Everyday Blessings Feed

My Thanksgiving Tea Journal, 2015

Thanks tea button

Happy Monday, my friends! It's Thanksgiving week here in America, quite possibly my favorite week all year! All over the country, folks are traveling home to their families, looking forward to a day of togetherness, thankfulness ... and feasting! I love spending this week spiffing up my home and setting tables and baking stuff and listening to music ... but most of all, I love that deep sense of just HOW blessed we are to be doing all of this in the first place. To have loved ones to gather with, and a warm, safe home to gather in ... food to put on the table, with some extra to share.

So today I am kicking off my Advent Tea Journal, with a post that is - ok, yes - several days ahead of Advent. But I wanted to start our journey before we get swept up in the season! Does a weekly teatime sound good to you? A brief time each week to sit down (in our cozy nests) and share how we're living the season? 

Well here's what I'm dong on my end! On this Monday and those to come in December, I will share my tea journal notes along with some photos of my home and holiday preparations ... and then I will touch upon our weekly discussion theme. (This week: Simplifying the Season.) And I would LOVE to have you join me! You can leave me a comment here, or send me an email with your own notes and pics, or perhaps link me up with a post at your own blog! (Feel free to grab the tea button here or in this post.) We'll continue our conversation throughout the week, and I'll add you in as the days go by - no rush to get me something by Monday!

> bysunandcandle AT gmail DOT com <

Now onward with our Thanksgiving Tea ... are you settled in and ready to chat? :)

What refreshments am I enjoying this week?

Thanks tea 5

My Thanksgiving Tea shown above is a bit "rustic and random" - not quite the "Victoria" moment I had originally envisioned, lol - but all that color and clutter is who I am these days! A sturdy (inexpensive) acorn mug and some ginger cookies to share with my little guy ...

And here's my cute little tea box, a gift from my sister-in-law:

Thanksgiving tea 3

I keep a LOT of tea on hand - some of you might remember my tea drawer from years back? Well nowadays my main tea stash is kept in my pantry, but I like to use this nifty box for holding the teas I'm drinking currently. It holds plenty of packets and fits nicely in a kitchen cabinet. (You could do something similar with a basket or divided tin.)

As for the cookies, well, you all know I love to bake ... but sometimes baking a batch of scratch cookies just doesn't mesh with the overall busy-ness of the household. (And this would be one of those weeks!) But these break-apart cookies are made from natural ingredients so Earlybird can enjoy them along with the rest of us. They could be frosted but honestly, they're even better on their own - they're quite yummy and the seasonal spices really come through!

What am I reading this week?

Thanks tea 4

Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, and More Secure Kids

I've had this book on my shelf for a while now - almost two years! - and I've read bits and pieces, but I'd like to go through it chapter by chapter, slowly but surely. This premise resonates with me, yet I'm a great one for making things more complicated than they need to be. With an eye toward the New Year (as I think about general goals and plans for the months to come as well as our home environment) I'm trying to create a slower world for myself and my kids. More on that as we move forward through the season!

What am I listening to this week?

Do you enjoy listening to music in your nest? I find my normal "household soundtrack" provides plenty of erm, stimulation so to say, so any added sound can be a bit much ... but I do love some music at the holidays!

Thanksgiving tea 3 (1)

This traditional song is pretty much is all I need, and belted out with gusto by small voices is best. This is a page from a beautiful little book of poems, a thoughtful and generous gift from a reader last year. But I also love listening to music from A Charlie Brown Thankgiving and George Winston's Autumn as well as this gorgeous song. Do you have any favorite Thanksgiving music?

What am I working on this week?

We have the honor of hosting our family's Thanksgiving so that's my focus this week! There's a lot that goes into planning a season or holiday, and trying to keep things simple is a challenge! But I have found by starting early, I have a much better chance of maintaining a less frenetic atmosphere - for myself and those around me! And this "peace" contributes greatly to a simplified season. So here are some of the things I've been working on ahead of Thanksgiving ...

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Once we know how many guests to expect, we can decide which tables to use and where to arrange them as well as what tablecloths and napkins to prepare. About a week ahead of the holiday I find a day when I will be home for several hours - then I can wash and dry and fold the linens without any lag time in-between. We all know what happens when we only finish part of the laundering cycle - smelly, wrinkled linens! Then out comes the iron or we have to start all over again ...

The other thing is, if I leave this task too close to Thanksgiving, it feels like a chore ... I feel rushed and even (in my less generous moments) a bit put-upon. By doing things like this well ahead of time, at a time of my choosing, I focus instead on the beauty of it. I think about the people coming to dine with us, at our table, and how nice the setting will look for them. In this way, I focus on the pleasure of the chore, not the pressure of it.

How about tablescapes then? This is another thing I like to think about early, so I can be a little thoughtful and creative with it ... as well as economical!

Thanksgiving tea 1

There will be flowers for sure - I can never resist fresh blooms at the holidays - but I also like to tap into the treasures to be found in our very own yard. Acorns, pinecones, dried flowers and weeds, interesting rocks, colorful leaves - the possibilities are endless! A lovely activity would be to take the children on a "gathering walk" early in the month of November. (Earlier the better if you want a small share of the acorn crop!) Here we have some glass bowls filled with our acorn stash and a small beeswax tea light candle. I may even tuck some autumn leaves under the globes. Now, you could use any bowls you have on hand ... and if you can't find acorns, cranberries from the market would also be beautiful! Once Thanksgiving is over, we will scatter these seeds on the deck ... and watch them disappear!

Here are some of my pretty baking pans - easy to collect, hard to give away!

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 But when we're blessed, we want to bless others back. It's a great theme to work on at this time of year, especially with children! Because the simplest way to celebrate this season (and the next) is to just give. Give to others, give of ourselves ... it's a sure path to joy! That's a message I want my children to learn and practice in their own life as they grow. There will be more on this particular theme next week, but for now, how about setting aside time to bake together and make some extra for those people who have helped us or befriended us in some way?

Here's a little bit of a story, but I hope you'll indulge me. So this is a big deal for my 13-year-old Earlybird: making friends and learning to be a friend. He's autistic and we're working with a wonderful therapist on getting him out in the community, learning how to conduct his affairs in a polite and practical manner. Well, those folks who take the time to help him - even just a friendly greeting each time we see them - are blessing our son in ways they don't even realize. So this year we're baking breads (something EB loves to do) and bringing them to those special people in our life ...

Like the librarian who patiently helps him check out his planet books and train DVDs, the pizza place owner who greets him heartily and lets him visit the kitchen (and asks after EB when he's not with us), the grocery store clerk who gives him a high-five and tells him he's doing a great job (and then quietly tells me the same), the neighbor who lets him visit her henhouse and take home an egg, the therapist who works with him every single day and tells him over and over how awesome he is ...

These people can't know just how deeply they are blessing us, and a bread is a pretty small gesture, but one I hope will bless them back, even a little. No, it won't make my week simpler to bake with my son and deliver breads around town, but it will make us feel good ... and maybe a few others, too. :)

What's happening in nature?

Now this was the part where I was going to attempt sharing a short video ... but alas, I did not get very far! (In other words, Bill left for work before I got his help with it!) I would very much like to try this sometime soon, and as it happens Bill is home all week after today ... so we shall see! I can tell you it is bright and brisk here today, very "Thanksgiving in New England." :) A beautiful buck crossed our road on the way to Mass early yesterday morning ... he stopped and looked back at us from a frosty field. Gorgeous. And birds are furiously flocking to the feeders (squirrels, too) but no wild turkeys to report ...

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Well, except for these guys who I found at CVS for $2 each. I buy these foil-wrapped candies every year "for the kids" but they lend a little color and whimsy to our buffet. :)

A project with the children this week ...

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Here's our living room mantle, adorned with a garland of family blessings. We're in the home stretch now - there are only a few blank leaves left in the basket! This was a very simple project, but the message I'm hoping it imparts to my children is that we are grateful for all of God's blessings, and that every good thing comes from Him. Some blessings are BIG, but lots of them are little. In fact, if you were to read through our leaves they would not impress you with meaningful remarks on the Big, Important Things ... but they might make you smile with their simple, sweet, smallness:

"the cats "

"pears and hot dogs"

"packages in the mail"

"dirty boots"


Sometimes I think by focusing on the simple joys in life, we train ourselves in a kind of habit - a mindfulness that prepares us to see the big things for how great they really are. I think this is something really important to share with our children, but equally important to remember ourselves.

Words to inspire:

 "Life holds so many simple blessings, each day bringing its own individual wonder."

~ John McLeod

What a lovely quote for my season's journal ... it says perfectly what I'm always rambling on about in a very roundabout way. ;)

Oak leaves branch
Well, my friends, I'd best let you go ... I've kept you here long enough! But 
I hope you enjoyed my Thanksgiving tea Journal ... and I would love to hear from you, too!

What refreshments are you enjoying this week?

What are you reading this week?

What are you listening to this week?

What are you working on this week?

What's happening in nature this week?

Any projects with the children this week?

(and finally)

Any quotations to share, some words to inspire?

I'd love to see your tea, hear about your tea, your week and/or your thoughts on keeping it simple. This will be a good topic to discuss as we head into the "most wonderful time of the year." Is there ever a time when "keeping things simple" is harder to manage than in the weeks leading up to Christmas?

Comments, email, links - ooh, and nest pics! - all are welcome! More on Advent and simplifying our seasons in my following posts. We have many weeks of tea to come and lots of areas to discuss! I am hoping to use this weekly "refreshment" as a chance to sit back and take stock. Am I keeping it real? Am I staying true to the season?

For a look ahead, please click over to this post for my full tea schedule. And remember, all are welcome - brief comments or lengthy posts. I appreciate each and every contribution.

Thanks so much for stopping by, my friends! Enjoy your tea, and the evening to follow, and I will see you here again very soon!

November Nightfall

It comes so early now ... the night. And some might say too early, but it's all just part of that rhythm. Outside there's a fading of color and a sharpness to the air ... while inside we have our lights burning and there are extra blankets on the beds. At this time of year the comforts of home seem all the more comforting, but the outside is still welcoming too, especially on evenings like these ...

November sunset 1

November sunset 2

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November sunset

November sunset 3

November sunset 4

Sunset, 4:20 p.m. Sunday. Just before the Patriots Game.


How wonderful for a little one to get all rosy-cheeked and leaf-littered on a cool autumn evening ... then to come inside for a warm bath and a good supper before bed. I love teaching my children to appreciate our days in ALL seasons and by "teaching" I mean, sharing my own joy right alongside them. That's the best lesson, I think - what we show them. Because those little eyes watch us so closely! Little Bear might not read his mama's blog yet, but I know he can read my moods ...

You know, I've been working on that book of mine, and trying to figure out just where I'm going with it ... getting distracted sometimes, or maybe even a little defeated ... but when I look back at this post, I can see it. This is what makes me tick, and this is where I zoom in: on the simple, little joys ... the easy, homey comforts. Every week brings something new to learn and share ...

As organic as it seems it should be to just follow the seasons and accept nature's rhythm, I find that Life As We Know It often gets in the way. So I create a little structure - weekly themes and file folders - and hope that by planning ahead we'll make more of the moment. The seasons pass so quickly - not to mention the years! So this week we're watching our world get sleepy and dark and we're feeling grateful for things like light and warmth (and peace) ... in nature we're observing a fallen log and exploring the tart curiosity of cranberries, while baking breads to bring to neighbors across town ... 

November days - are they dark? Yes, they can be. But dull? No, they don't have to be. There's much to be thankful for and so many ways to explore this big, blessed world. It is my hope to highlight these joys in each week of the year ... to work them into my "plans" so they become more than just ideas, but actions ... and then to share them all with my family, and you!

So anyhow ... that's where I'm at right now. I mostly just wanted to share all these happy photos and then I got carried away. (You all know how I get.) And now I'm watching another (early) sunset, lighting a candle on our seasons shelf, and conjuring some good smells in the kitchen ...

And putting the laptop down, for now. But I'll be back here again sometime soon ...

(Good Night!)

Our Grateful Heart(s)

Like many families, we set up a gratitude tree at this time of year. It's a nice way to mark the days until Thanksgiving and spend some time remembering all we have to be thankful for these days - the big stuff and the little. :)

In years past, our gratitude trees have featured leaves or maybe acorns ... some years our tree is made of all paper while other years it's more of a banner than a tree ... this year it's a wreath!

Grateful heart 1

I was at Michaels last weekend, picking up a few art supplies for Crackerjack, when I saw this heart-shaped grapevine wreath. I thought it would look lovely in our learning room, and it just happened to be on sale. ;)

So this year it's all about keeping things simple. I first wrapped the wreath with some cotton yarn - between the yarn and the grapevine it's very easy to stick our "grateful" leaves into the wreath. (The leaves are just cardstock cut into freehand leaf shapes.)

Each day we write down something we're grateful for and tuck the leaf into the wreath.

Grateful heart 2

By Thanksgiving this heart should be sprouting a whole lot of leaves! And you could easily use construction paper rather than cardstock, or ask the kids to paint plain paper and then use that for your leaf cutouts. Autumn-hued watercolors would be especially pretty!

For a finishing touch, I hung my little turkey bell in the middle of the wreath ...

Grateful heart 3

... just for fun. :)


My friends, are you doing a gratitude project this month? How do you encourage your family to be thankful for their blessings? I'd love to hear about it, if you have time!

Have a great Tuesday, everyone ... see you here again very soon!

An Alphabet of Summer Delights

It's that time of year again ~ a new season is upon us! And while Memorial Day is still a few weeks shy of the solstice, I think in most American hearts and minds, it is certainly the unofficial kick-off of the summer season.

Up here in New England we are experiencing a very warm week and everything is green and flower-y. Truly, spring has sprung itself all over, but summer is nipping at its heels! In my book, it's high time to brainstorm a list of all the delights summer can bring, so I will remember to stop and be thankful for life's little joys:

A is for air-conditioning in August (if not before).

B is for baseball games, a day at the beach and blockbuster movies.

C is for cool cotton sheets, cook-outs and clambakes.

D is for daylilies, dragonflies, dandelions and daisies.

E is for eating outside!

F is for fireflies, firecrackers and the Fourth of July.

G is for gardens and ghost stories 'round the campfire.

H is for hazy, hot and humid.

I is for ice cream!

J is for turning July's jewels (berries) into jam.

K is for keeping cool by the pool.

L is for lemonade, lazy days, and lightning storms.

M is for a morning in Maine, muggy and magical.

N is for night creatures like bats, moths and owls.

O is for orb-weaver spiders and Orion's belt at sunrise.

P is for popsicles, poppies, parades and pick-your-own.

Q is for a quiet fan humming, lulling you to sleep at night.

R is for roses, reunions and refreshing raspberry shrub.

S is for shooting stars, seashells, sprinklers and s'mores.

T is for toads in the garden and tea, iced and sweet.

U is for unusually large and prolific zucchini.

V is for verdant pastures, vacations and farm-fresh vegetables.

W is for watermelon and pearly webs glistening with dew.

X is for crossing the days off till September.

Y is for yellow-jackets and yarrow by the roadside.

Z is for zinnias in lollipop colors.

Here's wishing you a season filled with summer delights!

My Apron for the Day

Well, I was so inspired by all the apron making and wearing going on around here I just had to participate somehow. I thought about it all morning, and it was all I could do not to steer the van over to the fabric shop on the way home from speech. (It would have been completely fruitless anyway with my three boys in tow, lol.) I'll have to look at patterns online today; I'm sure a google search will bring something up (and if you know of a place to look, please do drop me a line!).

After we got home, I remembered I do in fact have my grandmother's apron tucked away somewhere. As I remember, it's a pale green cotton with white embroidery and wide sash ties at the waist - so I got the boys their lunch and then set off to search. I couldn't find it (it might be in the hope chest which must be jimmied open by Bill as I can't find the key) but I did find a nice tea towel that my grandmother embroidered and monogrammed years and years ago. I simply fastened the towel around my waist with a safety pin! It might be cheating a little, but it did feel really nice to wear!


(I'm not usually so camera shy, but this was the one and only shot Bookworm got before my camera batteries died.)

The Kitchen Madonna, hostess of today's Apron Event, graciously left me a comment in my earlier post and she said this about aprons:

"They really conjure up all sorts of feelings in the woman who wears them and in those who see you in one! Really! Try it!"

My goodness, she was right! It felt very feminine and maternal. It felt like "this is who I am, this is what I do, and I'm proud." It also felt purposeful, practical and, well, nifty! I could see how pockets would be very handy and how an apron with a full bodice would also be convenient.

Just as I was getting the hang of it, the mailman appeared at the door and he barely batted an eye that I was wearing a towel at my waist. (Not that I'd expect him to of course, but I felt like quite the lady of the house, wiping my hands on my apron and rushing to the door to accept today's package. Which, by the way, contained organic lollipops for Earlybird, and this book, a Mother's Day gift from Bill.)

As the door swung closed, I paused to notice the spring birds singing, the leafy boughs bending in the breeze, and the sunshine washing our lawn in soft light. (Along with my makeshift apron, I daresay I slipped on a pair of rose-colored glasses.)

Here's a close up of the embroidery detail which includes my grandmother's monogram ...


Though, come to think of it, this is my mum's monogram too! I wonder if this tea towel was hers? I'll have to ask. Either way, I'm glad I pulled it out of the back of the closet. Until I make my own "official" apron, this one will serve me very nicely.

Honestly, maybe it's the glorious spring weather, but I have had such a nesting surge of late! Bill is putting up a clothesline for me, and preparing a small raised bed out back where I can grow some vegetables this summer. I can't wait to pick out a new broom, a few new sponges and make up a bucket of homemade lavender cleaner ... It's good to enjoy your work, don't you think?

I have always loved being a wife, mother and homekeeper. But you know, sometimes housekeeping can seem a bit more like a chore than at other times. Lately I have felt a renewed and deep sense of blessing - that these are my duties, this is my home, these are the people who rely on me for good food, a soft place to lie their heads, clean and fresh surroundings. How very blessed I am to call all these little tasks, this beloved place - all these dear people - my responsibilities.

We are all so blessed, are we not?

Everyday Nature: The Quiet of Morning


We've had some wonderful nature moments here this morning, and I wanted to share them in a post, not just in my nature notes on the sidebar. I took the picture above just minutes ago from our deck. The sun rises right behind our woods and I love how it glimmers through the greenery, gaining in strength as it climbs the morning sky ...

I also love how we begin our mornings. So quietly, so slowly. The light is just creeping through the woods, and my boys are still asleep. I like to raise their windows so that as they wake, they feel the gentle breeze and hear the wakening woods. I think it is a comforting and cozy way to start their day.

In the winter of course, I can only crack the windows (if at all) but our temperatures have been in the 80s lately, and so we are having a touch of summer here in mid-May. Today, as soon as the soft light worked its way through our house, I made the rounds from room to room lifting blinds and throwing windows open wide.

The day was dawning so beautifully. The woods were literally alive with all the bird song and yet, one call lifted clearly and loudly above the rest. Crackerjack and I had been listening to that song, wondering what bird could be making so piercing and distinctive a call. A few moments later, as I made Earlybird's bed, I heard the song even more clearly and called CJ to the window. There, sitting on the gate just outside EB's window, was a tiny Carolina wren, singing his dear little heart out!

We were so close we could see his beak moving, notice the way he tilted his head back as far as he could in order to belt out his call as boldly as possible. We watched him for several minutes, marveling at his tiny perfection. This impossibly small bird has such a large voice! In just another minute he was joined by a second wren, who could only be his true ladylove, and together they flew into our neighbor's shrubbery.

Amazingly, at the very same moment, a young cardinal pair met up on the fence post and followed suit, heading for the very same shrubbery!

"That must be their church," said Crackerjack. "It's marrying day!"

You know, he might be right, for they could not have picked a prettier day! :)

Before the breakfast routine began, I grabbed my camera and headed to the deck to snap a few pictures of the sunrise. Sure I was still in my pajamas, but our yard is fairly private, and really, who else is up at this time? Just as I chased off a neighbor's cat skulking around the potting shed, a flash of dark and white tail feathers in the cherry tree caught my eye. I was immediately reminded of the slate-colored junco, but of course they've been gone north for some time now. I tried to make out the shape and call of this mysterious bird, but with little success. I took a few more pictures before heading in, and here's what greeted me at the door:


Our three cats were keeping a close eye on me - and the birds as well! :)

A few moments later, the same bird I had glimpsed turned up at the feeders and CJ and I got a closer look. It was definitely an Eastern Towhee, a spring migrant who visited us this same time last year! A female, according the description in our trusty Birds of New England. Her song was a clear and charming cherreee! I took some pictures through the dining room windows, but they all came out quite blurry. Hopefully she'll stop by again - perhaps she's making a nest nearby?

How exciting to have so much activity here so early in the morning! It's just barely 7 a.m.! Now the boys are all up and we're sharing our stories with the sleepyheads who missed the excitement. I've just come from the front door where we waved Daddy off on his day. Up and down the street neighbors are hauling trash bins to the sidewalk and pulling cars out of their driveways. A school bus just trundled by. The quiet has been replaced by the bustle of the workaday unfolding. The Blue Jays are calling from the treetops and the squirrels have made it to the feeders. Our early morning time has passed.

Really, there's just no time like the earliest hours for observing the beautiful and sometimes surprising nature all around us! But let's keep our eyes peeled, because I am sure there will be more to see before this day is done.

I hope your day today is just lovely, perhaps filled with a nature moment or two! 

The FHC Banner: A Work in Progress


This afternoon our parish held its annual banner-making day for the second graders receiving their First Holy Communion in May. Armed with craft supplies, and the warning that this assembly can be rather chaotic, Crackerjack and I headed over early. We perused the general instructions, brainstormed a few designs, filled our ziploc baggie with glue and felt - we were ready to roll ...

Or so we thought.

Ten minutes in, between the opening prayer and attendance, CJ suddenly looked quite pale, felt very hot and really wanted to go home. Assessing the situation, I believed he was either coming down with something, or was overcome by all the commotion inside the hall. With all the parents and kids working elbow-to-elbow on banners, spreading out all kinds of materials all over, it was hard to think, let alone chat. It was obvious some mums had done this before - their felt pieces were already neatly cut out, and in beautiful shapes and colors, too - two-toned grapes, golden chalices and embroidered lettering.

I fingered our few sheets of colorful felt and cast a critical eye at our profound lack of embellishments.

I knew we would be hard pressed to come up with the design CJ wanted in less than an hour. Certainly not with CJ wilting away by the moment. So I pulled the chute; we gathered our stuff and said our good-byes.

Honestly it was not because of the pressure to be perfect. We've spent too many years marching to our own drumbeat to concern ourselves with how we measure up. But I know my CJ, and I know he'll care how his banner looks on First Communion Day as it hangs proudly alongside all the others. He'll want it to look ... well, like it's his. With lots of red, a dove or two, and probably a touch of glitter.

And it's not just how it will look in the end - it will be the memory of putting it together - together. I'd like to be able to talk about it, let him think about it and enjoy the process. Which is just what Sister said as we left. "He should do this when he can enjoy it," she said. "It will be more fun to do later at home."

So you see the "before" at the top - the plain light blue felt banner - and here's the work in progress, as far as we got today:


We're still envisioning the design, but I have to tell you, I really liked those grapes! The question of course is, did CJ? Stay tuned for our finished product early next week - it's due back in time for rehearsal.

In unrelated news, my computer is giving me the fits. It's strangely and impossibly slow, photos won't upload properly and Paint Shop won't open at all - it just freezes the whole kit and caboodle. How I got this post done, I just don't know. I have a whole bunch of desk photos to post tomorrow, if these issues ever work themselves out!

But much more importantly, my family is here, we're all home and everyone is healthy and happy. In fact each one of my men (big and little) is outside flinging a frisbee around in the lingering light of this lovely spring evening. So yes, CJ is feeling much better. ;)

Keeping all these blessings tucked in my heart, I wish you all a wonderful night. 

Dear Morning Moments

We were up later than usual this morning, having stayed up quite late last night. We straggled out of bed, one by one, around 6 a.m. (Don't laugh - that's late for us!)

As is our routine, we congregated in the family room which was filling with soft morning light. Our attention was drawn to the out-of-doors, to the still and serene backyard - and we had to rub our sleepy eyes to focus on the lovely site just outside:


A beautiful deer! It was eating grass, twitching its ears and flicking its tail -  gorgeous! - and here I was in the doorway trying to get a good picture through the glass, when it suddenly startled and ran off to the left, into the woods.

We all ran to the back windows, to follow its path, and realized there were three more deer, and they were directly behind our house! Oh, the close-ups I could have been getting had I looked out these windows first! One deer was quite small and speckled ~ a fawn, perhaps?

Ah, well. We watched them leap off into the woods, grateful for that sweet, brief encounter. They stood at a distance out in the woods, just looking back at our house (right at us, it seemed), with the sun beginning to pore through the branches behind them ... it was quite a sight to behold! What a way to start the new day!

As the boys made their way towards the kitchen for breakfast, I made my rounds of the "bird windows," and was delighted to watch a pair of cardinals taking their own breakfast under the cherry tree!

These photos (taken through a screened window) are terribly blurry, but I had to post them, just to show you our sweet pair.


If you squint a little, you can just make out the female standing behind the male. They were pecking seeds off the ground (where I spilled a considerable amount yesterday while filling the feeders). Watching closely, I realized he was pecking seeds and feeding her!

You can just make out the tender kiss they shared in this picture below:


Actually, I'm sure you probably can't, but she is just behind him in this picture and he is placing a seed in her beak. It was the dearest thing.

All of this happened within 10 minutes of waking, and it only underscored a few of the points we discussed at my nature study meeting last night. I have some pictures and notes to share, but will have to wait until later today to do so. We're off to speech bright and early this morning.

Thank you to everyone who left comments and questions about nature study yesterday. I think I will begin a series of posts in which we address your various thoughts and queries. It would be fun to share ideas and suggestions with each other!

In the meantime, as always, thanks for taking the time to stop by and read, and have a great morning!

Small Things, Great Joys

"Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies." Mother Teresa

My friend Angela is hosting a Carnival of Joy today at her lovely blog, Three Plus Two. I'm too late for this issue, but happily, she will be hosting it again next week - and each week all Eastertide long!

But even though I'm late, I couldn't help but think about all the little things that create glimmers of joy in my life, for "... it is the sweet, simple things of life which are the real ones after all." (Laura Ingalls Wilder)

Here's my quick list for today:Glad_heart

Autumn leaves, against an October-blue sky.

Books, books and more books!

Cats curled up on an afghan.

Daffodils dancing in the spring breeze.

Embers glowing in the fireplace.

Feast days!

Grace before meals.

Home comforts (too many to name).

Inchworms (especially that darling song).

Jam jars lined up in the pantry.


Letters written by hand.

Muddy footprints - oh, yes!

Nests in trees.

Organic strawberries, with homemade whipped cream!

Pillowslips ~ all cotton, and freshly ironed.

Trains (because they make my little guy so happy).

Unscheduled time, and lots of it.

Violets in the dewey grass.

Woodpeckers knocking away in the woods.

X's and O's. :)


Zzz's ~ especially when they're uninterrupted. :)

What brings you joy, the great and the small? Wouldn't a "joy journal" be a nice thing to keep with your children? Something you add to each night before bed?

Please check in at Angela's for more thoughts on joy, but for now, I'll leave you with this one:

"Joy is the holy fire which keeps our purpose warm and our intelligence aglow." Helen Keller

Roses for Mary, Rocks for the Pond ...

"Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb." (Luke 1:42)


Ah, Monday morning ... a new homeschooling week and a beautiful Feast day upon us.

Feast typically brings to mind the image of much food and frivolity, and, while it can certainly mean both these things - and more - on occasion, many's a feast when just a few simple things bring a touch of grace to our homeschooling day.

Such was the case, today.

To begin with, because we are home in the mornings, our day unfolded rather nicely. We took our time waking up. (Thanks to Earlybird, I am always given a three hour head start, lol). I nursed my coffee and asked the boys if they remembered what day it was. We'd talked a bit ahead, and so yes, they remembered - the Feast of the Annunciation.

"Waffles!" yelled Crackerjack.

Laughing, I reminded him that we needed Daddy's help setting up the new wafflemaker (waffles are a traditional feast food). CJ was satisfied instead with PB&J Nutrigrain waffles, but the boys were surpised by the mini crumb cakes I set out at the end of breakfast! (Round coffee cakes are another traditional food on this day.)

On display at the head of our home learning table we found our morning read aloud and this month's artwork from CHC's Liturgical Masterpieces. We read the story of The Annunciation as presented in Tomie dePaola's Mary: The Mother of Jesus - or rather, I read while the boys munched away on their crumbcakes.

Just before we began math, we remembered to light the candle in our prayer corner ...


It glows at the foot of our Blessed Mother statue and beside Earlybird's Hail Mary board book. We made this candle back in October, when we celebrated the Feast of the Angels; the blue ribbon symbolizes Gabriel, who visits Mary in today's Gospel story.


Later, on our way home from speech, we stopped by church to bring roses to Mary. There is a beautiful statue of Our Lady beside a small pond, and we like to visit it on Marian feasts. This is the first time Earlybird has ever done this. Usually he's too likely to run near the street, but today he did well.

"Who's that?" I asked EB, pointing to the statue as we pull in.

"Ma-yeeee," he said.


It was a good start, but EB dropped his rose immediately upon exiting the van and made a bee-line for the water. He promptly began tossing in any stray piece of foliage or debris he could find. Once he began with small pebbles, Bookworm, Crackerjack and I said a short prayer and placed our roses by the edge of the pond. Just as EB heaved one of the small flagstones into the water I decided five minutes devotion was better than none, and we headed home for lunch.


They were such lovely five minutes, though, on this quiet March morning. A little hectic, keeping the boys focused and the rock tossing down to a minimum. The wind was quite chilly, but the van was nice and toasty when we got back in. We took the long way home, as EB called out:

"Ma-yeee rocks!"

Yes, my love. In her own beautiful and gentle way, Mary does, indeed, rock. :)

It is now eveningtime and we've finished our lessons for the day. Bill is home, the house is filled with the good smells of supper and the rain is falling hard against the windows. It really was such a nice day, and celebrating our faith took no more than a few simple gestures, a few familiar words.

Days like these are sweet blessings. Simple but memorable. Easy but meaningful. As I turn in tonight, I will say a prayer of gratitude for these "everyday" days of my life. And I will say a prayer that each one of you has a peaceful and blessed tomorrow.

Good night!

A Page from the Early Spring Notebook

Much ado about the house and garden ...


~ Rake garden debris and freshen the ground for new growth. Spring1_2

~ Plan out this year's garden plot; purchase seeds at the nursery.

~ Note where where more bulbs should be planted this fall.

~ Clean and inspect outdoor garden pots.

~ Have lemonade, bubble wands and solution on hand for that first warm day.

~ Set out nesting material for the birds.

~ Hang a birdhouse a bit aways from the feeders.

~ Set up a compost bin.

~ Take a neighborhood walk and look for signs of spring.

~ Pull out the muckers and ponchos; make plans for puddle days.

~ Start seeds indoors; set them in a warm, sunny window.

~ Sweep the front walk.

~ Clean up the outdoor toy equipment.

~ Order fresh mulch (extra for under the playset).

~ Buy fresh sand for the sand box.Spring2_2

~ Have the lawn mower serviced.

~ Check on the children's gardening tools.

~ Clean the deck (or porch as the case may be); haul out the outdoor furniture.

~ Dig out the spring puppets; brainstorm a nature story or two.

~ Learn a spring poem.

~ Watch clouds.

~ Look for rainbows.

~ Walk in the woods.

~ Catch tadpoles.

~ Spring ahead on 3/11.

~ Stock the rainy day craft cupboard.Spring4_1

~ Check on Easter attire - what needs replacing, cleaning, pressing?

~ Change the beds from flannel to cotton.

~ Crack open the windows at night to listen for peepers.

~ Visit the local farm.

~ Shampoo the carpets, wash the windows; hang screens, pack away storms.

~ Schedule a spring cleaning weekend.

~ Clean the curtains - at home or professionally.

~ Begin new home-learning year research.

~ Think about/plan for summer vacation (day trips too).

~ Dig out the soccer gear - set up the practice net.

~ Bring down the spring clothes; pack away winter ones.

~ Organize field bags.

~ Attend a sheep-shearing - bring home fresh clean wool for crafts.Spring3_5

~ Outline spring nature study goals.

~ Clean up and organize the potting shed.

~ Invite friends for a Park Day.

~ Research natural dyes for wool and eggs, come Easter.

~ Attend a maple sugaring demonstration - bring home maple syrup for the larder.

~ Order the Easter ham.

~ Press the table linens; polish the silver.

~ Make sure there is a kite ready for a blustery day.Spring6_1

~ Pull out the wildflower field guide.

~ Have the bird guide ready for identifying migratory birds.

~ Make a toad home for the children's garden.

~ Plan to break from lessons early on Opening Day. :)

~ Gather pussy willows and make a wreath for the door.

~ Plan a picnic for Arbor Day; plant a new tree.


Spring5_4Whew! That's quite a list, isn't it? Certainly most of these are could-do's and not necessarily must-do's. Still, it's fun to think about all the bustle and buzz that spring brings to the home and garden.

So, what's on your spring to-do list? :)

(P.S. Thank you, dear Alice, for the lovely garden stickers - I've been waiting for just the right moment to use them!)



The glistening view from our deck this morning ...

The calm after the storm! It is bright and sunny here today - like a winter wonderland!

A few notes ...

Typepad was down yesterday so I could not put up a post about some crafts we did for Valentine's. I will try to put that up later today. It's figuring to be a busy day, so it might be much later!

Also, today is the last day for Field Day submissions! If you have had trouble e-mailing me, I am very sorry, and please do try again (drNOSPAMhanigan@verizon.net - take out the NOSPAM before sending). And/or please leave me a comment here and I will get in touch with you asap!

Oh, and if you did send me an email, but you did not hear back from me, please let me know. My email has been glitchy lately ... perfect timing, right? Lol.

Well, we are preparing for a big (postponed) Valentine's party here tomorrow with our dearest friends ... so lots to do, lots to do! :)

Blessings to you on this beautiful day!

From Today's Mass ...

We're just on our way out to visit our Damee (stopping for muffins on the way!) but Divine_mercy_2I wanted to share this quick quote from Mass.

Today's homily was given by our deacon (his first) and it was just wonderful. His last words struck me especially - so much so that as the collection basket was being passed I fished out my notepad and wrote them down!

"We know what happened to the Apostles. We know how the story ends. We are the later chapters in the Gospel. We give our response in a thousand little ways every day.

Trust in The Lord. Put your nets out deep."

(Today's Gospel can be found here.)

The image on the right is one of the holy cards passed out after Mass. On the back are listed the names of all the seminarians of the Archdioscese of Boston. Father asked us to pray for them and the 60 young men visiting the seminary this weekend to discern a possible vocation. Will do, Father!

In other exciting parish news, the 2007 VBS dates were announced! Yeehaw! We've marked our calendars for early August!

Off for now - have a bright and blessed Sunday!

Color Take II: Rainbow Sherbet

After posting all about our woodsy greens and browns, I started noticing a whole different kind of palette around me - soft and sunny pastels. Not surprisingly, most of these things are Mama's. :)

For example ...


A favorite magazine collection ... fanned out in soft hues ...


My weekly planning materials ...


My favorite homeschooling book and a notebook I made to go with it ...


A glorious suncatcher over the computer window ...


A sampling of note cards from my correspondence basket ...


My favorite bookshelf - all my liturgical resources ...


A placemat craft we made for Crackerjack ...


Our holy card collection so far ...


My favorite sweaters (missing is my most favorite orange!) ...


My reading basket (February issues always sport lots of pink) ...


A favorite nature diary, open to a soothing page ...


My favorite craft yarn ... doesn't it look like a lollipop?


Even my vacuum is pastel-hued! (Ooh, and very full - see I told you I use it daily!)


The duvet is rather citrusy (and there's that woodsy theme again) ...


But the most vibrant pink in the household is seen through the eastern windows ... just about dawn.

Thanks for stopping by and have a great day!   

The Little Things


Above are today's family faith notebook pages. On the left is Crackerjack's coloring page about St. Francis de Sales, and on the right is the Our Lady Queen of Peace page. We simply glued a print-out of Our Lady's image onto a larger image of the earth ("Peace-on-Earth") and then pasted the whole thing onto a golden doily (I know, I know - there I go with the doilies again, lol!). Finally, we backed it all with a piece of cream-colored card stock.

What I like about these little activities - and I know they are very little - is that they are done so quickly and easily, for the most part. It's so easy to make time for a little project, a prayer, a candle or a story each day. Just time enough for a cup of tea to cool or a batch of cookies to come out of the oven.

Certainly there are some projects that require more detailed work and closer attention, but I really like making our faith an everyday kind of thing - does that make sense? I mean, there are definitely things we must observe and honor with much greater attention and sincerity. I don't mean to trivialize our faith by making these small efforts, which might seem superficial.

I don't mean them to be superficial. My hope is that they are filling a vessel - three precious vessels - with a small drop of faith every day.

I don't wish our faith to be something we just "do" on Sundays. I want our faith to breath its beautiful life into our daily comings and goings. I want it to feel familiar and comfortable, and still awesome and glorious ...

Oh, I don't think I'm making sense and that usually means it's time for bed. :)

Tomorrow brings another day to explore and embrace. I hope you have a restful night and will "see" you in the morning. God bless!

My Heart is Bursting!

Just now, Bill and I were sitting on the couch with our (extremely early) morning coffee, while Earlybird puttered about, playing with his cars and watching Mr. Rogers. He gestured to a basket of books I keep high up on the shelves and said,

"Take back (basket), Mama?"

So I pulled down the basket and allowed him to look through the books. These are all the older boys' religous books that are too small to stand up well on the shelf - like the ones by Fr. Lovasik, the little books about our church, and the children's missals etc.

Sitting on the floor, EB spread them all out, picked up each one and looked it all over. He held up this one and said, "Who dat?"

I wasn't sure which person he was referring to, so I simply asked him, "Earlybird, who are all these books about?"

"Dod," he replied.

"God? Yes, God! They are books about God," I said with a (huge, beaming) grin.

I looked over at Bill - surprised that EB brought forward this fact all on his own. These are not books I've used with him before - of course they're always around, so he's seen them, heard them read aloud.

Next he picked up this book, held it out to us and said, "That Mayee."

That's Mary. Oh my goodness, my sweet boy, that is Mary!

First of all he used all these words without prompting and second of all he knew! He just knew right away who Our Dear Lady was!

"Oh, Earlybird, yes that is Mary!" I replied.

Then, EB held up The Baltimore Catechism and said, pointing to the cover.

"That Ee-uh."

At this point there were tears in my eyes. That's Jesus! EB said, "That's Jesus." He remembered all on his own and he said it without any help. Oh, my dear boy! How is it I fall behind when you are forging ahead?

And that is my dear son with such a big challenge to overcome, but with an even bigger heart. My dear little one who remembers the things I have taught him and soaks in all the more - all the doings and goings on around him. You should have seen the pleasure on his face as we responded with such delight and affirmation.

I must remember this moment. I must remember my boy's attention is improving. I must strive to keep up!

Just yesterday I prayed while vacuuming (I love to pray when I vacuum), asking for strength and direction. And here this morning, I have found both. God is so good.

EB's speech delay is a real struggle, but one he is (we are) overcoming in small steps each and every day. And some days with more excitement than others! :) 

I just can't think of a better way to start my day.

My Earlybird, you are working so hard - thank you for reminding me once again just how hard! I am so proud of you!


Goodness ...

How very blessed I am by such wonderful friends.

I feel like I've been hugged, smiled upon and embraced. I've been pleasantly surprised by my sweetie and my friends:


Lisa, who brought hot white chocolate from my favorite coffee shop ...


And Beth, who brought this gorgeous *pink* birthday cake ... (We missed you Wendy; can't wait till next co-op!)

I had a call from my college roommate (Hi, Kathy!) whom I haven't seen in ... gosh, has it been years? Oh, how much trouble we've gotten into fun we've had over the years. It was lovely to hear her voice.

And now, how did Ina know it was my birthday? You might remember I had a brief but blissful encounter with the Barefoot Contessa herself just a month ago. Well, just a few minutes ago I received this in my in-box:

Dear Dawn,
Ina asked me to drop you a note of thanks for the lovely letter that you delivered to her while she was on her national book tour.  She is absolutely overwhelmed by the response she received from so many people about her books, recipes and television show. You're so nice to share your enthusiasm with her.
The picture of your son "hugging" Ina on the television was so sweet.  Ina is delighted that (Earlybird) enjoys watching the Barefoot Contessa show.  She is always amazed at how many children want to meet her on the book tour because they watch the show every day. 
It was a pleasure to meet you at the book signing event.  Thank you again for your nice comments.   
Best wishes for a very Happy New Year!
Barbara Libath
Assistant to Ina Garten

Hoo boy, it's been such a heady and happy day. I wanted to take a moment to thank everyone for their well wishes.

I simply don't feel 38 - just shy of 40 - I feel just like I did when I was seven:


Pressing my nose against the frosty windowpanes, wondering if the snow might cancel my party. (It always snowed on my birthday.) Smelling the cake my mum had baking, dressing up in my handmade, all-time favorite birthday dress, feeling like an all-grown-up "lady."

Everyone who left comments or sent emails, called me (Mum and Dad!) or who mentioned me in posts ~ you cannot possibly know how much joy you brought to my day. It's been so fun!

(P.S. Just to explain the Google link above which at first glance, probably seems a bit obscure. Recently I learned that people can find my blog through a search engine. (In other words, it's now public.) It's become, ahem, a bit of a pastime of mine to check what random search terms have landed people here. (So random!) Bill of course, knows this and did his own "fake" google search just for me to find with his own special message. So cute.)

Anyways, thank you all for a lovely birthday! Good Night and God bless!

Ten Things I Love that Begin with "R"

I saw this meme at Semicolon, where Sherry listed the Ten Things She Loves that Begin with the Letter C. Sherry very kindly assigned me the letter R, and so, without further ado, here's my list:

1. Rainy days. Call me odd, but I really love them. I don't even mind a week full of them. They provide a great excuse to stay home and do the next thing I love ...

2. Reading. I'm sure most of my visitors agree with me here. As a home educator it kind of comes with the territory, but I've always loved reading. I was an early reader (3) and an English major in college. These days I am pursuing a living books education with my boys who, thankfully, also love reading (and being read to). It is by far my most favorite hobby, and considering how much I love crafts, that's saying a lot. :)

3. Earlybird. My youngest son whose real name, my maiden name, begins with the letter R. What can I say about my 5 year old sweetie that I haven't already said? He's a love, and boy, do I love him.

4.  Religion. Which in my case is Roman Catholic. I was born and raised Catholic, attended Catholic schools and married a Catholic with whom I am now raising three boys in our beautiful faith. I will add to this one, I love saying the rosary - my most favorite prayers said with repitition and in a comforting rhythm. And speaking of rhythm ...

5. Rhythm. No not in the musical sense - I can't hold a tune. What I love is the rhythm of the year, the seasons that come and go. The way the same things happen over and again - falling leaves, morning frost, snow flurries, budding leaves and thunderstorms - each season bringing a new understanding of, and a deeper joy in, the natural world.

6. Rainbow-colored yarn. One of my favorite craft supplies. We have at least three different color variations - pastel, jewel-toned and brights..

7. Recipe cards. Especially those hand-written by my mum and grandma. Not just for the recipes, but for the memories. I love how they represent their (our) vocation - we are mothers, the feeders of our family; recipe cards are part of our homekeeping repertoire. How I love the recipe for Grandma's "Spig" Sauce (shorthand for spaghetti) written in my mother's lovely hand.

8. Red squirrels. If you've been following my blog for a while, you won't be surprised at this entry. After my cats, these tiny critters are my most favorite animals. One of the reasons I love them so is because they remind me of the Beatrix Potter tales (and that little imp Squirrel Nutkin). I've always thought of them as a British species so I was quite pleased to discover we had them living in our woods. I will add to this critter list, robins, roosters and red foxes, too.   

9. Record-keeping. And by that I mean the records of daily life. Bits and pieces - notes on the nuances of the every day. To capture them in print - here and in my journals is a favorite pastime. I love looking back at old journals (and blog archives) to remember what was and reflect on what might be.

10. Rhubarb and roses. My grandfather grew both, famously. His roses were astoundingly beautiful - my favorite was the pale lavender tea rose that grew by the chimney. His rhubarb was an old and hardy plant that grew out in the pool yard. Every spring he would stew it with sugar till it was soft, tender and sweet. Pies and jams came next, but I best remember sitting on the back steps, dipping stalks of rhubarb into a cup full of sugar.

And there's 10! This was fun - and I'm glad Sherry assigned me R because I had to really think about that one!

If you'd like to participate in this meme, leave me a comment below, and I'll assign you a letter!

A Few Pictures to Share ...

I did manage a picture of the mantel on Christmas eve, just after we hung the stockings - and just before we shooed the kids off to bed (they went willingly!). It was very exciting for us, as this was the first year we had a real mantel! Not shown is the stocking for the cats ... oh, yes, we include our beloved felines in much of the holiday celebration. Come Christmas morning their stocking always holds a few surprises like a new food dish, a pet brush and, much to their mortification, a suet cake or two for the birds.


Yesterday was a nice day of rest and recovery. I couldn't help but snap a picture of the cozy little corner from which I barely (rarely) moved. All I needed was my laptop, my favorite seasonal idea books, and the mug of coffee my husband brought me - isnt he a dear? This is decaf (I think he determined I'd had enough caffeine by 2 p.m.) with a splash of Bailey's (for medicinal purposes, you know) and a generous dollop of homemade whipped cream that he made himself (!) with my Christmas gift -a Braun Three-in-One Hand Blender. (Not to detract at all from this loving gesture, but I think he wanted to get his hands on the new kitchen toy, lol.) The coffee was as yummy and soothing as it looked:


It's probably not wise to have this many delicious leftover Christmas treats just hanging around the house. Not wise - but wonderful!


Clockwise from upper left - jam thumbprints, fudge brownies with white chocolate chips, eggnog cookies and chocolate chip cookies, tiny sprinkled sugar cookies, iced butter cookies, a mixed bag of all kinds of cookies, my mum's butter-and-whiskey cake (a tradition on Christmas and Bill's birthday request every year), penuche fudge, another mixed platter of cookies and a package of Stella Dora's that obviously did not need to be opened! (Of course these all arrived beautifully arranged on pretty platters and holiday dishes, but for storage purposes they've been transferred to assorted Tupperware containers and Ziploc bags.)

So Christmas was (is!) here and it left in its wake, quite an array of goodies, gifts and assorted holiday debris. This week we're inching closer "back to business" ... but we're still half-on, half-off our regular routine. After weeks of preparing it's hard to adjust back to schedule! We're just doing lots of reading and remembering this week for the most part. Next week it will be back to things like, oh, math and geography. :)

I also hope to work on my "New Year Planbook" this week (a section I'm lifting out of my homekeeping binder - I just need to have it more accessible and portable). This week I'll be setting up the files, the weekly planner and monthly calendar, looking through my seasonal idea books and sketching out some hopes and goals for 2007. I'll also look at where we are in our studies, and adjust and re-think a few areas - what's working, what's not, that sort of thing. I'll post about it all as soon as I can!