Health Feed

An Update and Many Thanks!

First off, I want to thank you all for your wonderful advice and kind prayers!

I knew all I had to do was ask, and I would receive many thoughtful responses regarding my current illness. I appreciate the time and energy you all spent advising me on the mastitis ... so much excellent information in this comment thread!! In fact, I'm printing it all out to keep for future reference. And since I certainly don't want to go through this again, I will definitely keep in mind all your great tips on how to prevent masitis in the first place.

In the meantime, I am feeling much better - I think I was fortunate to nip this infection right in the bud because by the second morning the redness and fever were gone, and by the third day the achiness had subsided dramatically. 

Plus, the very good news is I have not reacted to the antibiotic! Which is a miracle, truly, because THERE HAS NOT BEEN ONE antibiotic I could take successfully in years. So I now have a medicine I can add to the "ok" column on my medical chart. :)

Also, I am nursing and resting as much as possible and thanks to my mum who has been here every day that has been very possible. She's been here helping with the kids, the baby, the dishes, the laundry, the unpacking (which we are STILL working through) and the meals. I don't know how I'd be getting through this without her ...

(We're also getting ready for a big celebration here in a couple of weeks - a double party in honor of Little Bear's Baptism and Bookworm's Graduation. I'm all about the list-making right now ... )

 Now, just to add insult to injury (or perhaps it's the other way around!) yesterday I had a little stumble (not while holding the baby thank goodness!) and stubbed my toe fiercely on of all things, Bill's cordless drill. So now I can add "broken toe" to this crazy week.


It's not so bad I can't walk, just all bruised and ugly looking. I can walk if I am careful not to put pressure on it and thankfully, you really don't have much call for moving the third toe to the right of the big one. ;)


I have a little one waking in the crib next to me and so my time here is up. I wanted to be sure you all knew how grateful I am for your support, that I am on the mend, and that I will be back here again just as soon as I can ...


Nursing Mother Advice?

(Note: This post will certainly be "TMI" for many folks so please feel free to skip it!)

So, I've been nursing for eight weeks and over the past couple of days I noticed some symptoms that made me think I might be coming down with mastitis. I've never had it before, but I've read about it and heard about it from others. Well, last night things really kicked in - I developed a high fever, chills, body aches, and those telltale "red streaks" - so this morning I placed a call with my midwife's office to see what they thought ... and now I've been put on an antibiotic.

So I'm wondering if any of my readers have any mastitis advice for me - how you recovered from it and prevented it from happening again. I'm especially interested in home/natural remedies ... not that an antibiotic is not warranted, but I have a really tough time with antibiotics. In fact, I'm allergic to most of them, so I'm hoping (praying!) I will not react to this cephalexin. 

Other than the medicine, I have warm compresses going, and we're doing very frequent nursings ... I'm also taking motrin as needed. Any other tips?

Thanks in advance for your thoughts!

Good Friday & Baby News

Some hot cross buns for afternoon tea ...

Hot cross buns

Actually, these are easy-peasy blueberry scones, with some homemade frosting piped on top in the traditional cross shape. Note the odd one in the back - the one with the O, rather than the ? That was Bill being frisky, an attempt to play tic-tac-toe while I prepared the buns.


Well, I hope your Easter weekend is off to a nice start! Bill's home today and we're having a quiet afternoon, preparing for our family gathering on Sunday. This morning I had a midwife appointment and there we talked about lots of things - including my weekly appointment schedule from here on out (every Friday till the end of May) and a possible induction date (considering my super-fast deliveries of both Crackerjack and Earlybird). I have a feeling I will go sometime before my due date anyway, but we'll know more as the weeks go by. What was really neat at today's visit ~ my mum came with me so she not only got to meet my midwife, but she also got to hear our little Baby-O's* heartbeat. He's always so scrappy when they use that doppler wand ... flipping around and giving a little show!

So all is going well ... I'm going to start on a magnesium supplement and daily protein shakes ... we'll wait on the thyroid testing to see how things go and/or if any other symptoms arise. And I had the echocardiogram last night and it went well ... that is, the test was smooth and the technician was lovely (an old high school classmate as it turned out!) but I'm waiting to hear what the cardiologist made of things. My midwife assured me that palps and an obvious heartbeat are very common in pregnancy and that all this testing is just to be extra cautious. That made me feel better!

*Now, for the time being, here at the blog we'll be calling the little guy "Baby-O," and yes, the "O" refers to his real name, which we chose some time ago. I don't mean to be so secretive, but we've always kept our boys "real names" private. Well, as you know, there aren't many "O" boy names out there, and I can tell you we're especially fond of Gaelic (Irish) names ... so maybe that will give you a little clue? If you'd like to guess, leave a comment below and I'll let you know if you're right. ;)

Enjoy the rest of your Friday, my friends ... and a happy holiday weekend to all!


One Test Down, Two More to Go ...

Hello, my friends ~ I hope this Tuesday's been kind to you. :)

Just checking in to let you all know that I had my ekg this morning, and although it looked fine, the doctor is running a few more tests - the first being a heart monitor which I'm wearing at this very minute (and for 24 hours in total) and the second being an echocardiogram later next week. I'm sure all will be well, but naturally, it's a bit of a concern. The reason I'm having these tests is because last week I started having palpitations and at times, a racing heartbeat. (Or what feels like a racing heartbeat - apparently my puse rate is a bit high but not unusual for a pregnant woman.) The episodes are fairly random and not all that bothersome just off-putting, you know? I hated to mention them to my midwife, but wanted to err on the side of caution. And oddly enough they started up while we were watching "Oz" last Tuesday and they've continued ever since. I'm told that palpitations are not all that uncommon during pregnancy because our blood flow increases by something like 75% - wow! - and I've had palpitations before, but never when pregnant. Has anyone else experienced anything like this? 

So I wanted to post an update, since several of you very kindly offered your prayers and encouragement yesterday. I will certainly let you all know how it goes and "what's what" ... once I find out just what that is! (And of course, I always appreciate your prayers!)

Now on a happier note, before I go, how about a couple of cute kitty pics?

Archie tv 2

This is Archie, who for the first time ever has become aware of the tv! Earlybird loves a dvd called Kitten Party, and we noticed Archie paying rapt attention to the screen yesterday while KP was playing ... and next thing we know, he's got himself right up right in front of the tv, batting at the cats on the screen!

Archie tv 1

Archie tv 3

Archie tv 4

My cute, clever (sometimes crazy) cat. :)


So I'm off for now, but I hope you all have a good week. Take care of yourselves and your loved ones ... I'll see you here again sometime soon!


A New Year, A New Love ...

Ultrasound 1

 A new little BOY in our family! 

On New Year's eve, via level 2 ultrasound, Bill and I were able to "meet" our fourth child, growing so beautifully inside me. And the doctor declared him a healthy and handsome little fella

We are absolutely thrilled and feel so very blessed. And this great news comes as such relief after a screening test done last month had come back with concerns. I got the call the day after Christmas, that there was a flag on my test, and though I tried hard not to be anxious - how could I not? Nothing is more important than our children and all we want is for them to be healthy and safe.

I took comfort in the fact that my level 2 ultrasound was scheduled for the next morning - we'd find out what was what and could go on from there. So you can imagine our great dismay when we showed up at the hospital bright and early the next morning, only to be told the test had mysteriously been rescheduled for a whole week later!!

Needless to say I was upset - but Bill marched us right over to the OB office so we could find out what the delay was about. Thankfully my OB office was able to finagle us an appt. at a specialist's office in town - on New Year's Eve of all times! This meant we only had a few more days to wait.

{All this, by the way, coincided with my need for a blog break!}

So off to Boston Bill and I went late Monday afternoon. I had really been trying so hard to not worry ... and between some wonderful advice from a very dear friend (not to mention some fervent praying) I did feel a peace in the days leading up to the ultrasound. I was still nervous about that screeening, but I also felt that "what would be would be" and that God would grant us the strength and grace to accept it. He has always done this and I had to believe this time would not be any different.

So anyhoo ... come 5 p.m. New Year's Eve, it was finally time to "meet" our little one and see how "he or she" was doing!

Well, the technician who performed the initial ultrasound was SO wonderful - very soothing and upbeat. She talked things over with us, and assured us she would narrate the whole procedure, which is just what she did. What followed was an amazing tour of our baby's environment and the baby himself - we got to see him moving around, sucking his thumb, his little beating heart ... and of course once she saw his little you-know-what the tech told us we were having a son!

Now, we'd heard that once, twice or THREE times before, lol! But it was music to our ears. Especially the news, at the end of the exam, that everything looked great - the tech saw no abnormalities at all. She told us she would confer with the doctor who would do his own exam and then we could go forward from there.

And this doctor was - plainly put - possibly the nicest doctor I've ever met. Just so kind and warm and supportive. He knew our concerns and he addressed them immediately, telling us we had a very healthy and handsome little boy! 

So Bill and I drove home - honestly, it seemed more like floating - and delivered the BLESSED news to our family. The boys were so cute, I wish we had videotaped it! Earlybird especially, who, up till now, had not been directly told I was expecting a baby. (Though at times he would comment on the size of my belly, lol.) Well, EB walked right up to me and put his hands on my belly and said:

"Wow, there's a baby boy in there?!"

Since then he's been exclaiming, "A baby's in mama's belly and he's coming out soon!"* And he loves the ultrasound pictures - so much so, Bill made him photocopies - and he holds them and says, "He looks just like me!"

So cute. :)

*Of course, "soon" is a rather abstract concept for an autistic child, so the five month wait will be a long one for EB. We've tried to explain that the baby will come "after the green leaves are back on the trees." Which in New England is usually mid-May. Hopefully this will give EB some perspective ... and patience!

I think the time will fly by for us ...

Well my friends, there's our little (big!) "New Year" news ... and I am now officially back from my holiday break. I have a few posts percolating ... a learning room update, planners & planning, baby lists and some winter television posts. Did you all watch the Call the Midwife Holiday Special? We waited till last night to watch it - it was wonderful! And I simply CANNOT WAIT for Downton to begin this Sunday night! I will certainly have a chat post up next Monday morning. :)

So Happy New Year, everyone! I hope 2013 will be a great one for you!

See you all again sometime 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!

Guess Who I Met Today?

Sonogram 1


He or she looks absolutely wonderful. Seven weeks along (due the end of May) with that gorgeous little heartbeat flickering away ...

I'm in love.

I'm going to spend my teatime today reading through all your lovely comments ... I keep saying it, but I honestly can't thank you enough for your support and for so enthusiastically sharing in our joy. This is such a special time for our family, and I'm thrilled to share it here with you all ...

Before I go though, I'd like to ask for nausea remedies/advice. Fortunately I'm not actually getting sick, just experiencing strong nausea at different times of the day (especially when driving and upon first waking up). Saltines are very helpful - I keep a baggie with me wherever I go - even to bed! But I find it hard to eat because the idea (and often smell) of something can make me feel queasy. I'll go from being absolutely sure I need oh, say, Cheezits - to eating three and wondering what on earth I was thinking. Lol.

So advice, please? If you have some, and the time to leave it. :)

Have a great day everyone ... I'll see you here again very soon.

Friday Felines

It's been a while since I shared photos of my kitties, so here they are ...

FF jul 20 1

FF jul 20 2

Archie on top, Oliver on bottom. "Admiring" the birds from the windows.


We're actually taking Archie in to the vet this morning because he's been sneezing since Wednesday night, so we assume he has a cold. (Both cats have had colds before.) The poor guy ... he loathes visiting the vets! And we have the nicest vet ever ... but that means nada to Archie, lol.

Also, I may be a bit MIA over the next couple of days - I'm taking Benadryl for an allergic reaction and it's completely knocking me out! I'm not sure what I'm reacting to (possibly pepper) but my immune system goes wacky like this sometimes. I just have to wait it out and keep things calmed with the med, even if it puts me to sleep!

So let me say now, I hope you all have a nice weekend. Take care of yourselves and your loved ones ... 

I'll see you here again very soon!

Downton ~ A Way with Words

A quick hello this morning ... our Earlybird finally got hit with the virus so we're back at loose ends over here. Or at least EB is, the poor thing. I joked this morning to Bill that I felt a bit akin to Downton Abbey these days ~ turning our "manor" into a "sick ward" of sorts, lol. Makeshift daybeds in the parlor, and extra laundry down the stairs ...

Speaking of Downton though, I wanted to link you all this neat little piece I read in the Sunday Globe: "Linguistic Gotcha at 'Downton Abbey.'" It addresses some of the words and phrases used by DA characters that would not really have been used at that time. It's not a terribly nitpicky article - which would have been irritating - it's actually rather interesting. So I hope you enjoy. :)


Well, I'll be back when I can ... for now, wish me luck and please wish my EB a quick return to good health! (Prayers would be deeply appreciated as well.)

Have a nice Wednesday, my friends ...

Signs of Life

February crocus at home
Hello my friends, and Happy Sunday!

Yes, there are signs of life here again, inside and out ... we are slowly making our way back to 'normal' and thank the good Lord, Bill and Earlybird have remained healthy. (Thank you SO much for your prayers! May I be greedy and ask for your continuance?) The older boys are just about A-ok - though Bookworm is still eating far less than usual! I myself am still feeling shwiped (another one of those 'family vocab' words) and my stomach is tolerating a little bit of bland food, but considering how poorly I felt on Friday and even yesterday, I'll take it! (To give you a good picture just how aggressive this bug really was ... I lost seven pounds over the past three days. o.O)

Anyhoo! It's a cold and sunny Sunday here - lovely, really - and I wanted to share a few photos with you ... as you see above we spotted "signs of life" in our front yard ... crocus shoots under the big maple!

And early this morning I spotted a pair of male robins engaging in what I assume to be spring courtship behavior. They were fighting - over territory or a female I couldn't be sure - but they were big and red and just looked like Springtime itself sitting high up in our tree.

Fighting robins 3

I so wished I would hear them sing - nothing says Spring like robin song - but they were far too busy sparring to sing for me.

Here's a picture of my lunch, kindly made and arranged by Bill (who has picked up a LOT of slack these past few days while I was down for the count).

Mama's lunch

There's chicken noodle soup in the mug, and that's a half a grilled cheese sandwich. Bookworm got the other half. ;)

After lunch I found I had a little energy so instead of cleaning as I really NEED to do (using cleaners I bought specifically for anti-viral cleanup), I sat at my desk and did a little "pretty puttering."

Valentine flowers 1

Valentine flowers 2
Monthly binder

Martha binder stuff

(What you see directly above has to do with couponing ... and I can't wait to show you all about it. This was an idea I got from my friend, Kim. :))

I can show you the spine of the binder, though ...

Marketing binder 1

And before I go, how about a couple of cat shots, since I didn't put up a Friday Felines last week?

Cats watching bird at feeder 1

Focusing on a fluffy finch at the feeder.

Archie hunting birdies

Archie, aching for avian achievement.

Ollie in front window

Ollie, wondering where I went ...

Ollie in sunny basket

And Ollie again, basking in a basket.


Well I think that used more brain cells than I have to spare at the moment, so I'll wrap up, now, lol ...

Before I go, I can tell you all, I will definitely be watching Downton Abbey tonight - provided things stay status quo. That special I mentioned a while back - Secrets of the Manor House - is on at 8, so we'll record that while watching Once Upon a Time with the boys. (For Lost fans, the actress that played Claire - mother of Aaron - is guest starring tonight on OuaT. She's playing Beauty (as in, Beauty and the Beast).)

So, you may expect my "Morning After" Downton post to go up early as usual tomorrow.


Until then, my friends, have a good night and stay safe and well. I'll see you all again sometime soon ...

Listing Ship

Oh my goodness, these past 24 hours ...

So the "off" feeling I spoke of in my Thursday evening post proved to be fair warning ... I came down with the stomach virus (aka norovirus) that night. And holy moly, my friends, I've never been sicker in my life!

The good news is, the older boys are doing much better - Crackerjack is 100% again, and Bookworm is nearly there, too. And I'm also feeling much better a full day later. I'm able to drink again and things don't hurt so much!

(Note: shaved ice + Gatorade = the best thing since sliced bread.)

But, the bad news is ... niether Bill nor Earlybird have come down with this ... yet.

Though Bill - who got up to make me coffee around 5 - told me his stomach felt "off" and went right back to bed. And EB's not eating this morning, but keeps asking for lemonade, which is something he does when his stomach feels upset.

Oh boy.

So I'm not sure when I'll be posting "normally" again, but I wanted to stop in and let you all know where we're at. (And perhaps ask for some prayers that my guys don't bear this too badly!)

I do hope you are all doing well ... and I hope your weekend is a good one. Stay safe and healthy!

I'll back here again just as soon as I can ...

This is me ...


Well, obviously this is Archie, but this is how I feel. This is how you'd find me if you went looking for me this morning ...

Because it seems whatever bug Earlybird had this past week has found its new home in yours truly. It came on quite suddenly while I was out shopping with the boys yesterday - crazy body aches, fever and chills. So Bill came home from work early and I went to bed ... 

(And in bed I remain!)

Just wanted to pop in quickly to check in, though. I hope your Tuesday's looking better than mine! I also wanted to tell you that today is National Clean Out Your Refrigerator Day. (Perfect pre-holiday timing.) It seems pretty self-explanatory, but here's a nice cleaning checklist from Something to print out and file in my homekeeping binder - because goodness knows I won't actually be cleaning today!

Also, this Thursday is National Homemade Bread Day. Might be a great day to practice making Thanksgiving rolls or perhaps a loaf of butternut squash bread. :)

In our household, this will be a pretty quiet day. Bill's working from home so he can help with the kids - he'll oversee the routines and lesson plans. I plan to rest as much as possible, but EB and I will do a little "couch-schooling" today. And since this is our "nest and hibernation" week this actually works out well ...

I think we'll build "nests" on the family room sectional and do whatever work we can accomplish from there. (Probably mostly reading and watching TV, lol.) We'll make a list of things we'd want on hand for the winter - if we had to truly hibernate all season. I'll ask: "What would our winter den look like?" There's a drawing project right there! And I'll ask Bill and the older boys to take EB out on "a nest walk" before the rain moves in this afternoon ...

By the way, my next "normal" post was (and, hopefully, is) going to be about how these assigned "weekly themes" help with my seasonal planning. It's a way of funneling all those big "seasonal ideas" into do-able projects each week. I'll talk more about that idea just as soon as I can ...

In the meantime, however, I hope you all have a nice day ... stay safe and be well ... see you all again very soon!


The End of a Season


"Old Jack" has little life left in him ... but he still mustered up a smile for the rising sun. :D

A quick good morning, my friends. I'm working on that menu planning post, but it's sort of slow-going. Earlybird is still feeling poorly and my main objective this morning is just getting liquids in him. The poor little guy -  he's usally such a ball of energy, but this cold has just knocked him for a loop.

I hope you all have a nice Wednesday ... take care and stay well ... I'll be back again very soon.


Salsa, anyone?


As you can see we have a bumper crop of jalapenos this year!

I myself can't eat salsa - though I do like it very much, if it's on the mild, sweet side. Bill absolutely loves salsa - as in, he could it eat it with every meal of the day, lol! He though, with his cast iron stomach, is able to eat it hot - and he actually prefers it hot, but he also likes it sweet. (His favorite store-brand is Newman's Own Pineapple Salsa.)

So, I was thinking I'd try making salsa for Bill - but I have never made it before, nor have I ever cooked with (let alone grown!) hot peppers before. If anyone has a salsa recipe to share, I'd love to hear about it! Or even if you have another way to use up my plentiful peppers!

(I also have LOTS of basil, mint and rosemary. This was a great year for my deck garden!)

Now, I have another quick question for you all ...

I was working on autumn learning themes for EB yesteday, and one I came up with was honey. I started brainstorming how to explore honey (bees, beekeeping etc.) and where to buy local honey. This jogged my  memory of something I read (or heard) somewhere that eating local honey can help you with your seasonal allergies. Does anyone know anything about this? I was thinking it might help Bill who has suffered so badly this year.

Thank you for any and all advice! And if I don't get here again over the weekend, I hope you all have a wonderful - safe, happy and rejuvenating - holiday.

See you all again very soon!


p.s. Tracy and Holly, thank you so much for your nature shelf suggestions! I love your ideas - the jars, the cake stand and the plate shelves. I'm going to toss them around a little - maybe back and forth with Bill - you've got my wheels turning!

Friday Photos & Newsy Nature Notes

Good morning, my friends. :)

I am sorry I have not been around much this week - things have been somewhat hectic here on my end. On top of all the "usual" hubbub, and all the house "work" we've been up to (cleaning/painting/flooring/etc.) Bill has been feeling rather unwell. For months now, he's been fighting an allergic reaction (to what, we're not sure) that affects his eyes, and now it seems, his sinuses as well. His eyes have been itchy, swollen, red and very painful for some time now - between high pollen levels and now our renovation work, he's just been miserable. When Bill's having an episode (because the reactions come and go) his undereye area gets all dark (like he's been socked in the nose!) and the skin all around his eyes gets puckery and wrinkled. Originally, he saw an opthamologist (who told him it had nothing to do with his eyes) and later a dermatologist, who prescribed creams and drops - which helped - but did not resolve the situation entirely. He's seeing his dermatologist again this week to address this current flare-up, but he is also seeing a nurse this morning because the sinus headache that came on yesterday was just awful. Honestly, I have never seen Bill so sick as when he walked in from work last night, and truly, I was considering a trip to the emergency room. Intense headaches and nausea are not something to fool with! Fortunately, the "Sinex" he took (a decongestant with pain reliever) as soon as he got home eased his pain within an hour. He also steamed his head (over peppermint-scented water) and applied ice where it hurt the most. Thankfully, by mid-evening he was feeling much better - the congestion had eased and the pain was completely gone.

All of this to say - if you would, please keep my Bill in your prayers, and if you have any home and/or natural remedies for sinus issues, I would appreciate suggestions. My mum gave Bill a neti pot, which, depending on what the nurse says this morning, he plans to try tonight. Although he had no fever I'm wondering if he might not have developed a sinus infection and possibly needs an antibiotic to clear things up. We're not big fans of antibiotics, but at times they are warranted. We'll see what he finds out today ... and later this week at his dermatology appointment.

Anyhoo! So I'm very glad it's the weekend, and though our plans were to install the wood flooring (we chose white oak - it's very nice) we may give ourselves a rest from "hard" labor and allergen-stirring activities. (Sawdust, sanding and paint fumes, etc.) I say all this like I'm working alongside Bill, lol, and I'm not - not really. I help move things and clear things out and take measurements and give my opinion. Otherwise I'm mostly on child duty (aka keeping kids out of the way!) and actually Bookworm - in all his teenage vitality - has been a huge help to his dad.

Speaking of kids, this post was meant to share photos taken by the boys last week. So without further ado, let me show you a few of their "summery" sights: 


This is a thunderhead heading our way. The storms that moved through on this evening (an evening I was heading out for coffee with friends, no less) were brief, but brutal! We had intense lightning, flash flooding, and when it was all said and done, a big and bright double rainbow. Amazing!


Bookworm caught this lovely little lace-winged bug in our house and before setting him free, he grabbed a few pictures. He thought it looked like a katydid, but after checking our field guide, we think it is the (aptly named) lacewing.


Now this odd looking insect (fly? bee? wasp?) spent all day on our deck. (And sadly, it perished there.) The boys gave it wide berth in case there was a stinger attached in any way, shape, or form. Any thoughts?


Yes, this hungry little (big!) fella came back. He seems to approve of our menu selection, lol - black oil, suet and peanuts. I should note, he is not actually baring his teeth at us in this photo - we just caught him in mid-chew!


Now, this picture takes a little explaining (as well as a good zoom - click on it to get a closer view). The birds you see here are a mother sparrow and two of her brood, however, if you look closely, the bird she is feeding in this shot is not actually a sparrow, but a baby cowbird ...


Have you ever heard of brood parasites? The cowbird is a species that uses the strong nesting instincts of other birds to its advantage. Basically, it drops its egg in another bird's nest (in this case, a sparrow's) and leaves its young to be hatched and fed by the "adoptive" parent. (Meanwhile it can move on and follow the food supply as it wishes.) We've actually seen this sparrow feeding two baby cowbirds at once! And they're very demanding, lol ... the poor mother sparrow can barely keep up!

Well, that's all we have for you this week. I hope you enjoyed a peek at our most recent nature photos. I've been lax on the upkeep of my nature notes column, but I can say, in our yard we've been watching that shy bunny, the cheerful chimpmunks and the feisty red squirrels. Along the wayside, the queen ann's lace, toadflax and goldenrod have started blooming ... and you should see the goldfinches visiting the spent lavender bed - they are so bright and lovely! Just like a Marjolein Bastin card come to life.

Ok, I'm off now, but first a quick update on Bill - I just spoke with him and the nurse confirmed a sinus infection (though she doesn't think it's connected with his eye allergy in any way). She started him on amoxocillin (blech, that stuff kills me!) and advised him to keep taking the decongestant. Thanks again in advance for any advice, your prayers, and as always thank you so much for stopping by!

Have a great weekend, everyone ...


Wednesday Q & A


Good morning, my friends ...

Well, Earlybird has the big-bad cold now - he woke up with a barking cough, and cranky as all get out, proclaiming, "I'm sick now!" So we're doing an impromptu mini-unit on germs this week - how we get sick, and how we can stay healthy. In the spirit of things I've set up a new book list called "Winter Health Study" and we'll be making some nutritious fruit smoothies and soup. Nothing like hands-on learning, right? ;)

Anyways, while I'm here, I wanted to catch up with some of the questions that have been left in recent comments ...

Oh! I've wanted to read Artful Blogging for the longest time! Do you like it? ~ Jen

It is an absolutely beautiful magazine, Jen. Lots of delicious eye candy, and some very inspiring stories and helpful suggestions. It's one of those magazines you can just flip through and absorb visually - and that would be enough - but even better when you can find the time to sit and read through the articles. Somerset magazines are quite expensive so aside from this gift issue I've only purchased AB once before. (I think it was a birthday treat to myself last year lol.) One thing I did come away with - besides maybe a bit of blog envy, lol - is a wish for a better camera. The photographs are just so clear and beautiful! My envy shames me a little though, because I am really very happy with my Cybershot. It's easy to use and that's why I use it so much - no lenses to mess with and I basically ignore the special settings. Still, I look at all those yummy pictures and ... sigh. ;)

Now, I have to admit to feeling a bit jealous that you have Where Women Cook....I have been searching high and low for at home in Florida and points in between. I guess I'll have to order it. Are you enjoying it? ~ Mary Chris

Mary Chris, I received both Artful Blogging and Where Women Cook as Christmas presents, but I have seen them at Barnes & Noble. They are absolutely beautiful and so inspiring! 

Where Women Cook, like AB, is also filled with lots of "eye candy" ... beautiful pictures - of food, dishes, cooking spaces, and some yummy recipes as well. I've only skimmed this issue so far - but I'm excited to dig in and read more thoroughly. Some of the women featured in this month's issue include ~ Ree Drummond (The Pioneer Woman), Joy Stinger (who raises makes lovely honey and wax crafts), Serena Thompson (The Farm Chicks), and MaryJane Butters (MaryJane's Farm). Scrumptious recipes are featured throughout, too ~ like Blackberry Scones, Meaty Lasagna and Saltine Caramel Bars.

Both Where Women Cook and Artful Blogging are splurges for sure, but well worth the money spent - for the information and inspiration!

I have 2 questions from older posts since I have exhausted my own search. 1.) Where do you purchase the 2010-11 Academic Daily planner and did you add the tabs yourself? 2.) I loved those autumn sheets. What brand? ~ Sherrylynne in Mpls

Sherrylynne, I buy the daily planner at my local Hallmark Paper Store, but I found it online here, too. And yes, I added the tabs myself - I think I bought them at Staples - possibly Target.

The sheets are from LL Bean, but I don't think they carry them anymore. For the record, they are incredibly soft and wash up so well. I definitely recommend LL Bean bedding in general. :)

Did you make those pizellecookies? They look yummy as does that poundcake. I'd like to try them both ~ Jan

I didn't make the pizelle cookies, Jan - they were an impulse buy at the supermarket down the street, lol. I've always wanted to try making pizzelle cookies - I'm not a big fan of anise (which is, I believe, the traditional flavoring for these delicate cookies) but I do love pizzelles made with vanilla or citrus. I like to serve them on the Feast of St. Agnes - a saint who is special to us - as "St. Agnes Snowflakes."

I've had my eye on this pizzelle maker for some time ... and I also like the idea of making homemade ice cream cones with pizzelle cookies. Especially since EB can't eat commercially made cones. 

It is funny that you posted a food post today because I read a book this week that reminded me so very much of you. It is called The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister. Have you ever read it? Such a lovely book! ~ Jackie

I have not read that book, but my library has a copy so I'll definitely be checking it out! Thank you for the recommendation!

Not that I have a lot of time for reading, but I am always grateful for good book recommendations, so please readers, if you have some - lay them on me! ;)

I was checking out some of my favorite sites and found this place and immediately thought of you. These are the cutest journals. ~ Nancy

Nancy, that is such a neat site! I loved looking through the journals they have posted there ... very inspiring! Thanks for the link. :)


OK, I think I've caught up with all the questions and links left for me recently. Thank you SO much to everyone who stops by, and special gratitude for those who leave an encouraging comment, or a helpful link. I appreciate each and every one of my visitors.

Have a wonderful Wednesday, everyone ~ hope your week is going well!

Crockpot Concerns?

Good Tuesday Morning, everyone ... 

I wanted to share this comment from Stacy and see what my readers might know about this troubling subject. This is the first I've heard of it ...

Dawn, I recently read a post on another blog regarding crockpots. Supposedly, some crockpots contain lead! EEK!! I didn't know that! I've had my crockpot for YEARS. It was a wedding gift. I noticed a long hairline crack in it the last time I used it a few weeks ago. I'm thinking about retiring that one since it's smaller than I'd like and then buying a new one that's guaranteed to be lead free. Do you know if your crockpot is lead free and if so, what brand/style is it? Can you buy stainless steel crockpots? I love cooking with stainless steel products. I look forward to your reply. Have a great week :-) ~ Stacy

Hi Stacy, and thank you for your comment. I've had my Rival slowcooker for a few years now, but I have no idea if it is lead-free. It's not something I had worried about (till now)! But I use my slowcooker A LOT (especially through the colder months) so I'd like to find out more about the issue if I could.

A quick google search provided me with conflicting information and a quick stop at Amazon showed lots of "stainless steel" slow cookers but from what I could tell they still have ceramic inserts.

Dear readers, do you know anything about this concern? And/or do you have any suggestions for a lead-free slow cooker?

Thanks for any insight ... 

~ Dawn

Good News! (An update on Bookworm)

I spoke with the pediatrician yesterday and she said the radiologist read Bookworm's x-ray as negative for pneumonia! She said he most likely has a virus and to continue with fluids, rest and cough suppressant if he needs it for sleeping at night. He also needs to finish the Zithromax because apparently you should never stop an antibiotic course once it's been started.

We are so relieved that - first of all - he's feeling so much better, and second of all, that his illness is less serious than we thought. (I'm also relieved to think my own pneumonia was most likely not contagious.) 

THANK YOU for all your prayers and well wishes - we deeply appreciate each and every one. I also thank those of you who shared your own family illness stories and helped set my mind at ease.

Before I go, could I ask you to remember my reader Tracy (from NJ)'s daughter who has been recently hospitalized with pneumonia? It's such a frightening time for their family and I know they would appreciate your prayers and good thoughts just as much as we did!

Things are calming down around here ... slowly getting back to some normalcy. Thanks again for your support and your patience. I'll be back again with a new post just as soon as I can. :)

A Bit about Bookworm

I'm back with another medical report - and this time it's not on me, but on one of the kids. Bookworm started a cough last week - it was accompanied by a sore throat and a high, stubborn fever. When he woke this morning with a temp hovering around 103, I decided it was time to get him checked out ... 

So Bill and I brought him in to Urgent Care this morning (I swear it feels like a second home to me these days) and they ran a strep test which was negative - BUT - they also did a chest x-ray and it showed a small pneumonia on his right side. 

He is feeling ok, but obviously we are alarmed that our son has such an illness. He started Zithromax this morning and will take it for the next five days. If he is not significantly better by Tuesday (i.e. the fever has receded and the coughing slowed) he will need to go back in for a reevaluation. 

Could I ask you to keep Bookworm in your thoughts and prayers and to send some healthy healing vibes our way? We sure could use them, and I would appreciate it so much ...

I will let you all know how he's doing in a day or two. Thanks so much my friends, and please take care this holiday weekend. :)

Checking in ... Take 2 :)

Happy Pentecost Sunday, everyone! I hope you are all having a nice weekend. :) Checking in with you all again - thank you so much for all your kind messages! 

First let me share a few pictures from the past week(s) and then I'll catch you up on the continuing drama that is my life these days lol!


A lovely rainbow after a late afternoon storm. Earlybird spotted it first!


A new rhododendron plant - a Mother's Day gift from my brother.


 Bookworm took this picture of a turkey vulture landing on a neighbor's chimney!


And the little guy above is an eastern gray tree frog - the night before we took this picture our entire neighborhood was serenaded by tree frogs! The "singing" started just after nightfall and was absolutely deafening! (You can hear a sample here.) And yes, as the name implies - they were up in the trees!

Ok, now for my "medical minute." :) The good news is, my pneumonia has cleared up very well. I had my lungs listened to this morning in fact and they were clear. The not so good news is I'm still coughing a lot and Friday night I actually injured myself by coughing so hard! I went in to urgent care this morning and the doctor feels I either bruised or possibly even cracked a rib! Not much you can do for such a thing - just rest, pain relievers and time. And round-the-clock cough suppressants (my med of choice is Delsym) to keep the coughing to a minimum. 

So! Here I am feeling quite out of the loop, like the month of May is passing me by ~ though grateful I am feeling more like myself day by day. I'm not sure when I will be back to regular posting, but I promise it will be just as soon as I can. In the meantime, take care of yourselves and your loved ones ... and I'll see you all again sometime soon!