Bits-n-Bobs Feed

Birdfeeding, St. Brigid & Cute Candlemas Crafts!

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Hello everyone, and Happy Sunday! I'm popping in here today to share a few things with you all on this cool and cloudy Candlemas afternoon ... but first, how is the weather where you are? And what did your groundhog have to say? I say "your groundhog," because as I understand it there are a few of them out there - weather-predicting rodents, I mean - though I believe Punxsatawny Phil is perhaps the most famous. And happily, according to Phil, we are to expect an early spring this year, a prediction that was seconded by the esteemed Ms. G of Massachusetts, the lady groundhog who lives in Lincoln, at Drumlin Farm Sanctuary. πŸ˜Š

Continuing with a weather folklore theme, we can also turn to a old lovely verse for a hint of what's to come ...

If Candlemas Day be fair and bright,
Winter will have another flight;
But if it be dark with clouds and rain,
Winter is gone, and will not come again.

Well, it just so happens it was indeed "dark with clouds and rain" here in Massachusetts today so knockonwood perhaps an early spring truly IS in the offing!

(p.s. This Wednesday is National Meteorologist Day, so why not write a letter to your favorite weather guy or gal and let them know you appreciate them? Maybe ask them if they put any stock in groundhog predictions or other ancient weather "wisdom?")

Alrighty then, on with our post ... and how about we all offer a warm welcome to February?! Because I'm not sure about you, but January seemed awfully long. Not terribly stormy or anything, but February is just that much closer to spring - aka the actual Equinox which occurs on March 19th this year. #markyourcalendar!

And did you remember to say rabbit-rabbit yesterday? I did - though unfortunately I had already muttered a few words after midnight, such as "go back to sleep," please make coffee," and "no, it's not time for breakfast." (That last one was to the cats.) I think it still counts if you say rabbit-rabbit at some point on the first day of the month, but maybe it brings extra good luck if you remember to say it before anything else! 

Anyhoo.😜

I wanted to share a link to an absolutely wonderful resource for anyone who loves nature and following the seasons of the year, but especially perhaps for those of us who enjoy sharing that passion with children:

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The WILD KIDS February issue is here!

So remember in my last Tea post I shared a picture of Little Bear with a chickadee perched in his hand? Well, I wrote up a short article about our experience hand-feeding wild birds last month and my friend Alicia Bayer (author of Wild Kids, as well as several books on foraging and other nature-related topics) invited me to share it in her magazine!

Here's a link to the issue, and a little bit about the magazine, from Alicia:

This month, we have information on how to feed wild birds by hand, instructions to make a simple shell or stone sundial, info abut aloe and mallow, and vintage wild bird collectible cards, along with the usual seasonal poems, botanical coloring pages, nature journal pages and more.

This issue is 22 pages and as always, it is ad-free and 100% free to read online or print out.

I was so honored to be asked to contribute to this amazing magazine, and I hope to do so again in the future!

Now as you all know, nature is a huge part of our family life - observing and caring for the flora and fauna around us, and paying attention to seasonal nuances as the years come and go. We weave those nuances into our home life, our homeschooling and even in the way we practice our Catholic faith. I've posted many times through the years about the strong connection I feel to creation and the how-s and why-s of our seasonal homeschooling, but for today I'd just like to share some of the things we got up to last week! 

So last week's theme was "frost and fire," which had us focusing on the deep cold of winter and the blessing of home and warmth. I like to assign this theme to the week leading up to Candlemas since we're usually making candles and talking about fire and fire safety. And a neat counterpoint to the cozy warmth within, is the frozen world without - because at this time of year frost (along with its cohorts ice and snow) is commonplace. All creation must adapt to withstand the cold - animals outside, and humans (mostly) inside. This is a wonderful theme to explore on so many levels!

We were also focusing on two special liturgical events this week: St. Brigid's Day and Candlemas (February 1st and 2nd, respectively) and there were a few fun holidays mixed in here and there - plus we were busier than usual to boot!

Here's a quick peek at my weekly lesson plan and agenda:

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I'm working on a post about how I've been using my homemade planner lately, so I'll get into this page a bit more deeply very soon. In the interest of time though, I will move on with our week!

First, there was National Chocolate Cake Day on Monday ...

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And we celebrated with cake, natch!

This cake was also baked in celebration of my mother-in-law's birthday. I took a video of the boys singing "Happy Birthday," and if you hop on over to my Instagram page you can not only hear them sing, but also read my behind-the-scenes story of why this was such a very special "milestone" moment for our Earlybird. πŸ’™

And then Wednesday brought National Carnation Day ...

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True story: I couldn't find white carnations at the store, so this is actually a picture from last year! I love this experiment and for some reason it always works really well for us, though I hear from many folks who can't get good results. I can only say we make sure to trim the stems very short and use very small containers (baby food jars work great). We use McCormick's food coloring (found at any grocery store) and we definitely don't skimp on the drops of coloring when doctoring the water!

Also on Wednesday, we were off to our Audubon class ...

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Little Bear and I are both enjoying this weekly nature program very much! This past week we learned about "Winter's Herbivores" - deer, mice, rabbits, and groundhogs, etc.. We discussed how these plant-eating animals survive the winter and then we looked for signs of their presence throughout the sanctuary by searching for scat, seed caches, as well as chewed and stripped bark.

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I am so grateful to the Massachusetts Audubon Society for offering these wonderful classes. It's been a fantastic experience for Little Bear (and his mama) and he's learning so much - and we're meeting some really nice folks, too!

On our way home from class, LB and I stopped at the library to pick up a few books about groundhogs:

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And on Thursday we took a field trip to the garden center, to buy a few things AND soak in all that humid soil-scented air!

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Little Bear picked out a small succulent (immediately named, "Planty") and I picked up some paperwhite bulbs. We also popped into the craft store on our way home and I couldn't resist grabbing a few supplies for a Lenten craft I have in mind.

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(Still working on the details, but I hope to have our Lenten plans put together - and ready to share - by mid-month.)

Thursday also happened to be National Croissant Day ...

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... and we just happened to have a can of crescent rolls in the fridge so we whipped up these tasty treats lickedy-split! (This is not the recipe we used, but pretty close.)

Friday is usually our home-all-day day, so sometimes I plan more involved crafting for this day. So on Friday we made candles for Candlemas!

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First we made our usual melted-beeswax/mason jar candle using up some beeswax bars I had on hand as well as a cute little reusable jar. (You can find a detailed post on our process for this craft here.) This little candle will play a quiet and hopeful part in our Lenten table ...

I also happened to have a candle-making kit on hand, so I pulled that out, figuring Little Bear would love it - unfortunately, however, the craft proved a little too fiddly for his little fingers!

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So I set to work rolling those beeswax sheets, while Little Bear was put in charge of the paperwhite bulbs!

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The bulbs now live in my kitchen window by day and on top of the fridge by night - since paperwhites are poisonous for kitties and my kitties are very naughty when it comes to nice things like plants.

But at the end of the day we had a nice bunch of candles ready for blessing!

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Saturday brought February 1st and I began setting up my new calendar ...

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(More on my calendar in my next post!)

We also had some lovely traditions for St. Brigid's Day to uphold ...

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We first hung our Brigid's Cross (made last year using dried grasses from our yard) on the front door ...

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And, in honor of St. Brigid, patroness of Ireland and dairy farmers, we made butter!

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We do this every year and honestly, it just never gets old! Nor does this wonderful picture book ...

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p.s. Speaking of this feast day, I recently realized I left a page out of my Deep Winter Planning Booklet and though I've since updated the PDF, here is the missing two-sided planning sheet itself: St. Brigid's Day & Candlemas PDF.

And so that brings us to today, when I was planning to make custards for Candlemas following my mother's lovely recipe using my own hen's loverly eggs, but two things kept me from that culinary endeavor:

One, I was nearly out of eggs and two, my hens aren't laying yet!

So instead, I made some buttermilk scones (from a mix!) and served it with lemon curd (from a jar!) as well as some freshly whipped cream. (That was from scratch.)

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And yes - they were as good as they look!

Another Candlemas tradition we enjoy is walking the yard and looking for signs of spring ...

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(Inspecting a caved-in groundhog burrow.)

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(Inspecting some left-behind seed shells.)

Not much to report, but it was nice to walk the property anyway now the snow has melted and there's the faintest whiff of spring in the air ...

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And by faint I really mean non-existent, but still - just look at that smile and those rosy little cheeks! Brigid's Day and Candlemas (or Imbolc as some folks call/called it) might have once been considered a time of changing seasons - winter's end, spring's debut - but that's just not the way things roll around here. Sometimes I forget we actually live in New England and not England proper - where February is quite milder and where one might actually expect to see things like tender little snowdrops underfoot. In these parts at the start of February we mostly just have actual snow underfoot ...

But we must not lose hope! There is always hope and there are alway signs ...

Such as the owl I heard calling just this morning!

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I wish I knew how to share a video here, but even after 14 years (come March) of blogging I simply have no idea how to manage such a technological feat - so I would encourage you if A. you're on Instagram and B. you are interested - to check out my IG Stories to hear what I heard at six a.m. this morning!

I had JUST been reading this article regarding the nesting behavior of owls and enjoying my third cup of coffee when I heard it ... a great horned owl calling from somewhere in our woods. According to the article (which included a link to an owl call soundbite), owls are among the first birds to begin laying nests in the late winter. So to my mind -  and groundhog's proclamations aside - here is solid, scientific evidence that spring truly is coming!

(If you can't get on Instagram, here is the link to the soundbite. My owl sounded EXACTLY like this.)

Back inside, a bit later on in the day I began working on a little handcraft I've had in mind for some time ...

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Little Bear has been fascinated lately by the concept of a dream catcher - Bookworm still has one he made when he was young hanging in his bedroom - and though I don't believe LB's actually plagued by any bad dreams, I decided to use up a bit of my felt stash and make him a sweet-dreams pillow.

I started with a small rectangle of felt, some sheep's wool and dried lavender from the summer garden. I had LB mix the herbs with the wool while I started stitching ...

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Mind you, I'm no seamstress of any measure - I can barely thread a needle to be honest - but I figured this kind of basic stitch couldn't be too hard to do. (Notice I'm not showing you the back of this sachet!)

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Little Bear really loved the smell of the lavender and the feel of the sheep's wool ...

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And I think he really liked watching me make this. There's something very comforting, I think, about watching a parent working with their hands ... the quiet productivity, the rhythm of the needle or - as the case may be - the paintbrush or hand saw. I myself feel soothed when I work with my hands, and I love the questions he asks:

Mama, what will it be? Mama, can I help? Mama, how can you do that without stabbing yourself?

So we'll tuck this under his pillow and see how it goes!

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A couple of things I try do to when crafting: use natural materials as much as possible, and make items that are meaningful in some way to myself or someone else. I also really, really love it when a craft is made using something from a season before or perhaps is made to be used in a season yet to come. Case in point - the cross we made using grasses gathered from our garden (and soaked with snow melt). Or the candles we made and blessed on Candlemas which will appear again in our springtime Lenten journey. And the lavender we dried last summer provided a special touch - as well as a fragrant memory - to our cute little Candlemas craft.

I find it very satisfying to craft in this way, to carry a message through the year (and years) that everything is connected. We're all connected to each other, and we're all connected in many ways to the earth. Slowing ourselves down won't slow time itself, but it can leave us more open to these connections. I hope all these little moments and traditions foster a feeling of belonging in my children and that it encourages them to learn and love the cycle of the seasons, to glory in the amazing world to which we all belong. I sure am grateful I get to begin them on their pathways because everything I do for them only strengthens my own journey.

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And goodness, but this post got much longer than I originally intended! Did I say I was "quickly" popping in? - I think I'd best take that part out. As always though, I thank you for reading and I hope you are all doing well! I also hope that wherever you are, the day's weather has been just to your liking and that the week ahead will be a good one!

Take care of yourselves and your loved ones, my friends ... see you here again sometime soon!


Tea @ Dawn's ~ Fading Light, Cranberries & Frost ❀

Hello my friends, and Happy Friday! Thank you so much for joining me ... I am so pleased to welcome you to "my place" for Tea. ❀IMG_9532 (1)

As I announced last week, I am bringing back my blog "Teatimes," in a celebration of Late Autumn,Winter Holidays ... and the very comfort and joy that is Tea!

By necessity of course, my Teatimes are virtual -  but my hope is that my words and pictures will make you feel like you have truly popped in for a cozy visit. And I like to imagine you're savoring something you love while you read my post - perhaps a cup of freshly brewed coffee, mulled cider or hot chocolate if you're not one for tea. :-)

Here at my home I'll always have a pretty mug of tea in hand, and a sweet or savory seasonal snack to share ... as well as many seasonal snippets revolving around: current projects, nature news, corners of my home, kitchen notes, holiday preparations, my kids, my journals and my seasonal planners, etc.!

I am also hoping some of you will join me this season in sharing your tea virtually - whether in pics, thoughts, recipes, etc.! I am happy to include your submissions here in my post and/or link to your own post elsewhere. And please feel free to share my Teas wherever you'd like! I am grateful to my dear friend Kim of Ordinary Days of Small Things for her lovely post - I knew I could count on Kim for her enthusiasm and support! And MY goodness, just take a peek at her beautiful Teatime banner! I am quite honored by her kind words and creative design. ❀

* And this just in! Please stop by Kim's for her Teatime post today! It is chock-FULL of wonderful seasonal ideas! (Thanks so much, Kim!) *

Now, for today, I would like to offer you a comfy cup of my favorite autumn brew ... the very gently spiced and soothingly citrus, Constant Comment. Today I am serving it in a sweet little pumpkin mug (a Stop 'n Shop find!) because ... 'tis the season for pumpkins!

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Did you happen to pass these pretties on your way up my drive? It's such a lovely New England tradition - pumpkins lined up on a stone wall in the fall!

And speaking of pumpkins, the treat I'm serving at Tea today is not a slice of pumpkin bread as you might suspect ... but rather, an apple-squash variation! I followed my favorite quick bread recipe using up some leftover butternut squash and spiced applesauce from our Halloween party. The two flavors combined beautifully and the bread turned out tender and moist. This easy recipe is always a hit in our family, especially because it makes not one but TWO loaves!

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On Sunday I am planning to bake up an old family recipe called, Poor Man's Cake. It's something my grandmother made quite often and was a favorite of my grandfather's. I like to bake this for Martinmas (the Feast of St. Martin) which is this coming Monday. It's actually quite delicious and especially nice with a cup of strong Irish tea! (Grampa's beverage of choice.)

 

✨Fading Light✨

Now, if you've followed my blog for some time then you know we like to live and learn around a rhythm of weekly seasonal themes. When my boys were little this made up the bulk of our homeschooling "curriculum,"  but as they grow, I continue to keep the seasons by fostering awareness and appreciation in our home while tweaking activities to fit our family members' interests more authentically.

So this week our seasonal theme is "Fading Light," in honor of the darkening days at this time of year. I always schedule this theme for right before or just after Daylight Savings Time ends. (We pushed the clocks back last Sunday.)

Here are some of my ideas for this week's activities as noted in my Late Autumn bullet journal:

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This page shown here is my seasons keeping page, found smack dab in between the two-page weekly planning spread! (Please see last week's post for a more thorough explanation of how I set up my journals.)

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Happily, Fading Light  is a theme that is very easy to explore, because there are so many nuances to the concept!

In Late Autumn, the earth is slowing down and nature needs her rest - the shorter and darker days means better sleep! (This is a wonderful theme to weave into storytelling with the children, especially those that are sad to see their gardens wither.)

And just like the natural world around us, we have our OWN need for rest in what is usually a very busy time of year! It can be hard to resist the pull of the "hustle and bustle," but quieter evenings and solid sleep are often just the fuel we need to keep our own inner lights burning.

Around our homes we find special ways to bring extra light into our life ... making colorful homemade lanterns, twining strings of lights through leafy garlands, setting tea lights in dark windows, taking the time to notice and honor the sunset - perhaps with a special prayer of thanks for another day together here on earth ...

Stopping the car just to marvel over a soft, milky sky...

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November's sun may be weaker than June's - but it's certainly no less lovely!

One of our favorite November pastimes is to make lanterns for Marintmas. Yesterday Little Bear and I sat down in the (sunny!) kitchen to do just that ...

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I like to try a new lantern craft every year, but this time we kept it super simple. We took a piece of watercolor paper and attached some leaf shapes with a dab of glue stick. Then Little Bear started painting (with watercolors) ...

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This boy could paint for hours - he's a big fan of Bob Ross, fyi! I love the playful shades he chose ...

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After the picture was dry we carefully peeled off the leaves ...

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And then we stapled the ends of the paper together to form a lantern shape.

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It was fun to line up lanterns from festivals past as we watched the sun go down ...

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At 4:30 p.m.!

It's a lovely, peaceful thing to sit quietly in a darkening room, appreciating the lights - and the darkness!

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(Here are two older posts  - Martinmas Day with My Boys and Lovely Lanterns for Martinmas - which show a few different lantern options. It's a very simple yet satisfying craft! One of my favorite Martinmas traditions is the lantern walk we take at dusk on November 11th. It's just us - with our lanterns - traipsing about our yard as the sun goes down, but it's yet another sweet, seasonal memory I hope my children carry with them as they go about making their own lives.)

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We can bring light inside our hearts too ... by doing things that fire us up!

❀ favorite hobbies and pastimes

❀ spending time with people we love

❀ doing things together that makes us happy

❀ remembering to be grateful for the many blessings in our life

❀ finding ways to give to others in need ... 

Kicking off the month of November with this theme of light and darkness, I thought it would be nice to weave light into our annual gratitude project! So here's what I put together ...

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Burlap ribbon runner in the front window √

LED votive candles, one for each day leading up to Thanksgiving (28) √

Kraft paper leaf cut-outs (lots) √

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Every day we write on a leaf (or leaves) something we were grateful for and/or something we did to help someone else. We place those leaves beside a candle and light it once the day grows dark.

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(The silver votives represent Sundays - when we reflect a little more deeply on the blessings we have received, and hopefully bestowed.)

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Adding one light each night, our window will be brilliant come Thanksgiving eve! Oliver apparently approves. :-)

Now speaking of Thanksgiving ...

 

✨Cranberries✨

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Next week our seasonal theme will be At the Autumn Bog  - aka Cranberry week! I'll be sharing more ideas over at Instagram in the days to come, but to begin with, here's an old post from 2011 with some ideas for exploring this tiny tart berry.

And what you see above is our attempt to create a signature "mocktail" for Thanksgiving! We'll have a lot of young kids this year at our holiday table so I wanted to have something special for them to drink. (Aside from the usual apple juice and milk!) 

We're calling this fun, festive drink a "Frosty Cranberry," and we're still tinkering with the final recipe! For one thing, I'm planning to use citrus zest-infused white sugar not this decorative red but you get the idea. (P.S. I use India Tree (plant-dye-based) Sparkling Sugars in my holiday baking.) 

Now, full disclosure: I loosely based this mocktail on a ginger-beer-based drink I saw on Pinterest, but I wanted to make it a little more child-friendly. We took a glass and wet the rim with a cut orange. We then dipped the rim in the sugar and filled the glass with ice. Next, we poured in cranberry juice, about halfway up the glass. Lastly we added crisp, apple-flavored sparkling water and it foamed and fizzed quite prettily!

The initial taste test went ... ok ... but Little Bear felt it was a tad too tart, so after I took pictures we added some orange juice which not only made it sweeter, it changed the shade of the beverage to a gorgeous "autumn sunset" red-orange. I think the kids will like it  and I am going to find some cute acrylic "glasses" for them to use - for safety reasons, natch!

In the meantime, next Tuesday night I'll mull a pot of cranberry-apple cider on the stove in celebration of The Full Beaver Moon. And you're probably thinking: what might beavers have to do with cranberries? But see I'm going with the whole "bog" theme next week ... cranberries grow there, and beavers live there!

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(Spotted at our Audubon Nature Class this week!)

Despite the fact that we live in a state rich with cranberry bogs, I'm not planning to trek my kids down to Cape Cod next week. Instead we will visit a local "quaking bog" which if nothing else features a really lovely, late autumn landscape. We do happen to have plenty of ponds and creeks in our town and if we wish, we can easily observe a beaver's lodge from a safe distance.

But, moving on ... because November's full moon is ALSO known as the Full FROST moon ... the next theme we'll be exploring is:

 

✨Frost✨

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I cannot tell you how happy we were to see that first frost this year! I think I mentioned in an earlier post how challenging outdoor activities had become here in Massachusetts (and many surrounding communities) with an escalating and extreme threat of mosquito-borne viruses. Now that we've finally had a hard frost, we can relax for a while.

Frost may kill off mosquitos (and flowers and other tender plants) but it also brings back our dear little snowbirds, the Juncos - a species we look for every year in late October. Dark-eyed Juncos are lovely little birds that fly north for the summer (leaving around Easter) and return to New England just as the cold weather returns.

I spotted my first Junco around Halloween, but have yet to get a decent picture. Here's one little fella perched in a pear tree yesterday morning!

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So this week we'll talk a little about ol' Jack Frost - I have some sweet verses to read, and a peg doll story to tell - and weather folklore in general. Isn't that vintage illustration above sweet? I plan to show it to Little Bear and weave a little story about the Chipmunk who wasn't quite ready to hibernate ... he was too busy helping his jolly friend Jack paint those leaves!

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And now for a few random things I'd just like to share ...

(By now I'm sure you all need a fresh cuppa ... and please help yourself to another slice of apple-squash cake!)

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Digging into my reading basket! It's my favorite month of the year for magazines! What magazines do you like to read?

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And here's a sunny window set up for seasonal exploration ...

We read In November every year during the first week of the month and it's just such a lovely book - that happens to feature an illustration of Juncos(!) which of course ties in nicely with our nature study. Windows is another perennial favorite - a sweet and simple tale following a young boy on an evening walk through his neighborhood, finding comfort and joy in all those glowing, interesting windows. I like to pair this book with a "windows walk" of our own one night! Our Little Bear is a wee bit afraid of the dark, so we're always looking for ways to soothe his anxiety and reassure him there is nothing to be afraid of, if we can look for the lights - while understanding the dark a little better.

And in the foreground is our gorgeous nature poetry book (a daily staple in our homeschool!) open to this week's poems. Timely too, since we had a merry bonfire just last weekend, another annual tradition around the first of November. Last week's theme was "goodnight, garden" so we were burning branches from a Halloween windstorm as well as plenty of withered garden debris.

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I was simply enchanted by this beautiful artwork, found online - and it's now my phone wallpaper! I suppose one might look at this painting and find it a little eerie, but honestly, I see it as rather comforting. In the midst of all that dark and fog, the house with its beaming window, a loved one looking out from within, represents a safe, solid harbor. Dotted in the landscape are more bright beacons, welcoming other weary travelers home. 

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And speaking of welcome ... it's such a universal, human thing, to breathe a sigh of relief when we finally turn that last bend and our favorite place in this world comes into view ...

I was just pulling up our drive after dropping Earlybird at school, but I had to stop and relish that gorgeous foliage-enhanced light. I was tired (EB had me up super early and I had a whole host of things I wanted to attend to once I got home) and yet, how could I not pause and absorb all this lovely, autumnal light? How could I not take a moment to feel thankful for my blessings - for my very breath - and yes, even for the busy-ness of my day ahead. All the little things that would need my attention after one more deep and gratifying inhale/exhale ...

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And finally, here is my Little Bear at his Audubon Nature Class this week - simply thrilled to hold a garter snake! Our autumn classes have now come to an end, but we'll return to the sanctuary in January, eager to explore the wonders of the winter woods with our amazing Audubon teachers and homeschool families! 

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Well my friends, I am so very thankful to you all for joining me for tea today. I know this was a very LONG post, but I do hope you enjoyed it! I truly enjoyed sharing all these thoughts and pictures with you all ... and of course, the pumpkin-squash-apple-orange-spice ALL KINDS OF AUTUMN GOODNESS Tea! ❀

Remember, if you'd like to join me in my Late Autumn & Winter Teatimes - I'll be posting here every other week through the season - just zip me an email with your submission (or link).

drhanigan AT gmail DOT com

And of course, I'd love to hear from you in a comment below!

Enjoy the weekend ahead my friends ... I'll see you here again very soon!


Hello, my friends, hello ...

... and long time no see! :)

I can hardly believe it's been TWO MONTHS since I last posted here. I'm very sorry I've been away so long, but I do hope you are all happy and well and that your autumn has been going along nicely so far. We have been busy here (as I'm sure you have, too!), and I have a few different posts percolating, but for today I'll just share a few quick things with you all.

First off, in case you missed it last week, It's the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown is on again tonight!

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8:00 p.m. on ABC. And sure, you can easily watch this beloved show any old time you wish nowadays, but there's just something special about watching a special the night it is aired nationwide. Don't you agree? 

You might be wondering what we've been up to the past two months ... and well, we've been busy with all the usual things ... except Crackerjack is now off to college! We began our homeschooling year right after Labor Day and that is going well with both Earlybird and Little Bear. EB's daily home therapy hours have increased greatly which is wonderful (for him AND us) but it does mean less "down time" for me. And by down time I mean reading-writing-computer-slash-blogging time! Still trying to find my groove re ~ that part of my life, but if you are on Instagram I do post to my account there just about every day. (I also have a Facebook page for the blog and though I post there a little less frequently, it's usually at least once a week.)

How is Autumn unfolding where you live? Have you had any neat nature adventures recently? Today I took pictures of the pretty foliage around our yard since we are expecting a big Nor-easter here tomorrow so my guess is most of our foliage will be "gone with the wind," so to say!

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I am also working on a post about my current planning system ...

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But it's been slow-going for the usual reasons - ahem!

Which leads me to the topic of my planner and planning sheets. At the end of the summer I mentioned that sometime this fall I would have my 2019 planning sheets ready to share as well as possibly some news about making my planner available for sale. Well, the good news is - I will absolutely have those sheets ready for you all soon! Definitely this fall, and hopefully sometime within the next month! (Planning sheets through the end of 2018 are available in monthly PDFs found in this post.)

The bad news I'm afraid is - as much as I would love to say I will be selling my planners in some manner, I've decided that's just not possible right now. Because right now I just don't have the time it would take to devote to such a project, though I do think it would be fun and I'm thrilled some of you have expressed interest in buying a ready-made, spiral-bound planner from me. I'm not saying I won't ever open the planner shop I've envisioned, but for now I'll have to "keep things simple" and devote myself to our boys, our home and our homeschooling. 

That said ... I DO plan to share (as usual!) my free printable planning sheets here - and for the foreseeable future! Because I love using them and so I'm always creating more and tweaking them to work a little better. (Plus, to reflect the new year's dates.)

I am also planning to to share more detailed information on how to go about printing and assembling my planner, and how I use the planning sheets myself, particularly as they pertain to our seasonal homeschooling. I know I keep promising to do this in a video format and that is still my plan ... but again, that will come in a bit, but hopefully well before the end of the year.

What's that you say? We ARE near the end of the year already?? 

Goodness time flies much too quickly these days! As does my time for sitting down and computing!

So my friends, that is all I have for today, but I will be back here again just as soon as I can with those 2019 planning sheets, some pics from our fall and a few thoughts and plans for the upcoming holiday season! I am also in the midst of revamping my "themes and plans" series and hope to have those ready for the start of the new year.

Thanks again for your patience, everyone, and as always, for reading ...

I'll see you here again very soon!


Bits, Bobs & Mitten Strings ... ❀

Candle tea cup

Hello my friends, and Happy Monday Tuesday! I'm popping in today to share some Mitten Strings for God book study scheduling news, as well as a few other bits and bobs. :) I had meant to do this over the weekend, but alas ... life! And in particular, special needs parenting life. I won't get into the details of all that right now, but if I may ask for your prayers/good thoughts for Earlybird, who's having a rough time at the moment, I'd be sincerely grateful. β€

But on with the good stuff! First I'd like to share this quote from our next chapter in MSfG, "One-on-One Time" ...

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That is Little Bear of course, but the picture's a couple of years old. (It's weird that I can say that about his pictures now. Wasn't he JUST a couple of years old himself?!) It was taken during a woodsy winter solstice walk, and technically, it wasn't a "one-on-one" outing - because Bill was there, too! But I feel like this kind of picture represents the quiet times I spend connecting with LB apart from the bustle of everyday life. For this outing, we had left the noise and demands of the household behind us for a bit and it was a wonderful thing - to just focus on LB and his dear developing personality, to watch his funny expressions and listen to his very interesting thoughts. Young children have such a wonderful perspective on life, don't you think? And that's not to say I don't enjoy time spent with each of my boys, but I find myself alone with Little Bear most often these days. Spending one-on-one time definitely comes with more conscious effort as the kids grow older ... they get busy, and seem less enthralled with what their parents might have to say ... but more thoughts on all this at our next MSfG Tea!

And speaking of! Our next Mitten Strings for God study/tea will take place on Friday, February 16th. It's a bit later than I originally proposed, but I am trying to be very honest with myself about my free time - eg. how much I do and don't have! (Not nearly as much as I'd like but that's just the season of life that I'm in!) So please join me a week from this Friday for a wee chat and a winter's tea here at the blog. Let's talk about chapter 12, and the importance of making time for each of our children - while appreciating each of them for who they are. (As the mother of four sons I can honestly say that children are all just SO different, even same gender siblings raised in the very same way!)

Now, this might be a tricky chapter for me, because I don't think we (as in, Bill and I) do exceptionally well with this concept. As homeschoolers I think there's a bit of the feeling that "well, we spend tons of time together, anyway!" And special needs parenting comes into this, too - the demands it places on family life and the effects it has on maintaining balance - not to mention, sibling relationships. So I have some deep reading and thinking to do ...

As always, I'll be very eager to hear all of your thoughts on this, too! I invite you to send me those thoughts (with or without photo) or just chime in at the post itself. All are welcome to join this ongoing book study! (And at this rate we'll be talking about Mitten Strings all year!)

Now, while I'm here, I thought I'd share some photos from the past couple of weeks, beginning with Little Bear's first visit to the Lego Store ...

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Can you even believe how big he's getting? Granted, we're all crouched down around him, but he's truly getting quite tall. And the way he's talking has changed, you know? Even the way he walks is different now. It's a little heartbreaking how quickly time flies when our children are small ...

Well, about those Legos ...

Last fall, Little Bear - already a huge Duplo fan - discovered the extra-special magic of building with REAL Legos. Like the ones that BIG boys (and girls) build with. He's just four, so he's a bit young for such Lego building - they can be frustrating for little hands - but he's handling it pretty well and just loving all the creating and getting his biggest brothers (longtime Lego fans themselves) to help him out. I love this picture above because it's me with my Lego kids, big and small. And not to keep harping on the "time-flying" thing, but I swear those older boys were just the "little" Lego kids in my house. I certainly have the zillions of Legos to prove it - stashed in the attic AND the basement - not to mention the scars on my feet!

So since I'm now a bonafide 18 years + Lego Mom, I bought myself a minifig for my key ring ...

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That's "Rey" from Star Wars, in case you were wondering! :)

Now, here are some books from my "Deep Winter" basket ...

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Books that had gone MISSING because  - well, I'm not sure why they went missing. It's a bit of a mystery! Usually I'm very careful about our seasonal book collections, but somehow last year our Deep Winter and Early Spring bin got divvied up and the books ended up here and there in our basement. *GASP* Thankfully though, I found them all on Candlemas morning (Feb. 2nd) just in the nick of time to celebrate Groundhog Day!

But to back up a day, here are some pics from our February 1st, also known as "St. Brigid's Day," a lovely feast we enjoy celebrating each year ...

Butter

Firstly, by making our own butter! (St. Brigid, is patroness of Ireland and dairymaids.) This is that ol' marble-and-cream-in-a-ball-jar trick - the one the children think is SO cool until they realize just how hard and how long they have to shake that dang jar! (Mama gets quite an arm-workout on Brigid's Day, let me tell you!) We like to serve the smidgen of butter we end up making with our bread rolls at supper. Daddy always makes sure to be suitably impressed!

We also like to make a Brigid's Cross for this feast, a craft I've only in recent years gotten the hang of ...

Soaking rushes

We started with "rushes" from our yard. (Actually, dried ornamental grass, but they work!) Because the material was rather stiff though, we soaked them in snowmelt for about an hour before attempting to weave our cross.

(And note I said, "cross," not "crosses." Clearly we gathered enough grass to make several crosses, but in truth I overestimated the interest and energy levels of my children and their mama!)

Here's the end result:

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Now this was Brigid's Day morning ...

Muddy melty

Muddy, melty and the ground still smattered with snow ...

Ice

Not to mention ice once the temperature dropped! February can be a fickle month in New England, but mostly it's just cold and snowy ... and cold.

And YET ...

Eggs

Our hens have started laying again!! To me that's a sure sign spring is in the air ... or at least, in the amount of light we are getting every day. (Which has been increasing every day since the winter solstice.) I try to keep my senses very keen to the nuances of each season and I can tell you - the light is changing, and the bird song is different ... and yes, the air smells a little different on those drippy days. I feel certain that spring is stirring in the woods, underneath the half-frozen ground, deep inside those tough yet tender branches ...

Meanwhile, back inside ...

Archie in basket

Archie is purrfectly content (sorry, had to) soaking up the afternoon sun, spending his winter days in a cozy basket. Even when said basket is not meant for him (but rather, my books) Archie considers it fair game.

But really, how could I move him?

So instead I set up at the kitchen table a little to the left ... 

Cirtus week

And worked in my homemade planner to iron out some lesson plans for the week ahead. The current week's seasonal theme? Winter citrus ... :)

Last shot:

Daffs

My kitchen window yesterday morning. It was so bright and beautiful and the air was a balmy 40Β° ... I allowed myself to focus on these delightful daffs and those fresh eggs from my hens. It made washing dishes a little less of a chore and a bit more of a blessing ... I was home, I had my family to care for, and that sunshine was so good for my soul ...

Oh, and by the way - the first picture in this post is a shot of my writing desk, with a teacup candle I made for Candlemas. Very easy to do with a bit of beeswax and a simple wick ... I think I have a post that explains how this works somewhere here, hang on ...

Yup! Here it is. Same method, just a different vessel this year! :)

Well, my friends, I'd best be off now ... but I wish you all well and thank you, as always, for joining me! I hope you enjoyed these rambling thoughts and photos and I look forward to chatting once again in the not so distant future! For now though, enjoy these lingering winter days, and please take care of yourselves and your loved ones ...

I'll see you here again very soon!


Autumn Tea and Tidbits!

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Hello my friends, and Happy Weekend! Welcome to my first Autumn Tea  - of 2017! Something I hope to make a semi-regular recurrence at my blog going forward. Every so often I'll pop in with a cup of tea and a few bits and bobs from our homeschool ... a way to catch up and celebrate the season at hand. :) I'm hesitant to set a schedule however, as tempting as it is because you know I LOVE schedules - but it's been a little bit hectic so far this school year. Time at the computer (nevermind time for tea itself!) has been a little on the low side. But two things that make my heart so very happy are blogging and savoring tea, so I'm determined to make more time for both in my life!

So since it's been a while since we talked tea ... what are you drinking these days? I myself am enjoying Allegro Black Decaf during the afternoon (sweetened with raw sugar and a splash of whole milk) but after supper, now that the nights are cooler and darker, I am turning to a cup of decaf Constant Comment. There's something about that orange-spice flavor just makes me think AUTUMN! I still savor a cup or two of coffee in the mornings but after that I limit my caffeine intake as best I can ...

Well, I started in on my tea-taking early today as the above photo was taken just now (Saturday around 11 a.m.) because I was ready to get down to the lesson planning and for that, I absolutely MUST have tea! But before we talk about autumn homeschooling ...

Grab yourself a cup of your favorite brew and make yourself comfortable, please ... I have lots to share! :)

Let's begin with a peek into my October planning. Below you see the cover page for this month's section in my homemade planner (also seen in the top photo) ...

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And here is my planner stack on my kitchen counter - aka "mama's command center!"

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Sitting below my homemade planner is my Day Designer, and below that is a project clipboard. (I always put something underneath my planners in case there are spills or marks on the counter.)

So after the cover page (which is made from that cute vintage paper I love!) I have the two-page monthly calendar spread ...

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I added the stickers and a few quotations written with black ink and soft colored pencils ...

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I love peppering my planners with seasonal poems and quotes!

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Next page has my October menu calendar ...

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I described how I fill out these menu calendars in this post, but I want to stress that this is an ideal - we don't always keep up with the "new" and "varied" meals I've envisioned. Often - especially when we're busy or I'm tired (the state of affairs more often than not around here!) - I fall back on tried and true, easy meals. (Homemade pizzas, baked pasta, grilled cheese and soup, burgers, meatloaf and roasted veg, etc.) 

And next comes my monthly overview ...

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I added the highlighted notes at the top of the page this month, and of course there are post-its! The green apples reflect our October homeschooling themes and topics. I try to review this page every weekend to see where we're at and what tasks and activities can be scheduled in the week ahead. Note: "October Goals" became a place to write down upcoming movies, tv shows and books.

A closer peek ...

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And here is last week's spread!

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Next week I will do a WHOLE post on how I'm using this weekly spread, but in the interest of time and word count, let me move on and show you  ...

... next week's spread that I'm filling in now!

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You might wonder how long it takes me to fill in all those spaces, but honestly, it's not very long. A lot of the information is already available (Days of Note, Seasonal Theme, Dinners, Weekly Rhythm) so I just write those things in first. The to-do list is also pretty quick to fill in - I look at last week's list as well as our weekend planner to see what tasks still need doing. I take another look at the monthly calendar to see what new things have been written in for the week (a new event to prepare for, for example) and I also look back at that monthly overview to see what To-Dos can be fit into this coming week.

Beside my homemade planner I have parked my Day Designer ...

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Here's how it looked one day last week (when I first started working on this post!) ...

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Ok, moving on from planning (let me know if you have any questions or would like me to follow up on anything!) ... I thought I'd share some random photos from the past week or so ...

First, because it was the week of the Full Harvest Moon, I had planned to make "Harvest Moon Muffins," (a quick bread recipe baked in muffin tins) but due to the aforementioned busy schedule/tired mama syndrome, I stopped short at "Harvest Moon Applesauce." πŸ˜‰

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I love using my grandmother's food press when making applesauce! 

This was actually part of a little "science" experiment this week, making applesauce together! The boys helped me with counting and measuring before I loaded the apples, sugar and spice into the crockpot, and good GOLLY did it smell wonderful in our house all day! The apples were done cooking just before bedtime so I placed them in the fridge for the next day. After milling the apples into sauce we set up a little taste-test - our homemade applesauce vs. Stop 'N Shop brand! Could people tell which was which? (The answer, happily, was yes!)

Then last weekend I combed through the autumn book basket and pulled out titles that matched October's weekly themes ...

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  • Changing Leaves (10/2-10/8)
  • Woodland Flora & Fauna (10/9-10/15)
  • Pumpkins (10/16-10/22)
  • Goodnight Garden/Halloween (10/23-10/29)

I also have two sweet board books for my younger boys for learning the Hail Mary and Our Father prayers, as part of Holy Rosary month. :)

Speaking of books though, look at these lovely new titles that arrived in my mail last week!

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A couple of picture books we usually get out of the library to celebrate the Full Harvest Moon, a new (and adorable) autumn board book for Little Bear (which might be my new favorite autumn book of all time!), a CD of scientific storytelling for Earlybird (which we once owned but now can't find!) and a new Waldorf-inspired crafting book for Mama. I'm positively swooning over that last one in particular - a bit of a splurge, but worth it!

Here's a gorgeous page from Hello, Harvest Moon ... 

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Did you happen to catch it last Thursday night?

Harvest moon rising

We are surrounded by trees here so we have to wait a while before the full moon is visible ... but honestly, I think the way it peeks through the branches and illuminates the tree-line is quite magical! We let Little Bear stay up a bit late so he could watch the full moon rising ...

LB and the full moon

Now, back to books for a moment ... just look and see what arrived in my mailbox early last week!

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A very thoughtful gift from my friend (and longtime reader), Penny! When Penny read that I was positively pining for this particular PW book, she offered me her own copy. (How nice is that?!) Naturally I said I would just LOVE to have it, so she popped in the mail and I received it a day later! Hooray for packages in the mail and hooray for the ever-speedy USPS ... but most of all, HOORAY for kind-hearted and generous friends! ❀

Ok, now we all know the Pioneer Woman loves boots ... well, I'm no cowgirl, and I haven't been on a horse since I was 12, but how do you like my new "riding" boots?

Boots

I have lusted after these "Westport," Maine-made boots for years ... and finally (with Bill's blessing of course), I made the splurge! I ordered them online because I don't get over to LL Bean's that often, but was very happy that not only do they FIT just as well as I'd hoped, they are truly quite comfortable. I thought they paired rather nicely with a knee-length denim skirt. :)

(This was me on my way to Sunday brunch with my college girlfriends!)

Speaking of shoes though ...

Archie and sandals

That's my Archie, flopped all over my favorite pair of summer sandals ... the ones I can't bear to put away for the season just yet. (Though truly, we've had plenty of summer-like days recently.) But as you can see, Archie's looking rather relaxed here, smug you might even say ... because while Oliver had to be at the vet's annual exam last week, Archie got to skip it completely. And all because he's just SO naughty when we bring him! Nothing like the sweetie-pie he is at home - at the vet he's all hissing, spitting and growing ... frankly, it's a bit of a horror show. The next attempt was going to include some serious sedation ... which makes me very nervous ... but fortunately our vet is wonderful and fully understood our apprehension. We decided he can wait till next year when he is due for his rabies shot. (My cats are indoor cats, but are still kept up on all their vaccinations.)

In other wildlife news ...

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Howsabout this guy???

Isn't he magnificent? This is a Barred Owl, and we hear him (her?) very often in the woods behind our house - usually around dusk, but my older boys (night owls themselves) say they hear hooting late at night as well. Well, there I was at the sink starting supper last Friday night when Little Bear, looking out the kitchen nook window, exclaimed: "Mama, look! It's a snowy owl!!"

And this is what he saw ...

Barred owl on feeders

Isn't he GINORMOUS?? And clearly looking for his supper! I took this picture above with my cell phone, then went outside with my big camera to try for a better shot. The first owl picture was taken from beneath the tree just to the right of the feeders. The owl was staring at me - really peering at me with those gorgeous black eyes! - then his attention would be caught by something moving in the underbrush and he'd turn his head downward ...

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Finally he'd had enough of me, my snapping camera and restless Little Bear and took off ...

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He landed in the front yard where LB and I were joined by Bill and Earlybird and we watched the owl fly across the road and into the woods to the north. Absolutely amazing ...

(Crackerjack and Bookworm were out on a driving lesson and missed the whole thing!)

Ok, and now for some autumn homeschooling ... these pics are all from the past couple of weeks!

First came APPLES ...

Apple collage

Apple Week included apple snacks, an apple star surprise, drying apples, applesauce and an apple-y harvest wreath on the front door. :)

Also, I finally made use of that peg dolls book I showed you a couple of posts back, and look who Little Bear found in his learning room mailbox one morning!

Autumn star fairy

I made this "autumn star fairy" from a wooden peg base, with a little sheep's wool for hair, an acorn cap for a hat and a silk leaf (plucked from a garland) as wings! I made the verse card with a blank postcard and watercolor paints. I just wrote the verse on the card once the paint had dried. I've been using these cards for little poems, prayers and verses this year and I love the effect of those pretty paints!

Next came SEEDS ...

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Seeds week included seed gathering, sorting and observation, seed crafts, seed treats, seed experiments ... and very happy chipmunks!

And then on Michaelmas Day we had our first Nature Club meeting of the year ...

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My younger boys all came along and we met with other homeschooling families to take a walk along a local trail. We found everything on our Nature Scavenger hunt checklist as well as garter snakes, spiderwebs, several types of leaves and some very cool fungus. Best of all, there were Michaelmas daisies growing all over the woods! :)

The next Monday we celebrated the Feast of the Guardian Angels ...

Angel collage

I made another watercolor card for the Guardian Angel prayer and set up this small scene on our learning room table. I lit the beeswax tealight and read the prayer aloud to Little Bear ... who took great joy in blowing out that candle! :)

We also found time to celebrate the Feast of St. Francis, our family patron saint ...

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Little Bear especially enjoyed assembling "all of creation" as I crafted a simple grotto and read aloud our favorite child-friendly version of Francis's "Canticle of the Sun." I made a verse card for the first stanza and plan to make cards for the rest of this beautiful prayer. :)

Last week we also visited a local agricultural fair - along with Earlybird's therapist and Bill who took the day off so he could join us. :)

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And the day after that we joined our homeschool group on a field trip to a local corn maze!

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It was a beautiful day - as you can see, warm enough for short sleeves! - and what fun we had navigating our way through the rows of corn and listening to the raspy dry ears in the breeze and hearing great vees of geese honking overhead! 

✨ πŸ‚ 🍎 🐿 🌻 🌞 🍁 πŸ„ 🌽 πŸŒ› ✨

Well this was quite a long post I'm afraid, but I hope you enjoyed it! I had meant to create posts around each of these collages - with more details - but time kept slipping by and then we'd be onto the next thing! I can certainly expand on any of these themes and projects (as well as my planners) in a future post and happily, though last week was particularly busy with two field trips, a fair trip, a vet appointment AND the SAT ... the coming week will be much quieter! Knock on wood!

So I will leave you now my friends, with my thanks for your visit and my wish that you all enjoy a lovely autumn weekend. I will be back again here just as soon as I can but in the meantime you can always find me on Facebook or Instagram. :)

Take care of yourselves and your loved ones, dear friends ... see you here again very soon!


A Bunch of Autumn Bits & Bobs!

Autumn equinox cookies

Hello, my friends and Happy Friday! And Blessed Equinox, too! βœ¨ πŸ‚ 🌞 🌻 🍁 🍎 🐿 πŸ„πŸŒ›πŸ‚βœ¨

I'm popping in today to share some autumnal thoughts and photos with you all ... but first, thank you so much for all the incredibly kind comments left at my learning room post. I had such fun putting that post together and I'm so glad you all enjoyed it! There will, of course, be plenty more pics and posts to come as we wind our way through the new year ... but for today, let's talk a bit about AUTUMN, which just began here about 20 minutes ago! To celebrate I made up the plate of "equinox cookies" seen above ...

Now, this was not my idea mind you - I saw a few variations of these cookies on Pinterest. I just took some vanilla cookies we had in the pantry and dipped them in some melted chocolate chips (also from the pantry) and gave them a good sprinkling of autumnal jimmies. (A mom can never have too many jars of colored sprinkles on hand!) One pretty china plate and a bunch of silk leaves later and I had a festive treat for our Friday teatime! :)

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Oh, children's books ... how I love organizing children's books! Last weekend I had Bill bring up the Autumn book basket (actually, a rather heavy wooden crate!) and I spent some time reacquainting myself with old favorites. I have a post to come (hopefully this weekend) with a look at our September book lists and plans ... I've had some requests since I've been sharing lots of book shots here and on social media lately! 

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I ask you - what is sweeter than chubby toddler hands?? Especially when they're trying to grab more than they can hold? This is actually an older photo but it popped up in my Facebook "memories" today and I had to include it ... it's always been a favorite of mine. :) 

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And look how those little hands have grown! Here we are on the couch the other day enjoying one of Little Bear's new board books. The sweetest little forest-themed board book I ever did see!

Kitchen autumn blessing

Now, if you follow me on Facebook and/or Instagram you've probably seen some of the photos in this post, and you might have heard me talk about my "Autumn Blessing" week. Well, I decided since the first day of Fall fell on a Friday, I would use the week leading up to that special day to prepare my home with a little cleaning and "cozifying." Basically, I just cleared each room of any extraneous stuff (aka clutter) and then swept corners and wiped surfaces as best I could. (It wasn't a super deep cleaning, more of a freshening up.) Finally, I added some warm autumn touches here and there ... :)

Above you see the kitchen on Monday evening ... and let me tell you ... it took me ALL day to get it that neat! (Because no, my house is not normally super tidy ... we really LIVE here ALL WEEK, if you know what I mean!)

Autumn blessings library

On Tuesday I worked on the front rooms: foyer, library and ...

Dining room

... dining room! :)

Autumn blessing family room

On Wednesday and Thursday, I worked in the family room ... and as you can see, Archie approves of the "autumnal" changes!

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Heading back outside, here's a shot of Little Bear at a local farm we visited recently ... it was a beautiful crisp day here in New England!

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We also swung by a gorgeous sunflower field ... aren't they breathtaking? And can the sky really possibly be that blue? Nothing like an Autumn blue sky ... though this technically was taken in Summer. ;-)

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Here's a picture collage from our first day of home learning this year ... and that's alphabet pasta up top in case you're wondering, lol! I made Crockpot Alphabet Soup for supper that night. :)

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And here are some pics from Little Bear's first "official" nature walk of the new year. Honestly, I can't think of anything I like better than spending a "school day" roaming our yard looking for curiosities and wonders!

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And finally, here's a book I borrowed from the library recently. Making Peg Dolls is a craft I've wanted to try for a long time now and as you can see, I've got the supplies well in hand! At least the wooden peg part ... I need to see about getting some more felt and thread - perhaps a few more bottles of paint - and then I'll be good to go.

Something else I like to do in early Autumn is to come up with a few hobbies to carry me through the winter ... and brainstorm homemade Christmas gift ideas ... because as we all know, the Autumn will absolutely FLY by and suddenly we'll find ourselves knee-deep in Advent. Plus, it will get dark and cold fast (at least here in New England it will) and it's nice to have some cozy handcrafts to work on during those short afternoons in between busy and bed. βœ¨πŸŒβœ¨

Oh, and before I go!

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This is my lovely new Autumn "go-bag!" I bought this - a bit of splurge - at Barnes and Noble a couple of weeks ago. I just fell in love with the look and size of this tote! (And if you read my #fridayintroductions post at Instagram this morning, you know how I feel about tote bags!) It fits my handbag and a few notebooks and planners and I just find that sharp navy blue paired with the "Autumn Rose" print so striking. When I considered the price (not too bad as large bags go) and the fact that it not only fit all my stuff but it also matched my minivan ... AND my kitchen ... well, there was just no way I could pass it up! :)

Ok, I will be off now my friends as I've kept you here long enough! As always though, I thank you for stopping by and I wish you all a good evening (or day as the case may be). Take care of yourselves and your loved ones ...

I will see you here again very soon!

Summer sunset

The last sunset of Summer, 2017 ...

✨ πŸ‚ 🌞 🌻 🍁 🍎 🐿 πŸ„πŸŒ›πŸ‚βœ¨ 


March Bits & Bobs ... ❀

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Hello and Happy Friday, my friends! I hope your week went well and that your new month is off to a great start! I thought I'd pop in quickly this afternoon to share a few pictures with you all - a few March "bits and bobs" if you will ... β€

With all the lovely weather lately we've been able to spend a good bit of time outside - and we were thrilled to find some true signs of spring all around us!

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Crocus shoots ...

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Daffodils, too! This is the earliest I can remember finding bulbs breaking ground ...

These guys are out and about now as well:

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Ever since the boys were little we've taken note of when the chipmunks come out of hibernation, for this is a sure sign that spring is firmly nudging winter out of its way! Usually it's sometime in late March - or even April if it's a long snowy winter - but we spied our first chipmunks at the end of February this year!

Red-winged blackbirds passing through the yard (moving from one pond to another) are another harbinger of spring and when the goldfinches start turning a brighter shade of yellow we know warmer weather is headed our way! Even more than a calendar - and you all know I love calendars! - I love using these kinds of events to feel the change not just in months but in seasons ...

Speaking of birds ...

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Our little ladies are doing well! But they're not so little anymore! (They'll be a year at the end of May.) They're enjoying the not-so-cold temperatures lately and generally lay about 3-4 eggs a day (not per hen - per flock!). I'm eyeing some "egg-collecting" aprons for spring ... :)

More birds ...

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A female cardinal and chickadee at our front feeder. The buds on the magnolia tree look promising, don't they?

The boys are loving these milder days, too ...

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There's still a smattering of snow around the yard, but for the most part it's all gone. All the snow melt has left several vernal pools in our neighborhood however ... and I simply cannot WAIT for those first mild nights when we can hear that telltale sound ... peep peep peep!

(Working on a vernal pond walk for our Nature Club next month!)

More outdoor fun ...

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My middle boys reminding Little Bear how to pedal!

We are expecting colder weather this weekend, but the long-range forecast shows a nice rebound back into the 40s. That might not sound too "Springy" to you, but around here what that means is NO SNOW! And at this point in the year I'm ready to be done with snow. It's just too lovely to see all the bits of greenery and tiny critters bravely poking up and around the yard, happily doing their spring thing.

"Spring things" aside, I snapped this picture on Thursday when the ol' March wind was blowing like CRAZY ...

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All I could think was, "In like a lion ..."

Backing up a few days though, on (Shrove) Tuesday evening, per family pre-Lent tradition, we made masks!

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It's a very simple craft - paper plates cut in half, with eye holes and a popsicle stick for a handle. We do this just about every year. Sometimes I put out feathers and stickers and other craft materials but this year the dot-markers were the big hit with the younger boys!

Here's Little Bear modeling the mask I decorated ...

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I actually like how the dot marker masks came out best!

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That night we had pancakes for supper - complete with maple syrup, grilled apple-chicken sausages, home fries (aka Smiley fries) and paczki for dessert. That's pretty decadent, but that's the point on Shrove/Fat Tuesday!

The next morning we buried the alleluia, and I turned my attention to the March calendar. How I love these vintage papers and stickers!

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I thought these little elves (gnomes?) looked very much like leprechauns ...

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I've ordered several sets of Victorian style stickers for decorating my calendars ... it's something very small but it sure makes me smile!

Now, here I am at my kitchen counter, attempting to get a handle on the weekend plans (p.o.w. notebook on left) and an overview of next week's agenda (small orange planner on right). I'm planning to do a "where I work" post next week - because as much as I love my desks, it's here that I usually keep and manage all my planning paraphernalia!

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My pre-planning was a bit slow this week, so I'll be doing some last minute scurrying over the weekend. Office hours are a must! And I'll take pictures so I can finally get up that "planning routine, part two" post ...

I really can't complain about a crimp in my planning time, though ...

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... because we've been doing lots of this. :)

Hanging out and taking things slow ... making funny faces for Mama's cell phone. As much as I love this boy's smile, I do enjoy all his funny faces, too! We were being couch potatoes here - all curled up with blankets, books, tea, matchbox cars and molasses cookies. I can't think of a better way to spend a quiet, homey afternoon ...

And so March is off! And Lent is underway ...

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On Wednesday night, the first stone was chosen from our basket and this week our Lenten theme is "prayer." So we began our conversation over supper - about how we might work more prayer into our lives - and just what "more prayer" might look like, for each of us. It was a good talk - one we'll continue once Bookworm gets home for spring break tonight. Hooray!

Prayer can be so very different from one person to the next - and from one faith to another. It's important, I think, to be aware of that - and respectful of that. Some are steadfast prayer "warriors," others perhaps less so. Some prefer a prepared script while others rely more on private thoughts. Some need certain visuals or sacramentals, sacred spaces or even special music. For me it's usually a combination of these things - and different things on different days! As I told my boys, prayer for me is whatever opens my heart to God - His purpose for me - and cultivates a sense of serenity, acceptance and gratitude. Sometimes it's a collection of words I memorized as a child, sometimes it's a litany of petitions as I fall asleep at night ... and sometimes it's just the way I feel as I stand in my yard, turn my face to the sun and breathe in ... letting a deep appreciation for this wondrous world fill me. To me, these are all forms of prayer. I always encourage my children to pray, but I don't expect it to be just like I do. I hope that they'll find their own form of prayer ... and in this way it will be most meaningful. β€

Well my friends, I will let you go as I've kept you here quite long enough! But as always I thank you for stopping by ... I hope you enjoy your weekend! Take care of yourselves and your loved ones ... 

I'll see you here again very soon!


A Spot of Thanksgiving Tea πŸ’›

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Hello, my friends ~ and Happy Thanksgiving Eve! :) Things here are all a-bustle as we prepare for tomorrow's big family gathering. My happiest news is that our oldest son came home last night from college! It is so good to see our Bookworm! Despite all the cleaning and decorating I've been doing this week, our Thanksgiving holiday officially began once this boy stepped in our front door ...

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(I never sleep so well as when ALL my boys are at home.)

So today I'd like to pour you all a cup of tea, offer you a cookie or two - pre-made I'm afraid, but quite tasty! - and catch up over a little Turkey Day chat:

If you're American, how are you celebrating this wonderful holiday? What's your favorite tradition? What does your menu look like this year? For my friends living outside America, how does your weekend look? Are you enjoying these last days of late autumn?

And how about your weather? It's VERY cold and windy in these parts ...

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We even had our first snow the other night! Just a coating, but it was quite pretty. A gentle reminder that more white stuff is coming ...

So if you had a peek at my Thanksgiving planner then you know I have lots of things to do this week! I absolutely relish this week though, because Thanksgiving is all about family, home, food and GRATITUDE. A time that highlights all the dearest pleasures of home, and the kinds of things I love doing best ... baking, decorating, welcoming, remembering. And with all my boys home and the house shining and smelling of baking - well, I'm a very happy mama today!

So here is where I was yesterday - out in the sunroom, working on table linens, flowers, place cards ...

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... and lists, of course! Always the lists. :)

Now, I usually drink my tea out of a very large mug but it's nice sometimes to sit down with a fine china teacup don't you think? And as you see in my top photo, I enjoyed yesterday's tea in a beautiful cup that once belonged to a dear friend's grandmother. When Shoshana stayed with us last month she was in the midst of cleaning out her ailing mother's home, preparing to sell it this fall. A difficult task (both physically and emotionally) and I was glad we were able to find some time to sit down and really talk. As she cleaned, Shoshana found many family treasures, including unpacked boxes of teacups that once belonged to her maternal grandmother. Knowing how I love teacups, she offered them to me!

So as I sipped my from that cup yesterday, I thought fondly of Shoshana and our friendship that dates back to kindergarten. Shosh (or Susie as I called her growing up) has lived in California for many years, so we don't get to see each other very often but I am so grateful for her friendship. There were lots of cups to choose from but I picked the black and white print yesterday because it reminded me of a pilgrim. :)

(And by the way, I was drinking "American Breakfast" tea - a caffeinated blend because I needed a little shot in the arm yesterday!)

But now here's today's tea ...

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Back to my favorite decaf - with a spoonful of raw sugar and LOTS of organic whole milk - served in one of my gigantic tea mugs. Oh, and those cookies ...

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These are just Pilsbury holiday sugar cookies - because yes, I'm a sucker for holiday marketing! Just pop them in the oven and 10 minutes later, freshly baked cookies! I made them for the boys this week but honestly, I'm pretty sure I've eaten the most of anyone so far.

And here again is my helper, assisting in the placement of china and napkins and turkeys. :)

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About those paper turkeys ... remember I showed them to you in a previous post? Well, as you can see they are serving as place cards and on the back of each turkey we glued a printout of our grace ...

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He was SUCH a big help with those glue sticks ... ;)

And now each guest can follow along with the grace as it is said ...

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After grace, each guest can use the crayon by their plate to write down what they're thankful for then hang their turkey blessings on the learning line. It will be fun to see what everyone says!

Now before I go, a few random things ...

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This is my favorite Thanksgiving decoration - a pretty little pilgrim-turkey-angel jingle bell ornament I've had for years. I have it hanging in my kitchen window. :)

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Our favorite holiday special ... we watch it every year WHEN it is on. (I mean, we could watch it any time obviously - between YouTube and DVDs - but there's something really neat about participating in the annual airing!) Which is tonight, by the way - at 8 p.m. on ABC. :)

And here's me, having tea in the sunroom (aka learning room), wearing a new sweater I bought myself this morning!

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I have a longtime love for cardigans, and my favorite is one I've had for years - a long soft gray sweater that I wear ALL the time in cool/cold weather. Well, it was time to have a second sweater for changing things up! I saw this navy blue cardigan at Target and couldn't resist. And then I had to show you all, because if you're looking for a soft and WARM, kick-around, but nice-enough-to-wear-out kind of sweater, this is it. $30 is not bad in my opinion for a well-crafted sweater. There were other colors to choose from but I just honed right in on this deep blue. It's one of my favorite colors to wear.

Oh, and there are pockets! :)

Had to share this too ...

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A fresh binder and pad of vintage-style cardstock! Revamping my homekeeping binder with fresh supplies makes me very happy! I'm working on tweaking last year's seasonal planning sheets so that they're current for 2017. Adding a few new page designs, too. Hope to have a post on all that sometime in early December!

Here's a peek at the November-themed page ...

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(P.s. Remember a while back on Facebook I mentioned I was hosting a homeschool moms meeting with the discussion topic, "time management tools?" Well I have not forgotten I promised to share notes from that meeting! But we had so much to discuss, we're actually having a follow-up meeting next month! In a future post I'll tell you all about the meetings and all the different planning styles we discussed.)

One last picture ...

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Basking in the sun, taking all the holiday prep in stride (while Oliver hides) is my Archie. :)

Now I have a couple of pies to make and some cranberries to brandy, but first a bit of housekeeping ...

(And how about another cup of tea?)

ADVENT NOTES 

I will post the follow up to my Advent planning sheets after the holiday (but hopefully over the weekend, or at the very latest early next week). I have notes on each of the planning sections to share, but I'm still in the midst of organizing this year's plans! (Hitting the craft store on Friday!)

I can show you this though ...

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So this is something we'll be doing for Advent! I saw an idea on Pinterest (originating at this blog here) and I just thought - how very clever! I'm still mulling this over, but I will fill you all in once I get all those pockets filled in!

ADVENT TEA


I will also be hosting a weekly tea here all throughout Advent ... up till New Year's actually! Stay tuned for more details but I would love to have you join me. This year I am eager to see YOUR favorite tea cup. What do you like to drink your tea/coffee/cocoa/mulled cider in best? Every one that sends me a picture of their favorite cup (or mug) will be entered in my Winter Comforts Giveaway. This package will be mailed out after the new year. :)

Note: I still don't have my blog email up and running so for now, if you'd like to send me a picture (or just a hello!) you can send it to drhanigan AT gmail DOT com. :)

Ok, I think that's all I have for now. I do hope you enjoyed our tea, and I would love to hear from you if you have a moment. I know many of us are busy scrambling about getting ready for tomorrow's big feast, so maybe we'll catch up in a few days. But as always, I thank you for joining me here and I look forward to visiting again! 

Take care of yourselves and your loved ones ... I will see you here soon!

AND HAPPY THANKSGIVING!


Summery Thoughts & Pics ... 🌞

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Happy mid-July, my friends! I hope everyone is doing well and enjoying their Summer so far ...

I know my posting has been very slow lately, but all is well here - it's just a very busy, hands-on season in my life! Days begin early - end later than I'd like - and I'm afraid naps are just not a regular thing anymore, lol. I'm finding it a challenge to carve out blogging time these days ... but I am still here! And I appreciate all your thoughts and queries, both here and at my Facebook page. I do not have my blog email working yet, so if you need me, please contact me by leaving a comment here or at FB for the time being. :)

Well, I'm popping in today to say hi and share a few photos if I may. I'm working at the kitchen table right now, sipping some cold coffee and listening to my boys all around me. Little Bear is singing a Spiderman song with Crackerjack while they work on a puzzle on the family room floor ... Earlybird is working hard on math skills with his therapist in the sunroom ... and Bookworm is weaving in and out of the kitchen, getting his own day going ...

Free time might be hard to come by these days, but I'm awfully grateful to be here in this season of life. These full and blessed days go by all too fast ...

Ok. First up - here's a sun craft I made for the Summer Solstice:

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I have always loved those colorful sun and moon plaques you see hanging on the sides of sheds or garden gates ... but goodness, they are expensive! This one is handmade (and rather humbly so) with salt dough. We left it to finish drying outside under its namesake. I haven't had the courage to paint it yet, but once I do and it is sealed against the weather, I will hang it somewhere in our garden ...

Speaking of my garden, it's doing very well, too!

Bee balm

Above is the Bee Balm which started blooming just before Independence Day. I think it looks like little firework explosions! And boy, do the hummingbirds enjoy them ...

The herbs we planted last year are quite plentiful - I've been gathering them on dry days to hang over my kitchen window.

Herb basket

In my basket above is St. John's Wort (seen in top picture, too), Thyme, Lavender and Rose petals. The rose bushes out front really did well this season - in fact they are now mostly covered in hips!

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I'll be researching what to do with rose hips, but in the meantime, I used the petals I collected to make some rosewater:

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Doesn't that look pretty? 

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Very easy to do - I placed a cup of rose petals in a glass bowl, covered them with 2 cups boiling water and then allowed them to steep (with a dinner plate resting on top) until cool. Then I strained the water into a jar as seen above. I purchased some amber glass spray bottles which I plan to fill with a couple of different herbal concoctions, one of them being a "rosewater refresher" for hot summer days. :)

And here is the "pretty pink forest" growing in my front yard ...

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These lovely blooms are Astilbe, and there is tons of it growing beneath the family room windows. And out back the Spirea is a veritable pink explosion:

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This whole area (which stands right beside the chicken coop) is a bumblebee haven!

A little more pink to be found along the front walkway ...

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These are Cottage Pinks! I love their clove-like scent - and that they remind me of my grandparents' garden AND that they were a favorite of Tasha Tudor's. So much of gardening is creating and recreating fond memories, isn't it?

 Now, here's a very "interesting" visitor we had in our yard recently ...

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Yes, that is indeed a red fox - and we've never seen one before (even at our old house) but wouldn't you know, the year we finally get chickens ... this fella shows up?

One more garden pic ...

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This tiny plant popped up all on its own beside my herb patch, and I wasn't sure what it was, but after consulting google - and helpful friends on Facebook - we've identified it as "Straw Foxglove!" A tiny cousin to these beauties out front ...

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I love that it's a mystery how it got there ... :)

And here's a pretty picture from my living room, taken on Independence Day morning ...

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The summer weather has been wonderful here in New England - bright and hot for the most part. Maybe a bit too hot this week (mid 90s by Friday) ... so as much as I love open windows, I'm very grateful for air conditioning!

Speaking of gratitude ...

Magnetic letters

It's been many years since we've had magnetic letters on our fridge! I LOVE this age, don't you?

And how about a family pic? 

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We celebrated Bill's birthday last weekend, and I just love this shot of him surrounded by all his boys (and me)! In case you can't tell, he's lighting the candles on his cake - we couldn't fit all FIFTY on there! ;)

(Any longtime readers here astounded (as I am) at how big my boys are all getting? They were tiny when I started this blog!)

Parting shot, taken at my local Michaels craft store recently ...

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Mind you, this was taken BEFORE the 4th of July! I am all for planning ahead - and you all know how much I love autumn - but even for me this is just a wee bit too early!

β€œLive in each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influence of the earth.” ~ Henry David Thoreau

(His birthday was yesterday - aka National Simplicity Day - and this is a topic for a whole 'nother post!)

Well my friends, I am going to wrap up now, because if I don't push "publish" soon there's a chance it will be another day or more before I get this post up! (Remember how I was sipping cold coffee back in that third paragraph? Yeah, it's taking me a while to get this post done!)

Plus, I have supper to make, and tonight it's sloppy-joe biscuits, corn on the cob and waffle fries - a real "boys' favorite." I've been a little lax in the meal planning department and really need to get back on track. I'm at the food store more than I'd like these days! 

(Another topic for another day!)

But as always, I thank you for stopping by and reading, and I hope this post finds you well ...

See you here again very soon!


Friday Bits and Bobs ~ Domestic Bliss

Tea puttering st. patrick's day

Good morning, my friends and Happy Friday! I hope your week is going well. We're still slogging through a cold (flu?) virus of some sort here. Thankfully, Little Bear is MUCH better and aside from a bit of a runny nose and occasional cough, seems fine. My mum is also feeling better, thank God. Earlybird, however, has started coughing ... and I have come down with it as well. Ugh. Its been a while since I've been sick but last night's fever was a real doozy! Very kindly Bill has told me to stay in bed today and he's working from home. So here I am. In bed, surrounded by tissues and cough drops and cats and my giant mug of tea. :)

Anyhoo, enough of that - I am here to share a few photos, just some little moments from yesterday. As you can see I'm having fun with text bubbles again! (Click on the image if you can't read the text!) Above is a glimpse of my workspace on the kitchen counter. I'm really trying to pare down what I have out at any one time, not that you could tell that from the picture! In an upcoming post I'd like to talk more about our home keeping binders and why I have the daybook back on my counter in place of my homemade planner ...

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Tea roses with blurb

I love hanging herbs and flowers in my kitchen window, and I absolutely adore these tiny yellow tea roses, leftover from my cousin's baby shower. I thought I'd try drying them and using the petals in a homemade potpourri - perhaps blended with lavender and chamomile or other herbs from the garden. In the meantime, I think they look very pretty hanging over my kitchen sink!

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Archie sampling tea with blurb

Now that the weather is warming up, I love sitting in the sunroom every chance I get. Here I was working out an Easter menu ... must check in with Mum to get her thoughts ... but meanwhile, Archie helped himself to my tea. The silly thing.

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Tablecloth with blurb

A new tablecloth for the aforementioned sunroom. Aren't these colors gorgeous? :)

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Tea break with blurb

Rest assured, this picture was taken before the Archie shot! This is an old mug from my grandparents' house and it seemed rather fitting for St. Patrick's Day. :)

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Victorias on bureau with blurb

And here we have a whole bunch of April issues of Victoria magazine - dating back to the 90s! I set them on my bureau for inspiration, hoping to find some time to page through them ... I may get my wish later today. :)

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Well my friends, I hope you enjoyed these snippets of my day ... it was a rather quiet day spent at home, nursing Little Bear's cold, enjoying the sunlight and open windows. Spring feels so close ... and yet, New England is expecting a snowstorm late Sunday (the Vernal Equinox, of all days!). Fingers crossed we don't get too much and that the mild weather coming next week takes care of any white stuff lickety-split! I'm hoping for nice weather, Easter Sunday ...

Thanks so much for stopping by, everyone, and I wish you all a wonderful weekend!

See you here again every soon ...


Friday Bits and Bobs

Flowers in vases

Happy Friday, my friends! Popping in early to share a few links with you all ... :)

Now, are you looking for some meatless menu planning inspiration today? Here are a couple of older posts of mine with lots of great reader suggestions in the comments:

Meatless Menus? (2011)

Lenten Meal Planning (2015)

And here is a wonderful post from my friend Meredith, "Meatless Meals for Lent." Lots of links and ideas there! And also not to be missed is this post - "Five Meatless Dinners" from my friend, Chris! There's a Lenten link-up at the end of that post with even more meatless ideas!

Here's another spot for Lenten meal inspiration, Leaflet Missal's post, "8 Delicious Lenten Recipes for Meatless Fridays." I can't wait to try the hot cross buns on Good Friday, and the Passion Fruit Cheesecake on Passion Sunday!

Speaking of Leaflet Missal, here are "7 Ideas for Celebrating Lent Your Way" - filled with simple Lenten suggestions - and one of them was mine! I was so honored to be asked to participate in that article. :)

And here's a wonderful, witty and thoughtful post from my friend Karen called, "Five Reasons Lent is Hard on INFJs"- I read this with much interest, as I happen to be an INFJ too! (What is an INFJ you might wonder? Click over to Karen's and find out!) So much of her post had me chuckling and nodding my head ... 

And leaping away from Lent for a minute, there's another post I've been meaning to share with you all for some time, especially because recently someone asked me about my "mid-year review" and how I go about it. And to be perfectly honest, I am quite behind this year! I am hoping to work on this important project this weekend - a wee bit past the mid-year mark, ahem - but here's an old post of mine describing my process ... BUT! Even better, here's a fantastic post from my friend Mary Ellen about her mid-year review AND there are printables!

Ok, final link! (I think!) My friend Shirley Ann has updated her blog, Under an English Sky, and you must pop over and take a look. It is just lovely and always filled with great ideas, pretty crafts and lovely tours of England. She has a new series called "The Crockpot Chronicles" and her first recipe is perfect for Lent! I will be avidly following this series as I LOVE using my crockpot at this time of year.

(Speaking of crockpots ... I made this yesterday and it was so delicious. Next time we'll have some some crusty bread to sop up the soupiness, but it paired very nicely with rice pilaf. I just adore artichokes!)

Well I lied, lol - this will be my final link! Have you noticed my new nest button over on the lefthand sidebar? I have started a separate blog called Our Family Field Guide where I am storing nature notes and pictures. I won't be posting quite every day, but hopefully often enough to capture that "rhythm of the year" I find so fascinating and nurturing. I recently found this quote and it struck such a chord with me ...

"There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature." ~ Rachel Carson

Yes. :)

So I hope you'll stop by once in a while and see what we're up to, what we're discovering in this beautiful world all around us. β€

Well my friends I will let you go at last - but I hope you all enjoy this day and I thank you for spending a bit of it here. This weekend I have a couple of Book Party posts in queue - and I can't wait to share them! (Would love to hear from you, too!)

See you here again very soon ...


Tuesday Tidbits: Frost, Frosting & Wintry Fun!

Frosty sunrise window

Happy (frosty) Tuesday, everyone! :)

I have just a few quick things to share today ... but first! What is the weather like where you are right now? It is SUPER cold here in my neck of the woods - in fact, I don't think we'll see 20Β°! Theres snow on the ground (a few inches) and plenty more on the way this weekend ... but such is January in New England!

Now, a few of you asked about my birthday cake frosting - it is a favorite in my family and one my mum is expert at making! It's called "penuche frosting" and it is buttery and sweet and fudgey in texture ... here it is if you'd like to try it sometime:

Penuche Frosting

1/2 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup milk
2 cups sifted confectioner's sugar
hot water

Melt butter - add brown sugar. Bring to boil. Lower heat and boil 2 minutes, stirring constantly.

Add milk and bring to boil. Cool to lukewarm.

Gradually add confectioner's sugar and beat.

Add hot water if too thick.

❀

Also, while I'm here I wanted to mention - for those of you on Pinterest - that I have a few new boards set up. These are each specific to my seasonal planning and I'm using them for links to go along with ideas, activities and special days coming up. So here is the January-February board if you'd like to take a peek. :)

2016 Planner: January & February Links

If you are not on Pinterest, I can do a post with links sometime if that would be helpful. I just added some wolf coloring pages this morning in light of the Full Wolf Moon coming up this weekend! :)

Snowflake lesson 1

This week our seasonal theme is "snowflakes," and I have some fun things planned for the boys - the bigs and the littles! Something I'm working on this week, too - and I meant to mention this during the planning chat last weekend - is the concept of craft bins for seasonal planning and organization. Someone asked me not too long ago (and forgive me for not remembering who) how I keep the craft materials and other resources for the week organized ... and believe me, it's a challenge! I haven't really tackled the craft bins we moved from the old house - nor the craft storage here in the new house! My thought is to have bins for the seasons though - and as I plan and prepare for certain projects I will add those items we'll need to those bins. There should be six bins in all once I'm organized, and you can be sure I will post about them once they're established!

❀

Kitchen window poem

And finally, I had to share this pretty page from a book I have displayed at my writing desk right now. I think I've shared it before, but it's worth another look. It's such a lovely sketch - a mother having her tea and gazing out her kitchen window ... taking such joy in her "lot" in life, days spent at home with the children. The stanza below resonates with me so much ...

***

She has a kinship with the earth
Though busy in her own domain,
And comprehends its noble plan
From just a kitchen window pane.”
(Milly Walton)

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Well my friends, I will be off now, but as always, I thank you for stopping by! It's a busy week of lessons, therapy and activity here ...  Bookworm's back to campus and our relaxing holiday routine is well and truly over. I'll be posting as I can, though - and there are lots of planning posts coming up! In my next post, I will show you my planning sheet "in action" so you can see how I'm using it for seasonal planning. And I am currently working on the next set of printables (Early Spring) as well as a big post about making time in your schedule to DO the planning! Giving all the WHAT a WHEN! I also have a couple of "cozy nests" posts in the works ... 

So I hope you'll stay tuned! Enjoy the rest of your day and I will see here again very soon ... :)


Monday pics ... and picadillo!

Happy Monday, my friends! I hope your week's off to a great start!

I am here this evening to share some pics with you - though unfortunately, not a "Masterpiece" re-cap. (Bill and I were exhausted yesterday and only made it through the British baking show before conking out! We recorded Home Fires and Indian Summers and hope to watch them tonight and/or tomorrow night.)

Anyhoo! Here are some photos from the past few days ...

Pumpkins from matt

How about these pumpkins? My brother, pretty much every year, brings us our Halloween pumpkins - one for each of us! You can probably guess which one is for Little Bear ... :)

Pumpkin goodies from matt

Matt also surprised us with some more autumn goodies - pumpkin spice coffee for me and a Halloween gingerbread house kit for the boys. How fun! My brother is SUCH a great uncle - and brother! We are very lucky he's such a big part of our lives ... β€

O project 10-4 3

This is our Little Bear, walking the neighborhood with his Daddy, trusty wheelbarrow in tow - natch! He is rarely without his wheelbarrow. And this colorful, fleecy jacket is approximately 20 years old! Each of my boys has worn it, and it's my favorite piece of fall clothing EVER. As you can see, LB is just about to grow out of it ... and that fox hat is getting a bit tight, too! He's getting so big ....

Halloween paper chain

Today I started making a paper-chain countdown to Halloween for Earlybird, who is practically crawling out of his skin in excitement over the approaching holiday. I needed something visual/ tangible that would allow him to SEE how far/close we are to All Hallow's Eve. (Because every day is pretty much: "Let's do (such and such) to get ready for Halloween.") I will write a post about what I've written inside each link of the chain - every day we'll have something to know/learn about Halloween (history/traditions) and there will be plenty of simple activities to help us channel some of that Earlybird energy! It also helps me direct his perception of the holiday - which is preferable to the commercial/mainstream influence we'd rather avoid.

And finally, I made that picadillo recipe today and it has been declared a Family Hit!

Picadillo

Above you see how it looked as I turned the crockpot on low, and below is how I found it, seven hours later ...

Picadillo 2

Funnily enough, I didn't add garlic skin to the pot before I started cooking - but someone else *ahem* seemed to think it was a good idea. Also, said someone thought it prudent (fun? helpful?) to turn the crockpot down from low to warm when Mama wasn't looking ... about halfway through the cook time ...

Thankfully, the beef was already fully cooked (in a skillet) before I started the whole "mess" in the crockpot. And thankfully, it still came out great! Truly, it was a hit. At least with Bill and me. Bookworm, had he been home, also would have loved it. The younger boys, not so much. But we had it in wraps (Bill) and on wheat pizzas (me) for supper. And there is still PLENTY leftover.

And final note - 

Longbourn

I'm starting this soon, and it sounds really neat! It revolves around the downstairs staff serving the Bennett family (a la Pride and Prejudice) which is enormously intriguing, to me anyway. Our library Book Club is reading it this month and I'm really hoping to join in. I haven't done a book club in AGES. Of course, the night will arrive and I'll feel too tired to go out - but I'm still hoping to make it! I'm at least going to read it. So I just ordered it from Amazon. :)

Well friends, that's all for today ... but I thank you for stopping by, and hope to see you here again very soon! Enjoy your evening, and God Bless!


Homeschool Thoughts, Lists & News, etc.

(A bit of a hodgepodge today!)

Happy august 1

Happy August, my friends! It sure is hot and hazy here, but I love how the flowers just glow in the summer sun these days. And everything is so green ... I just love this time of year!

Well, I wanted to pop in quickly this morning to tell you I am *thisclose* to finishing our school reports - I just need to finalize Earlybird's ed. plan for next year. His reports are always a bit tricky because, as a special needs child, my plans must be thorough, but flexible, and his progress is not always so readily apparent. I have to put a lot of thought into what we will learn and how I will teach him these things. And because of his learning style and challenges, my methods are not always as clear-cut as just say, ordering a "Grade X Curriculum." Thankfully he does make progress each year ... I just have to really look back through all we did in each subject to remind myself (reassure myself) how said progress was made and measured.

(For example, this year he listened to audiobooks - something he didn't couldn't do before - and in this way we "read" several classic books together. I couldn't ask him to fill out a quiz or write a report, but I could - when the time was right - ask him questions about what we'd heard that day and to re-tell parts of the story, which I would write down.)

So I'm always looking for ways to "think outside the box" when constructing Earlybird's education, and one resource I have found immensely helpful are these fantastic (and free!) Living Learning Lists from Ed Snapshots. There are some terrific ideas here for experiential learning in all the main subjects! I've pinned these lists and printed them out to keep in my homeschool planner for use all year long ... :)

And speaking of Ed Snapshots ... well, I am just SUPER excited to have been invited to do a podcast with Pam sometime in the near future! (You can read other podcasts here ... so much inspiration!) I will keep you all posted about when mine will be happening ... I'm not sure what-all I can bring to the "podcast table," but I am SO honored to have been asked! I haven't "talked shop" in a while ... :)

*❀*

Let's see, what else? I also wanted to mention that so far I am really enjoying my new Day Designer! I will do a post on how I'm using it as soon as I can - I want to get some more "days" under my belt first - but I wanted to mention that if you'd like a peek at how the planner looks, DD offers free downloadable planning pages to try out before purchasing. Mind you, this is an example of a page from a flagship planner - the original Day Designer - not the Blue Sky version I purchased from Target. I'm still working out how the versions differ ... and how to personalize my own planner. More about that soon!

Ok - and here's a final thought for today - over the weekend I had my hair cut, colored and styled and boy does it feel good! (Some of you might have seen my "after shot" on my Facebook page.) And it got me to thinking ... wouldn't it be fun to do a "hair care" post here at the blog? I would love to chat about how we wear our hair, and how we care for it ... on our own at home and at the salon. Especially when we're busy with other things (kids, work, life!) or being careful with our budget. We could even - if people were willing! - share pictures. I will keep that in mind for sometime in my posting future - let me know if you think that would be fun and any other post ideas you might have for me! I'm always open to suggestions. :)

*❀*

All righty then ... I will be off now since my kids are clamoring for lunch and I'm the point person when it comes to that situation. For now I will wish you all a good week and hope to see you here again very soon!

Teach quote

(Saw this just before hitting "post" and had to share!)


Friday Bits & Bobs ~ Summer Days

Happy-almost-Weekend, my friends!

I just have a few things to share with you today ... some pretty late summer images I thought you'd like to see. (Ack, did I say, "late" summer? Where has the time gone?)

Tickseed 1

This is tickseed (Coreopsis) that is growing abundantly in our front yard. I adore all that yellow, and boy, the bees love it too!

August paper 1

 More yellow - this is the August scrapbook page in my homemade weekly planner. Isn't it pretty? I think sunflowers are a perfect symbol of August ...

(And by the way, Tanya asked me recently how I am using/liking that planner and the honest answer is - to be expanded upon in a future post - I do love it, but I don't use it consistently. And that's partly my fault - and partly the fault of the planner's layout. Luckily I never filled all the pages out so I can re-work them from August forward. So I have been re-tooling the design because I need it to act more as a theme book and less of an agenda ... a place for sketching out ideas and activities (live-love-learn) but not necessarily appointments and household events. But more on all that soon!)

Archie and book 1

What could be cozier than a cat curled up in your lap as you read a good book while a storm rages outside? Archie times his visits well - when the toddler is sound asleep for a good hour or more!

Morning glory blossom

The first morning glory blossom on our lamppost vine ... pretty in purple. Not sure what's going on with the leaves there, but something is finding them very tasty!

Grasshopper in grass 1

One of those gorgeous grasshoppers I mentioned in an earlier post. Thy are such interesting creatures ... you'd never guess what they look like sitting still after you've seen them in flight.

Riley takes pics 4

And finally, this is a "selfie" from the other day - my younger boys and I, sitting in the sunroom, watching as storms pass over. Earlybird, who as many of you know, is autistic, used to have a strong aversion to picture-taking ... but lately he's not only been open to it, he's even requested it!

Well, my friends, I hope you all have a great weekend ... I will be hammering out those ed. reports with intention to finish and mail them bright and early Monday morning. (Taking a brief break for a haircut! Boy-oh-boy do I need one ...) And once I have the reports out of the way I will focus on my new day-book and sharing with you all how I'm using it ... and big-picture, school year planning ... as well as my binders! Must talk about binders ...

I get so geared up to get organized at this time of year, don't you?

:)

See you here again very soon ...

p.s. Don't forget to look for the Full Blue Moon tonight!


Bits & Bobs ~ Summer Pleasures

 Hello, my friends ~ and Happy Friday! I hope your week went well. :)

I have just a few "bits and bobs" to share tonight .... 

Farm pickup

Above you see the splendor of our weekly CSA share! Summer's garden bounty is amazing, isn't it? Our share this week included A LOT of green "leafiness," some sweet-smelling basil, a couple of summer squash, a bunch of red onions and leeks and an overflowing pint of blueberries ... a little bit of heaven on (from) earth! Now to use it all up ... :)

And this pic, well, it just melts my heart ...

O project 7-15 3

"Teaching children about nature should be treated as one of the most important events in their lives." ~ Fr. Thomas Berry

How I am enjoying drafting nature study plans for next year! It will be a multi-age (and grade) project, as Crackerjack is now done with lab sciences ... and there will be much to explore in each season, for us all!

Hydrangeas bloom 1 

And how about these hydrangeas? It's definitely their moment!! They are blooming like CRAZY and in the most wonderful array of pink, purple and blue ... the soil must be *perfect* in this spot. (Soil acidity affects color and vibrancy.)

(I consider hydrangeas as our wedding flower, because my florist used these blooms for my bridesmaids' bouquets ... they wore billowy, floral dresses ... but he had to work with whatever "shade" they had reached by our October wedding date! I was watching hydrangea bushes all fall, wondering - blue, green, pink, purple? - and happily it was a long, mild season that year. (The bouquets were mostly blush, auburn and green.)

Hydrangeas are a symbol of Summer, I think, as are ... "beach" reads!

Summer reading

I haven't been to the beach yet, but my reading basket is certainly overflowing with "summer reads"! I love catching up on my "fun" reading over the summer ... the library is such a blessing, is it not? My reading basket holds:

The House of Velvet and Glass

Lost Lake

The Witch of Belladonna Bay

Summer Secrets

The Signature of All Things

Enchanted August

Conversion

A Lady of Good Family

The Irresistible Blueberry Bake Shop & Cafe

What are you reading this Summer? :)

***

Well my friends, I hope you all have a great weekend! I'm so glad you enjoyed the pocketbook post! That was so much fun to put together. I would love to do another "share your stuff" kind of post ... any suggestions? Also, Michelle suggested a Q&A post which I have not done in some time ... that would be fun, too! Let me know if there are any "random" questions you'd like to answer, and I'll start a draft ...

Speaking of drafts ... I have in queue a post about my binders (yes, really! finally, lol) and another about a new and nifty "FCS" trick I've been using and can't wait to share! 

Ok, I'm off now to start supper for these hungry men all around me ... I wish you all a very pleasant weekend and thank you all, as always, for stopping by!

I will see you here again very soon ...


June Sweetness ...

Strawberry bouquet

(Daisies: innocence ... Strawberries: perfect goodness)

I love to keep a seasonal "bouquet" on my kitchen windowsill ... and this week it's a small gathering of field daisies and wild strawberries, gathered by my younger boys for their mama. I placed the blossoms (and fruit) in a tiny cordial glass and set it just behind my kitchen sink. A nice reminder of June's sweetness - and that of my little men!

Potatoes with thyme

These are some small potatoes from the market, chopped and tossed with olive oil, salt and bits of thyme FROM MY GARDEN! I can't tell you how nice it was to walk outside and grab some fresh herbs for our supper!

Csa 1

And here we have our first CSA pickup ... all this goodness from a Massachusetts farm! We'll get our share each week and this time it was ripe strawberries, mixed greens, fresh eggs and jam. I'm sure I'll be posting more about our shares throughout the Summer!

***

Well my friends, I hope you all have a wonderful weekend - we have Father's Day ahead and the Summer Solstice, too ... and hereabouts there will be a family lunch, some yard work, as well as a MILESTONE birthday to celebrate ...

 

Our oldest is entering his TWENTIES!!!

(Oh, and we might catch that movie about dinosaurs ... you know the one?)

:)

I will 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!


Good Morning! Happy Feast!

A few pictures to share with you on this bright and cold winter morning ...

Chicken dark 

A pretty hen visiting our yard yesterday afternoon - love how her dark feathers look against the drab landscape. :)

St. agnes card

A St. Agnes prayer card, and our dinner menu featuring a snowflake cake in her honor. Today is her feast day!

It is, I must also mention, National Squirrel Appreciation Day, which is a favorite holiday in our household ... 

Squirrel nutkin

This is a page from a beautiful book we enjoy perusing called The Ultimate Peter Rabbit: A Visual Guide to the World of Beatrix Potter. This is a two-page spread all about that little rascal, Squirrel Nutkin. I am extremely fond of red squirrels (after my own cats they are my favorite animals) so we'll take a look at this page today and perhaps make some special treats to offer our little woodland friends - seed-filled snowflakes to hang in the trees! If we get it done, you can be sure I'll take pictures and tell you all about it. :)

Have a nice Wednesday, my friends - see you here again very soon!

p.s. I am *thisclose* to finishing our next Q&A post - answering my dear friend Emma's question about seasonal ideas and where/how they get stored. Hope to post later today!


Friday Photos ~ Happy & Homey

Happy Weekend, my friends! :)

Here are some photos I took over the past few chilly days here at my house. (Chilly outside, I mean. Thankfully, it's been fairly warm and toasty inside.) A few post notes at the bottom ...

O with hand in tea mug

Somebody experimented with a monster truck (not seen) and his Mama's half-full tea mug. :) This was late one dark afternoon, post-nap, while we rocked and read in the chair by my bed. It was such a sweet moment - ruined tea notwithstanding. ;)

Archie in sunny bowl

My Archie's favorite napping spot these days ... the fruit bowl on the kitchen table. I think the sunshine - though technically "less than" at this time of year - is truly worth more, seasonally speaking ...

Winter Sunshine > Summer Sunshine

Oliver in window 1

And a picture of Oliver, to be fair, because Archie's always hogging the sunlight spotlight. I just read that "Oliver" is the #1 cat name in America. Any other Olivers out there reading? You know, over their owners' shoulders? :)

Red squirrel on deck in snow

My sweet red squirrel, braving a fierce -5Β° morning to grab a little breakfast under the feeders.

Cardinal at feeder 2

And the lovely Lady Cardinal - a rare sight at the feeders. (Below our front bushes is where we usually spot her.)

Bird tracks in snow

What I spied upon stepping out my front door this morning! Wee bird tracks left in an overnight dusting! Not a clue which feathered friend they belong to, but lovely to see all the same ...

Bit of tree in sunny votive

My bright (yet absolutely filthy!) window above the kitchen sink - that's the last little bit of our Christmas tree, a reminder to take with us through the year ...

January page

A few pretty things on my kitchen counter desk ...

Pretty tape on page marker

I'm in absolute LOVE with this floral washi tape. (Purchased at the Paper Source last month.) I will use it wherever I can find room as I spruce up my planning binder ...

Tasha tudor package 2

Lovely early birthday gifts from my beloved. <3

Sunburst paper

The loveliest scrapbooking paper - a sunburst for the cover of my domestic journal pages. "Celebrate the everyday" (an affixed sticker) ... that's what it's all about, isn't it? 

Chicken books

And, yes. This is happening. Soon.

:)

Post notes ~ I've just realized that "National Clean Off Your Desk Day" is not today, but MONDAY and all I can say to that is PHEW. Lol. I'm not ready to get my desks post-worthy yet! And by desks, I mean the kitchen counter where I do 99% of my work, the computer desk where Crackerjack does his (+ hours and hours of Minecraft), the pretty writing desk that is used for seat lessons and the good-sized craft desk I am setting up in the library/living room.

I will be posting about my myriad desks and a bit more on my journal and some other stuff like that over the next week or so. I hope, in the meantime, you all enjoy your weekend. Is it as cold where you are as it is here?

(Siri says it's 27Β° Farenheit right now which is positively balmy compared to yesterday. Warming into the 30s with snow coming on Monday!)

Thanks so much for stopping by, my friends ... I will see you here again very soon!