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A Spot of Thanksgiving Tea 💛

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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 ...


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 ...


... 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 ...


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 ...


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. :)


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 ...


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

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


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 ...


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. :)


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!


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 ...


(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 ...


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?)


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!


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!


How about a Planner Post ... Party? (+ a giveaway)

But first, a word from our sponsor ...

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... whose generous afternoon nap brought you today's post.


Well, I just had to start with that sweet little face in the adorable acorn hat - a lovely gift from my dear friend, Kelly. Some kids are just hat kids - and Little Bear is definitely one of them! All summer long it was baseball caps, or straw hats, or floppy-brimmed bucket hats ... every day he was outdoors - with a hat! But now that there's a chill in the air, we're all about warm, knitted things ... such as this gorgeous, handcrafted treasure.

How happy does he look? How very "fall" is this photo? How lucky am I to have such generous and talented knitter-friends?!

(Kelly has blessed our LB with a treasure, and I truly treasure her friendship!)

Ok, now, back to the topic at hand ... planners! (Or calendars, if you prefer that term.) I am in a real planner/calendar mood lately ... I've been scoping out Pinterest for ideas and tweaking my main planning binder and loving (still!) my new daybook, and now, I'm eager ready to chat. I have a draft-post in the works - and you all know I can talk at great length about planning - but I am curious to see/hear what you have going on planning-wise!

So, how about I host a "planner party" here next week?

I'm thinking near to the end of the week, so we all have time to get our planners together. All "dressed up and ready to party," so to speak. Here's what I'm thinking:

I want to know what you are using for a calendar/planner (or planners as the case may be) and how you like it (them) or not. I would also love to see your planner(s) if possible - so if you are able, you might send me a picture or two? (Or three, or four, I'm not picky.)

I will do a post about my own calendars and planners and then share what you all have sent me in my post. I will only publish your first name (or a pseudonym if you prefer), your words and your pic, if you sent one - or more. (I can't stress enough pics are welcome! I think we all love to see people's planners!)

So, please send me an email with your planner input here:

bysunandcandle AT gmail DOT com

I'll bug nag remind you about the post over the next several days. I'm thinking Friday for the actual posting, so I'd appreciate submissions by Thursday please.

Now, not to bribe you or anything ... ahem ... but I may just have a little "autumn bliss giveaway" as an incentive for those who participate. Just a little something fun I have in mind ... Join the party and you've entered your name!

(Note: If you'd rather not email,  you are also welcome to write your thoughts in the comments box below ... I will add these to the post next week.) 

Well my friends, the aforementioned nap looks to be nearing its end, so I'm going to wrap up for now. The autumn sun outside my window is nearing the tops of the trees, which means it's time to shift gears, stretch limbs and get back on track! First up - a diaper change and a couple of good books. Then we'll start in on supper. :)

But I thank you as always for reading, and I wish you all a pleasant evening ...

See you here again very soon!

ETA! Here is an exciting update to the Planner Party Post GIVEAWAY information!

A Woodsy Little Tea ...

Good Tuesday morning, my friends!

Well, it seems Typepad is back in working order this morning, so I'm here to say Hello! I hope you all had a nice weekend. I'd like to share a few pictures of a little "moms' tea" I hosted Sunday afternoon for a few dear friends:

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I used my beloved pinecone tea set, the one I bought for a song at a discount store many years ago ... I set the tea table up in the living room where we gathered, in front of a sunny window. And for refreshments, we had strawberry-rhubarb coffee cake (purchased from a local farm) and tender butter spritz cookies ...

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... there were also fresh strawberries to nibble on and, of course, there was tea! (Black English Afternoon Tea to be exact.)

Before my friends arrived, I arranged a samplng of our woodland blossoms into jars and pitchers - azaleas and lily-of-the-valley as well as a clump of the yellow archangel which is, quite frankly, taking over our property. Invasive, but quite pretty.

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 Fourteen years ago, I started homeschooling alongside these dear ladies ...

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We try to meet, at least once a year, for a little "tea and conversation" ... to catch up and compare notes. Years ago (though it seems like just yesterday!) we were discussing curriculum and co-op - nowadays we're grappling with college decisions and life "after homeschooling." (Though a couple of us are still in the thick of it!)

Speaking of which, this little guy was thrilled to be part of the "tea," because otherwise it was a "child-free" event ...

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It was such a fun day and I loved having them all here ... hope to do it again soon!

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Well, thanks so much for stopping by and letting me share my day with you ... I hope you enjoy your Tuesday, my friends!

I'll be back here again very soon ...

All Hallows, All Saints and All Souls ...

Good Morning my friends! And Happy November!

I'd like to share a few pictures from our Halloween, if I may. It was a lovely day - and a dry, cool night. A real mix of clouds and sun (and clouds and moon) and that crisp October air. Very autumnal.

We always begin our holiday by making note of the sunrise ...

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We were out and about earlier in the day, and then after lunch it was all about finishing up lessons and getting ready for our night!

Usually, Bill does the pumpkins with the boys, but with the hurricane and all, it just did not get done. So it was up to me to oversee the project - and wield the knife! - though I told the boys I drew the line at handling pumpkin guts, lol.

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The cats were fascinated with the whole process. :)

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Here are Crackerjack's designs: one "funny face" and one "fearsome face."

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These two jacks were placed on our front steps, nestled into garden planters on either side of the front door.

Some treats of the healthy kind ...

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And otherwise. ;)

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Throughout the afternoon I tidied the house, decorated a Halloween cake, and baked a couple of carrot breads with Earlybird. I also put on my favorite Halloween movie of all time ~ Meet Me in St. Louis, which may seem a strange choice, but if you remember the Halloween scene ("Tootie's the most horrible! She's the bravest of them all!") you'll know why I love it. :) 

At last the sun began to set ...

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And Halloween night was upon us!

We live in a quiet, sprawling neighborhood so we get a LOT of trick-or-treaters. I'm always anxious over the amount of candy we've purchased - will it be enough? One year we nearly ran out, and I was rifling through the boys' snack stash to see what I could add to the mix!

And we are very fortunate to have wonderful friends gather with us each year for tricks-or-treats. It's fun to see how the kids have changed each year! The dads take the kids around the neighborhood while the moms stay at home to pass out candy (and chat).

Bill took this picture (with his phone) of our younger boys out and about:

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Earlybird was a soccer player - though he insisted he was "just Earlybird" - and Crackerjack was a skeleton.

Once the gang got back from trick-or-treating, we had cider and cake ... and then the candy-trading commenced!

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 Our group shrinks a bit each year as the older kids get busy with various activities - for instance, Bookworm was at class last night and it felt strange not to have him with us! But that's what happens as life moves on - things necessarily change. Of course, next year our ranks will grow again - we'll have a new little one joining us! I mentioned that last night and Crackerjack piped up:

"I can't wait to take the little papoose out trick or treating!"


Well, now Halloween's a thing of the past, and we have two lovely feast days to celebrate: All Saints today, and All Souls tomorrow. By necessity, I'm keeping plans simple this year ...

Today we'll clean and fill our feeders and spruce up the nature corner in honor of our family patron, Saint Francis. And those of us who can make it will attend morning Mass.

For tomorrow, I'll arrange our altar of remembrance - we have little baby food jars all clean and ready to turn into votives. And if the weather's good and we have time, we'll stop by the cemetery to pay respects and maybe do some grave rubbings. And perhaps I'll bake those donuts I usually bake on Halloween morning (but did not this year) and of course there will be "Mexican" for supper. :)

Simple joys, really - little ways to stay connected to our Faith and all its lovely traditions. I just love this time of year ... it feels like an ending of one season and the beginning of another. And so it is - we're nearing the start of the holiday season as well as a new liturgical year ... and of course, the natural year is winding down swiftly as well.

Well my friends, I'll be off. I hope this week's been kind to you, and I wish you all a good day ...

See you here again very soon!

Thoughtful Thursday: Natural Cold Remedies


My friend Jenney has a lovely blog called Journey Towards Simplicity - she's a wonderful writer and has many great natural living ideas over there! I thought this post was particularly timely since so many people I know - and live with - are dealing with terrible colds at the moment. I'm going to make up some of Jenney's "Mama's Chest Rub" this weekend ... a quick trip to Whole Foods should provide me with the few simple ingredients I need.

Now, so far I have eluded the currently circulating cold, but I'm sure it's only a matter of time ... because if it's not this cold, it may be the next one. And I'm kind of living in fear of it, to be honest, because this time around I can't take any medicine! (Dayquil is usually my one true salvation when a cold hits. Hardly a "natural" remedy, but it works wonders!)

So I stand here at the brink of cold & flu season - surrounded by sick people, lol - and thinking about both sides of infection (preventing + soothing). I'm looking to arm myself with information and advice ...

My friends, what are your favorite natural (homemade) cold remedies? What should I add to my Whole Foods list?

Here's what I have so far ...

lots of fluids

fragrant oils for steam

(I'm not a fan of eucalyptus, so maybe something else?)

vitamin c and zinc?

lemon & honey

favorite fruits

decaffeinated tea


*I'm a little nervous about herbal/vitamin supplements - only because I don't know what's safe for pregnancy and what's not. I'm sure if I "google" the issue I'll find plenty of (possibly conflicting) information, but I'll turn to my friends and readers first ... as well as my midwife, of course.


Well my friends, I hope this week's been treating you well. I have my first OB appt. today so please wish me luck! I'll ask about "nursing a cold when you're pregnant" and let you know what she tells me.

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

Travel Journal: My Vermont Weekend

Hello, everyone!

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So for the past three years, my college girlfriends and I have enjoyed an annual "moms weekend away" somewhere in New England. In 2009 we traveled to Newport, RI ... and last year we met up on Cape Elizabeth, ME. Our destination this year was southern Vermont, one of my most favorite places on earth!

 Needless to say, this is a crazy-long post filled with lots and lots of pictures. So if vacation photos are not your thing, please feel free to skip this post and return when I've moved onto my next topic. ;)

So we left last Friday morning and arrived at the Castle Hill Resort & Spa in Proctorsville, Vermont around 3 p.m. The day was just glorious - perfectly sunny and warm.

*Arriving at Castle Hill*

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Isn't this building (aka The Castle) beautiful? This was once the home of Governor Allan M. Fletcher (1912-1915). It was the first Vermont residence to have electricity which I thought was quite interesting.

Our first order of business, stretching our legs and ...

*Exploring the Grounds*

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My dear friends, and travel companions, Lynne and Dionne. Lynne is the one who researched and organized the whole weekend, finding us this wonderful spot. She also drove us - up to, around, and home from Vermont again. D. handled navigation and any money matters - figuring expenses and divvying up checks, etc.

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D. and I by the spa sign ... we never indulged in any spa services, but we left feeling refreshed all the same!

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(It was beautiful though! And oh my goodness, it smelled fantastic!)

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(Pretty natural things, inside and out.)

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And next we met up with the rest of our crew and settled into our suite ...

*Our Little Home Away from Home*

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More dear friends of mine: Kathy, Allison and Mo. :)

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The suite was quite spacious - and light-filled as you can see.

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(Yes, those are my magazines on that bed. Lol, I brought about a dozen!)

After cocktails on the deck, admiring the view and catching up, we headed out for ...

*Our "Fancy Dinner" at The Castle*

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Such a beautiful setting ...

I was pretending (just a little) that I was visiting Downton Abbey. ;)

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Dinner was amazing! And after a late night of talking ... and talking ... we finally got to bed sometime around midnight. (Way past my bedtime as most of you know!)

Now unfortunately I just could not program myself to sleep in - no matter how hard I tried - so I was up around 6:30 Saturday morning. But fortunately, I was able to enjoy a beautiful sunrise as I sat on the deck, with my coffee and camera close at hand.

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After coffee and some "pumpkin streusel coffee cake," we piled into the minivan and were off for some ...

*Saturday Adventures*

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With Mt. Okemo looming in the distance, we headed south to Weston and our first stop:

*The Vermont Country Store*

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Where they truly have everything!

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 Homespun tablecloths ...

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... moose hats ...

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... long-forgotten soaps and shampoo ...

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... funny paper masks ...

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... storage supplies ...

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... maple syrup (of course!) ...

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... handcrafted mugs of all kinds ...

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... interesting history ...

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... household items for every imaginable need ...

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... lots of sweet stuff ...

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... and coffee!

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Bags in tow, we took a moment to "re-group" after shopping.

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To be honest, I could have stayed there all day, but it was time for a little refreshment, so we took a drive out to the ...

*Long Trail Brewery*

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(Had to snap the trestle bridge picture for Earlybird!)

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It was another gorgeous day, so we enjoyed our lunch out on the deck ...

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I'm not much of a beer drinker myself, but when in Rome and all ... and actually, this pale ale was quite nice!

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After lunch and a brewery tour, we all bought souvenir t-shirts and sampler packs for our hubbies, who had so generously stayed home to hold down the forts while we were off having fun. 

Next stop:

*Our Requisite Cultural/Historical Experience*

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But since I have sooo many pictures from the wonderful Calvin Coolidge Museum, I will put them all in a separate photo album, otherwise this post will just get ridiculously long. (Not that it's not already!) I'll get that album together later this week.

By evening we had returned to the suite and stayed in for dinner and a movie. It was the perfect quiet evening after a very busy day. Sunday morning we lingered at the suite as long as we could and then headed off to breakfast at ...

*The Hatchery*

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(The apple cinnamon pancakes were fabulous!)

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Do these gals look refreshed or what? I just love these ladies so much!

This is a small sampling of our whole group - several women could not make it this year. We've all been friends since our freshman year in college ... and I won't tell you how long ago that was, lol - but suffice it to say, it's been a while! We're all moms now, and busy with our families and careers, etc. but when we come together like this, it just seems like the years and distance all melts away. I feel blessed to have these ladies in my life and so grateful we're able to do this ...

And speaking of feeling blessed and grateful, it goes without saying - but I'm going to say it anyway - I am SO thankful that Bill encourages me to do this. He is such a trooper about it - taking on all the responsibilities at home for two and a half days. It's a whole lot of work but he makes sure it all goes smoothly and that I don't worry or feel guilty about it. The boys are good about it too - though each time I called home, Earlybird would say, "I miss you Mama and I want you to come home."

Ok, so after breakfast we headed for home ... but there was one more stop to make ... the other Vermont Country Store! (It just so happened to be right on our way ...)

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(And who can resist just a wee bit more Vermont shopping?)

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(I tried on a few of these hats and was very tempted to make a purchase.)

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And then finally, roundabouts 4 p.m., I was truly back home! I brought back some yummy goodies for the family, a pair of new fleece slippers for myself, as well as a lovely new mug ...

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(Every time I use it I'll remember this wonderful weekend away.)

 So it's back to reality now, and I'm trying hard to catch up. But we're already making plans for and looking forwards to next year ...

Our 2013 destination: the great state of Connecticut! 


Well, thanks so much for stopping by, and taking the time to read. I know it was a lot to sift through, but as designated "weekend photographer" I wanted to make sure to catch every moment. Our memories are only so reliable these days!

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

Crackerjack's Party - Finally!


Crackerjack turned 13 last month, but we had to postpone his "friends" party due to a very ill-timed stomach bug, so after a little reshuffling, we finally settled on a new date that everyone could do ... and that date was Saturday!

And I'm happy to report it was a wonderful day - first of all, the weather could not have been better - but most importantly, everyone was healthy and Crackerjack had a fantastic time! As usual, I have some pictures to share with you from our day ...

The theme of the party was "Legos" (or more specifically, Lego minifigs). We went with bright colors and lots of yellow smiley faces ...



We were especially glad for the good weather as we like to hold summer parties mostly outside, if possible ...

On the deck we set up seating and appetizers ...


And around the yard we set up play-stations:


The canopy covered the Wii zone ...

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We moved the foosball table outside, too, situating it just beside the "jumper."


And CJ asked for a Lego "free-build" station ... but somehow the kids never really got around to building very much! They were too busy eating and playing, I guess.


Now, the cats were not pleased to be stuck in a bedroom for the day ... but with all the kids running in and out, I was nervous about doors being left open. (Archie and Ollie are strictly indoor cats.) So they hung out in this window and observed the goings-on ...though Oliver certainly made his displeasure known, as you can see here.

We ordered pizzas for lunch and I made up a big salad ... but unfortunately I just did not have the time or energy to make another minifig cake! I broke it to CJ, who took the news well, and instead, I picked up a store-bought sheet cake which we decorated with minifigs. I also made up a homemade cake (seen here in the background) for people who (like my EB) are sensitive to food dyes and other artificial ingredients.


Happily, the "party punch" was a BiG hit!


Party punch was something special my mum made for my birthday parties when I was a girl. It's very simple to make, but the effect is so cool! I start with a juice drink base (in this case, lemon-berry punch) and then I add scoops of rainbow sherbert. Over it all I add a carbonated beverage - usually, Sprite or ginger-ale, but CJ requested peach soda ... and it was delicious!

I think the kids got a real kick out of it. :)


Here's the birthday boy at the cake station ...

... and outside with some of his friends, playing Wii.


Another special day for our Crackerjack ...


He's such a great kid! I'm so glad we can do this for him and that we have such wonderful friends with which to share these special days.


Well, I hope you all are enjoying your weekend, and to my friends here in the states, Happy Labor Day! May we all find the rest and relaxation we need - some treasured time off with our loved ones - and when we return to our work this week, may it be with a refreshed spirit and recharged mind. ❤

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

A Summer Tradition

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We spent a lovely - albeit hot as blue blazes! - afternoon at our friends' annual tie-dye/pool party. Above you see my shirt, all tied and dyed and ready to go ... tomorrow I'll unveil the final "product." I like to choose a men's X-large t-shirt to tie-dye ... it makes for a cute summer nightshirt or a fun beach cover up. :)

Well, I hope you all had a nice Tuesday ... thanks so much for stopping by!

Friday Felines & Other Fun Things ... :D

All together now:

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Awwww ...

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Why yes, we did put those boxes under that bench, just for you guys. Why else would those boxes be there?

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This picture just cracks me up: Archie laying on top of Earlybird's stuff - backpack, sneakers and hat. He has a thing about being smack dab in the middle of things ...

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Ollie, meanwhile, likes to curl up somewhere out of the way - for instance, in the basement windows:

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Today we had our last Book Group meeting of the year (June's title: A Wrinkle in Time). Bookworm gave the moms a break and led the kids' discussion this month (he's going to do this next year, too). After the meeting ended, my friend Jenney and I took the kids out for ice cream ...

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A Beautiful Spring Friday - a great day to enjoy ice cream with friends. :) And while we were there we were visited by a red-winged blackbird.  

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Later, back at home, we spotted this cool little moth(?) in the clover patch.

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And I'm very happy to report the lavender is blooming!

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Friday is desk day ...

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Friday fun 5

 ❤ I'm a little in love with my desk. ❤

And guess what this is?

Friday fun 3

It's Crackerjack's new Lego Store Lego set!

Friday fun 2

He got this "exclusive set" last Saturday at the grand opening of a local Lego Store. It wasn't free, but you would get it for free if you spent $30 - which CJ was fully prepared to do. He and Bookworm had been saving money for some Lord of the Rings sets, so all in all, it was a pretty big day in this Lego neighborhood. :)


Well, my friends, I hope you've all had a nice Friday. Boy, did that week fly by fast! And now another weekend is upon us you have any special plans? Bookworm is taking the SAT again tomorrow (prayers are much appreciated!) and Crackerjack's team (tied for 1st place) has its final regular game of the season. Also, my "little" brother turns 40 (40!) this Monday so we'll be having a special little dinner for him on Sunday.

Lots of nice things to look forward to ...

See you all again very soon!

Remembering Memorial Day

Good Tuesday Morning, my friends!

What a lovely, long holiday weekend that was! Very festive and fun - but it's hard now to shift back into the "workweek!" Before I launch into my busy Tuesday, I thought I'd share a few pictures from our holiday ...

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I just liked this shot ... our front door open to let in morning light, the neighborhood waking slowly ...  Bill hung our American flag yesterday, and the cats were absolutely fascinated! I didn't get a shot of it, but Ollie in particular just could not take his eyes off this big, new, strange, waving thing ...

Eventually, they curled up and fell asleep in the doorway - I could not resist a picture of this:

Mem day 15

Midday, we hosted a cookout for family and friends ...

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I love setting up the buffet. :)

Here we have leftover Pentecost cupcakes - candles removed, flags inserted - made into Memorial Day treats!

Memorial cupcakes

I love the label on this ketchup bottle ...

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The dining table set with a patriotic display ...

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For our meal we had hamburgers and hotdogs, pasta salad, baked beans, chips, dip - the usual cookout fare. After lunch, we all meandered outside - some to sit and chat, some to play ...

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I served desserts on the deck ...

Mem day 8

There were cupcakes - both the aforementioned vanilla and sprinkle-topped chocolate (brought by Uncle Matt's lovely friend, Erin) - as well as ice cream with fresh berries and homemade raspberry sauce. Yum!

Love this picture of Crackerjack (with Bookworm in the background) ...

Mem day 7

Later on, after the guests had left, the kids lingered outside - it was such a beautiful, "summery" evening ...

Mem day 6

Bill tossed the football around with the boys, while I spied on our robin's nest ...

Mem day 5

Isn't it gorgeous? It's tucked just inside the lilac bush, sitting securely on the fence railing.

The sunset was lovely ... golden and soft. 

Mem day 3

A Memorial Day to remember ~ for family, friends, food, fun ...

Mem day 1

... and the blessing of freedom to enjoy it all!


Hope you all have a GREAT Tuesday ... see you here again very soon!

A Day at The (Science) Fair!

This post is about our homeschool group's Science Fair - and all the neat exhibits and nice kids - but most of all, it's a post about Earlybird and how he participated in his first science fair ever!

Sci fair 3

(The Fair was held in the community room of a local library. Unfortunately, there's not much natural light in this room, so my pictures are all rather dark.)

So to back up a bit, when I first got wind of the Fair, we - or rather, I - decided to do a tree project with Earlybird. I thought this would be easy since trees are readily available to observe. They are also something familar to EB and of which he is quite fond. There are other "scientific" things he likes - such as planets and steam engines - but he's a bit obsessive about those subjects. I thought we'd "branch out" a bit and choose something a little more low-key.

Ideally, when it comes to science fairs and the like, a child chooses his own subject. But EB can be funny about these things. Knowing that he'd balk at the idea of "doing a fair" or making all these activities "more important" than they seemed to be ... I kind of kept the Fair itself under wraps.

So we just started talking about and looking at trees everyday, and on Arbor Day, we conducted the "Tree Poll" at my blog. Then over this past week, leading up to the Fair on Friday, I kind of kicked things up a notch and we started creating a presentation from all our work. (At this point EB knew we were going to the library on Friday *with* Daddy because he had the day off, and that we'd see our homeschool friends there ... he still didn't know his tree project would be on display!)

And speaking of displays, here it is!

Sci fair 2

I chose an end corner next to the doorway for EB's display, because I wanted it to be easy for him to duck in and out of the room.

Our exhibit consisted of this:

A binder entitled "Trees by Earlybird" (only, we used his real name, natch) which contained many pages of tree-related information and activities (quotes from books we read, bark rubbings, worksheets, maps, pictures of "our" trees, a bibliography listing books we read, a favorite tree quote, etc.).

A bin holding "Tree Things" we collected: acorns and helicoper seeds, spruce cones (with fresh sap), bark, leaves, etc.

A maple tree sapling, complete with roots. (Pulled up from our front lawn.)

Also on display, our Tree Poll results!

Sci fair 4

Bill helped EB and me take our raw data and turn it into this great graph! (He used the Numbers program on my Mac to do this.) And as it turned out, maple trees are the most popular tree! (My own pick is the sugar maple - for its gorgeous, orange fall foliage - though I also love oak, apple and hawthorne trees, too.)

Just for fun, I had EB decorate a small tub with leaf stickers and we set up a small voting station as part of the exhibit. (Maples won, once again!)

Science fair 6

Fyi, the orginal results were as follows:

Maple ... 13 votes

Oak & Cherry ... 9 votes each

Birch & Willow ... 5 votes each

Dogwood, Apple & Eastern Redbud ... 4 votes each

Magnolia, Redwood & Japanese maple ... 3 votes each

The rest of the trees got 1 or 2 votes apiece: Poplar, Crepe Myrtle, Plum, Christmas, Banyan, Pine, Palm, Aspen, Ginko, Lemon, Lime, Mango, Carambola, Jacaranda, Pecan, Cedar, Balsam, Hemlock.


So the older boys and I had arrived ahead of time to help with set up. Bill brought Earlybird over a bit closer to the start time ... and as predicted, he completely changed his mind as they approached the library.

"No, I don't want to go to the Library! I just want to stay home!"

Fortunately, as EB gets older, it's easier to snap him out of these bouts of indecision and obstinance (they usually concern transitions of some kind). In this case I just took his hand and suggested a quiet turn about the library - no pressure, just walking around - and this seemed to re-set his batteries. Once he let go of that tension he was ready to try again ... in fact, look how excited he was to check the Fair out!

Science fair 1

Unfortunately (but not surprisingly) he would go nowhere near his own exhibit (or that of his brothers - seen below, to the left of EB's tree display) so I could not get a picture of him *with* his own project!

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I think he was quite over trees by now, lol. But he found the other exhibits very interesting!

Naturally, the solar system presentation was a huge draw.

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As was the shark exhibit ...

Science fair 9

 (He really wanted to get his hand in that blue water!)

As the room filled up with presenters and observers, EB got itchy, so Bill took him over to the children's room to decompress.

Science fair 11

Nothing beats a little train-table time for finding his "quiet" again.

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Meanwhile the kids finished setting up. I think there were 20 presenters in all! If I may, I'd like to give you all a little tour ...

Here we have a display about Bridges.

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And another on Migrating Birds.

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This one was all about The Human Heart.

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And this was an experiment on Current Electricity.

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This presentation was all about Aerodynamics ... that is a flight simulator program being demonstrated on the laptop. How clever!

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Here's a presentation on Robots ...

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... and another on Alchemy, an early form of chemistry, practiced in the Middle Ages.

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This was a very cool River Delta demonstration.

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And this was a super cool Magic Milk experiment!

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Some of the kids prepared talks to go along with their displays. This first talk was on Solar Energy - it was very enlightening! (And wonderfully dramatized!)

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This was perhaps the most adorable presentation I've ever seen. This little boy (I'm not sure of his age, but as you can see, he's quite young) prepared an exhibit all about the Saber-Tooth Tiger. His talk was very informative and focused. As he talked, he showed us his saber tooth fossil which looked just like the real thing - a tooth that could grow to be about 19 inches long! Unfortunately, however, as this young lad pointed out, his fossil tooth was only 10 inches long ... because they ran out of clay. :)

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And here are my older boys in the midst of their talk on Steampunk Science, aka "Victorian Era Science in Fact and Fiction, and How It Compares with Modern Day Reality." They talked about the Industrial Revolution, steam power and machines like submarines and airships as they were first imagined and then later invented. They brought books by Jules Verne and Scott Westerfield so they could give examples of science-influenced literature. And of course, they built Legos - a "steam-powered" airship and a scene from a famous "steampunk" movie, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.

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Not shown, but also present, were exhibits on the largest flower on earth, first aid, tsunamis, as well as a great ball contraption.

Everyone worked so hard on their projects and everyone was so good about paying attention and showing respect to others. They really are a great group of kids - and familes! - and we're blessed to be learning and living alongside them.

As for Earlybird, well wouldn't you know it, he ended up having a GRAND time at The Fair! He would dart out of the room if it got too crowded (or too quiet if a talk was being given) but he really enjoyed looking over all the exhibits and asking the kids to tell him all about what they had done. We were very proud of how well he handled himself, and the day, from start to finish!

The Fair wrapped up around 2 p.m. At this time we broke down the displays and tables, gathered our stuff, said our goodbyes and headed home.

And that was our Day at the (Science) Fair!

Now, before I go (and I know I've kept you here long enough!), I'd like to show you what EB and I set up in his room today ... see the third shelf down?

Space shelf 2

This is the kit that was used by the boy who did the Solar System exhibit - the one EB loved so much! It's called Smart Lab: Stars and Planets. My friend Patricia told me where to find the kit and today I picked one up!

And when I got home, EB and I set up a little "science fair space" in his room ...

Space shelf 3

He's quite pleased, as you can see ...

Space shelf 1

I think the wheels are already turning for next year!


Well my friends, I hope you enjoyed this (not-so-little) tour of our Homeschool Science Fair! Thank you so much for reading and letting me share the joy we found in our day. It really was such fun - a great experience to remember and build on.

Hope you're all having a good weekend ... I'll see you here again very soon!

Tea & Company

Tea table 1

Happy Weekend, my friends!

It's been a busy-busy day, but I wanted to pop in quickly to show you this beautiful photo. It really had nothing to do with me (or my camera) and everything to do with my friend, Debbie. She had us over for a visit yesterday, and I just had to show you the lovely tea table she set for us ... there was lemonade and chocolate-chip cookies for the boys, and tea and lemon pound cake for the moms.

She has such an eye for beautiful things - beautiful, vintage things, especially.


Also, while I'm here, I want to say thank you to everyone helping with Earlybird's Tree Poll. We'd love to gather more comments! He's excited to tally all your votes!

Have a great evening, everyone ... I'll be back again soon!

Our Bake Sale for Autism Speaks!

Well, after much planning and plotting, the big day finally arrived ... and I'm very happy to report it was a HUGE success!

Not only did everything go smoothly (thanks to lots of kind people, and many helpful hands) but - more importantly - we raised over seven hundred dollars in donations!

($770.42 to be exact - and every cent goes to Autism Speaks!)

My homeschool group mamas (and kids) worked so hard, and so well together, to pull off this Bake Sale. It was not only successful, but it was a whole lot of fun!

Would you like to see a few pictures?


Here I am with Crackerjack Friday night, working on posters ...

Bake sale 20

Next year I will have a "poster-and-sign-making day" so that we get all the kids involved in this part of the process. Not that I didn't enjoy making that poster (I had all those new markers to work with, after all) but this is something better left to the kids.

Here are the two tabletop signs ...

Bake sale 19

So bright and early Saturday morning we were up baking ... and packing ... and some folks were dropping off goodies for transport. Bill and the older boys headed to soccer, Nana arrived to hang out with Earlybird, and I ran out to pick up balloons (and a big ole iced coffee) ... and then it was on to the store!

Now, funny story (and I can call it funny now because it all turned out ok), but when I arrived at Stop & Shop, I first went to the Customer Service to "check in." I was told to do this way back last month when I confirmed our bake sale plans (date, time, etc.) with the store manager.

So the young lady at the customer service desk calls up the manager ... and then said manager comes out to greet me ... only he tells me, with a polite smile, that "he does not remember the bake sale of which I am speaking."

(This was me --> o.O <-- freaking out.)

Thankfully though, after chatting with me for a few minutes (and my reminding him of our phone calls, the letter he surely had on file, and the permit I had in hand) he said "he thought he recalled our previous conversation" and that it was "fine" for us to set up our bake sale on that day.


(Note for next year: Get manager approval in writing *and* call a few days ahead to re-confirm!)

Anyhoo ... once my panic subsided, I headed over to the vestibule to meet up with my friends and get started on assembling our corner. We set up our two six-foot tables off to one side of the vestibule. 

Bake sale 2

We had blue tablecloths and balloons, assorted trays and baskets and little blue "place cards" for all the goodies. And by noon, we were ready to go!

The kids really enjoyed calling attention to our Sale ... 

Bake sale 3

Bake sale 7

I think those bright smiling faces brought in a LOT of donations!

Our signs ...

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Bake sale 11

... and the sale tables, filled with all kinds of goodies:

Bake sale 12

We did this sale a little differently than a traditional bake sale. Instead of pricing our goodies, we just asked for donations and offered treats as our "thanks." All donations were welcome, because every little bit helps! So someone could decide how much to give and how much to take. And in almost every case people were so very generous - sometimes not even taking a treat!

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As for treats, we had a really nice variety: loaf cakes, fruit breads, brownies, and cookies of all kinds ...

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Rice krispy treats and cupcakes ...

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... Italian biscotti ...

Bake sale 5

... chocolate peanut butter candies ...

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... and adorable "cupcake cones!"

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And about midway through our Sale we had a visit from Earlybird! After soccer, Bill (along with Bookworm and Crackerjack) picked up my mum and EB. They came over to see how the Bake Sale was going. :)

Bake sale 14

EB was a bit overwhelmed - it was a lot to take in, and this was not his usual Stop & Shop - but he was really excited to see us!

(After a while, Bill took Mum and the boys over to my brother's - where a construction project was underway - but he left Crackerjack behind to help me with the Sale.)

So two other little snafus to speak of ... the first was rather scary and the second was pretty funny (if not a little embarrassing).

Just about noontime, we were all standing about chatting and doing our bake sale thing, when all of a sudden alarms were sounding and the manager was running into the vestibule, shouting and chasing after this guy ... who, come to find out, was a THIEF!

Apparently he and his girlfriend "accomplice" (waiting for him in a getaway car) had some kind of scam going on, but apparently not a very slick one, because the manager figured out what was up. So the thief ran - but not before leading the manager on a chase (including a throwdown!) around the vestibule - right in front of us, and through crowds of shoppers including our own children holding those signs!

So yeah, that was a bit of a story. (Bonnie and Clyde got away, by the way.)

The other thing that happened, about a half an hour before the end of our sale ...

Bake sale 15

Some of our balloons got sucked up into the ceiling fan!

And ooh, it made such an awful racket ... and it just got worse ... very embarrassing ... so I had to go tell someone (apologize, really). The Stop & Shop people let it slide, lol - the had bigger fish to fry at the moment. (I figured since we put up with their robbery debacle, we could call it all even.)

So by 4 p.m. our Bake Sale was done, and we were packed up and ready to go. All in all, it was a fantastic experience! In fact, I've already started a "file" for next year ...

Bake sale 18

I looked it over while I enjoyed my post-bake-sale breakfast.


Well, folks ... I hope you enjoyed this (rather lengthy) look at our Bake Sale experience! I am so happy the day ran so smoothly - save for stray balloons and sneaky grocery thieves, lol. Most of all, I am thrilled we raised so much money for Autism Speaks, and I hope we might have raised some awareness as well.

Enjoy your Sunday evening, my friends ... thanks so much for stopping by ... I will see you all again sometime soon!

A Lovely Little Painting

Sons and heroes painting 1

You might remember a while back I did a Spring Package Giveaway here at my blog. Well, the winner of the contest, EK White, sent me her own little "thank you" package in return! It arrived just the other day, a happy little parcel sticking out of my mailbox - and OH, how it made my day! Inside the package I found (in addition to a lovely note), this beautiful piece of artwork, which EK made herself. It's a mixed-media painting, done in soft blues and greens, and featuring a truly wonderful quote:

 "You don't raise heroes, you raise sons. And if you treat them like sons, they will turn out to be heroes, even if it's just in your own eyes."

~ Walter M. Shirra, Sr.

EK, thank you so much for this gift - I will treasure it always!

I'd like to mention, dear readers, that EK has a lovely Etsy shop where you can find paintings like this (and many other pretty things, too). You must take a look!


And speaking of pretty things, may I direct your attention to the brand spankin' new banner at the top of my page? I'm so excited about this new banner! And let me tell you why. I have always admired photo banners, but I have never taken the time to figure out how to do one properly. So up till now, when I do a photo for my banner, the dimensions are such that the image gets tiled. Not quite the look I was going for, but the best I could do! Well, today I explained this issue to Bill and, as he is known to do, he took over and within five minutes had the whole thing figured out! He showed me what to do (with pixels and whatnot) and ... voila! I now have a full photo banner JUST as I've always wanted! I'm tempted to play around with new images, but I really like these pale flowers for now. I bought them at Trader Joe's this morning, where I was picking up some fresh edamame (our new favorite snack). I could not resist these lovely blooms - so delicate and sweet - I love the way their petals catch the sun.

Well, my friends, I hope you are enjoying your weekend. It's a lovely one here in New England - sunny and unseasonably warm. (Marathon Monday may hit 90 degrees!) Tomorrow I will be catching up on blog comments (I'm sorry I've once again fallen behind ...) and then, look for my "Masterpiece Monday" post to focus on this weekend's Titanic, more so than MC's Edwin Drood. I do plan to watch Edwin Drood at some point next week, but this weekend I'm all about Titanic.

 So have a good night, everyone ... take care and God Bless!

I'll see you again sometime soon ...

Afternoon Outing: Lovely Latte, Pretty Papers

Pretty papers 6

My friends, I had such a nice afternoon! I was able to meet a very dear friend of mine for "tea" while I was out and about. We met at the most adorable cafe not far from where my boys take their art classes, and honestly I wish I had had my camera with me because I was so charmed by this sweet little shop! It was a small place, but airy and bright and there were all kinds of little treats and gifty things like local preserves, quirky wooden signs and herb-scented laundry detergent. There was even a little wine corner and some microbrews in a fridge!

(Needless to say, I'll be visiting again soon!)

Now, the menu featured all kinds of interesting brewed teas, but I actually skipped over the tea, and chose instead a quite potent and very tempting "raspberry mocha latte."

Oh my.

I may pay for indulging in such heady caffeine (especially so late in the day), but it was deliciously worth it!

Well, after catching up for a bit, Lynne and I went our separate ways (with a promise to do 'this' again soon). But as it happened, I had a few minutes to kill ... and as it also happened ... my favorite paper-craft store was right across the street!

So naturally I popped in to take a quick look around and as usual, I spied so many new and beautiful things! (This place is like a candy store, I tell you.) In under 10 minutes I had picked out some pretty pastel papers and coordinating embellishments, keeping my "new" planner and "Spring Newsletter" in mind.

Here's a peek at my purchases: 

Pretty papers 2

Pretty papers 3

Pretty papers 4

Pretty papers 5

Don't you just love all those soft, springy shades? They feel just right for this time of year ... plus I have such a weakness for "vintage" and "Victorian" things. :)

So I have some new supplies to work with, and while my planner is (once again) underway, my Newsletter is still just a bunch of notes in a notebook. ;) Speaking of the Newsletter - I'm hoping to have it ready to go sometime soon after Easter. (I'd like to say before, but I'm sure that's overestimating my time and energy, lol!) It will be loads of fun to work on it, though, and I must thank you all again for your enthusiastic response!


Well my friends, I must now sign off for the night ... the kitchen timer is due to ring in oh, about seven minutes. Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing in my day ... I hope yours was a good one!

Have a nice night ~ I will see you again soon!

Hot Cocoa, Handcrafts and a New Command Center!


We enjoyed such mild weather today! It was so sunny, and the air felt soft (if that makes sense) and smelled almost like Spring. Even so, the boys and I thought it was a good day for cocoa! So my "Tuesday Tea" this week was hot chocolate with a dollop of whipped cream and a small shake of cinnamon sugar. This mug was a gift from another homeschooling mom years ago ... it was made locally and I just love its earthy colors and texture. :)

And speaking of gifts, I'd like to show you some lovely things made for me by two kind and thoughtful friends ...

The first is this pretty tea towel, hand-sewn by Elizabeth:


Isn't it beautiful? The colors are just perfect with my kitchen! And the nostalgic pattern reminds me of my new set of mixing bowls:



And Theresa crocheted these sweet kitty toys for my Archie and Ollie:


As you might expect, the kittens are simply smitten with them ...



 I am so grateful to Elizabeth and Theresa for their lovely and thoughtful, gifts. I will treasure them always! ❤

Now, before I go I must give you all a peek at my new desk - aka "command center!"

Here's how it looks from my "tea corner" where I'm sitting at this very moment ... that's Bill figuring out the wiring underneath.


I think it fits the corner very well!


(My "corner office," lol.)

I will do a follow up desk post (more than one, most likely) once I have all my 'stuff' arranged. I love how clean and clutter-free it looks, and I'll try to keep that in mind as I arrange. ;)

Well, my friends, thank you so much for stopping by today! I hope you all had a nice Tuesday, and I hope your night brings you much comfort and rest. Tomorrow is a busy day for us ~ we're hosting Bookworm's Brit Lit group here in the morning, so I may not "check in" till after lunch. So if I don't make it on early - have a good Wednesday as well!

Craft Night!

Well, I'm more than a little groggy this morning, but last night's Craft Circle was so much fun! In fact, as I type up this post I am enjoying my coffee along with a piece of the deep, dark gingerbread my friend Kim brought last night. It soooo delicious with a dollop of whipped cream. (Because, really - what's a Craft Night without delicious treats such as this?)

Now, my pictures are very dark because, a. I took them at night, and b. I was distracted by my "hostessing duties," so I didn't pay attention to things like flash settings and such.

Nevertheless, I'd like to share them with you!

I was expecting about eight women, but between illness and other responsibilities, only five could make it. So it was a nice cozy circle. :) Crafts included a sewing project, fashioning felt flowers, crochet and knit projects, paper crafting and as for me ... I worked in my clippings journal.


(A very little.)

So to prepare for Craft Night I set up the sitting room for tea and refreshments.  


I moved the round table into the (future) desk corner and here I set out some goodies:


And in the opposite corner I set up a tea station ...


(Inside the bear there are cocoa packets - isn't he cute?)

The family room I cleaned as best I could (of toys, clutter and whatnot) so that we'd have space to settle in and spread out. And of course I vacuumed the life out of the carpet!


And this picture really just does NOT do it justice, but on the platter below are thick pieces of that freshly baked gingebread (Kim's recipe can be found in this post):


Dear me, was it good! I only had smidge last night because I don't like to eat at night, but this morning I couldn't wait to indulge!

So we all sat and sipped and nibbled and chatted - and crafted a bit. It was a wonderful evening, the kind that relaxes you and recharges you at the same time. :)

We kept the "snow lights" on so we could see the first flakes fall, and I got to show off our flying squirrels. (They paid the feeders a visit during the meeting!) I also showed off my kitties a little (well, they showed off themselves). They were eager to be part of the group ...

Archie investigating a bag ...


... quite thoroughly.


The two of them ...


... they can be such trouble.


I think they gave the ladies a good idea of just how much trouble they can be! (Jumping on tables, knocking stuff over, scrabbling up the backs of chairs, (play)fighting, etc.) But they did it all looking incredibly cute, of course.

(Speaking of - cats, trouble, cuteness, etc. - I have a "Friday Felines" to go up later today. Probably much later today.) 

And by the way, I really enjoyed reading all your responses about what you'd bring were you coming last night! (And wouldn't that have been fun? We should have a virtual "craftalong" some day ...)

What a wonderful thing it is to have a craft in your life - and some time, now and then, to spend on it. I sense a common theme among moms, though - we all try to find time for it, but as busy as we are, and as full as our lives are, it's quite hard to do that. I find when I can spend an hour or two just sitting (and sitting in itself is a treat!) and puttering over my "stuff" - I sort of reset my system. It's a way of getting in touch with something that is just me - it lifts my spirits and fires up my mind. Blogging makes me feel this way, too. :)

Ok, well I'd best be off - we're getting a late start here - I haven't even checked my email! Oh, and I jumped the gun on the desk delivery - I rearranged my day completely yesterday (even enlisting my mum to help with kid transport) because I knew I had to be here to sign for it. Unfortunately in the midafternoon I received a call from the delivery company - it will be delivered NEXT Tuesday instead. 

So those desk posts will come next week!

In the meantime, my friends, have a nice day ... I will see you again very soon!


All Hallow's Eve Fun!

Since the boys were babies, Bill has taken Halloween off from work every year. We spend the day together doing family things, enjoying the last day of October with special food and seasonal fun. We usually go to our favorite farm, and stroll around admiring the fading foliage and withering fields. We pick out a pumpkin to carve back at home ... and we usually have hot cider and donuts for breakfast ...




After lunch, it's time to make the jack-o-lantern! Crackerjack draws out the design, Bill carves the pumpkin, Bookworm offers pointers - and Earlybird and I busy ourselves with preparing for the evening's party. Most years (though not this one) I roast the pumpkin seeds for an afternoon snack.


This was a first Halloween for Archie and Ollie.


(They really paid it no mind.)

Now, Bookworm chose a "spookier" than usual costume this year - a teenage vampire (a la Twilight). We don't usually do anything creepy (Halloween is all about innocent fun in our family), but I acquiesced to his wish to be something a little darker this year.

Here I am putting on his face paint ...


And here we are, those of us who dressed up ...

My (getting-so-tall!) Bookworm as a "vegetarian" vampire, me as a gypsy (though CJ insisted I wear a dagger so thus became a pirate) and Crackerjack as a "Lonesome Ghost" (from Walt Disney's classic cartoon).


(This was his own design - and with Nana's help he fashioned a costume out of an old bedsheet, white gloves and a funny black hat.)

The boys enjoyed an afternoon visit with my folks, aka Nana and Papa. They always have special treats on hand for my boys ...


Unfortunately, Earlybird was not feeling so well, so he pretty much refused to dress up this year. (The original plan was for him to be a "karate kid," wearing one of Bookworm's old uniforms.)

Here he is being comforted by Nana, my poor little fella ...


(Happily, after a special lunch out at "Wendy's," and a little rest, EB snapped back into action. He still didn't feel like dressing up, but he enjoyed the rest of the day, joining in the holiday fun.)

Before we knew it, the sun was setting and All Hallow's Eve had arrived. And as night fell, the moon hung low in the sky, a shimmering, silvery crescent ...


Old "Jack" welcomed the many trick-or-treaters who visited our home:


As did our cheerful balloon pumpkins ...


And of course we had plenty of candy on hand!


Now, every year we have two families over to celebrate All Hallow's Eve. These are friends we've known since our children were SO little - before even CJ and EB were born! So while the dads take the gaggle of kids trick-or-treating, the moms and I stay at home to answer the door, drink tea and chat. :) 

And when everyone gets back the party gets rolling! We have all kinds of goodies set out - cheese, crackers, grapes, brownies, cookies, cider and of course, a Halloween cake! 

Then the kids get down to the very important business of candy swapping ...


Once everyone's loot is sorted and stashed away, it's time to relax. :)

"The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" is playing in the family room, and the Wii is being played down the hall ... and by 9;30 or so, it's a wrap ...

Another Halloween come and gone!

It was - and always is - SUCH a fun night. It's become a cherished tradition to gather with these awesome friends to celebrate and watch the children grow and change each year.

But this morning as I sipped my coffee and admired a beautiful gray and pink sunrise, I breathed a sigh of post-holiday relief. November is finally upon us ...

And do you know, the first thing Crackerjack said (after "Rabbit, Rabbit!") was:

"Mom, only 23 more days till Thanksgiving!"

Lol, and so it goes ...

Have a terrific Tuesday, my friends - and Happy All Saints! - I will see you all again very soon!


18 ... and Counting!


There are 18 pictures in this post ... I was 18 when Bill and I met ... and as of today ... we've been married for 18 (wonderful, way-too-fast) years!

So this morning after Mass, we had my folks and my brother over for a little brunch. It was such a beautiful day - just like the day of our wedding - bright and cool with the foliage at its peak. Celebrating with food, family and fond memories was such a nice way to celebrate our special day ... I'd like to share a few pictures with you, and a few flashbacks as well ...


In the front window I set up a collage frame filled with wedding day pictures, our anniversary cards and the flowers Bill gave me this morning. (Very pretty flowers for sure - but they are now sitting on the front steps since the cats find them absolutely delectable.)

And on the kitchen island, my go-to buffet surface, I spread out the brunch goodies ...


Oh my goodness ... this quiche. SO delicious!

It's called a "cheeseburger quiche" and if anyone would like the recipe I'd be happy to post it - it was easy to make, and so very tasty!

I have to point out the flowers barely visible in the background of the above picture. These are hydrangeas from our front garden ... full, lush and perfectly purple and green. How I love hydrangeas!

In fact, I will always think of hydrangeas as our wedding flower. We had a really wonderful florist - he had recently opened a nursery in a nearby town and we were quite taken by his natural, seasonal, "earthy" arrangements. We were only his second or third wedding, but he came highly recommended. Best of all, when we described our dream of a very "autumnal" wedding - pumpkins, bittersweet, kale and the like - he was right on board! For the bridesmaids' bouquets he suggested hydrangeas because they really are the star of the fall garden. So I spent the weeks leading up to our wedding studying (sort of stalking, really) neighborhood hydrangeas - observing how they were changing in hue. By October 23rd they looked something like this ...


And they really made a beautiful bouquet, mingled with other complimentary flowers (autumn roses, etc.).

Back to the buffet though, the menu also included ...


Fresh grapes, granola, dried cranberries and yogurt. Raspberry turnovers and crumb cakes as well as Nana's special scrambled eggs ...


Hash browns, bacon and chicken-apple sausages, and soft downy biscuits.

And just for fun ...


... a few dishes of seasonal candy. :)

For liquid refreshment ...


Sparkling cider - straight apple, and apple-cranberry. This is what we served for our wedding toast, and it's nice because not only does it taste lovely, but it is free of alcohol so everyone can enjoy a sip or more. :)

Now, I don't have our wedding photos scanned in, but I thought I'd share a few of the pictures from that collage shown above. When I look back at these photos I know why our parents and grandparents all called us "the kids" - we looked so young!

And I guess we were. :) 


Bill and I are on either end of this picture - our "scarecrow selves" are in the middle! My mother-in-law made these fantastic creations - they stood outside the reception hall and as guests came up the long winding drive, they saw the "bride and groom" welcoming them in all their autumn finery. More than one guest thought - from a distance - it was actually us!

Here I am with my dad on our way to the church ...


His good friend Skip did us the great honor of driving us on this day in his gorgeous, vintage car. Wish I had an exterior shot to show you - it made quite the set of "wedding wheels!"


The gazebo at my folks' - also decked out in autumn regalia.


Here we are with our grandparents: on the left, are my Grampy and Bill's Grammie, and on the right stand my Grama and Grampa (who became "Damee and Pa" to our boys). All of them are gone now ... though sometimes that doesn't seem real. I miss them all every day.


It's hard to see in this shot, but this is the wedding party table, and it seems this was the "toast moment." Directly behind me stand the maid of honor and best man, Sabina and John, our best friends from high school. On the left are my dear friends - college roommate, Kathy and cousin, Amy. And there are those aforementioned pumpkins and bittersweet!

Here are the remaining bridesmaids:


Unfortunately, the picture slid off center - but on the left are Amy and Kathy again, and to my right is Sabina, my cousin Kate and sister-in-law Ami, and in front is my cousin Kara - our sweet little flower girl!

Now this next picture is quite fuzzy and at first glance it might seem like nothing much is going on at all, but for me it will always be one of those unforgettable wedding moments ...


What we have here is me in the middle with my two friends (and editors) from the paper where I worked at that time. The formal pictures were done and we were trying to tie up my bustle before heading into the reception. But oh my gosh, we just could NOT get that darn thing to cooperate! And oh, how we laughed ... we just laughed ourselves silly, hiding behind the hedges, fighting with that blasted bustle. Betsy and Martha kept me calm and in good spirits and yes - we did finally get that bustle to behave itself!

And now here we have the wedding cake ...


... garnished with a garland of autumn leaves. It was a delicious carrot cake with a soft cream cheese frosting. For brunch today I had planned to make a triple layer carrot cake, but at 7 a.m. it was either take a shower or bake a cake before church ...

Needless to say, I went with the shower and promised the boys I'd make our "family birthday cake" sometime this week. :)

Now, for a few bits of random wedding trivia:

Our favors were Yankee Candle "Spiced Pumpkin" votive candles.

Our wedding party was introduced to the theme from "Northern Exposure" because it was our absolute favorite TV show at the time (of all time, really).

For our first dance we spun to "At Last," by Etta James; our last dance was set to "Shower the People," by James Taylor.

We went to Colonial Williamsburg for our honeymoon. We drove there in Bill's old Saab ...


... the streamers and cans only lasted a mile. ;)

Well, we may not look like "kids" anymore - and we have a few of our own now - but I wouldn't trade one wrinkle or gray hair for even one precious moment of the last 18 years ...


Honey, I love you. I hope and pray our next 18 years are as blessed!


Dear readers, thank you for allowing me this rather long and rambly bit of reminiscing ... it was a lovely indulgence, to spend a few hours this afternoon remembering this special day and all the wonderful people who helped us make it so. 

So I'll wrap up now and be off ... but I'll be back next time with a post on my holiday planner ... that was one of my many plans for the weekend but, well, let me be frank: not many things on that list got accomplished this weekend! (I tend to wear rose-tinted glasses when it comes to making up weekend to-do lists, lol.) I will post about my planner sometime this week - hopefully tomorrow but certainly as soon as I can.

Have a great night, my friends ... and as always, thank you so much for stopping by.


Travel Journal: My Weekend in Maine

Dear readers, I must warn you ... this is a ginormous post! Even for me, this is a very lengthy post - so I must apologize if vacation photos are not your thing! I attempted to set up a photo album for my "travelogue" but it was taking me too much time to organize - and my free moments were precious and few this week. So instead, you've got the whole shebang here in one ridiculously long post! I do hope you enjoy the pictures, and I can't tell you how much fun this weekend was - though, I'll certainly try! ;)

So my dear friend, and college roommate, Kathy, set this whole adventure up - a "moms"  getaway weekend for our group of college girlfriends. We hoped to have as many ladies join us as possible, but in the end, there were just five of us. As I mentioned, we all went to college together (and roomed in the same house) and have happily stayed in touch all these years! Twenty at last count!

Now, a couple of years ago - the year most of us turned 40 - we went to Newport, RI for a long weekend. This time we set our sights (and navigation systems) on Cape Elizabeth, Maine ... 


The Inn by the Sea is located just about 15 minutes outside Portland. It was very easy to find, and I am very grateful to my friend Lynne for driving me there and back (not to mention chauffering our group around Portland), and I deeply appreciate all the research and legwork Kathy did in finding this inn and booking our cottage! 

So, we arrived at the Inn around noon on Friday ~ and we were just overwhelmed by its loveliness - not to mention quite impressed by its eco-friendliness.

Here is the central lobby in the main building. To the left are the check-in desks (not shown) and the restaurant entrance ("The Sea Glass") just beyond. To the right is a handsome little lounge - all dark, shiny wood and a large crackling hearth.


Tired from driving and ready to chat, we opted to have lunch on the deck - and here I am, soaking in that glorious Maine sunshine!


I could not pass up a lobster roll - this was Maine after all, and nothing says Maine quite like lobster!



After lunch our lodging was ready, so we ambled over to the "Beach Cottage." As the mother of boys I had to laugh at the sight that welcomed us on our way up the stairs ...


Our cottage had two levels ... here's a glimpse of the upstairs loft where I slept:


And here's the view from our deck!


I must tell you, this was the perfect weekend for our visit. Not only was the weather amazing - mid 60s, crisp and bright - but Saturday just happened to be "Open Lighthouse Day" across Maine. The ONE day a year when lighthouses are open to the public!

The Inn's gardens were beautiful and seasonally-inspired ...



And a short walk through the September woods ...


... brought us to a secluded beach.


One thing I love about New England beaches - the craggy coastline.


Beautiful to look at, but not always comfortable for bare feet!


The colors in the water are striking ...


... and the wildlife is plentiful (and oftentimes, pushy). These gulls however, were quite well behaved.


After a long afternoon walk, we made our way back "home."


(Lynne took this photo. It was a very silly moment.)

The woods were just brimming with late summer bounty ...


Michaelmas daisies, rose hips, goldenrod and cattails ...


Oh, and spider webs! They were everywhere!


In the evening (this is Friday), we headed out to scope out the local lighthouse locations. This here is Two Lights State Park.


Here's a group shot of our "gang," from left to right: Dionne, Nancy, Lynne, me and Kathy.


 I have to point out - our colors very nicely tie in with the park habitat!


Sunset was closing in so we got ready to head out  ...


Interesting sculptures at The Lobster Shack, located at the end of Two Lights Road.


We did a quick drive-by the Portland Head Light, but the park was closing.


We picked up pizza for supper and enjoyed a movie before bed (a "chick flick" Bill would call it). We needed our rest for a busy day ahead!

And not surprisingly I was first up ... here is my sunrise moment on the deck:




Watching the light come across the marsh was amazing!


After a delicous breakfast (Lynne brought a wonderful egg casserole) and "Good Morning" calls home, we headed out bright and early to see ourselves some lighthouses!

First up - Portland Head - only we were denied immediate access, and instead assigned a time to come back. So we made our way to "Bug Light" instead.


Which was tiny but oh-so lovely!


Gorgeous Grecian architecture!


All the lightghouses had precarious staircases - the only way to gain access to the towers.


But so worth it!


Another group shot ... don't we look well rested?


Next up - Spring Point Ledge Light:


At each lighthouse we were welcomed by some really wonderful people - very knowledgeable in Maine maritime history - full of stories and that true Yankee spirit.

We were also met at each lighthouse with something like this:


But again, the steep and somewhat scary climb was totally worth it!


Such a view!

Of course, nature nut that I am, I couldn't help but notice this tiny black creature nimbly nativagting the rocks:


(According to the lighthouse representative this is a mink!)

During our visit, we each got to try on the lighthouse keeper's hat:


And learned about the workings of the lighthouse system in general, and Spring Point Ledge in particular:




(Needless to say, all kinds of "unit study" bells were going off in my head!)

 Finally, it was on to Portland Head!


One of the most iconic Maine sights:


Another climb, not as narrow, but quite a bit higher ...



And again ... that view!








This plaque reads:

"Henry Wadsworth Longfellow often walked from Portland to visit this lighthouse. The Keepers were his friends, and it is believed he sat here for inspiration for his poem, The Lighthouse."

(More information can be found here.)

Our next stop was downtown Portland - a place I'd never visited, but had heard lots of wonderful things about!




We were all stah-vin so we found a neat little pub for lunch ...


My Saturday lunch: a turkey/smoked cheddar sandwich, and a cup of clam chowdah ...


So, so yummy. 

Some fun window shopping ensued ...


The prettiest pottery/candle/soap shop I've ever been in:




A shop entirely devoted to cupcakes!


And another, all about hot sauce!


(I bought Bill a bottle of "Thai Monkey." One step hotter than he's used to - a kajillion steps hotter than I can handle!)




The one place I parted with some of my pin money - Stonewall Kitchen:



I bought some Halloween treats for the boys and some autumnal delights like Maple Pumpkin butter and gingebread latte mix. 

I kept myself in check and soon we headed for the parking garage - passing a very neat building on our way ...


Once home, we changed up and headed to the beach for some "book" time.

First, Nancy and I took a moment to pose in the gazebo ...


Thanks to Kathy for the picture!

My girls, enjoying our Saturday together:


My view ... I sent this picture home to Bill and the boys via my iPhone. I called these two "Mabel and Madge."


On our way back to the cottage ... where a lovely wedding had just taken place.


Our Saturday night involved eating by the hearth, a nice bottle of wine, and some s'mores by the fire pit. Fun and relaxing!

Sunday morning sunrise ... a bit more subdued at first sight:


But then the sun broke through ...


We had brunch at the Sea Glass and having had my fill of coffee back at the cottage, I opted for a mug of "seasonally flavored steamed milk."


I chose "caramel" ... 


It was a little bit of bliss.

I also had Maine blueberry pancakes - and they were spectacular - though as I told Bill, not quite as good as Daddy's Flying Flapjacks. :)

After brunch we packed up and headed home. Home to our hubbies, our homes and our kids. Feeling rested, rejuvenated and just relishing the relationships we've kept current these many years. It's so easy to get carried away with our repsonsibilities these days - we're all so busy and our kids are so busy and it's so easy to forge on and forget. I am as guilty of this as anyone. My life is absorbing - I love my children and my husband and my home, and I love this path we've carved ... but I also love my friends, these dear women who've known me since I was a girl. I am truly blessed to be friends with these ladies - they have shaped me in so many ways and I treasure their support, their friendship and love. 

All that said, it felt so good to get home. :)

And here is my favorite souvenir ...


Something I'll use all through the fall, winter and early spring - sipping tea and coffee and cocoa ... and remembering this very special weekend.

Next year is already in the works ... our 2012 destination?


Thanks SO much for reading, everyone. I hope you enjoyed a peek at our "Maine Moms Getaway." If you've never been to Maine I hope I piqued your interest - it truly is a "vacationland" for all seasons. There are many memories to be made here ...

I cherish the ones I brought home with me!


(See you all again sometime soon!)