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Happy (Quiet, Lazy) Sunday

What a gorgeous day! Pretty darn cold, but bright and blustery too. Bill just took the boys off to run errands - a brave man he is, I hear Toys R Us is on the docket - so here I am just tinkering around the house. Just uploaded (downloaded?) some photos from the camera and thought they'd be fun to share ...


Our front door all gussied up for the upcoming season ...


Some new spring books for Earlybird (purchased with "pin" money from Nana), the new edition of my favorite nature study catalog (tucked under Crackerjack's Book Group selection for April) ... and in the foreground, you see the wooden letters I picked up for the learning room windows next month. (Can you unscramble them and guess the "theme?" :))


From Friday's nature/faith lesson ~ EB hard at work planting seeds. Two days later, there's already a small sprout!


And this last photo was taken by Bookworm. He has developed quite an eye for nature photography lately. Since spring has sprung, he's been outside in the yard, down the bike path, all around - looking for things to photograph. This picture here shows the clusters of red leaf buds on the top of our maple tree. Set against the dark bark and vivid sky you can almost feel that March wind!

Ok, one more from Bookworm before I go ...


The Downy Woodpecker - a frequent guest at our feeders. These birds are quiet friendly once they get used to you. This guy (and he is a guy - note the red patch on the back of his head) really enjoys our window suet feeder. And lately he's been making such a racket - an incessant, high-pitched chirping we can hear even when he's deep in the woods. I'm assuming at this time of year it's his mating call. So ... best of luck, little fella!

Well, I'm off for now ... I think I might take advantage of the quiet house and catch a little shut eye while I can. I'm not usually a napper, but we were up much later than usual last night, having attended a lovely dinner with a group of our college friends. (I think I've mentioned it a time or two before, but Bill and I met in college. That in itself was a blessing of course, but we truly made the most wonderful friends all those years ago.) And it may have been years since we'd been together - but as happens with very dear friends, time and distance are no matter once we all get chatting - catching up with life now and reminiscing over life then ...

Great friends ~ good times!

So have a nice Sunday evening, everyone ... I'll see you again here very soon.


Last night was Greek Mythology Night ...

... and it was so much fun!


Once a month our homeschool support group holds an 11-15 year old "Activity Night." We've been participating for several years now and it's something my boys really look forward to. The gist of it is, one family volunteers to "host" a month and organize the night's activities. Most months it's as simple as getting the kids together for pizza and a dvd at someone's home, but we've also gone out to the movies, visited a corn maze, held a Yankee Swap, and spent an evening at the mini golf course. It's always a fun night - for the kids as well as the mums (or dads as the case may be)!

Our family hosted this month's gathering, and we decided to go with the theme, "Greek Mythology Night." Our inspiration was this movie, this game and my boys' long-held fascination with ancient civilizations and mythology.

I started setting things up early Friday afternoon; this was the buffet table in its early stages:


Earlybird insisted the chip bags be part of the picture, lol. And no, chips are not necessarily "Greek" - not as far as I know - but these are 11-15 year old kids we're talking about. Chips are always a must on Activity Night. ;)

For the table I used a light green tablecloth, tall ivory candles and a length of grapevine garland. On the windowsill above, I lined up the Percy Jackson books as well as our beloved (and quite bedraggled) D'Aulaire Book of Greek Myths.

Just above the books the boys lined up some of their action figures ...


Dragons of all sorts, Cerberus (the three-headed dog), a (Lego) ogre, and several knights and gladiators rounded out the gallery.

So with the house more or less ready, and the food order called in, we waited to welcome our guests. (Six families in attendance this month, 12 kids in all.)

Our menu for the night:

Soda and water

Chips & salsa * Hummus & pita

Pizza (both regular and Greek)

Greek salad

Spinach pie (Spanakopita)

Greek Sweet Bread (Kouloura)

Assorted desserts & tea

After supper, the kids tried their hand at a Greek Mythology quiz one of the boys made up for the group. He awarded badges depending on quiz grade: mortal, demigod, oracle, minor god, Olympian god, fate.



It was a very challenging quiz!

After the quiz, the kids split into two teams and we had a little trivia game. I used the a Professor Noggin set of cards called "Creatures of Myth and Legend." The kids handled questions on everything from unicorns to phoenixes to leprechauns to golems! There was much laughter and not just a little competitive spirit. ;)

After the games, the desserts were spread out, plates were filled up and the kids settled down to watch the night's movie. The mom's settled in to drink tea and chat. :)

(Now, I don't know what setting I had my camera on, but all the pictures I took last night came out with an awful yellow hue. I'm still going to share them - just wanted to prepare you, lol! I promise, the food tasted much better than it looks in my pictures!)

And all these lovely treats were made by my friends ...


Holly's delicious Greek sweet bread, or "kouloura."


Beth's festive "Greek alphabet" cupcakes.


Yasmina's yummy vanilla twist cookies.


Laura's sweet, crunchy raspberry crumb bars.


And finally, Kim's soft and buttery "kourabiethes."

Dear readers, this night was such fun - one we'll remember always. And it was a late one too! - we said our goodbyes around 11:00! Needless to say, this was a long lazy morning ... and no cooking! We had plenty of delicious leftovers to enjoy. :)

Next month will be another movie night - February's pick is How to Train Your Dragon ... I wonder if there's such a thing as "Viking" cookies?

Well, thanks so much for stopping by today! I hope your weekend is going well. Take care of yourselves and have a good night ... I'll see you all again sometime soon.


Dear Winter ...


Enough already, all right?

I know I have no right to ask that. This is January after all ... and this IS what Winter does in New England at this time of year. But the snow and the cold have been relentless lately!

So yes, as you can see from forecast above, we're getting several inches MORE snow today ... on top of all the snow we already have ... and then there will be FRIGID temperatures after that ... and let's not even discuss the "major storm" cooking for next week!


Now, dear readers, you know I love snow, but this weather is really cramping our style! We had to cancel our January Nature Club meeting - the day was just too cold and conditions too icy for a winter walk in the woods. And we also had to postpone our "Greek Mythology Night" to next week, because of poor travel conditions and inadequate parking on our street. (The plows will surely be busy this evening.)

Grumble. Grumble.

OK, I'm done complaining. It's Friday, after all. We're healthy and happy and (thanks to telecommuting) we'll all be home together today. And in addition to it being Squirrel Appreciation Day (those little guys will be hard at work keeping warm and full today!), it also happens to be the feast of St. Agnes, a saint near and dear to our hearts.

If you're interested in celebrating this feast day, here are a couple of posts from my past describing the crafts we made and snacks we ate in honor of St. Agnes:




Before I go, l'd like to wish a very happy birthday to my friend Penny in Vt, a longtime reader and one of my most frequent commenters. Penny, my dear, did you "order" birthday snow, too? ;) Either way, I hope you have a lovely day!

Thanks so much for stopping by this morning, everyone! Keep warm and safe wherever you are ... we'll do the same here. :)

See you all again very soon ...

My Weekend in Newport

So, I'm back from my "mums weekend away" and I'm happy to report it was a wonderful time for us all. The weather was fabulous and I took a lot of pictures - but fortunately for you all I am only sharing a portion. ;) You have to remember as much as I write this blog for my readers (or I should say, conversing with my readers), I also use it as a personal/family journal. Someday I'll be glad to remember all the sights and scenes of my trip. Goodness knows when I might do this again.

First a quick bit of backstory. My college roommate Kathy organized this weekend away for the girls - all mums now - who lived together throughout our four years of college. Only six of us could make the trip but it was such an awesome time. We had so much fun catching up, relaxing and kicking back.

And now on to the pictures ...


This is, obviously, a drive by shooting - but I remembered on our way out of town that I never photographed our hotel. I promise the pictures get better after this.


Our room is one of those windows in the second row from the top. We looked out over the harbor and had sliders that opened onto the rooftop. 

Our view:


My view from where we ate dinner Friday night:


And my delicious dinner:


"Georges Banks Scallops"


The next morning, bright and early we headed out to the world famous Newport Cliff Walk.

Special thanks go to my friend Mo who strolled along with me and patiently put up with my shutterbug impulses. :)

Most of these are self-explanatory, but I've added notes here and there ...



I'm not sure which buildings were privately owned and which were part of Salve Regina - but they were all overwhelmingly beautiful. I felt as though I stepped into an Austen novel ...




I know you're not surprised I came home with an awful lot of nature photos. There were interesting bits of flora and fauna all along the walk.


Rosa Rugosa - commonly known as Beach Rose.
This is a seed center (totally made-up term); the vibrant pink petals are more visible and recognizable of course.



Bittersweet nightshade - just like the vine that grows near my back fence. 


Pretty little purple wildflower - not sure what it is.


I'm going to call this a morning glory because that's what it looks like, but I'm not 100% sure. Morning glories are annuals so it doesn't make sense these vines would endure year after year. I guess maybe they do though - to quote Jurassic Park, "Life finds a way."


A tiny little spider web - so beautiful!


I have no idea what this is, but in the glistening June sun it was certainly lovely.


Pretty daisies bloomed all over the cliffside.





Cool little shelled creature, clinging to the side of the cliff shown above. That was some jaunt if he came up with the tide!



I recognized the seagulls but the big black seabirds were a mystery to me until my friend D. told me they were in fact cormorants.

I couldn't decide which ocean shots I liked best, so you're getting them all!






After the cliff walk we had lunch - during which I saved my friends from a marauding swarm of bees. Ok, story. So we're sitting there enjoying a delicious lunch by the sea when I notice an extremely large swarm of bees hovering over the fence just behind where we were sitting. At first we tried the whole "don't move they'll ignore us" tactic for all of 5 seconds and then we ran - literally ran - to the other side of the restaurant (assuring our waitress we were not skipping out on our bill). A waiter turned the hose on the swarm and it flew out over the boats docked nearby. I wonder if it was a disturbed hive or perhaps a colony relocating? Either way it was one of the more memorable - not to mention humorous - moments of the weekend.

We next enjoyed a one-hour boat cruise of Newport Harbor.


We took the 3:00 tour aboard the Amazing Grace. Our tour guide was funny and full of interesting Newport maritime history and trivia. 


This boat, a lobster boat called the Freedom, is the sister ship to the vessel featured in an upcoming show on the Discovery Channel, Lobster Wars - if I understood the tour guide correctly.



Above you see Fort Adams where years ago Bill and I attended the Newport Folk Festival.



After the boat cruise we stopped for ice cream and then retired to the hotel to freshen up and look over college photo albums. Dinner at a local pub was followed by a showing of Twilight back at the hotel. Chatting and giggling ensued until roundabouts 2 a.m. Good thing we had no kids to wake us up the next morning!


I had to show you our friend, a seagull who seemed insistent on gaining access to our room. Seriously, he stalked us.

Sunday morning we woke to rain and found breakfast at a lovely local restaurant. After we finished the omelets, coffee and freshly squeezed orange juice we headed for home and the families that missed us. 

I was pleased to get a shot of St. Mary's before we left town - the first Catholic parish in Rhode Island and the church in which JFK and Jacqueline Bouvier were wed.


And then we were on our way home!

Thanks SO much for taking the time to read through my post and take a peek at my pictures. It really was a gift, this weekend away. I thank my family for making it possible and my friend Kathy for making it happen. To all my King House girls - whether you were with us in Newport or with us in spirit - I love you all. Thanks for more than 20 years (!) of friendship and love.

Boys' Club at Monsters vs. Aliens


Here we have Crackerjack (second from left) and his friends at the movies this week ...

These four friends, all 9 year-old home learners, see each other regularly at the myriad homeschool activities and social gatherings we attend, but once a month they get together on their own for official "Boys' Club." Two of the boys are the youngest of three and the other two are middle children. These monthly "meetings" (mostly casual playdates) allow the boys time to socialize outside of their older siblings' shadows. Because it was SO hot last Tuesday (the date of our April meeting) we decided to take the boys to the movies. 

We saw Monsters vs. Aliens, a funny, action-packed, beautifully animated movie. Chock-a-bloc full of "boy" humor - aka wedgies, snot and random bathroom humor, lol. As we left the theater I asked the boys to give it a rating; their scores: 10, 10, 8 and 4. 

Average score: 8. Well deserved, I'd say. :)

Thank You, All ...

Very, very much.

For all your kind condolences - your thoughts and your prayers. You can't know how much it means to know so many of you are thinking of Midget and keeping us in your hearts right now. :)

If you have a beloved pet, give him or her an extra bit of love today ~ we just never know how long we'll have with these dear little friends.

Happy Things


This is my dear 17 year old cat, Midget (the one who had the echocardiogram last week). Beneath him is the pretty pet bed I bought at Homegoods - the one that seemed too high for him to climb onto until just this morning when I found him all curled up, for all the world like the king of the hill. Isn't he handsome? His tests showed he has an enlarged heart but no signs of heart failure at present. They put him on all kinds of meds to keep things in check, and so far he seems to be tolerating it all well.

By the way, the bed is kept under the dining table where the kids do a lot of their work during the day. He likes to lie here to be near us, and now he can do this much more comfortably.

After lunch yesterday we headed over to my friend Mary's for a playdate ...


I had to snap this picture of my tea cup. I absolutely love her china ~ it's the epitome of an autumn garden.

Mary hosted this gathering for a half dozen or so families - the kids played outside while we mums sat inside, sipped tea, nibbled snacks and talked. We are trying to start a little group for talking about food issues - menu planning, recipe sharing, seasonal eating, etc. We had a lot of fun. :)

Before I left I asked Mary if I could take a few pictures of her beautiful garden. I came home with lots of ideas for my own yard ...

Here is a bachelor button about to open:


And another one already open:


Next we have a poppy pod. I think Mary said they would be red.


These were my favorites - the columbine. So pale and delicate.


Well, I'd best be off ... lots on the docket today. I have some medical tests this morning (bleh) and later today Bookworm and I are meeting friends at the new Indiana Jones movie. I think I'm more excited than he is, lol! I'll be back later to tell you what we thought.

Happy Friday! :)

Aquarium School in April

Oh my goodness, this feels good - sitting down in the warm house, sipping a cup of hot tea - after a long and wet trek in and out of Boston! We've just got in from Aquarium School, and let me tell you - it's really blowing out there! I don't even have my usual Boston skyline shot to share - it was just too wet and cold to take the picture!

This month's Aquarium School theme was lobsters. We touched upon lobsters earlier in the year when we talked about the perils of overfishing. This time we talked about the Lobster Lab at the Aquarium where they literally grow thousands of lobsters "from scratch."

I took a whole bunch of pictures, but let me start with an early lunch with our friends. The Aquarium has a neat cafeteria, and here's our gang tucking in ...


After lunch we mosied over to the classroom. (Actually, dashed more like.)

In Crackerjack's class, the kids began with a sizing and coloring activity. They had to use a special tool to measure if their lobster (picture) was legal size; once they found one that was neither too big or too small (and had no eggs) they were allowed to bring it back to the table to color. These are the guidelines fisherman must use when trapping lobsters.


Here is Crackerjack with his friend Kurt coloring their lobsters: Mr. Rainbow Lobster and Rainbow Lobster, Jr. :)


(CJ would like to talk about his new hat for a moment: "My hat protected my hair from the rain and it feels good on my head.")

The woman who runs the Lobster Lab brought in a variety of juvenile lobsters to show the kids. These here, housed in yogurt cups, are (top to bottom) 1, 2, 3 and 4 weeks old:


At this size they are considered larvae or plankton. A female lobster can have up to 100,000 eggs at a time and only TWO of those eggs will become adult lobsters!

And these larger specimens are (clockwise from lower left) 3, 4 and 5 years old:


As the lobsters grow larger they must be kept in separate containers because, unfortunately, lobsters tend to be cannabalistic! (Note the blue color of the lobster on the right. We learned that lobsters have different colored shells due to genetics and diet.)

Here is a molted exoskeleton of a spiny lobster:


Lobsters molt their exoskeletons as they grow. As adults, this only happens once a year or perhaps every two years. And by the way, the lobsters found here in the northeast are called American lobsters. They can't exist in waters further south than New York. In warmer waters, you would find an entirely different breed (a Spiny or Rock lobster).

The rest of the class time was filled with a lengthy but interesting slide show. This was the last picture I took before digging out my knitting. :)


Interesting things we learned today (by the boys):

~ Horseshoe crabs are not actually crabs or even crustaceans. They are more closely related to spiders.

~ It takes about seven years for a lobster to grow to a legal eating size.

~ Lobsters are decapods, which means they have 10 legs.

~ The American lobster has two claws, one for pulling apart the meat so they can swallow it and the other for crushing their food.

~ Lobsters in supermarket tanks have bands on their claws so they won't eat each other.

~ If you like lobster bisque you are most likely eating the meat of a spiny lobster, not a northern lobster.

~ There is such a thing as shell disease and the lobster's shell gets all ugly looking. In captivity it doesn't get very bad, but in the wild it can cause the lobster to die.

~ The oldest lobster in the aquarium is 43 years old; in the wild they might grow to be 100 years old!

We have two more classes to go and we will be done with Aquarium School for the year. It's been a great experience for my boys. As for me, it's been great to get my feet wet getting them in and out of Boston on my own. (I'm usually a ninny when it comes to city driving.) I anticipate as they get older, we'll be taking advantage more often of Boston and all it has to offer a young scholar. :)

Well, as always I thank you for stopping by and sharing in our day. I hope you all had a good Monday, and I'll see you all again sometime soon. :)

~ Knitting Night News ~


At my Knitting Circle last night, I worked another several rows onto my spring scarf! I am so crazy for these colors, and the knitting itself came right back to me, just as I'd hoped it would. Of course - I completely forgot I was intending to purl after knitting four inches, but that's ok. I'm not following any set pattern, just trying to get back into the groove. Maybe I'll purl my next project. ;)

I must show you some pictures I took at my friend Kim's, our monthly knitting night hostess. She really spoils us, I must say, welcoming us each month with candlelight ...


And fun little surprises like lanterns on the deck (she made them!) ...


And a table full of freshly baked goodies ...


Kim always serves the most delicious things, but this month she treated us to Greek Easter specialties ~ like the traditional Tsoureki (a sweet bread baked with brilliant red eggs), and cinnamon rice pudding (recipe on request!) and yummy little crescent cookies all powdery with confectioner's sugar. Friends brought fruit salad and baklava and of course, knitting night is never complete without steaming cups of tea served in beautiful pottery mugs.

After we ate (and ate) we gathered in the living room to knit (and talk) and before we knew it it was almost 11 p.m.! But before we left, Kim had us partake in a fun game, another Greek Easter tradition. Each of us held one of the red eggs in our hands and we went around the room cracking egg onto egg, saying, in turn:

Christos Anestes! Alithinos Anestes! (He is risen! He is risen, indeed!)

The goal was to see who would be left with an un-crackable egg, thereby earning herself a year's worth of good luck. And guess who went home with that egg (and that luck) ... ? :)


Hooray, it was me! I never win anything, so this was a real treat! Can you freeze a hard boiled egg? I really would like to keep it. ;)

Knitting night is so fun; I am blessed to have such a lovely, supportive group of friends. And now I've made myself a small goal for our May circle ~ that my spring scarf will not be in my bag, but draped around my neck! (Weather permitting of course.) And just what will my next project be? Well, I'll have to get myself back to the yarn store sometime soon ...

Thanks so much for stopping by today ~ I hope you had a good Wednesday! See you all again sometime soon. :)

A Late, Lovely Evening


You all must please excuse me if I'm a bit groggy this morning; I didn't get in until eleven last night! (I know you have no way of knowing this, but believe me when I say ~ it's taking me great effort just to type in this post, lol.)

There was an excellent reason for the lateness of my evening - I attended my friend Kim's monthly crafting circle - and it was such fun! I got absolutely no crafting done, lol, but there was good conversation and plenty of delicious food ...

And speaking of which, above you see the table of goodies Kim set out ~ doesn't it look lovely? We all felt so pampered, I must say. There was freshly whipped cream with strawberries, homemade Irish soda bread, chocolate chip cookies, hot tea - and jelly beans! It was a wonderful way to spend a wet and chilly March night - in the company of good friends, discussing crafts, movies, books, kids and, of all things, fashion tips, lol!

And now it's 7:30 a.m. the next morning, and if you can believe it, I just got back in again. A half hour ago, I ran down to the grocery store to pick up a missing ingredient for our weekly tea-and-a-craft this afternoon. (And a few items for supper, while I was at it.) It is dark and very rainy, still, and there are severe thunderstorms heading our way for the morning. Such a good day to stay put.

Well, the boys are all up now, so I'd better run; I've got lessons to set out and breakfast to make. (Perhaps in the reverse order.) Thankfully the coffee is still hot and fresh ~ I'll need a cup or two more than usual, I think. ;)

Be back later with a report on our tea! Have a great day, everyone!

Game On!

So, a dear friend of mine from Long Island recently made a little proposal to Helmet_2this Massachusetts gal. :)

You see, Mary Ellen and I have much to agree on, we share much in common. If we lived closer I am sure we would be inseparable. And yet, there's one insurmountable small problem ...

And that would be sports.

Because coming from New York and New England, respectively, Mary Ellen and I by nature must agree to disagree.

But, we can have a little fun while we're at it!

You see, a few days ago, right after the (ahem), undefeated New England Patriots won the AFC championship, assuring a trip to the Superbowl for the fourth time in seven years, I got an interesting note from my NY Giants-fan friend ...

Mary Ellen was kindly offering her sincere congratulations (as only one so lovely and thoughtful would do), but she also made an interesting suggestion: a proposed little wager between friends. Something to do with The Superbowl and a couple of pairs of socks ...


Well, I was. And of course, I readily agreed. (In the spirit of friendship and friendly competition.)

Mary Ellen has all the details of our agreement today at her blog ~ complete with pictures! Stop on over and check it out!

And in the meantime, won't you join us in voting for one team or the other? If you're a PATS fan, (as I'm sure you must be) leave a comment here ... and if you're a Giants fan, well, if you must, click over to Mary Ellen's and leave a comment at The Bonny Blue House.

But come February 3rd, we'll just see which team is hoisting the trophy ~ and which one of us is left wearing the socks!

Go PATS! :)

Tea and a Craft: Lovely Doves

“I saw the Spirit come down like a dove from heaven and remain upon him.” (Jn 1:32)


Remember the dove cookies I baked the other day? Well, we usually have our Tea-and-a-Craft days on Thursdays, but this week Thursday was an incredibly busy day. So instead, we set aside time Friday morning to sit, read, craft and eat. :)

I try to do this with the boys each week ~ to read aloud Sunday's Liturgy of the Word, so we can talk about it a little. Usually I prepare a simple craft to go along with our talk, something to make the readings more memorable. I often tie in (or sometimes focus on) a current or coming feast day. Quite often we also weave in a book we're reading (something from Cay's Catholic Mosaic, perhaps) or even a seasonal theme from nature. Nature brings its own beautiful inspiration to the table! (I know many of you are familiar with this activity, but since I have some new readers, may I link you to my Tea and Crafts archive?)

I use several resources to plan out these teas (which for lack of a better term is what I call them; we only sometimes have tea, though, lol). Online there is 4Real, and many blogs of course, as well as places like CatholicMom, Catholic Culture and Open Wednesdays. I draw from the books I've listed on the lefthand sidebar under Living the Liturgical Year and we also subscribe to Faith & Family, Take Out: Family Faith to Go and Magnifkid.

Now it goes without saying, I don't use everything at once! But I like to check through all the resources to see my options. Usually something sparks an idea and our weekly tea takes its shape ...

But always, without doubt, there is a snack to be shared. Nothing draws a bunch of boys to the table like something good to eat! Especially when there's frosting involved. :)

The craft this week came from The Complete Children's Liturgy Book: Liturgies of the Word for Years A, B and C):


And having decided on this craft (which reflects Sunday's gospel) I also decided to tie in our snack to the theme of the dove. My parents gave me a beautiful dove cookie cutter for my birthday, and so sugar cookies became the snack of choice this week. (A great idea is to collect cookie cutters (alphabet, religious and nature themes) and keep a stash of frozen sugar cookie dough in the freezer - you'll always have a snack at the ready!)

As the boys assembled their dove crafts, I read Sunday's Gospel aloud. And yes, my boys do the crafts readily. I get asked that a lot, lol. We've always done crafts, and they enjoy them! I keep them very simple and the promise of a delicous treat at the end also holds their attention. ;)

By the time we were done reading and making, the doves were ready to hang, and the cookies were ready to frost:


Crackerjack kept his plain, but Earlybird's (shown below) was generously adorned with crystal white sprinkles.


Speaking of EB, the poor kid, he is suffering a terrible cold. He didn't even want to eat this cookie - for him, it was really all about the decorating today.

Finally, the cookies were consumed, and the craft was hung on display:


Don't they look nice hanging from the beams?


Even better when there are so many smiling faces beneath them. :)

And now here's the weekend at last ... oh, the promise of a weekend! And a long weekend, at that! It's bright and early here as I finish up this post. EB is feeling better, thank goodness. He had a good night's sleep and I am sure that helped a lot. I have a long list of things to do today - little errands, catch-up chores - and then we'll be settling in for a quiet family weekend. Well, quiet except for the part where we cheer on our beloved Pats! :)

And don't forget, today begins the Barnes & Noble Educator Week! And, I hear tell, JoAnn's has a good sale going on too. Hmmm ... books, crafts and football? Sounds like a great wekeend to me!

I hope you all have a good one too! I'll be back again sometime soon.

Perchance to dream ...


Like Jenn, Elizabeth, Ruth and Margaret before me, tonight I am sharing what's by my bedside. :)

I had planned to photograph the whole bed, kit and caboodle, as I expected my new bedding would have arrived by now - but only the "kit" arrived today; the "caboodle," according to UPS, is still somewhere in Minnesota. See that tiny bit of blue blanket in the lower right hand corner? That part's new. :)

Back to the nightstand, though. I have the usual things here - a lamp, a small clock (with an alarm I have no use for), a statue of Our Lady, my Badger Balm and my most favorite, all-purpose, unscented lotion. Also, my January and February issues of MSL and several books:

That's all - it's a very small nightstand, I'm afraid. On rare occasions, there might also be a mug of something hot here, but that creates a rather dicey situation. For one thing, there's the inevitable spillage - and no cup of tea is worth that much extra laundry. And for another thing, nothing draws children's attention faster than their mother resting in bed with a hot cup of tea. It's like an imbedded sensor goes off or something:

Hey! Mother's resting *and* she has tea! Let's go get her!

All righty then, enough talk - it's now officially time for bed! Friday's winding down and the weekend stretches before us ... I hope it's a very happy one for you and yours. :)

For those born on January 10th ...

But most especially for someone dear to us all ...Fanpurpleflowers

"You are a natural leader and a good quick thinker. You would be successful in any commercial enterprise. Cultivate poise and do not be self-conscious or lacking in self-esteem. You are attractive and unusually popular among your friends. Your love is true and loyal." ~ A (wonderfully accurate) passage from The Good Fortune Birthday Book.

Happy Birthday, Elizabeth! May God bless you today and always! :)

Down the December Trail ...


Last week, our Homeschool Nature Club met for a winter solstice program, and once again we had a great turnout! In past posts I've described the how's and why's of our group, so for today, I'm just going to plow on (a rather timely pun as you'll see) with the tale of our day. :) But I must mention that each month is organized by one mum (we are, roughly, a group of 15 families), and  December's meeting was led by my friend, Laura. She did a fabulous job, as you'll see! I hope you take away some ideas, or perhaps just some winter inspiration!

Since the forecast called for heavy snow, we bumped our meeting time up, and just after noontime our group had gathered at a local wildlife reservation, ready to observe some winter nature together.

It was an *extrememly* cold day, so I bundled up my boys (EB was home with Nana) ... and here they are, perched on their favorite rock and clutching their thermal cups of glogg. (Remember this was St. Lucia's Day, so we were already in a rather northerly mood):


Our meeting began inside this roomy pavilion. We listened to a charming Danish folktale, The Evergreens, as read by Odds Bodkins on his Gentle Tales of Nature CD.


As the kids listened, we passed around solstice cupcakes - golden representing the (returning) light and chocolate symbolizing the (retreating) dark:


Laura spent time explaining the science of the winter solstice to our group. Here she has two helpers, one holding a globe, and the other a flashlight (aka the sun). This was an excellent demonstration of the way the seasons change! 


Next we had a simple candle-lighting activity, and just as we gathered out in the open, the snow began to fall ...


Each of us got our own little votive to light at home on the first day of winter (which is this coming Saturday). The precise moment the solstice will occur is 1:08 a.m. EST, so I'm thinking we'll light our candles when we wake up Saturday morning. ;)

Next, most of us headed out for our nature walk, while some folks headed home to get ahead of the storm. All along the path Laura had "planted" stations of information where the the children could stop and learn more about the winter season. We began our walk rather leisurely, but soon we were moving along at a good clip - the snow was falling fast and furious!

Along the way we found:


Information about evergreens ...


A lovely Nativity, speckled with snow ...


Maps and excellent information ...


Questions for the children to ponder ...


A quick solstice experiment ...


Winter spices, such as this wonderful frankincense ...


A mistletoe pop quiz ...


Information on America's Stonehenge (I had no idea!)


And at the very end of the walk, Laura had sprigs of mistletoe for everyone to take home! She made sure to have the children wipe their hands after handling it due to its toxicity.

Because it was snowing hard, I hardly took any landscape pictures at all. Despite the weather, though, the day was informative and fun, a true winter welcome in every sense of the word!

And here's the last picture I took, just as we headed out of the park ...


Technically, winter may not be due for another five days, but it has made itself right at home here in New England! The storm that set in this day landed us with nine inches by morning! (See my Snow Days photo album at left for more details.) We had another storm yesterday - a Nor'easter - which is infamous in these parts for snow/sleet/rain and driving winds. And I hear tell there's more snow on the way for later this week!

All this snow can only mean good news for our January Nature Club meeting, however ... next month we'll be observing Animal Tracks in the Snow! Speaking of which, the boys and I are eager to see what animal signs we can find in our own snowy backyard ... once it warms up just a tad, that is!

Have a happy week!

Cocoa + Cookies + Christmas Stories

Throw in lots of friends and a good bit of snow and you have yourselves a really fun way to spend a December afternooon! Especially if it happens to be a Monday!

The timing was perfect - this morning we woke to our first real snow of the season, and this afternoon we attended a Winter Holiday Storytime with friends. This was an activity I organized for my homeschool group, and I was so pleased it had a nice turnout (30+ kids!). The idea was this ~ to have the children bring their favorite Christmas (or winter) book to share with their friends in a cozy story circle. And obviously if there are stories being shared on a wintry afternoon, then there absolutely must be cocoa and cookies. So there was, and plenty of both. :)

If I may, I'd like to share a few pictures from our day ...


In the above picture are bookmarks I made for the kids to decorate - a memento of what I hope will be our first annual Winter Holiday Storytime. These were colored as the last story was read today. Now obviously this activity appealed mostly to the youngest children in our homeschool group, but I was thinking next year it might be nice for the older kids to get together to read a classic like A Christmas Carol. (They'd get cocoa too, of course.)

And here are the goodies brought by one and all:


From front to back: anise drops, frosted gingersnaps, banana bread, oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, brownies, pretzels and a bowlful of marshmallows for the cocoa. (Though I suspect most of them were eaten right out of the bowl, lol!) Later, a delicious pumpkin spice cake arrived too. Do you know, all that was left at the end of the day was a half-bag of pretzels? I'm not surprised - listening to stories works up quiet an appetite!

(Not shown, in the kitchen there was a cocoa station set up with an electric kettle, thermal carafe, cocoa mix and several kinds of holiday tea for the mums.)

We used a long table for displaying all the books brought today:


As you can see, we had quite an array! Some funny, some solemn - all wonderful because they were special to our children. A few mums took turns reading aloud to the kids who spread out on the floor across a landscape of fleecy blankets.   

And the perfect timing continued ... though the morning's snow had turned to a slushy rain (making for tricky travel getting over to the library) midway through our storytime, we looked out the windows to find it snowing once more!

Our drive home was equally snowy, but just in that quiet, easy way. (The roads were passable and the light was still good.) I couldn't help pulling over to snap a picture of this field near where we live:


December is a lovely month for so many reasons - soft snows, special stories and hot cocoa shared with friends. I'm thankful we got to enjoy these things today.

And now the snow has tapered and the sun has set ... the boys are still chatting about the fun we had, and asking when our next homeschool activity takes place. (And that would be Book Group later this week ...)

So I'm off ~ to supper, to dishes, to bathtimes and bed. I hope you all had a good day and I'll see you sometime tomorrow. :)

A Pretty Paper Package ...

... all tied up with string ...


How lovely is this handmade envelope? On its own, a present to treasure:


This is what my friend Kim (last night's hostess) handed me just before our meeting adjourned - which was much later than intended, but we were having such fun - as a thank you for bringing my file system to the gathering last night. Well, you can just imagine my reaction to such a pretty paper package, one fastened with silver alphabet brads and tiny tinkling bells ...

Oh, my.

And the goodies inside were equally thrilling:


The brand new Living Crafts magazine!!! (For which I've searched high and low the past two weeks to no avail.) And the sweetest little squirrel stickers, too! Such a thoughtful treat, inside and out. :)

(By the way I've grilled asked Kim for the instructions to the envelope, and I hope to try this handcraft sometime myself. And when I do, you can bet I'll post about it here - though I doubt my results will be nearly as pretty!)

Oh, yes, about the meeting! Well, before we even got started on our topic (organization, if you remember), we tucked into slabs of freshly baked gingerbread with dollops of homemade whipped cream. (Recipe forthcoming!)

Then we got gabbing about all kinds of things - food, health, curriculum, travel - but eventually we did come around to the topic of the night, and there were lots of organizational tips shared. I was able to explain the file crate in what I think (or hope) was a somewhat clear manner (though I'm considering writing up a little brochure to keep it all straight, lol). And best of all, I came home with a fresh eye for my clipboard, an element of the file system I've sort of ignored until now:


No, it's not quite so pretty as practical - but what it holds are the papers and notes for the day at hand (pulled from the week's folder), along with a small sheet of paper for jotting down timely tasks. At the end of the day, I re-file (or perhaps toss) the papers and pull out the next day's materials. I also start a new list of to-do's. My goal is to prepare my clipboard (and therefore preview tomorrow) each night before bed.

Oh, there's more to say, but the late night is catching up with me, so I'm off! I hope you all have a great night, and as always, thanks for stopping by. :)

An A for The Bee!


Today we went on a little field trip to see The Bee Movie, and I think we can safely say it lived up to all the buzz. My boys gave it a solid A - and though admittedly we're not hard to please, it really was quite enjoyable.

In addition to being highly entertaining, the movie also presented several excellent rabbit trails to follow: bees, beekeeping, honey, pollination, ecological balance ... even business ethics! I now have quite a little bee unit in mind for the spring. (And that should be right about the time The Bee Movie comes out on DVD!)

But if I may, let me give you a little back story. (You knew you weren't getting away without backstory, lol.) Several months ago we saw the previews for The Bee Movie (remember Jerry Seinfeld in a bee suit?) and I marked down the release date in my planner. Then I pretty much forgot about it, but apparently Crackerjack kept it in mind.

Now, earlier this month we went on a Book Group field trip to see The Dark is Rising, a movie based on the book by the same name which Bookworm read for the September meeting. The movie was rated PG, and though I knew it would be fine for 12 year old Bookworm, I wasn't too sure about 8 year old Crackerjack. He really wanted to go (mostly so as not to miss out) and when I read reviews that made it sound do-able, I decided to bring him along. Well, two seconds into the movie I knew it was a mistake - CJ spent most of the movie with his eyes shut and his hands clamped over his ears! Don't get me wrong, the movie was good (if perhaps a bit dark), for a pre-teen, but we all agreed afterward that it really should have been rated PG-13.

Anyhoo, as the credits rolled, Crackerjack turned to me and said, "Mama, PLEASE may we see The Bee Movie the DAY it comes out?" As if somehow that would make up for the Dark is Rising debacle, lol. I readily agreed, and when the day came, we had lined up several friends to attend the matinee with us. :)


And sharing the movie made a fun day all the more fun!

Well, I hope you all have a great weekend! And if you live up here in the northeast, keep those hatches battened!

Out & About: Aquarium School!

It was back to Boston today for our marine science class at the New England Aquarium. First though, we had to get that online reading assignment done ... this month's theme: conservation and fisheries.


We got into the city a bit early so we stopped in at the famed Aquarium gift shop before class started. The boys spent a good deal of time checking out all the stuffed animals. Bookworm particularly liked the golden hammerhead shark. (Paging Santa!)


Penguins are a HUGE part of the Aquarium experience, and the gift shop definitely showcases them, as you can see from this giant stuffed penguin chick! Earlybird would love this, but we didn't even dare ask how much he cost!


I'm sure you know this, but penguins are big Patriots fans.

This is just a shot of the city from outside the Aquarium. I think I posted almost the exact same one last month, but it always takes my breath away when I see it.


Once our class got underway, the kids got down to work. Bookworm is in the older class (which my friend Lisa helps to chaperone) and Crackerjack is in the younger class (where my friend Beth and I help out). I am so glad I volunteered - I am learning so much!

Here is CJ with his friends, coloring pages of animals that might end up in fishing nets - swordfish, oysters and lobsters to name a few ...


And speaking of lobsters ~ we got to visit with one! (Side note: are my kids the only ones who insist on "saying hi" to the lobsters at the grocery store?)


Well today was their chance to really get up close and personal. We learned all about them - their color range, their life span and fishing regulations regarding their size. This particular lobster was six years old, a lifetime resident of the Aquarium. The oldest lobster on record was 100 years old! Who knows how old lobsters in the wild can grow to be.


Here we have a demonstration of a lobster trap in action (complete with lobster puppets). It was fascinating to learn how the traps were invented - how fishermen realized the lobsters can get in and out with relative ease. Rather than build a smarter trap however, they just limit their catch to whatever ends up inside when the trap gets pulled.

We learned a bit about the history of lobsters too - how they were once considered cheap and unsavory and were fed mostly to prisoners (by law "only" three times a week!). Today of course they are an expensive (and delicious) delicacy.

Our teacher also showed us how a buoy works, and explained that if a buoy comes loose, the trap is lost. Fortunately the trap is secured with clasps that break down in the water, so it eventually all comes apart (letting loose any widlife).


The subject of this picture is very hard to see here, but there is a large fishing net suspended from that silver pole at the top of the shot. We were shown how the gills of a large fish get caught in the holes, but smaller fish can swim on through.

Such a net could possibly trap a dolphin however, a mammal which needs air after a time. To prevent this from happening, a pinger is set up, a small device that sits beneath the net and slowly and repeatedly "pings" a sharp sound (fueled by the natural electicity in the water). Dolphins have excellent hearing and avoid the rather annoying sound, and therefore the net traps as well.

Next we played a very interesting game, one that combined trivia questions based on our day's lessons and the concepts of overfishing ...


Each table began with a foil pan filled with a mixture of beans, raisins, popcorn and candy bars. These items represented fishing grounds and its stock. Each child was given an empty cup and a straw as fishing tools. On go, they were to use their straws to get as much of the stuff in the pan into their cups. It was harder than it looked, but after a few "fishing seasons" (30-second rounds) the pan was emptying. The teachers would come around and survey the "fishing grounds" assessing whether they had been overfished or not. If the stock was still plentiful, they added a bunch more back in, but if the stock had run low, they added only one or two more pieces (symbolizing diminishing populations).

By answering questions correctly the kids earned bonus points and the ability to upgrade their tools from straws to spoons. Now the pans were really getting emtpy!


To be honest, our table was getting highly distracted by the amount of chocolate being fished, lol. (Or more precisely, who had how many pieces and how many pieces were still left.)

By the way, I know I only have pictures of Crackerjack's class, but that's where I spend my time. I might have to ask Lisa to take pictures of the older group for me one month! Though the classes do follow, roughly, the same lesson plan, the materials are presented at grade level. Each class ranges in size from 18 to 20-odd students. All homeschoolers from all over the area.

Here's our gang, posing among the dolphins ...


Oh, and here are a few shots of urban wildlife on our way out ...


A Proper Bostonian Sparrow. ;)


And a gorgeous, um, seal (?) in an outdoor exhibit. (Please excuse my ignorance here, I didn't actually check to see what kind of animal this was - it could perhaps be a sea lion, or maybe a leopard seal. I really have no idea. I will verify next month.)

Oh, and I forgot to mention - we talked quite a bit about cod, a local and historic fish here in New England. A Sacred Cod hangs in the chamber of the Massachusetts House of Representatives, and a golden cod hangs in front of our favorite restaurant. Seeing as how Legal's is a stone's throw from the Aquarium, I popped over for a quick snap:


And still speaking of cod, I picked up this fascinating book at the gift shop: The Cod's Tale. It will be a great way to extend our Aquarium School lessons at home.


So there's the Aquarium School report for this month! Next up: sharks!