb I showed you last week? I finally got around to using it on Sunday ... Bill was outside chopping wood (a felled tree to make way for an apple orchard!) and I had soup simmering on the stove ... the boys were all around the house and the windows were open and it all felt so homey and good. Just as a Sunday should. :)

Felling trees 3

Bill had lots of helpers once the "felling" part was over. :) And I'm busy googling "things to do with fallen trees and branches" on Pinterest. Can't let all that good wood go to waste!

Light it up blue

 This is our blue light for the month of April (Autism Awareness) ...

Bunny chocolate

This is Mama's Easter chocolate, because it's white. :) I finally succumbed to temptation and had a few nibbles with my tea ...

Spring pajamas

Remember those "pretty spring pajamas" I mentioned in relation to the washing machine fiasco earlier this month? Well thankfully they made it out in one piece, and surprisingly none the worse for wear. I love them so much - the print is called, "Dawn Floral." :)

Ducks 2

Final photo - we had a lovely sunrise visit from a pair of mallards the other morning! The Mrs. was quite brave and waddled about the yard while the Mr. enjoyed the temporary vernal pond in our front woods. I rushed from window-to-window snapping pictures and I think I startled her because she very suddenly ran back towards the pond and the pair of them took off into the sunrise ...

Well my friends, I must be off, but I hope to see you here again in a few days. I'll try to have a housekeeping post up later this week ... or maybe a file crate post as I'm working on the new folders right now ... or perhaps something for Earth Day, St. George's Day or Arbor Day? :)

So please stay tuned!

And thanks so much for stopping by ~ Blessings on your day!


Easter Weekend Photos ...

Happy Monday, my friends! I hope you all had a wonderful weekend! And to my friends who celebrate - Alleluia! Wishing you all of Easter's bright blessings! I am so happy this new season is here ...

We had a very nice Sunday, starting with - well, baskets, natch - then, early Mass (oh, that light coming in through the stained glass windows ...), followed by an afternoon gathering of family here at our house. We usually have quite a crowd, but for various reasons, our group was a bit smaller this year. We missed those who couldn't be with us, while relishing the time spent with those who could. It was such a lovely day and I have some photos I'd like to share with you all ... :)

Easter 2015 11

The boys' baskets all ready for the Bunny, as light waned on Easter eve ...

Easter 2015 15

My pretty birthday cloche filled with Easter grass and chocolates ...

Easter 2015 45

Festive flora! I always light this garland on Easter eve as the boys head off to bed ...

Easter 2015 46

Pretty flowers awaiting vases ...

Easter 2015 47

Eggs awaiting color!

Easter 2015 48

 I had truly meant to try natural egg dyes this year - bought the cabbage, beets, and onion skins and all - but time got pressing and thankfully, I had a PAAS package on hand!

Good ole PAAS, lol.

Easter 2015 43

My Earlybird (13) was a big help with the centerpieces (I cut, he "arranged") ...

Easter 2015 14

And the baking, of course! This was the beginnings of an orange pound cake made with fresh orange zest!

Here are the tables set up for eleven ...

 Easter 2015 19

And a close up of the main table centerpiece ... I mixed blue and white dishes, old family favorites. :)

Easter 2015 30

This brass crucifix was made by my great-great grandfather. I typically have it in a place of honor, but I've never thought to use it on my Easter table!

These jellybean-filled glass globes were also part of the table setting ...

Easter 2015 31

(Tiny tealights blessed at Candlemas!)

Easter 2015 44

I love this cross-section of basket goodies - very telling of my boys' ages .. from candy and Tolkien to finger puppets and Scarry!

Easter 2015 2

Little Bear had an early nap so was a bit disgruntled to wake to a house full of people.

(That is my new Easter blouse - funny how it is when you order something online and it is NOTHING like it looked in the catalog, lol ... but still. I loved the colors and it was quite comfortable.)

Easter 2015 16

Here's my veggie basket - a la Pioneer Woman - basket on loan from Mum. :) The dip was meant to be served in a hollowed-out red cabbage but alas, my "fiddling" time ran out.

And here's the dessert & punch table ... I love to serve desserts in our living room.

Easter 2015 35

Non-alcoholic strawberry-lemonade punch, rhubarb pie, orange pound cake (served with whipped cream, not shown), chocolate cupcakes and fresh fruit salad. Plenty of assorted candies, too!

Easter 2015 50

I simply cannot have a party without punch!

Easter 2015 49 

I used Gram's Irish china for coffee ... and placed some jaunty daffodils in a pretty white pitcher. My paternal grandmother made the white cabbage vase in a ceramics class. :)

Easter 2015 36

I love these sweet little cupcakes made by my mother ... EB can have them (he pulls the carrot candy off first) and they are SO delicious!

Easter 2015 21

Every holiday has its signature cocktail, of course! This year I wanted to use our pretty cosmo glasses and I loved the "spring-sky" shade of these "Tiffany Blue Cosmopolitans."

I set this table up in the sunroom as a place for drinks and appetizers. This was early on before it filled up ... there was artichoke dip and the aforementioned veggie basket, as well as hummus and pita, sweet grapes and goat cheese and assorted crispy, crunchy things.

Easter 2015 51

(Yes, we still have snow ... but it was a nice day, all in all. No rain (or snow!) to speak of and mostly sunny skies. Almost, but not quite, 50 degrees.)

Easter 2015 53

Main dishes were served from the kitchen ... we had baked ham and beef pie, mashed potatoes, roasted asparagus, baked beans, parmesan peas, soft rolls and deviled eggs. Homey fare, typical of New England holidays. :)

And here is (some of) my dear family, gathered 'round in our dining room. (Earlybird was camera shy!)

Easter 2015 9

 My cousin Kate (LB's godmother), Auntie Marcia, Dad and Mum ...

Easter 2015 5

Bookworm (19) and Crackerjack (15) ...

Easter 2015 8

 Little Bear on my lap (22 mos.) with Manuel and Kara (my cousin and EB's godmother) ...

And finally, the man behind the camera for most of the day - finally getting to sit down and have his cupcake! 

Easter 2015 39

What a blessing it is to spend a day like this with those we love ...

❀

My friends, thank you so much for stopping by and sharing in our joy! I hope you all had wonderful Easter ... and I'd love to hear about your day if you'd care to leave a comment! I love hearing how families across the country (and world!) celebrate treasured days like this. For now though, I wish you all a very pleasant evening and a happy day tomorrow, too ...

I will see you here again very soon!


Donuts for St. Joseph Day

O with donuts 2

Good Thursday morning, my friends! It's the Feast of St. Joseph!

As per our annual tradition, I baked donuts this morning for the boys, and BOY does the house smell good! These are buttermilk-pumpkin donuts with a little brown sugar topping. So easy to whip up, very quick to bake ...

St joseph donuts 1

The recipe is here, if you'd like to check it out!

Enjoy your day, and thanks for stopping by!

See you here again very soon ...


A Bright & Blessed St. Patrick's Day!

(A feast day recap. πŸ€)

Stpat 1

The Feast of St. Patrick is a very special day in my calendar, because I am both Irish and Catholic! In the past we have done all kinds of things to celebrate this holiday, but we're still getting back in the groove slowly around here, so I kept things pretty quiet. But I thought you might like to see some of the refreshments and enjoyments that filled our day. :)

 Stpats 13

My Gram's Irish china was a must, even if I was the only one partaking (read - handling the china). (Next year make note - invite friends to tea on St. Patty's Day!) In the morning there were some Lucky Charms for the older boys as a once-a-year treat ... :) In the afternoon I made some Irish brown bread (recipe described here) which was plenty brown, lol - rather rustic, but nice with some sweet butter and lots of that tea.

There were books about the life of Saint Patrick and some filled with Irish blessings and Celtic prayers. And there was plenty of Irish music pouring from my iPhone, thanks to Pandora. :)

Stpats 2

(The china teacups are lovely when I can sit down - but most of the time, I just need a big sturdy mug to carry around with me.)

Some pretty cards for the day ...

Stpats 10

Stpats 11

Both by Marjolein Bastin, that wonderful nature artist and creator of cards.

Some pics of my wee (and not so wee anymore) Irish laddies ...

Stpats 3

 Little Bear and Earlybird ... a St. Patrick's Day "selfie."

Stpats 4 

Me with my handsome Earlybird - a rare smile for the camera!

Stpats 6

Crackerjack and Little Bear goofing around ... these two are like peas in a pod ...

Stpats 7

And the boy with the map of Ireland on his face - doesn't he look like a little leprechaun here?

Speaking of, we did some "research" this morning ...

Stpats 5

(From The Arthur Spiderwick Field Guide - a fascinating and fantastically illustrated book of faeries, trolls, sprites and the like.)

And there might have been a pretty butterfly left out for Little Bear, a gift from our own local leprechaun, perhaps ...

  O project 3:17 4

 Little Bear adores butterflies, or "La's" as he calls them. I'm not sure why, but he's always called them that.

In the spirit of the day, I dug up some favorite Irish movies and music ...

Stpats 14

 And we were finally able to put up a little garden flag - the snow has melted enough!

Stpats 17

And a page from A Child's Book Celtic Prayers - would make wonderful copywork - wise words, from the man of the day.

Stpats 16 

And from another favorite, A Child's Book of Blessings ...

Stpats 12

And so there we have it ... our St. Patrick's Day in a nutshell. Humble, homey, but just right for us. I was going to do a big Irish dinner, but I think I will wait until I have Bookworm home with us, too. He'll appreciate the corned beef and cabbage more than anyone!

(Though he tells me BC served that very meal in the caf tonight!)

I hope you all enjoyed your Tuesday, my friends  - and thanks so much for stopping by! I will see you here again very soon ...

πŸ€


Seeds, Snowflakes and a Cake for St. Agnes

Seed snowflake 9

Well, in the midst of all this journal talk, life at home is marching on to a familiar and happy beat. Yesterday was the Feast of St. Agnes as well as National Squirrel Appreciation Day ... representing two sides of our family's seasonal life - liturgical and natural. For the squirrels we made a seed craft, and for St. Agnes, we contemplated the prayer card handed out at last Sunday's Mass and made a snowflake cake in her honor ...

Naturally, I have pictures to share!

Seed snowflake 12

I had some wooden snowflakes leftover from Advent so, when I was thinking about making  "critter treats" with the kids for Squirrel Appreciation Day, I remembered those snowflakes ... and I thought, hmmm. That could work. And, as it happens (according to one legend anyway), snowflakes are known as "St. Agnes Flowers" ...

So, there you go!

To keep the craft kid- and critter-friendly, I made up some homemade paste. Then we smeared those snowflakes with the paste ...

Seed snowflakes 19

And stuck those sticky snowflakes in a mix of seeds and dried fruits ...

Seed snowflake 11

 (Messy crafts are always a hit with the boys!) 

Seed snowflake 10

A short while later we had a tray full of rather seedy looking snowflakes ...

Seed snowflake 13

Bundled up, we headed outside with the treats and leftover seed mix.

Seed snowflake 8

Little Bear immediately found a leaf to hold onto - lol, he's done this since he was tiny. If we're outside he's got either a leaf or a stick in his hand!

Seed snowflakes 6

Marching over to hang his snowflake in the bush ...

Seed snowflake 15

They kind of blend in, don't they? I suppose we could have tinted the paste with some natural food dye and that would have been pretty. Maybe next time!

Seed snowflake 16

 The birds loved the snowflakes, but the squirrels (including my dear little red shown above) liked the scattered seeds and fruit best!

Back inside it was time to start our Feast Day cake ... my best helper is Earlybird who just LOVES to bake. Someday this boy and I will run a little baking business together!

St. agnes cake 3

I followed a simple online scratch yellow cake mix recipe. We took our time measuring out the ingredients ...

St. agnes cake 7

While my littlest fella clung to my legs, lol. He wanted "Pup!" which is how he asks to be picked up. He wanted to be a baker, too!

St. agnes cake 1

At last we had cakes cooling on the counter ... and just before supper I assembled our cake:

St. agnes cake 5

A glossy layer of apricot jam in the middle, some buttercream on top ...

St. agnes cake 6

And the final touch: a sprinkling of snowflakes - aka St. Agnes's flowers!

❀

Our dinner was yummy and simple - baked ziti ("cheesey-pasta," my boys call it), steamed broccoli with lemon, crescent rolls and then of course, cake. Bill got home a bit late because he was working out of state, but we saved him a plate. :)

These are the quiet, homey days I love best. Not too much "out and about," the bulk of our day spent at home. We got some fresh air, made things, read books, baked stuff, and celebrated our faith ...

And we enjoyed our home, truly. I count that all joy!

Well my friends, I'm off for now, but I will give you an idea of the drafts I have in queue at the moment. Posts I'm working on ...

* binder breakdown

* lesson planning/assignments

* new household chore routine

* magazine love :)

* winter meals

* henkeeping advice

❀

Let me know if there's any topics you'd like to chat about or if you have any more planner/journal issues to discuss. I'm always open to ideas!

Enjoy the rest of your Thursday, my friends ... see you here again very soon!


Advent Tea Journal ~ Finding Joy in our Midst

(Or mess, as the case may be.)

Advent tea joy 20

"Joy is what happens to us when we allow ourselves to recognize how good things really are."

~ Marianne Williamson

My friends, this day did not go as planned, and the "vision" I had for this post went seriously awry ... but what I ended up with was not only very real, but as I look back at my day, truly filled with joy. The kind of joy I am talking about here ... as is Ms. Williamson above ... is when things are really good. They are not always pretty or neat or well-rested - but they are always good. And there is always joy.

So today, as we take tea together - however we manage it, if we manage it - we are talking about Christmas joy. This is, without a doubt, the most joyous time of the year and there are as many reasons why, as there are people on the planet, but here are a few photos of my holiday joy, and my tea journal below, with some lovely input from a few readers and then ... drumroll please ... the winners of my book giveaways!

Where do I find joy in the holiday season?

Advent tea joy 18

They say scent is the strongest sense when it comes to remembering. Well, I love both peppermint and vanilla, and to me, that is the smell of Christmas joy. Goodness knows I'm here at this sink a lot during the holidays (all the days!) so I take particular joy in the scent of these suds. (I also love the scents of clove, orange and evergreen. Those are also distinctly "Christmas" to me.)

*

When baking with my kids - even when it's chaotic and there's perhaps some yelling - there is such joy in creating for those we love ... with those we love.

Advent tea joy 6

Please excuse the mess - the one behind me and the one on my head, lol. Earlybird and I are working on fruitcakes here ...

Advent tea joy 7

And then there was supposed to be tea, after the baking, before the crafting, and during the baby's nap, but ...

Advent tea joy 11

Well, a clean kitchen was not to be part of today's joy. (And I do take great joy in a clean kitchen!) But to be perfectly honest, my kitchen still looks like this as I type up this post (without the running water, of course) and once again the baby didn't nap.

So ... THIS had to wait:

Advent tea joy 4

;)

Another year-long joy that seems especially rewarding at Christmas is crafting with my boys ...

Advent tea joy 2

Advent tea joy 10

No crafting happened today, though. These are the star-boys I began on St. Lucy's Day - very much a work in progress.

And there's much joy in receiving and sending Christmas cards each year ...

Advent tea joy 12

I love to post those wonderful faces where we can see them all season long. I love to talk about each family as we open and read each card. I love to pray for family and friends as I write out our own cards to them ...

There is SUCH joy in those connections.

And with the fruitcake finally in the oven, and the warm milk spiced with eggnog, I was ready to sit down and relax, and begin my post ...

But see, there was this little guy, and tea was not on his agenda.

Advent tea joy 13

A bottle of milk in his mama's arms was, though.

Advent tea joy 21

 And a good book or two ... and some toys ...

Advent tea joy 22

But then, hey ...

Advent tea joy 16

 Hmmm.

Advent tea joy 23

Slurp.

:)

So you know, if you had come to my house for tea today ... it would have been cold (because the heat's not working), and there would have been messes all over ... as well as one sick kid and one kid who wouldn't turn down the tv ... and a baby running a bit wild ... but.

There would have been joy. I guarantee it. 

:)

My Advent Tea Journal

In the natural world ...

It's a mild (40s) and mostly dry week for us here in New England. Which is fine by me. For now. I'd love to see some snow next week!

What I'm drinking ...

I saw this spiced eggnog mix in the Williams-Sonoma catalog a few weeks back and it intrigued me. I'm a big warm-milky-drinks fan, so I decided to give it a try and oh, I'm so glad I did! It is delicious ... comforting and custard-y tasting. You can have it cold or warm as I did (with whole milk) or you could add a spoonful to your coffee. My pretty mug is one of a set of six, a gift from my parents a few years ago. Also, coincidentally, from Williams-Sonoma.

What I'm reading ...

Lots and lots of children's Christmas books and lovely December issues of my favorite magazines.

What I'm working on ...

I can't wait to show you all this ... I am putting together a hand-drawn weekly home + seasons planner for myself for 2015! It is definitely a labor of love, but I'm enjoying all the line-drawing and calendar-checking. It's all quite involved, so I will have to do a separate post about it soon. Here are some of the materials so far:

Advent tea joy 19

Words to inspire joy ...

Please see the very top of my post. :)

*

And now to hear from Denise and Mary, two dear readers and friends, about their tea and seasonal joy this week. I love to hear from you all, honestly. I feel like I yabber on so much here and tell you all - well, probably more than you want to know, lol - so when I read about your thoughts and families and teatimes and faith ... I am so humbled and grateful.

Please read on ...

From Denise ...

Dawn, thank you for hosting this lovely tea theme! I enjoy reading
all the entries, and virtually visiting others' homes! This morning I am having tea by the Christmas tree. (This is my snow tree. The only tree I put up this year, due to not being home enough!) Such a lovely sight with all the lights, which seems to be my Advent theme.

 I normally have early morning tea, by myself, in communion with my Heavenly Father. Such a peaceful, restoring time, to sit, have something hot to sip, and to open His Word. Tea time with the Grands, well, now, that is a whole other story! I don't have a steady place to enjoy a cuppa & communion. It varies with the season and my mood. The actual cup is one my Mom & I found at a flea market. That's where all my tea cup and saucers have been purchased from. Over the years, having tea with my grands, some have been broken, so I have to replace them. ~smile~

This morning I am having Constant Comment, decaf. However, it has a taste of coffee (which I do not drink) in it, because I forgot to run a cup out of the Keurig (which was a Christmas gift to my dear husband). I have to admit, the last year or so has been hard. We have been dealing with a lot of family issues. So, I find myself this year, in the same place I was last year: Intentionally looking for JOY in this Holy Day Season.

As I discovered last year, even when our world is not right, we can STILL find JOY.  (Joy Β‘V a passion for expectation of good!) This year I am finding JOY in the re-telling of the Christ story of old with my grandchildren (whom I help homeschool.) I am finding JOY in spending time homeschooling! I am finding JOY in spending time with family members. I am finding JOY in ministering to my mother. I am finding JOY in ministering to those I meet on the street, yes, even just with a smile. I am finding JOY in calling the young mom who needs encouragement to share a Scripture and a prayer with her. I am finding JOY in spending time with a youth group who are on a quest to find the LORD. I am finding JOY in spending time with dear friends whose wife half of the couple has dementia. I am finding JOY in coming home, just to be with my husband. I am finding much JOY in my early morning time with the LORD!

 The key for me has been to be intentional in finding, looking for,
seeking JOY, that passion that leads to expecting good to come!!! I
have found much JOY in the following Scripture:

JOY in that HE is our salvation! (Is. 61:10, Ps. 35:9, Ps. 21:1)
JOY in that regardless of what is happening in my life today, in
HIS presence, there is fullness of JOY!  (Ps. 16:11)
JOY in that one day there will be everlasting JOY, and sorrow &
mourning will flee away! (Is. 51:10)
JOY in that He is my strength!  (Neh. 8:10)
JOY in that HE defends me!  (Ps. 5:11)
    Let all those that put their trust in You rejoice, let them ever
shout for JOY, because You defend them, let them also that love Your name be joyful in You.
JOY in that HE promises JOY in the morning 
For His anger endures but a moment, in His favor is life; weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning. (Ps. 30:5)

 JOY in that HE restores JOY! Restore unto me the joy of Thy salvation. (Ps. 51:12)

JOY for me, can be summed up in the following Scripture:  

Fear not, for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which will be to all people. (Luke 2:10)

God had good tidings of GREAT JOY to deliver to ALL people!  His name is
JESUS!!

Denise's joy tea

*

From Mary ...

What we are drinking...

We've expanded our repertoire to included some teas by Twinnings. I am usually not a huge fan of Earl Grey but I absolutely love this one. The Lady Grey (Love the name!) is also delicious...sort of a milder version of the Earl Grey.

And also ... I found some organic green tea on sale at Whole Foods and decided to give it a try. I was very pleased. It's quite smooth and mild. Very nice.

And finally, we are still enjoying our Celestial Seasonings Peppermint Tea ... it's a winner! Also, we're branching out and trying a Celestial Seasonings variety pack. The Sleepy Time is lovely and perfect for right before bed! ;-)

Have a lovely evening ...

Mary's joy tea 1

❀

I am so grateful to both Denise and Mary for sharing their thoughts and photos this week ... and a bit of themselves, as well. I am so glad to know you both and look forward to more weeks of tea together!

And my goodness, I've made you all wait to the very end of my (typically) long post, but I am happy to announce the winners of my book giveaways!

So without further ado ...

Nori Coleman has won A Miracle for St. Cecilia's,

and ...

JeNae has won The Christmas Shoes/Christmas Blessing duo!

Nori and JeNae - congratulations! I will be in touch soon to arrange mailing details. I hope you both enjoy these books (I know you will!).

And now I will wrap up at long last and thank you all for reading today. I hope your week is off to a good start, and that your evening is restful for you. Until we "speak" again ... take care of yourselves and your loved ones ... see you here again very soon!

❀


More Advent Fun: "The Snowman"

Snowman 3

Yesterday's Christmas vocabulary word was: snowman.

And so ... I planned to watch The Snowman with the boys, which is an animated version of an absolutely wonderful storybook by Raymond Briggs. I have loved this short movie for many years - I adore the soft animation, the dreamy music and the simple, sweet story. If you're unfamiliar with the plot, well, in a nutshell - a young boy (in what appears to be the English countryside) awakens to a snowy day and so, of course, rushes outside to build a snowman. And then, overnight (this is Christmas), the snowman comes to life and befriends the boy - taking him on a scenic journey to the north pole.

Magic.

I can watch it again and again - or just listen to it! - and all my boys have been riveted by it through the years. EB gets a little nervous sometimes so we have to skip forwards here and there ... and we also have to talk a bit about some of the boy's riskier behavior! (Leaving the house without his parent's permission, plugging in the tree lights, getting in a freezer, turning the key on his Dad's motorcycle, for instance!) Little Bear loved the motorcycle ride through the woods especially, and all the woodland animals that dashed out of the way.

Once the video had ended, we talked about how it's hard to say goodbye to someone we love. But then - when someone is gone from our life, can they still be with us in a way? I asked Earlybird: Why did the little boy feel sad in the morning? (The snowman had melted.) How could he remember the snowman when he was missing him? (Draw pictures, tell stories about him, build him again, believe he'll be with him again someday ...)

After the movie we set to work on a simple snowglobe craft. (Another Pinterest idea!)

Snowman 4

All we needed were a few pieces of construction paper, some white paint, colored Sharpies and a few cute thumbs. 

Check, check, check and double check!

Now, you'll notice there are no pictures of the baby making his thumbprint snowman ... and that's because it was very much a four-hand project (his and mine). As you can probably imagine, I held his hand and assisted him with the thumbprint making. (Keeping the paint on the paper and out of his mouth!) There are also no pictures of Earlybird making a snowman -and that's because he just flat out refused to do it, lol. Oh well, it happens that way sometimes ...

But here's how LB's craft looked (once I "finished" it up for him) ...

Snowman 2

Cute, right?

And then, while the baby napped, I had time to make some simple snowball cookies. These are a variation of the lemon snowballs I've made (and blogged about) for years - but in keeping with the snowman story, I used clementine zest and juice to flavor the dough ...

Snowman 5

I just dusted them with confectioner's sugar but they'd be such fun glazed with an orange-tinted icing (powdered sugar + milk + food dye) to look just like The Snowman's tangerine nose!

(Are oranges generally used for snowmen noses in Europe? As opposed to carrots which are the norm in the US? Just curious!)

Snowman 1

 Ah, a hot mug of tea and a tiny bite of cookie - enjoyed in a warm kitchen while the rain pelts the windows and the baby sleeps upstairs ...

* advent ❀ peace *

Well my friends, thanks for once again joining me for a little crafty fun. I hope you all had a nice Thursday! Enjoy your evening and I will see you here again very soon ...


Advent Tea Journal ~ Peace Be with Us

  Advent tea peace 15

Happy Monday, my friends! Welcome to another afternoon tea. :)

Today we begin the second week of Advent, and it is also the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, one of those lovely Marian feasts we enjoy celebrating at home in small, thoughtful ways. At this time of year, we are reminded of Mary's motherhood and her role in the life of her son, Jesus. I have four sons, and they're my whole world; together with my husband, and our home, my life revolves around them. So I often find myself in prayer, thinking of Mary, asking her to guide me in her gentle, peaceful ways. Goodness knows, I can use all the help I can get!

Now, whether we're talking about world peace or inner peace, it certainly means different things to different people. But right now I'm thinking about peace in the weeks before Christmas: how we can find it (create it?) in the midst of all the holiday bustle? Not just for ourselves, but our loved ones as well?

Here are a few of my thoughts - and I'd love to hear yours!

 * Keep the December calendar as low-key as possible. I know it's hard to say no to the myriad invitations and activities that take place throughout the holiday season, but there has to be a limit. Make room for peace in your life by setting a less-busy stage.

* Create cozy corners in your home that encourage folks to sit down a spell. Stock some lovely books on the table beside a favorite chair or couch corner (Christmas books would be perfect of course), and add a pretty coaster that will remind you to make yourself a hot cup of tea (or cocoa).

* Find yourself noticing nature. I purposefully filled our Advent calendar with "nature moments" - watching the moon rise, walking in the woods, feeding the birds, apprecating the beauty of a poinsettia. Cultivate a habit of observation - brainstorm simple activities that connect us with nature and remind us to slow down as the earth stills itself for the Winter. 

* Light up the darkness - with string lights and candles, real or electric. The days are so short and dark now, I find my home all the more peaceful when there are soft lights to welcome us, and comfort us, late in the day. This only enhances the feeling that our home is a haven from the outside world. Sitting in a quiet room illuminated only by tree lights is one of my favorite things about these short December days.

* Make time to sit quietly in thought or prayer each day - 10 minutes before the kids wake or 10 minutes after they go to bed? Try not to let your mind go right to your to-do list, but instead, keep your thoughts on spiritual matters. A quick "thank you" for the day's blessings, a simple prayer for a loved one, a fond memory, a favorite carol. (This can be done with a sleeping babe in your arms, too!)

* (But, speaking of to-do's) make your list and check it twice. A well-organized list and an internet connecton are great for keeping stress down. Because let's face it - we all have things to buy or make or do, and lots of people rely on us to make their Christmas merry. Peace is hard to cultivate when you're panicking, and if we didn't start early, then the to-do's are best addressed sooner rather than later. Nothing wrecks my Christmas spirit like last minute shopping, whereas feeling prepared gives me true peace of mind. Noble? Maybe not. But realistic.

*❀*

Ok, here are a few peaceful moments from my day ...

Advent tea peace 10

Bill took this picture of Little Bear and me (without my knowledge!) and I just love it. This is quite early - if you can't tell by our "bed hair," lol - and we are starting our day as we usually do ... in the library, in "our" chair, with a few good books (and a cup of coffee for Mama). We're in this chair reading, many times throughout the day ... but there's something so special about that first snuggle of the day. :)

Advent tea peace 1

A little "sneak peek" at our Christmas card this year - it reads: "Peace on Earth." β€

(I'll share the card in its entirety after we've mailed them all out!)

Advent tea peace 2

The absolute glee on my little boy's face when he noticed the nativity stickers I placed on the window behind our chair ...

Advent tea peace 12

Where's the baby, Little Bear?

Advent tea peace 6

Working on the Christmas mantel, here's a pretty corner: flowers and stars for the Mother of God.

Advent tea peace 8

Our Oliver, mid-scratch. :) It's impossible to see in this picture, but there's a cardinal at the feeder just beyond this window. Also, it is lightly snowing and this is what I'm looking at as I drink my tea ...  a little bit of domestic tranquility, with some serene nature thrown in.

And speaking of tranquil ...

Advent tea peace 11

Here's what else I am looking at as I enjoy my tea ... a sleeping Little Bear who opted not to stay in his crib for the entirety of his nap. He slept for a good hour here while I sipped and worked on this post.

A happy, sleeping baby = a happy, refreshed Mama.

Peace personified.

:)

~ Tea Journal

In the natural world ...

A cold day of clouds and flurries here, and a Nor'easter arriving tomorrow! High winds and heavy rain in our part of the region (if it was snow, we'd be buried!). Here's our front walkway as I stepped out to get the paper this morning:

Advent tea peace 4

What I'm drinking & eating ...

Oh my goodness!

Well.

I wanted to do something white in honor of today's feast, so I chose a London Fog Latte for my beverage. I had heard from friends that it was a simply delicious drink - and now I can happily agree - it is! Sweet and milky, with a nice citrus-y bergamot flavor. And as you can see in the picture at the top of my post, I once again used a pretty "vintage" tea cup, another from my grandmother's collection. It is called "Yuletide," and fittingly, it was made by Royal Albert of England. :)

Keeping with the "British Christmas" theme - and more stars for the Feast! - I made mini orange-mince pies for a lovely holiday treat!

Advent tea peace 13

I have always loved the look of these traditional English confections, and knew someday I would try making them! (Though admittedly, pastry intimidates me.) Well, my dear friend Shirley Ann inspired me to give them a try this week, after she shared a picture of her own on Facebook! I made these up Sunday afternoon while the baby slept - very easy to do - and goodness, did the house smell like Christmas!

And I must tell you - they are so very, very yummy. A tender crust with orange flavor and a spicy-sweet filling ... gah, so good. Bill had one on his way out this morning and he absolutely loved it! And this is a man who had never before tried mincemeat because "it frightened him" lol. I will definitely be making a large batch of these for Christmas day ... I wonder if I can freeze them ahead?

What I'm reading ...

Advent tea peace 7

I've just started reading back through my annual domestic journal pages, which are kept in this gigantic binder. (Only the current month is kept in my primary binder.) Also, lots of board books. (A post on LB's favorites to come soon!)

What I'm working on ...

Well, the big thing this week is setting up the tree ... we just brought it home yesterday. Also, still packing away all the fall decorations and finding all the Christmas books. Then there's lunch for Earlybird and Dad on Sunday ... and oh, getting the Christmas cards mailed out! 

 Words to ponder ...

Peace:

It does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble, or hard work. It means to be in the midst of all those things and still be calm in your heart.

~ Anonymous

I love this quote so much - I have the magnet, I have the mug! - it's kind of my personal mantra. And, it's a skill I'm working on all the time - because as nice as it is to slow down and "make room" for peace - life just doesn't always work that way. My life as a mum - a special needs mum, especially - is filled with all the things mentioned above. But I know how I want to be. I want to be a source of peace for my children, their beacon in any sea. It's important, especially as a mother, to carry peace with me, and keep it with me for when I - we - need it most.

(I plan to revisit the theme of peace next month. I'd love to hear your ideas on the subject.)

*❀*

And now, my friends, I'm finally going to stop talking, lol. This really was a rather long journal entry! But I'm so pleased to share my dear friend Mary's contribution to our Advent Tea Journal this week. Here are her thoughts on keeping peace in the season ...


What a lovely theme for a tea - Peace - especially since slowing down to make and drink tea can definitely bring peace into one’s life during the hustle and bustle that leads up to the Christmas season.

As a family, things that help us to find peace during this season is the simple process of eating a family supper together at night and starting by saying grace before we eat. We do this all year long but during this season, in particular, our family meal continues to serve as a wonderful anchor to slow us down, light the advent candle, and talk with one and other remembering to focus on all that we are grateful for.

We also enjoy walking around different β€œtrails of lights” hosted by different towns around the Texas Hill Country. (We avoid the Austin Trail of Lights because it is a zoo - and definitely doesn’t bring peace to our lives!) The cool nights, the lights, and sipping hot chocolates as we all walk together as a family is always so peaceful.  

And this may sound funny - but we also enjoy walking around an open air shopping mall looking at the lights - and watching the other people hustle and bustle to shop. Instead, we walk slow, look at the lights, and chat. It’s funny how peaceful it is for us. At Christmas we exchange very few gifts freeing us of the need to rush and shop. It is so liberating - and brings peace to our lives. 

Here is a picture of me with our teenage son, walking around a festive open air shopping mall.

Mary tea peace 1 

On our Tea menu...we are continuing to enjoy Celestial Season's Peppermint tea and also some decadently rich double chocolate hot chocolate. And for a real treat - we twirl both with a candy cane!

Mary's tea peace 2

 Thank you so much, Mary, for this wonderful reflection on how you bring peace to your family at this time of year. I love the picture of you with your son - those smiles are beautiful! Family togetherness is a gift he will remember all his life!

*❀*

Thank you, all, for joining me here today. If you are so inclined, please leave a comment below with your thoughts on finding peace in the hoilday season. Also, what are you drinking for "tea" this week? Baking anything special?

Hope to hear from you, but until next time, take care of yourselves and your loved ones ... I'll see you here again very soon!


My Tea Journal ~ Advent Hopes

Hope 8

Happy Monday, my friends ... Happy December! And a Blessed Advent to all! Thank you so much for stopping by ... now, how about a nice cup of tea while we talk about our hopes for the season?

*❀*

What are your hopes for this Advent and Christmas? Are you hoping the season will be different this year? Are there specific activities you hope to see happen? For myself and my family, my biggest hope this year is to keep things as simple as possible. I find it very easy to get overwhelmed in December - it feels like I have all the time in the world to prepare, but in truth, Christmas comes quickly  - and I'd rather meet it with a peaceful spirit and present mind. Lots of breathing room and thinking space is what I need and want to share with my family as we prepare our hearts (not just our homes) for Christmas.

I think it's important to think about our hopes because they are all important, the big and small - as are the hopes of our spouses and children. Stop and let them roll through your mind, write them down in your planner or post them on the fridge - figure out how to work the ones that matter most into the weeks ahead.

In a world in which Christmas is equated with presents and ornaments and lights and toys and trees and all kinds of stuff ... the simplest way to celebrate is to just share our love for one another. With kind words and thoughtful actions, gestures of understanding and a little bit of our time when we can. I do love the bustle and wrapping as much as anyone (just see my Pinterest folders, lol) but I try to remind myself that simple is a good thing ... the best thing, actually ... after all, the Holy Family had little, but loved much.

*❀*

Speaking of simple, here are our Advent candles ...

Hope 4

I love the idea of a proper round wreath adorned with tall gorgeous tapers, and set in a place of honor. But for now, we keep our "wreath" in the window - the safest place for candles in a house full of curious children and cats! These are glass votives we decorated with pink and purple tissue paper years ago - we stuck some evergreen branches in the corners ... and you know what? I think they look lovely. Even if they do sit above a sink which is quite possibly half full of dirty dishes - they won't be overlooked, that's for sure! And in a way, this is kind of a place of honor ... we spend a lot of time here (somedays it feels like most of my time!) this is my favorite window and what I do at this sink, under this window, is to serve my family - cooking, cleaning, washing up and taking care. Which I know in my heart and soul is my gift to them and to God. A good reminder that there is sacred in the every day. :)

My Tea Journal

In the natural world ...

It is again, a strangely mild day - though there is still a healthy smattering of snow on the ground! Any leftover Thanskgiving snow ... will be melted by the end of the week. Temps near 60 today - down in the 30s tomorrow!

I am drinking/eating ...

Hope 5

I chose a very special teacup today, one that bears the pretty thistle, Scotland's national flower. As it is the Feast of St. Andrew of Scotland (observed), it is a nice pick for today. This cup was part of a collection that belonged to my maternal grandmother who would tell you (with no small amount of pride) that she was in fact, Scotch-Irish, not just Irish alone. ;)

I'm drinking Harney & Son's Holiday Tea - a delicious blend of black tea and Christmas spices - and my snack is a simple but sweet clementine, in season just now. Clementines make me think of that scene in Little Women when the March family gives up their meager Christms meal for a poor hugry family. The way Amy hangs on to that big orange makes me realize how far we've come (or not) in food appreciation ...

Amy with orange

At that time a sweet juicy orange was a true indulgence, not just for the cost, but for the flavor itself. Nowadays we assault our senses with all kinds of brash flavors and artificial foods. An orange might seem ordinary - something we might have to cajole our kids (or ourselves) into eating - but in so many ways it is truly spectacular. I'm savoring every bite. 

p.s. You might notice the teacup is perched on my kitchen island above (and the front windowsill at the top). I am not actually sitting in my comfortable "tea chair" this time ... as there was no nap for Little Bear today! So tea was pretty much taken in spurts, while standing ... stil tasted good!

What I'm reading ...

Mostly I'm reading the Magnificat Advent Companion, a small section each day, as well as my latest library book, Sunday Suppers. A lovely book that has me thinking up posts for January (keeping Sundays special per my dear friend, Emma's suggestion). Other than that it's just all board books, all the time. I would like to put up a post about what Little Bear's reading now, because he definitely has his preferences!

Speaking of Little Bear, may I ... ?

Hope 1

:)

Working on ...

An Advent Calendar for Earlybird ... 

Hope 3

It looks pretty busy but it's really a pretty simple project. I used mostly what I already had on hand. (Craft store trips don't happen as often these days!) I'll do a thorough post about this project and our children's Advent activities tomorrow (or possibly the next day, but soon). 

Words to ponder this week ...

 "Hope is some extraordinary spiritual grace that God gives us to control our fears, not to oust them."

~ Vincent McNabb

(I LOVE this.)

*❀*

And this week I have another dear friend, Mary sharing tea with me. I am so happy to share her thoughts with you here ...

Mary wrote:

"Below is an electric tea kettle that my husband gave to me as a gift a number of years ago. I love it because it heats water quickly, keeps it hot, and turns off automatically. I would often leave the other kettle on the stove, which did not have a whistle, and forget about it! I also keep a jar near by with our favorite teas and a little lemon shaped tea caddy that belonged to my Mom. :-) My family and I regularly enjoy our "tea time" after supper. It's a nice way to finish our meal."

Mary's teatime

Thank you so much, Mary! I adore that beautiful kettle! And I also love how you store your sundries in those pretty glass jars ... and ooh, the silver platters behind them! All so inviting and lovely ... like a picture from Victoria Magazine!

***

My friends, thank you so much for joining me for another Tea Journal post! I would love to hear about your hopes for this Advent, if you have time. And of course, I always love to hear about your tea!

Next week's Advent Tea theme will be >> Peace. How do we find (create) peace in the midst of a hustle-bustle season? If you have thoughts or pictures for next week's post, please send them to me at your earliest convenience:

bysunandcandlelight@comcast.net

Hope to hear from you soon!

* Ooh wait, I forgot a recipe to share! 

How about Scottish shortbread in honor of St. Andrew? Quite possibly the simplest cookie - three ingredients! - and best tasting in my opinion. Much like those cookies I posted about last week! They can be dipped in melted chocolate to dress them up (and even sprinkles), but I like them best plain:

Shortbtrad

:)


Happy Saints' Day! (and Hello!)

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

It's been a very long time hasn't it? Weeks now ... my goodness. And I apologize for being away so long ... I do wish I could tell you all is well with my computer but sadly - frustratingly, maddeningly - it is not. Still a work-in-progress, I'm afraid ... so I am currently hijacking Crackerjack's computer so I can write up this post!

While I'm here, I thought I would share a few photos from our weekend, beginning with some Halloween pictures. What a fun evening it was - I hope yours too was happy and safe!

:)

Here is our Little Bear - aka Tom Brady of the New England Patriots - all of 17 months and looking like quite the little man on his 2nd Halloween!

O Tom Brady

And here's our pumpkin this year - designed by Crackerjack and carved by Yours Truly.

Halloween 2

The treats table all arranged in the foyer ...

Halloween 5

This is a bit blurry - Bill was trying to catch the pretty sunset in the background, as well as the boys and me in my (good) witch's hat. :)

Halloween 3

The evening was cool but not cold, and cloudy with just a hint of milky sun. As night descended, things got rather spooky!

Halloween 7

Little Bear was fascinated by the pumpkin lights lining our front walk ...

Halloween 8

***

So another All Hallows' Eve come and gone ... and this morning brought us a new month. And a day all dark, wet and dreary as November is known to be - Rabbit, rabbit! But as lousy as it gets outside, it is always cozy and warm inside. In honor of today's feast (All Saints') and tomorrow's feast (All Souls') I baked an autumn cake ...

All Saints Cake

The boys were rather pleased.

:)

Also, before I go, here's a quick peek at our gratitude project this year ...

Gratitude project 1

I will post more about that as soon as I can!

Hope this "note" finds you all well ... take care of yourselves and your loved ones ... and see you here again sometime soon!


3 Cheers for the Bonnie Prince!

Bonnie princes 1 

Yesterday, the wee Prince of Cambridge - aka George, or William and Kate's boy - turned one! And to celebrate - because we're a bit English ourselves, and we have a little prince of our own - we made some wee carrot muffins for a late morning tea. (And by "tea," I really mean pear juice for the younger boys and cold coffee for me. The older boys had milk.)

Of course, Prince Little Bear had to bust out his crown for the occasion ...

Bonnie princes 9

He also practiced his newly acquired (and very prince-like) skill of pointing ...

Bonnie princes 6

 Cake, Mama ... I want cake.

Bonnie princes 10

And so ... cake was had.

Bonnie princes 2

Bonnie princes 3

Bonnie princes 7

Bonnie princes 5

It's hard work being Prince ...

Bonnie princes 8

But someboday has to do it!

:)

Enjoy your Wednesday, my friends ...


Bits of Domestic Bliss: Bread Pudding

Good Monday evening, my friends ... I hope you've all had a nice day! It was a mild and muggy June day here but I still felt the urge to bake something warm and cozy! Something like ... old -fashioned bread pudding!

This dish made me happy for three reasons ... 1. it used up a good chunk of leftover French bread, 2. it's, as I said above, old-fashioned - nostalgic even, and 3. the flavors are some of my favorites: vanilla, orange, cinnamon and cranberry. :)

Here's the recipe link and a few photos I took as I prepared it ...

Bread pudding 1

Bread pudding 2

Bread pudding 3

I'm serving it tonight after supper with some freshly whipped cream ... but I might have snuck sampled a bit of it at lunchtime ... just to make sure it baked all the way through. ;)

***

Our dinner tonight:

crispy chicken legs (new recipe, sounds good!), sweet potato puffs, steamed broccoli with lemon butter, and the rest of the leftover French bread served up as garlic toasts.

(I bought two loaves of French bread to make overnight French toast for my brother's birthday brunch on Sunday - but unfortunately I didn't get around to making it. I'm glad it's not going to waste!)

Before I go, a note of sincere thanks to Rain, for helping me identify the birdsong I posted about this morning ... it appears we have a wood thrush in our midst! I have only ever seen a thrush once at our old house, so it makes me intrigued and pleased to know we have one here as well.

Have a great evening, my friends ... see you here again very soon!

*❀*


Time to make the donuts ...

Donuts for st. joseph 1 

On St. Joseph's Day we like to bake donuts, and that's just what we did this morning, Earlybird and I ...

Donuts for st. joseph 4

This is a very simple, baked donut ...

Donuts for st. joseph 5

After cooling just a bit, I dipped them in a light maple glaze, but I left one plain for Little Bear ...

Donuts for st. joseph 6

Donuts for st. joseph 3

Very small bites ... a new taste and texture to enjoy!

Cake Donuts

2 cups flour, 3/4 cup sugar (I used 1/2 cup vanilla sugar), 2 tsp. baking powder, 1 tsp. salt, 1 Tbsp. unsalted butter (melted), 2 eggs (beaten), 3/4 cup milk (I used whole), 1 tsp. vanilla, 1/4 tsp. cinnamon, 1/4 tsp. nutmeg

Preheat oven to 325. Lightly spray donut pan with cooking oil (aka Pam). In bowl, mix together flour, sugar, baking powder, salt. Add butter, eggs, milk, vanilla, nutmeg and cinnamon. Beat until well blended. (I used a rubber spatula.) Fill each donut ring 2/3 full. Bake for 8 minutes or until tops spring back lightly when touched. Cool. Remove from pan and dip into glaze.

I adapted this recipe from one found on the back of my Wilton donut pan. For the glaze, I just mixed some confectioner's sugar with cream and maple syrup. I pressed the donuts into the bowl of glaze (face-down) while they were still warm, then set them on a plate to cool.

And they were DELICIOUS.

:) 

Blessings to you all on this Feast of St. Joseph ... see you again sometime tomorrow!


Advent: Moments of Peace & Joy

Some simple, joyful moments on St. Lucia Day ...

Advent joy saint lucia buns

Cinnamon rolls (the easy kind that come from a can that happen to also be the natural kind that Earlybird can have). One of these years I *will* make homemade Lucia bun. I mean it.

;)

Note the adorable "shooting star" beeswax birthday candle.

 Advent joy hook apron 1 

This brushed nickel hook - oh, how I've waited for it! Bill finally got the hook installed on the back of a kitchen door, so I can hang my beautiful winter apron here - a treasured "Vermont" gift from my parents last year ...

Advent joy hook apron 2 

I think it looks nice in this spot, close to the oven ... makes me want to bake!

Advent joy calendar 1

 And while we're in the kitchen ... my monthly wall calendar always makes me smile. I have it hanging on the fridge. The art of Susan Winget (Lang Co.) is just beautiful.

***

And now for a couple of moments today when I truly "took" peace ...

 Advent peace driveway

Walking back from getting the mail - cold air, icy ground, flurries in the midst - so still and quiet, as I made my way up our drive. I could feel Winter's approach ...

Advent peace tea

Back inside, a cup of tea for warmth and (soul) nourishment.

*❀*

And now we're at the weekend ... with a snowstorm pressing upon us here in New England. We have some quiet homey plans, a special boy's birthday to celebrate, a bit of a breather, I hope ... but I'll be back again soon to share the peace and joy I am stumbling upon ...

Blessings to you all! 


Happy November Things

Owen sunday best 1

You might remember a post from this summer, in which I showed you a beautiful baby sweater set, a handmade gift from a dear friend ... well, we finally got a picture of Little Bear wearing it and I wanted to share it here!

Isn't it gorgeous? The yarn is so soft, with a nice bit of stretch to it (I'm hoping it will still fit next spring) and the blue is almost the exact shade of Little Bear's eyes. Whenever he wears it out we are asked about it ~ my friend Cherice did a fabulous job, and we'll treasure this outfit always.

:)

Also, yesterday was Martinmas, and for the first time in several years we did not make lanterns ... which makes me a bit sad, because I so enjoy making lanterns ... and now I'm remembering happy craft days with the boys through the years ... 

Martinmas lantern 3

Martin lantern 1

Martinmas lantern 4

Where do the years go?

And did you know that tomorrow (11/13) is National Indian Pudding Day? I did a post on it a couple of years ago, including a wonderful Susan Branch recipe found here. I have long loved Indian Pudding, a truly comforting dessert which is especially nice with freshly whipped cream.

Speaking of desserts, doesn't this make you want to bake pie?

Apple pie 1

:)

Oh, and if you're a fan of Starbucks, you might want to know about a special offer they have going on later this week: between November 13th and the 17th when you buy one holiday beverage you get one free to share! Offer good between 2 and 5 p.m. Isn't that fun? I may have to plan a Barnes & Noble stop this weekend ...

Which drink would you choose? I myself am a huge fan of the Peppermint Mocha. Peppermint, chocolate, coffee and cream - what's not to love?

Last of all, look what happened this morning ...

Snow 2

Our first snow of the season! Hot cocoa all around!

It's already gone now, an hour later. But it was fun to see - Earlybird was all excited and you should have seen Little Bear's face! I'm sure we'll have more snow to marvel at before too long.

How's your weather in your corner of the world?

Have a Happy Tuesday, my friends ... see you here again sometime soon!

*❀*


Monday Bits-n-Bobs (+ a few leftover from the weekend)

Happy Monday, my friends!

I hope you all had a nice weekend. I have a whole bunch of notes and pictures to share this evening, things I "jotted" down while I could ... :)

* Bought our spring-flowering bulbs at the nursery Saturday morning. Hope to get them in the ground sometime this week (but more likely next weekend).

Bulbs 1

* On Sunday I made an apple-blackberry crisp in honor of Michaelmas ...

Apple blackberry crisp 1

As legend goes, when St. Michael threw the devil out of Heaven, he landed in a blackberry bush, and so, those fruits are cursed (i.e. no good for eating) after Michaelmas Day. I love to serve blackberries in some form around - but not after! - this feast.

Apple blackberry crisp 2

This recipe was new, but proved to be a keeper for sure!

(Note: I used Macintosh apples, not Granny Smith as did the author.)

* Ok, another gratuitous Little Bear pic ... 

Owen trouble 1

Here comes trouble, indeed! ;)

* Did you hear that HRH Prince George (Kate and Will's little one) will be christened on October 23rd? What a special day that will be for the royal family - and for England as a nation. Fun to watch for the rest of us, too! (It happens to be a special day for Bill and me as well - it's our 20th wedding anniversary!)

* Our priest's homily on Sunday was so beautiful, it moved me to tears. Half of it has already leaked out of my brain, but I know the message was to A. appreciate the small things (slow down and see them) and to B. see Jesus in everyone and allow that to lead us to do good works. I'm wildly paraphrasing but nothing beats a really good homily to inspire your week. :)

* So apparently it was National Coffee Day yesterday, and how on earth did I not know this? Well, I have marked it down in my calendar for next year. (And yes I do have a 2014 calendar already!)

* In each of the houses we've lived (there have been four), I gather together a mini "acorn family" made up of acorns found in the yard. I keep them on the nature table, sometimes on display, sometimes tucked in a treasure jar. Well now we have our new little family for this house - complete with one extra acorn this time!

Acorn family

* One last thing: Don't forget Rabbit-Rabbit tomorrow!

*❀*

Enjoy your evening, my friends ... see you all again sometime soon!


Friday Bits-n-Bobs

So yesterday may have been a day for apples but I made use of another autumnal orchard fruit instead ~  a couple of pounds of ripe and juicy Bartlett pears! I baked two dozen pear muffins with the pearsauce I'd made earlier in the week.

Pear muffins 1

And oh my goodness! I had one (maybe three) of these in the afternoon, with a cup of decaffeinated English Teatime, while sitting by an open window soaking in the fresh air and warm autumn sunshine ... just glorious!

(I've also got apples aplenty to use up - a whole bunch of Macs we bought at a favorite farm a couple of weeks ago ... I'll make them into a cobbler for Bookworm who'll be home from college this weekend.)

* And for supper last night I made a pan of ziti and a pan of baked chicken using up some spinach dip and whole grain bread crumbs ... along with a pan of roasted "early autumn" vegetables: squash, sweet peppers, onions, carrots, potatoes ...

  Potatoes 1

Now, a quick disclaimer - I don't want anyone to think I'm cooking like this every day. Hardly. I'm still trying to get into some routines here with a new(ish) baby and a new(ish) home. I'm just so tickled I did all that cooking yesterday I wanted to share it!

* Speaking of baking though, I must rave again about the King Arthur Flour Baking Sheet. If you enjoy baking - particularly seasonal baking - this newsletter is a must. Well, apparently I forgot to change my address when we moved so when I realized I missed the Autumn issue, I called to remedy the error ... and two days later I had my new copy! Wonderful customer service from KAF.

* Now, on Wednesday you know how I told you all about the little mouse we found (or rather the cats found) in our dining room? Well yesterday morning we had another interesting nature sighting ... this gorgeous Barred Owl!

Owl 3

I was upstairs in the bedroom with Little Bear when I first spotted the owl in the trees near the edge of our property. I promptly got myself outside (and the baby in a bouncy seat where Crackerjack could watch him) and took a few snaps. The owl immediately zeroed in on me so I only had the chance to take a couple of passable shots. He then turned his back on me ...

Owl 2

And just flew off into the woods. What a wingspan! He was enormous.

* Oh, and the Michaelmas daisies! Have you seen any where you live? Around here they are abundant along the roadsides. Apt timing of course, seeing as how Sunday is Michaelmas Day ...

Michaelmas daisies 1

Love that pale purple, so pretty against the goldenrod which is also all over the place. One thing I love about this time of year is how we have fall foliage starting - there are hints of red and gold in the treescape - but we still have the bright beauty of September's last roses and dahlias and hydrangeas and such. The best of both worlds ... nature's last lively dance!

:)

Well that's all that's new from me today ... thanks so much for joining me this week as I ease my way back into regular blogging ... have yourselves a GREAT weekend, and I will see you all again sometime soon!

*❀*


First Day Brownies!

Happy Monday, my friends!

Well, it's our first day "Back to Homeschool" and it's been a good one, if not exactly quite what I'd planned. For one thing, Crackerjack is sick - he caught the cold Bookworm brought home from college this weekend - and spent most of the day under blankets. But Earlybird and I got some nice work done this morning, and to celebrate we baked a batch of brownies together.

First day brownies 1

First day brownies 2

(It's hard to tell, but that's a thumbs up!)

First day brownies 4

First day brownies 3

Yummy!

:)

I'm still behind on lesson plans, and you all know how I love planning, but sometimes, and especially with Earlybird, just "winging it" and expanding on what comes up in a day works out really well. Today we learned about canyons (the Grand Canyon in particular), bridge repair, China and measurements. We also put up our world map, read an acrostic poem and looked through the Boston Globe for stories to explore.

But mostly today - this week! - is about refreshing attitudes and reminding ourselves that learning is fun and work is rewarding! All much needed things after a long, lazy summer!

Hope your week's off to a great start, everyone ... see you here again very soon!

*❀*