Holiday Food Feed

My Thanksgiving Tea Journal, 2015

Thanks tea button

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

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

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

> bysunandcandle AT gmail DOT com <

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

What refreshments am I enjoying this week?

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

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

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

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

What am I reading this week?

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

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

What am I listening to this week?

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

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

What am I working on this week?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What's happening in nature?

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

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

A project with the children this week ...

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

"the cats "

"pears and hot dogs"

"packages in the mail"

"dirty boots"

"rain"

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

Words to inspire:

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

~ John McLeod

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

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

What refreshments are you enjoying this week?

What are you reading this week?

What are you listening to this week?

What are you working on this week?

What's happening in nature this week?

Any projects with the children this week?

(and finally)

Any quotations to share, some words to inspire?

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

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

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

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


Our Family's Halloween

Happy All Saints Day, my friends! I'm just popping in quickly to share some pictures from my family's "doings" yesterday. What a lovely day it was - perfect Halloween weather: clear and crisp, but not too cold for trick or treaters. Because it was a Saturday we were able to spread the fun throughout the day and then host a family supper before heading out with the younger boys to trick-or-treat ...

Here's a little peek at our day:

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 My mother painted this beautiful sign years ago for us - it's our favorite holiday decoration!

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Here we have pumpkins all drawn up for carving ...

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Bill was pressed into carving duty, a good job to do outside!

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All I could think of when I saw this pic was that line in the Charlie Brown special ...

"Aw, you didn't tell me you were gonna kill it!"

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Our jacks, all ready for All Hallow's Eve!

(The blue pumpkin - which was supposed to be more teal blue than sky blue, lol - is to show we also offer non-food treats for kids who have food allergies. You can read more about the teal pumpkin project here.)

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Beautiful Halloween daisies in the setting sun ...

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And here's our Halloween supper table!

As I prepared our table, I was thinking of that charming scene in Meet Me in St. Louis when the family gathers in the dining room on Halloween night (discussing Tootie's mishap and big family news) ... and everything looks so pretty and festive and there's this big, beautiful Halloween cake ...

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No, I didn't make it - but I wish I could bake like this! I spied it at my local grocery store and just thought it was PERFECT for the night's festivities. We were having my folks and my brother over, and Crackerjack had his good friend come for a sleepover.

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All kinds of goodies - apples and donuts are traditional Halloween fare, as is, of course, candy corn and pumpkin peeps!

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I was going to make some kind of crazy, colorful punch - but decided to keep it simple and traditional and just stick with fresh, local cider. There's nothing better in the Fall!

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Little Bear was enthralled with it all ... he pretty much just wanted ALL THE THINGS.

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Finally, the sun had set, the lights began to glow, and it was time for costumes!

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Earlybird (shown here between my brother Matt - aka Grumpy Cat - and myself) asked to be a "ghost" but he can be funny about costumes. Nothing uncomfortable or too elaborate. I ordered a "boo" face t-shirt on Amazon and it was just the ticket!

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 Meanwhile, our Little Bear was a Little Dragon! He looks concerned here, but that's only because he had spied the Halloween hay wagon was going down our street and he wanted out!

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 Love this picture of my dad walking with Little Bear. There's just something so enchanting about a nighttime walk, under the moon and stars, stopping at neighbors' homes and begging for treats ... ;)

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Earlybird, looking for any last trick-or-treaters ...

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Happy Halloween!

And as for this morning ... well, I spent the wee hours (before most of the household was up) cleaning up Halloween debris, setting up our blessings branch and our November books display and the remembrance altar and this lovely table ...

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 After Mass, we had a lovely pancake brunch!

And that's that for the Halloween recap! I hope you enjoyed ... and I hope you also had a wonderful weekend! I will be posting about my planner tomorrow and then I will also post about our gratitude project just as soon as I can. I can hardly believe it's November first already!

Thanks so much for stopping by my friends - see you here again very soon!


Halloween Ideas: A Paper Chain Countdown!

A bit of a long post ahead - I really had fun with this!

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Hello my friends, and Happy Tuesday!

Here is an overview of the Halloween Countdown Paper Chain I made for Earlybird to help him keep track of how many days he must wait for the holiday, which, in his opinion, should be here right NOW, as in today, no more waiting! I also wanted to shape his awareness of this holiday which to my mind is often overblown and over-commercialized (not to mention, downright inappropriate) when presented by the mainstream. As we happen to be studying the ancient Celts and our own Celtic ancestry this year, it is a perfect opportunity to learn where this holiday originated and how/why they celebrated it.

Ok ... here's how I put it together!

Halloween paper chain

I used regular construction paper, in Halloween shades, and cut out as many strips as there were days left till Halloween. (Ideally I would have started on October 1st, but this idea just came to me the other day as EB got itchy about the holiday's arrival.) Using coordinating Sharpies, I wrote the number of days left on the outside of the strip and on the inside (hidden from view) I wrote a simple activity or an interesting fact about the holiday ...

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It only took a few hours to pull together, and I think the daily "Halloween moment" will temper EB's impatience a bit. To keep it as easy as possible (because we all know fitting "extra" stuff into an already busy day is a challenge), I tried to consult my calendar as I worked out the ideas. For example, some things would work better on weekends (when Dad could come-with or help out), and some things could be woven smoothly into our weekly rhythm (e.g. nature walk on Monday, painting on Thursday, baking on Friday, etc.). It was fun coming up with these ideas! 

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(I think I said that already, but honestly, this stuff gets me so excited!)

So here is what each slip says - I hope you find some nuggets of fun for your family!

26 ... "Halloween began a long time ago in the country of Ireland. Find it on our map!"

25 ... "What sound does a ghost make? Write out your answer for me!"

24 ... "Halloween is sometimes called All Hallow's Eve. What is it the eve of?" (Check calendar if he can't recall what happens on November 1st - All Saint's Day.)

23 ... "Spiders are a symbol of Halloween. Let's do a fun worksheet about spiders for our science notebook!" (I've prepared a simple worksheet with labels, facts and shapes.)

22 ... "What do you think Halloween smells like?" (We'll make a collage of Halloween smells using pictures from old magazines of things like ... candy corn, pumpkins, apple cider, woodsmoke, autumn leaves, tree bark, mushrooms, chocolates, etc. I'm not sure how he'll answer so I'll try to have a wide array of foods and nature smells.)

21 ... "Did you know that a long time ago, the first Jack o'Lanterns were not made from pumpkins but turnips?!" (We'll find a turnip at the farmstand and try to carve it at home - and/or cook it for supper!)

20 ... "Today we will bake some special Halloween cupcakes for Bookworm to take back to college." (Earlybird LOVES to bake with me, and with Bookworm home for the weekend, this will be a good opportunity to use all the colorful sprinkles and gels we have collected.)

19 ... "Today we will listen to some fun Halloween music while driving around town." (Wee Sing for Halloween - a longtime favorite with my kids!)

18 ...  "What are the important rules for trick or treating safety?" (We'll talk about expectations for the night and write down important rules for having fun and staying safe.)

17 ... "Today we will read a special book about Halloween." (I have a very old book from when I was a little girl, Let's Find Out about Halloween. It even has my "notes" for a Halloween party I was hosting, roundabouts 3rd grade!)

16 ... "Today we will listen to The Legend of Sleepy Hollow." (I have requested the unabridged book on audio CD from the library but this might prove too intense for EB - in which case, I have the old Disney movie, The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad ready to play instead.)

15 ... "Let's make a Halloween pizza for supper tonight!" (Following this recipe from Taste of Home ... and as a special treat, I'll have picked this up at the library: Martha's Halloween Ideas - EB's a HUGE Martha fan, as his is mum!)

14 ... "Today we will design and make costumes for you and Little Bear!" (As of now, EB wants to be a ghost, and he has declared LB should be a dragon ... I figure starting two weeks ahead gives us time to get them ready ...)

13 ... "Today we will go on a family "Halloween Woods Walk!" (Our homeschool habitat for the month of October is "deciduous woods," so we'll use this activity as a means of observing this particular environment. Why do the woods seem spooky sometimes? What do we hear? Scuttling leaves, animal noises, the wind in the trees ... We will also notice signs of death and decay in nature ... fallen leaves or a rotting log, for example.)

12 ... "Let's write a Halloween poem!" (I will have holiday-related words cut out for him to put together as a "poem" and glue on a sheet he can decorate.)

11 ... "Today we will do some fun Halloween word puzzles!" (I've ordered Halloween Mad Libs Junior from Amazon - it will be a good way to reinforce parts of speech!)

10 ... "Let's make Halloween Ornaments!" (We'll use Halloween cookie cutters to cut out holiday shapes from a salt-dough, bake and decorate - perhaps with melted crayons, details here. I will bring a branch inside so we can hang the ornaments as a fun foyer decoration.)

9 ... "Today we'll paint a Halloween sky picture!" (We'll set up on the patio, late in the afternoon ... using natural plant-based watercolor paints. We'll hang them to dry in a tree.)

8 ... "Let's have a special Halloween tea with Nana!" (We'll serve autumnal goodies like apples and cheese, iced squash muffins, pear cider and orange-spice tea. I'll have EB help me prepare the goodies and serve to his Nana.)

7 ... "Today we'll mail Halloween cards to our friends!" (I have a pack of sweet, vintage Halloween postcards - we'll work together to sign and address them, add stamps, stickers, and bring them to the post office.)

6 ... "How about a visit to a pumpkin patch today?" (After church we'll head to a local farm to sit in a "real sincere" pumpkin patch ... back at home we'll watch It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!")

5 ... "Today we'll rake leaves and make a crow craft!" (Halloween, in its roots, is an agricultural festival, important to people who lived by the land. We'll read a book called Scarecrow and make a cute crow craft using Little Bear's hands and feet!)

4 ... "Tonight's the Full Hunter's Moon! Let's take a walk after dark, observe the night sky and listen to the night sounds." (Back inside we'll read Whoo's There? A Bedtime Shadow Book ... and make "spooky" shadows on the wall!)

3 ... "This morning we'll search for spiderwebs on the lawn and make a spiderweb craft!" (We'll make these cute Paper Plate Spider Webs - I have black plates and sparkly yarn on hand - and maybe some spiderweb cookies, too!)

2 ... "Today we'll make some Halloween lanterns!" (We're going to use this simple craft idea, with jars I've saved and tissue paper I have on hand. The jars will be placed on our front steps to light the way for trick-or-treaters.)

1 ... "Today we'll put our garden to bed and there will be a bonfire at sunset!" (I love the idea of raking, composting, and tidying up the yard before winter ... Samhain (as it was called by the Celts) in fact means, "Summer's End." Crops were brought in for the winter and livestock driven between fires to ensure their protection. Our Halloween bonfire will take place on our patio, around our fire pit as the sun sets. We will add some of the herbs from our patch to the flames and enjoy that last smell of summer! A hearty supper will follow ...)

~* Happy Halloween! *~

Halloween is on a Saturday which is really convenient - Daddy is home with us all day. :) We will start our day with a walk through a local graveyard ... to pay our respects, and observe the quiet beauty of the place, how the earth is settling in for its own rest. We may make a headstone rubbing before we go - there are some beautiful, Revolution-era graves in this particular cemetery. Our day will also include carving pumpkins, roasting seeds, baking our Halloween cake, having a special supper with friends, dressing up, trick-or-treating/passing out candy, and watching some Halloween specials on tv ...

All good fun!

We hung the paper chain in the family room, out of Little Bear's reach - unless he climbs the hearth which, while unlikely, is not out of the realm of possibility! And each morning Earlybird will take a link off the chain and read what is up for the day ... :)

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 Note: I kept a list of my "paper chain agenda" in my planner so I can refresh my memory - don't want to be caught unawares! - and prep for any activities that day. (I can also change things up if I really need to.) I plan to look ahead before each weekend so I can pick up any materials we might need.

Now, I already have a "blessings" project in mind for November - a new twist on a beloved tradition - and I will post about that soon! In the meantime, I am almost ready to get my Masterpiece Monday up (really have to change up that name), as we watched Home Fires last night (LOVED it) and tonight we will watch Indian Summers ... so tomorrow I should be able to get that reaction post up. I am very curious to know what you all think!

Good night for now, my friends - what a sunset outside my windows! I love how the light is so low and golden at this time of year, setting the foliage ablaze ... chilly now, though it was a mild day ... and tomorrow looks to be a bit warmer!

Take care of yourselves and your loved ones - see you here again very soon!


Easter Weekend Photos ...

Happy Monday, my friends! I hope you all had a wonderful weekend! And to my friends who celebrate - Alleluia! Wishing you all of Easter's bright blessings! I am so happy this new season is here ...

We had a very nice Sunday, starting with - well, baskets, natch - then, early Mass (oh, that light coming in through the stained glass windows ...), followed by an afternoon gathering of family here at our house. We usually have quite a crowd, but for various reasons, our group was a bit smaller this year. We missed those who couldn't be with us, while relishing the time spent with those who could. It was such a lovely day and I have some photos I'd like to share with you all ... :)

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The boys' baskets all ready for the Bunny, as light waned on Easter eve ...

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My pretty birthday cloche filled with Easter grass and chocolates ...

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Festive flora! I always light this garland on Easter eve as the boys head off to bed ...

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Pretty flowers awaiting vases ...

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Eggs awaiting color!

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 I had truly meant to try natural egg dyes this year - bought the cabbage, beets, and onion skins and all - but time got pressing and thankfully, I had a PAAS package on hand!

Good ole PAAS, lol.

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My Earlybird (13) was a big help with the centerpieces (I cut, he "arranged") ...

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And the baking, of course! This was the beginnings of an orange pound cake made with fresh orange zest!

Here are the tables set up for eleven ...

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And a close up of the main table centerpiece ... I mixed blue and white dishes, old family favorites. :)

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This brass crucifix was made by my great-great grandfather. I typically have it in a place of honor, but I've never thought to use it on my Easter table!

These jellybean-filled glass globes were also part of the table setting ...

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(Tiny tealights blessed at Candlemas!)

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I love this cross-section of basket goodies - very telling of my boys' ages .. from candy and Tolkien to finger puppets and Scarry!

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Little Bear had an early nap so was a bit disgruntled to wake to a house full of people.

(That is my new Easter blouse - funny how it is when you order something online and it is NOTHING like it looked in the catalog, lol ... but still. I loved the colors and it was quite comfortable.)

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Here's my veggie basket - a la Pioneer Woman - basket on loan from Mum. :) The dip was meant to be served in a hollowed-out red cabbage but alas, my "fiddling" time ran out.

And here's the dessert & punch table ... I love to serve desserts in our living room.

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Non-alcoholic strawberry-lemonade punch, rhubarb pie, orange pound cake (served with whipped cream, not shown), chocolate cupcakes and fresh fruit salad. Plenty of assorted candies, too!

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I simply cannot have a party without punch!

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I used Gram's Irish china for coffee ... and placed some jaunty daffodils in a pretty white pitcher. My paternal grandmother made the white cabbage vase in a ceramics class. :)

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I love these sweet little cupcakes made by my mother ... EB can have them (he pulls the carrot candy off first) and they are SO delicious!

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Every holiday has its signature cocktail, of course! This year I wanted to use our pretty cosmo glasses and I loved the "spring-sky" shade of these "Tiffany Blue Cosmopolitans."

I set this table up in the sunroom as a place for drinks and appetizers. This was early on before it filled up ... there was artichoke dip and the aforementioned veggie basket, as well as hummus and pita, sweet grapes and goat cheese and assorted crispy, crunchy things.

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(Yes, we still have snow ... but it was a nice day, all in all. No rain (or snow!) to speak of and mostly sunny skies. Almost, but not quite, 50 degrees.)

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Main dishes were served from the kitchen ... we had baked ham and beef pie, mashed potatoes, roasted asparagus, baked beans, parmesan peas, soft rolls and deviled eggs. Homey fare, typical of New England holidays. :)

And here is (some of) my dear family, gathered 'round in our dining room. (Earlybird was camera shy!)

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 My cousin Kate (LB's godmother), Auntie Marcia, Dad and Mum ...

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Bookworm (19) and Crackerjack (15) ...

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 Little Bear on my lap (22 mos.) with Manuel and Kara (my cousin and EB's godmother) ...

And finally, the man behind the camera for most of the day - finally getting to sit down and have his cupcake! 

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What a blessing it is to spend a day like this with those we love ...

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My friends, thank you so much for stopping by and sharing in our joy! I hope you all had wonderful Easter ... and I'd love to hear about your day if you'd care to leave a comment! I love hearing how families across the country (and world!) celebrate treasured days like this. For now though, I wish you all a very pleasant evening and a happy day tomorrow, too ...

I will see you here again very soon!


A Bright & Blessed St. Patrick's Day!

(A feast day recap. πŸ€)

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The Feast of St. Patrick is a very special day in my calendar, because I am both Irish and Catholic! In the past we have done all kinds of things to celebrate this holiday, but we're still getting back in the groove slowly around here, so I kept things pretty quiet. But I thought you might like to see some of the refreshments and enjoyments that filled our day. :)

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My Gram's Irish china was a must, even if I was the only one partaking (read - handling the china). (Next year make note - invite friends to tea on St. Patty's Day!) In the morning there were some Lucky Charms for the older boys as a once-a-year treat ... :) In the afternoon I made some Irish brown bread (recipe described here) which was plenty brown, lol - rather rustic, but nice with some sweet butter and lots of that tea.

There were books about the life of Saint Patrick and some filled with Irish blessings and Celtic prayers. And there was plenty of Irish music pouring from my iPhone, thanks to Pandora. :)

Stpats 2

(The china teacups are lovely when I can sit down - but most of the time, I just need a big sturdy mug to carry around with me.)

Some pretty cards for the day ...

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Stpats 11

Both by Marjolein Bastin, that wonderful nature artist and creator of cards.

Some pics of my wee (and not so wee anymore) Irish laddies ...

Stpats 3

 Little Bear and Earlybird ... a St. Patrick's Day "selfie."

Stpats 4 

Me with my handsome Earlybird - a rare smile for the camera!

Stpats 6

Crackerjack and Little Bear goofing around ... these two are like peas in a pod ...

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And the boy with the map of Ireland on his face - doesn't he look like a little leprechaun here?

Speaking of, we did some "research" this morning ...

Stpats 5

(From The Arthur Spiderwick Field Guide - a fascinating and fantastically illustrated book of faeries, trolls, sprites and the like.)

And there might have been a pretty butterfly left out for Little Bear, a gift from our own local leprechaun, perhaps ...

  O project 3:17 4

 Little Bear adores butterflies, or "La's" as he calls them. I'm not sure why, but he's always called them that.

In the spirit of the day, I dug up some favorite Irish movies and music ...

Stpats 14

 And we were finally able to put up a little garden flag - the snow has melted enough!

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And a page from A Child's Book Celtic Prayers - would make wonderful copywork - wise words, from the man of the day.

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And from another favorite, A Child's Book of Blessings ...

Stpats 12

And so there we have it ... our St. Patrick's Day in a nutshell. Humble, homey, but just right for us. I was going to do a big Irish dinner, but I think I will wait until I have Bookworm home with us, too. He'll appreciate the corned beef and cabbage more than anyone!

(Though he tells me BC served that very meal in the caf tonight!)

I hope you all enjoyed your Tuesday, my friends  - and thanks so much for stopping by! I will see you here again very soon ...

πŸ€


On this Loverly Day ...

Valentine tasha tudor

❀

Wishing you all a very Happy St. Valentine's Day!

I hope you all have a nice weekend - we'll do our best here! We are, however, expecting another big snowstorm tonight ... a BLIZZARD in fact, bringing another 12+ inches of snow and extremely high winds. No idea where all this new snow is going to go - we already have about three feet all around us! (As well as on top of us - Bill is going to attempt to remove some of the heavy snow on our roof today - prayers for his safety would be most appreciated!)

Sunday will be a whiteout (and hopefully not a power-out), but Monday brings a lovely national holiday for our country, Presidents' Day. Most schoolchildren enjoy a week off from school in honor of this holiday, but considering how much school they've missed already this year, that might not be wise ... I'm thinking they may still be in class come July!

But we'll plug along here, and "weather the weather" as best we can ... all the while, praying for those poor souls who are without homes or heat or help during this trying time. And for the safety of all who are in the path of such extreme conditions.

***

Be safe and loved, my friends ~ savor your blessings and the comforts around you. I will see you here again very soon ...

(* Illustration from Tasha Tudor's A Time to Keep)


A Cozy Day + New Calendars!

Vintage new year card

Happy January, my friends! I hope your new year is off to a great start!

First off ... did you remember to say "Rabbit, rabbit" yesterday morning? I did - just barely - at 12:14 a.m., having been awoken by Little Bear - who had been woken by fireworks going off somewhere nearby! And also, have you noticed your first bird of the year yet? Tradition says the first one you see in the new year will be "your" bird for the year. I saw a robin on the way to Mass, and I'm quite pleased with that. :)

Speaking of Mass, here I am with a sleepy Crackerjack, just pulling into the church parking lot. It was hard getting up and going but we were very glad we made it.

Jack and mama at mass

(Quick story: Just before Mass begun we were asked to bring up the gifts, something we've never done before! I had just finished praying my request that God help me grow more fully in faith and become more involved in my church. A lovely sign, don't you think?)

On our way home, we stopped at a local Staples where I had my new weekly planner all bound up nice and neatly! I am just sooo happy with it and will be showing you all what it looks like and how I organized it in my very next post. I know I keep saying that and I honestly don't mean to be a tease ... I just need to find some quality "snap-sit-and-write" time! "Snap" being the picture- taking part of the process. :)

*

"There's nothing like staying home for real comfort." ~ Jane Austen

Oh, Jane - we are of like minds! Our New Year's was a quiet, homey day ...

New years 1

This stuff might not look very appetizing but let me tell you, it smelled so incredible! It is a concoction of milk and cream and spices and marshmallow that cooked on low for a few hours and became this ...

New year 13

(Disregard the mess surrounding the mugs, please - we had a bit of a whipped cream mishap!)

This is Spiced White Hot Chocolate - a recipe I found on (where else?) Pinterest. It is almost like a warm eggnog (the nutmeg is predominant) and just so rich and creamy ... very indulgent. I knew I wanted to make a white treat in honor of the Jan. 1st Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God. Served in blue mugs, natch. :)

Bill hung my new wall calendar - my hope is it will be a "family central" kind of calendar.

New year 3

 (And it's awfully pretty to look at!)

New year 5

And because I am a nut for calendars, I also have this pretty engangement calendar set up on the kitchen counter ...

New year 4

As well as this page-a-day calendar I found in my stocking ...

New year 6 

A daily dose of forgotten English and folklore - should be fun!

Here's a peek at the January page divider in my planner - love this vintage style.

New year 8

And below are last year's domestic journal pages, a calendar of sorts as my notes and clippings are quite seasonal, all stored away in a binder ...

New year 20

 And here are a couple more pictures from our quiet (relatively speaking) New Year's Day ...

New year 10 

 Earlybird asked for a "selfie" and I love it when he's ready to smile for the camera!

New year 14

Pretty blue mug, creamy white hot comfort ... just a dash of cinnamon on top!

New year 15

 I asked the boys to watch this movie with me (sweetening the deal with that hot chocolate!) because it's one of my all-time favorites and they'd never seen it.

New year 11

Love spending time with my boys - the youngers and olders!

New year 17

A beautiful sunset to end a lovely first day of the year.

Well my friends, I hope you all had a nice New Year's, and that 2015 is kind to you and your loved ones. Enjoy your Friday and I'll see you here again very soon!

(p.s. Are we all excited for a new season of Downton Sunday night???)


Advent Tea Journal ~ Peace Be with Us

  Advent tea peace 15

Happy Monday, my friends! Welcome to another afternoon tea. :)

Today we begin the second week of Advent, and it is also the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, one of those lovely Marian feasts we enjoy celebrating at home in small, thoughtful ways. At this time of year, we are reminded of Mary's motherhood and her role in the life of her son, Jesus. I have four sons, and they're my whole world; together with my husband, and our home, my life revolves around them. So I often find myself in prayer, thinking of Mary, asking her to guide me in her gentle, peaceful ways. Goodness knows, I can use all the help I can get!

Now, whether we're talking about world peace or inner peace, it certainly means different things to different people. But right now I'm thinking about peace in the weeks before Christmas: how we can find it (create it?) in the midst of all the holiday bustle? Not just for ourselves, but our loved ones as well?

Here are a few of my thoughts - and I'd love to hear yours!

 * Keep the December calendar as low-key as possible. I know it's hard to say no to the myriad invitations and activities that take place throughout the holiday season, but there has to be a limit. Make room for peace in your life by setting a less-busy stage.

* Create cozy corners in your home that encourage folks to sit down a spell. Stock some lovely books on the table beside a favorite chair or couch corner (Christmas books would be perfect of course), and add a pretty coaster that will remind you to make yourself a hot cup of tea (or cocoa).

* Find yourself noticing nature. I purposefully filled our Advent calendar with "nature moments" - watching the moon rise, walking in the woods, feeding the birds, apprecating the beauty of a poinsettia. Cultivate a habit of observation - brainstorm simple activities that connect us with nature and remind us to slow down as the earth stills itself for the Winter. 

* Light up the darkness - with string lights and candles, real or electric. The days are so short and dark now, I find my home all the more peaceful when there are soft lights to welcome us, and comfort us, late in the day. This only enhances the feeling that our home is a haven from the outside world. Sitting in a quiet room illuminated only by tree lights is one of my favorite things about these short December days.

* Make time to sit quietly in thought or prayer each day - 10 minutes before the kids wake or 10 minutes after they go to bed? Try not to let your mind go right to your to-do list, but instead, keep your thoughts on spiritual matters. A quick "thank you" for the day's blessings, a simple prayer for a loved one, a fond memory, a favorite carol. (This can be done with a sleeping babe in your arms, too!)

* (But, speaking of to-do's) make your list and check it twice. A well-organized list and an internet connecton are great for keeping stress down. Because let's face it - we all have things to buy or make or do, and lots of people rely on us to make their Christmas merry. Peace is hard to cultivate when you're panicking, and if we didn't start early, then the to-do's are best addressed sooner rather than later. Nothing wrecks my Christmas spirit like last minute shopping, whereas feeling prepared gives me true peace of mind. Noble? Maybe not. But realistic.

*❀*

Ok, here are a few peaceful moments from my day ...

Advent tea peace 10

Bill took this picture of Little Bear and me (without my knowledge!) and I just love it. This is quite early - if you can't tell by our "bed hair," lol - and we are starting our day as we usually do ... in the library, in "our" chair, with a few good books (and a cup of coffee for Mama). We're in this chair reading, many times throughout the day ... but there's something so special about that first snuggle of the day. :)

Advent tea peace 1

A little "sneak peek" at our Christmas card this year - it reads: "Peace on Earth." β€

(I'll share the card in its entirety after we've mailed them all out!)

Advent tea peace 2

The absolute glee on my little boy's face when he noticed the nativity stickers I placed on the window behind our chair ...

Advent tea peace 12

Where's the baby, Little Bear?

Advent tea peace 6

Working on the Christmas mantel, here's a pretty corner: flowers and stars for the Mother of God.

Advent tea peace 8

Our Oliver, mid-scratch. :) It's impossible to see in this picture, but there's a cardinal at the feeder just beyond this window. Also, it is lightly snowing and this is what I'm looking at as I drink my tea ...  a little bit of domestic tranquility, with some serene nature thrown in.

And speaking of tranquil ...

Advent tea peace 11

Here's what else I am looking at as I enjoy my tea ... a sleeping Little Bear who opted not to stay in his crib for the entirety of his nap. He slept for a good hour here while I sipped and worked on this post.

A happy, sleeping baby = a happy, refreshed Mama.

Peace personified.

:)

~ Tea Journal

In the natural world ...

A cold day of clouds and flurries here, and a Nor'easter arriving tomorrow! High winds and heavy rain in our part of the region (if it was snow, we'd be buried!). Here's our front walkway as I stepped out to get the paper this morning:

Advent tea peace 4

What I'm drinking & eating ...

Oh my goodness!

Well.

I wanted to do something white in honor of today's feast, so I chose a London Fog Latte for my beverage. I had heard from friends that it was a simply delicious drink - and now I can happily agree - it is! Sweet and milky, with a nice citrus-y bergamot flavor. And as you can see in the picture at the top of my post, I once again used a pretty "vintage" tea cup, another from my grandmother's collection. It is called "Yuletide," and fittingly, it was made by Royal Albert of England. :)

Keeping with the "British Christmas" theme - and more stars for the Feast! - I made mini orange-mince pies for a lovely holiday treat!

Advent tea peace 13

I have always loved the look of these traditional English confections, and knew someday I would try making them! (Though admittedly, pastry intimidates me.) Well, my dear friend Shirley Ann inspired me to give them a try this week, after she shared a picture of her own on Facebook! I made these up Sunday afternoon while the baby slept - very easy to do - and goodness, did the house smell like Christmas!

And I must tell you - they are so very, very yummy. A tender crust with orange flavor and a spicy-sweet filling ... gah, so good. Bill had one on his way out this morning and he absolutely loved it! And this is a man who had never before tried mincemeat because "it frightened him" lol. I will definitely be making a large batch of these for Christmas day ... I wonder if I can freeze them ahead?

What I'm reading ...

Advent tea peace 7

I've just started reading back through my annual domestic journal pages, which are kept in this gigantic binder. (Only the current month is kept in my primary binder.) Also, lots of board books. (A post on LB's favorites to come soon!)

What I'm working on ...

Well, the big thing this week is setting up the tree ... we just brought it home yesterday. Also, still packing away all the fall decorations and finding all the Christmas books. Then there's lunch for Earlybird and Dad on Sunday ... and oh, getting the Christmas cards mailed out! 

 Words to ponder ...

Peace:

It does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble, or hard work. It means to be in the midst of all those things and still be calm in your heart.

~ Anonymous

I love this quote so much - I have the magnet, I have the mug! - it's kind of my personal mantra. And, it's a skill I'm working on all the time - because as nice as it is to slow down and "make room" for peace - life just doesn't always work that way. My life as a mum - a special needs mum, especially - is filled with all the things mentioned above. But I know how I want to be. I want to be a source of peace for my children, their beacon in any sea. It's important, especially as a mother, to carry peace with me, and keep it with me for when I - we - need it most.

(I plan to revisit the theme of peace next month. I'd love to hear your ideas on the subject.)

*❀*

And now, my friends, I'm finally going to stop talking, lol. This really was a rather long journal entry! But I'm so pleased to share my dear friend Mary's contribution to our Advent Tea Journal this week. Here are her thoughts on keeping peace in the season ...


What a lovely theme for a tea - Peace - especially since slowing down to make and drink tea can definitely bring peace into one’s life during the hustle and bustle that leads up to the Christmas season.

As a family, things that help us to find peace during this season is the simple process of eating a family supper together at night and starting by saying grace before we eat. We do this all year long but during this season, in particular, our family meal continues to serve as a wonderful anchor to slow us down, light the advent candle, and talk with one and other remembering to focus on all that we are grateful for.

We also enjoy walking around different β€œtrails of lights” hosted by different towns around the Texas Hill Country. (We avoid the Austin Trail of Lights because it is a zoo - and definitely doesn’t bring peace to our lives!) The cool nights, the lights, and sipping hot chocolates as we all walk together as a family is always so peaceful.  

And this may sound funny - but we also enjoy walking around an open air shopping mall looking at the lights - and watching the other people hustle and bustle to shop. Instead, we walk slow, look at the lights, and chat. It’s funny how peaceful it is for us. At Christmas we exchange very few gifts freeing us of the need to rush and shop. It is so liberating - and brings peace to our lives. 

Here is a picture of me with our teenage son, walking around a festive open air shopping mall.

Mary tea peace 1 

On our Tea menu...we are continuing to enjoy Celestial Season's Peppermint tea and also some decadently rich double chocolate hot chocolate. And for a real treat - we twirl both with a candy cane!

Mary's tea peace 2

 Thank you so much, Mary, for this wonderful reflection on how you bring peace to your family at this time of year. I love the picture of you with your son - those smiles are beautiful! Family togetherness is a gift he will remember all his life!

*❀*

Thank you, all, for joining me here today. If you are so inclined, please leave a comment below with your thoughts on finding peace in the hoilday season. Also, what are you drinking for "tea" this week? Baking anything special?

Hope to hear from you, but until next time, take care of yourselves and your loved ones ... I'll see you here again very soon!


Our Thanksgiving Day, 2014

  Thanksgiving 50

Happy Friday, my friends!

I hope you all had a nice week - and a lovely Thanksgiving Thursday, if you are American like me. We had a wonderful holiday and I'd like to share a few some a LOT of pictures from our day if I may ... some food, some family and some festive touches around my home. :)

Thanksgiving 4

Love this sign my mother bought ~ I'm grateful for all those things!

Thanksgiving 8

 This is my grandmother's crystal punch bowl, filled with this year's "signature holiday cocktail" -  a Bourbon Wine Punch. I am such a sucker for punch! This was a mixture of chilled white wine, bourbon, cranberry juice, lime juice, sprite and frozen grapes. I added sliced apples for an autumn touch. It was so very yummy.

Thanksgiving 6

Thanksgiving cupcakes - made by my mum and decorated by my boys. My initial plan had been to make "turkey cupcakes" but as the hour drew late, I called uncle. I think I like them like this even more. The chocolate frosted ones were made in such a way that my sensitive EB could still indulge.

Thanksgiving 3 

Some pretty candies on the windowsill ...

Thanksgiving 10

My brother in his silly turkey hat. :)

Thanksgiving 9

Crackerjack with my Aunt Marcia who brought, amongst other things, this delicious shrimp dip - a family favorite.

Thanksgiving 61

Mum and me - two cooks in the kitchen! But I bet you can guess which one of us was responsible for this situation:

Thanksgiving 11

This would be burnt crostini tossed onto the front doorstep ... in a snow-filled planter, no less. There were smoke alarms blaring inside and I might have panicked a bit. Lol.

(Luckily I bought a LOT of French bread!)

Thanksgiving 13

Here I am with my Earlybird, who had a great day after a bit of a rocky start. Party prep sets him on edge, but once his loved ones arrived, he relaxed and enjoyed himself.

Thanksgiving 20

My cousin, Kate and her husband, Paul - their first Thanksgiving as husband and wife!

Thanksgiving 46

We served appetizers and drinks in the sunroom ... I like spreading the party out as much as possible. Keep bodies - and conversation - moving!

Thanksgiving 48

The aforementioned shrimp dip ... so good. I have a real weakness for this stuff.

Thanksgiving 14

A Thanksgiving Blessing Snack Mix: Bugles, pretzels, sunflower seeds, dried cranberries, m&m's. I think there was supposed to be candy corn too, but they got used up on the cupcakes. I found the recipe on Pinterest.

Thanksgiving 15

 Cranberry jam-goat cheese toasties - a recipe from Family Fun Magazine.

Thanksgiving 16

 Desserts of all kinds lining the windowsill ... pies, cake and cookies!

Thanksgiving 64

This is a Gingery Pear-Apricot Pie , a recipe I found in Woman's Day Magazine. It called for a crust made up of overlapping pastry cut-outs - which looks neat, but is very labor-intensive. It had a nice filling though - pears, dried apricots, golden raisins, real grated ginger, orange zest ... 

Thanksgiving 17

 Yes, that's snow you see out there - we had a white Thanksgiving this year!

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We had two tables for our party of 14; the first was set for eight in the dining room ...

Thanksgiving 23

And the second was set for six in the living room.

Thanksgiving 41

 I like how this table fits in this room, and might keep it here for crafts and homeschool projects. Without the china and glass, of course. 

Thanksgiving 49

 Our Bookworm, home from BC, where he is a sophomore this year.

Thanksgiving 60

 Little Bear was napping till the very last minute - he woke up just after grace!

Thanksgiving 24

"Who's coming to my house?"

Thanksgiving 29

 Loving a new ride-on toy, a gift from Grandma and Grandpa.

Thanksgiving 28

Hard to believe this little guy is now 18 months old. Such joy he brings to our family!

Thanksgiving 34

My mother's birthday cake - a cranberry spice cake with cream cheese frosting, dried cranberries and golden candles ... November's colors!

(Note my brother photo-bombing the shot.)

Thanksgiving 36

The living room mantel all aglow at the end of the day ...

Thanksgiving 38

 My four boys, relaxing after dinner ... so good to have them all home!

Thanksgiving 25

Pretty lights ... a taste of things to come. :)

***

Well my friends, thank you so much for letting me share these pictures (and my thoughts) with you all. I just love Thanksgiving - it is perhaps my favorite of all the holidays! But I am now turning my attention to the season of Advent which begins this Sunday! And I will be back on Monday with my next Tea Journal post and some thoughts on the new season ... until then I wish you all a very happy weekend!

See you here again very soon ...


Cheers!

Starbucks-BOGO-Drinks-2014

I wanted to mention this fun little promotion here because I know many of you, like me, just love those Christmas coffees! On occasion, you know. Not all the time or anything. But this is a very brief offer so I thought I'd pass it on. For more details, read here.

Which drink would you choose? Peppermint mocha, gingerbread latte, eggnog latte? I heard a rumor there is also now a "chestnut praline" drink ... and that sounds very interesting to me.

(For the record, I almost always go with peppermint.)

Now, while I'm here I also wanted to mention that starting on Monday, November 24th I am going to host a weekly tea here at the blog that will run throughout Advent. This will be a post about what I'm drinking and making and thinking in regards to the season. Details to come in a bit - still working them all out - but I would love to make it a group effort if we could.

:)

Cheers to yummy Christmas drinks, my friends! Have yourselves a good night.


Kitchen Chat, Week Seven: Easter!

Bs&c graphic 2

Good Monday morning, my friends!

Now, with this being Holy Week, I would love to talk about Easter this week ... so my questions today will center on this simple question: How do you celebrate Easter in your home?

I'm a bit under the weather this morning, so let me get right to those questions!

*β˜•οΈ*

Where do you celebrate the holiday? Do you host a dinner (or brunch)?

What special activities do you look forward to most?

What foods mean Easter to you? Are they connected with fond memories from childhood?

And how about we wander into the next room for a moment, what is your Easter table like? Are there any special dishes or linens you like to use? 

*β˜•οΈ*

I could say a LOT about Easter entertaining but if I may, could I direct you to my Easter archive for a rather thorough look at my family's Easter celebrations. (Party recap posts are scattered throughout the archive.) We host the holiday dinner here at our house every year ... and this will be our first Easter in our new home! I am very excited about this! And this year we are expecting 20 guests for dinner, so we will be spread out, with tables set in the dining room (10) and the sunroom (6, 4 and 4).

(That will seat 24 in all + a high chair!)

At Eastertime, I always look forward to ...

The sleepy smiles on my boys' faces as they find their goody baskets.

A chilly morning egg hunt. Colorful orbs nestled in dull grass.

Our church overflowing with fragrant lillies.

Bright light streaming through stained glass.

White chocolate. :)

Wine glasses sparkling in the sunlight.

Our Lenten cross suddenly filled with fresh flowers on Easter morning.

A long, leisurely day with my family.

*

We almost always have a baked ham on Easter but I remember my grandmother serving lamb on some years ... with mint jelly ... not my favorite, lol, but a holiday tradition. She also made lots of desserts, but I fondly remember homemade tapioca pudding with freshly whipped cream. She always made this at my "humble" request. :) 

Our tables are always set with pretty pastel linens and my cream-colored china, as well as quite often, my mother's blue-and-white china, too. Flowers include lots of sunny daffodils and bright tulips and there are small tealights scattered about. I will have pictures of this year's tables next week I'm sure!

*

Well my friends, I can't wait to hear about your own Easter highlights and memories! And please know, if you don't celebrate Easter, I'd be thrilled to hear about any other Spring celebrations you enjoy with your family. This is a wonderful season for bringing light and life into our homes ... pussy willows on the windowsill, pebbles and twigs set upon the nature shelf, spring sounds and smells are so lovely at this time of year.

I particularly enjoy my open kitchen window, looking out over my sink as I work on the evening dishes ... listening to the peepers in the woods, seeing all the daffodils popping up through the yard, smelling that fresh air with perhaps a hint of dirt and woodsmoke. After a winter of closed windows and doors, it feels so good to open our homes up again!

So I look forward to hearing from you! But for now I'll say goodbye, and wish you all a bright and blessed day!

See you here again very soon ...


Rabbit, Rabbit! Happy March!

Lion craft

And how did March greet you today, my friends? As a lion or a lamb?

Well, it's quite bright and calm here, but I won't let that sun fool me - the brutal cold is definitely fierce like a lion! (Not to mention the snow storm in Monday's forecast ... )

Now, a few things for the weekend ...

⛅️  Are you looking for a lion/lamb craft to do with your kids? Here's one I did with Earlybird a few years ago: Two Easy Early March Crafts.

⛅️  And here's a daffodil cake I like to make on March 1st, aka St. David's Day. It's as light and sweet as the promised spring!

⛅️  Also, in case you wanted to celebrate Dr. Suess's birthday tomorrow, here's a link to a ham-spinach quiche (a la green eggs and ham) ... it would be perfect for a Sunday brunch.

⛅️  And finally, I wanted to share my Themes & Plans for March this morning - that post's been around a long time, but I still find it useful, and I hope you might too. Some of the information (first gathered in 2008) is out of date - for instance, Easter is in April this year - but there are a lot of ideas and activities for you to check out. I really should go back through those posts and cull any broken links ... I'll add it to the list!

Well, I hope you all have a nice weekend ... we have our Bookworm home for spring break so I'm on top o' the world right now. :) It is SO good to have the family all back together and under one roof. Much to come this week ... and Lent begins on Wednesday ... so I'd best get our Lenten plans assembled. Hmmm. Shrove Tuesday first though - we'll celebrate with paper plate masks and pancakes for supper!

Keeping you all in my thoughts & prayers ... see you here again very soon!


Advent: Moments of Peace & Joy

And here's my last post in the series, for Advent has come to a close! It's been such fun sharing my "found" moments of peace and joy with you all. Each day I'd wonder where I might look and what I might find ...

Like in my kitchen, where I spend so much of my time ...

Advent joy bowls

Sun shining on mixing bowls ... holiday goodies begin here. I didn't do half the baking I'd hoped to this Advent, but I still enjoyed looking at those bowls every day!

❀

Our stockings, hung by the fire ...

Stockings 2

 A riot of color (and clutter) and a new stocking among them. :)

❀

A found moment of quiet, a cup of hot tea ...

Advent peace mug on stairs

On the stairs, where I sit and listen for Little Bear while he naps. Every mother reading this knows the special joy of naptime. :)

 β€

A bowl full of Christmas clementines ...

Advent joy clementines

Seasonal foods always make me happy ... because though fleeting, they always return and they never taste as good as they do in their moment.

❀

Speaking of happy ...

Advent joy brothers

 Have I mentioned how much Crackerjack adores his Little Bear?

❀

Our Solstice supper ...

Advent joy cottage pie 

A traditional cottage pie, baked with a "sun" of fresh thyme on top.

❀

My sweet Charlie Brown Christmas tree ...

Charlie brown tree 1

Bill surprised me today ... I was saying how I wished we had some colored lights somewhere  - the white candles and tree lights are lovely and calm, but I do love a little punch of color here and there. Bill hastily strung these lights while I ran an errand this morning ...

❀

And finally, taken but a few moments ago ...

Advent peace holy family

Peace & Joy in one special package!

Blessings to you all on this night of all holy nights ...

*❀*

See you here again very soon ...


Advent: Moments of Peace & Joy

Happy Weekend, my friends!

Well, it was a quiet day for us yesterday ... I was feeling most grateful for the acceptance and peace in my heart. So much of our reality is shaped by our perception and how we feel about things. What's that old saying? If you can't change the way things are, change the way you think about them? Something like that. I find when I pray these days, I am asking God - not so much to change things (though that would be fantastic) - but for Him to grant me the strength to handle the things that do happen. And He's been so good to help me with that.

I am also deeply thankful for all your messages of support. What an outpouring we have received from you all, I can hardly express my gratitude. The prayers that are being said for my son, for my family ... I am truly overwhelmed by your kindness, and how you've taken us under your wings ...

My heartfelt thanks to you all.

❀

Also, a few of you who have gone through similar issues have reached out with offers to connect, and I will be following up on those connections, most certainly. I am eager for advice and insight ... Thus far Earlybird is doing ok - he is tolerating the meds well. He is not at all pleased about getting them (he begins the day with "No medicine, all right?") but I think he's becoming more accepting of it, and Bill and I are getting better at it. (There's that old saying at work!)

(Some of you have asked about his tests - his EEG is next Wednesday, but more on that in a future post.)

Well it's time to get on with my post - the peace and the joy I found in my day yesterday. A day which, in light of all the recent turmoil, was wonderfully relaxed, and though I hate to use this word - I think you know what I mean when I say - normal.  Little Bear took a super long nap, so I was able to spend some much needed one-on-one time with EB ...

First, here's my moment of peace ...

O nap 1

Honestly, is there anything more peaceful than a sleeping baby?

:)

And now for a look at our simple joy ...

Advent joy craft 3

Glue! What could be better?

Well, maybe paint. 

Earlybird asked for paints, and I did have some set aside. (I have to use natural art materials with EB.) I also had the boys work on an oldie but goodie - the "reindeer hands-and-feet" project. My 14 year-old Crackerjack is such a good sport. I asked him to join us in our craft-making and he happily did so.

Advent joy craft 1

Advent joy craft 2

I called this "Advent painting" because the blended paints became mostly purple and pink. :)

Advent joy craft 4

R painting 2

Advent joy craft 5

 The tiny one in the middle is Little Bear's.

:)

A bit later in the day, Earlylbird helped me make some brownies, a special St. Nicholas Day treat. Bookworm was on his way home from college, and we were eager to make a fun family supper. 

Advent joy baking

They were later topped with peppermint frosting - and as you can imagine, they were a hit!

Advent joy brownie

Happy St. Nicholas Day!

Well my posts have been rather long-winded lately - not quite the quck and simple things I had envisioned when I started my Advent Peace & Joy series! But I've had a lot to say, and you've all been kind enough to listen ...

I say this a lot, but truly, thank you for taking the time to stop by and spend a bit of your precious time here with me. I'm happy when my words resonate with someone and/or bring something forward that is is happy or helpful in some way. I'd like to ask that you leave me comments with your own prayer intentions - I am in prayer an awful lot these days and I would be honored to remember your intentions alongside mine. 

For now though, I will sign off ... we have a tree to decorate today! I will surely be sharing some of that joy here later on ...

Blessings and love to you all ... see you here again very soon!


My Thanksgiving Journal: Photos & Notes

Happy Friday, my friends!

I hope you all had a nice Thursday, however you spent it. Here in my corner of the world, we celebrated a beautiful Thanksgiving Day - it was quite bright and brisk! Very cold for this time of year - a taste of things to come? - but despite the chilly day outside, it was warm and cozy inside. And how much fun I had organizing our first holiday in our new home! My mum, as always, was a huge help to me ... coming over almost daily to assist with the children and the chores around the house. Lots of work, yes, but a lot of fun, too.

So if you'll bear with me, I have many, many photos to share. As you know, this blog serves as my family scrapbook (as well as my creative outlet!), so in my posts you'll find lots of family photos mixed in with pictures of food and "finery".

Well enough of my rambling, here's what Thanksgiving looked at my house this year.

:) 

 Lots of decorations were set out around the house ...

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Thanks 6

Thanks 9

 

Thanks 50

Thanks 10

Thanks 48 

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And the rooms were (re)arranged for entertaining ...

The "bar" was set up in the sunroom (as well as a tv for parade and football viewing) ...

Thanks 4 

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Our signature Thanksgiving cocktail this year: the apple-ginger whiskey sour:

Apple ginger whiskey sour

(This picture was taken on Thanksgiving eve, when Bill got a sneak peek, or should I say, taste.) We also served a sparkling cranberry punch that was non-alcoholic.

Desserts and coffee were served in the living room ...

  Thanks 51 

And there were appetizers in the family room ...

Thanks 17 

Two tables were set; one for eight in the breakfast nook ...

Thanks 52

And another for 11 in the dining room ...

Thanks 54

At each place setting, a paper oak leaf was tied to the napkin; these were used for writing down our blessings after dinner.

Thanks 24

The turkey went in around 7:30 a.m. ...

Thanks 12

It would be served (in part) on this lovely platter, which once belonged to my grandmother ...

Thanks 11 

Meanwhile, as the cooking got underway, Little Bear snuck in a nap ...

Thanks 13

  Around noontime, our family arrived to mingle and make merry ...

Thanks 16 

Thanks 28

Thanks 20

Thanks 27

Thanks 21

Thanks 22

Thanks 46

Thanks 27

Thanks 29

Thanks 30

Thanks 31

Thanks 39

Meanwhile, the turkey came out and more good foods went in ...

Thanks 26

 Like these thyme-roasted cippolini onions ... 

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(I thought the colors were lovely.)

And just look at this adorable "turkey" veggie platter!

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(I found the idea in a magazine and my aunt put it together for our party.)

Oh, and look who woke up!

Thanks 14

Thanks 18

Thanks 34

Finally (once a few "oven issues" were worked out), dinner was served!

The buffet was arranged on our countertops ...

 Thanks 35

Our dinner menu this year: turkey & gravy, stuffing (with cranberries, apples and sausage), mashed potatoes, roasted brussels sprouts, roasted onions, corn, butternut squash, broccoli casserole, cranberry relish, biscuits & crescent rolls. Everything was so good if I may so - and I may because I really had not a lot to do with it! My mum cooked the bulk of the meal, and a few side dishes were brought by relatives. I made the cranberry relish and breads.

Here we all are, gathering together ...

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Thanks 37

Love all these people, so very much. Every year we're together is a blessing.

<3

Now, after we digested a little, it was time for dessert!

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There was plenty to choose from, as you can see: pumpkin pie, pecan pie, apple pie, vanilla and eggnog ice cream, lemon bars and blondies. Oh, and a crazy toffee-marshmallow pie I made on a whim. There was also, of course, lots of freshly brewed coffee.

As we enjoyed our desserts, I gathered the "thankful leaves" and read them aloud - we tried to guess who wrote what. I then tied them to a length of twine along the mantel.

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 One last shot - as my family gathered inside, I stole outside to take a picture of the window candles we put up just that morning. I thought the house looked awfully cozy as the sun set in the west ...

Thanks 41

*❀*

Well my friends, there in a rather large nutshell, was our Thanksgiving Day! It was a truly wonderful holiday - the kind of day that leaves you feeling full in tummy and heart. :)

Thanks so much for letting me share our day with you. And I hope you enjoyed a closer look at our new home - we're still settling in (the garage is still filled with boxes!) but it definitely feels like "home" now ... and with each family gathering, it will a little more.

Have a good evening, everyone ... see you here again very soon!


Happy November Things

Owen sunday best 1

You might remember a post from this summer, in which I showed you a beautiful baby sweater set, a handmade gift from a dear friend ... well, we finally got a picture of Little Bear wearing it and I wanted to share it here!

Isn't it gorgeous? The yarn is so soft, with a nice bit of stretch to it (I'm hoping it will still fit next spring) and the blue is almost the exact shade of Little Bear's eyes. Whenever he wears it out we are asked about it ~ my friend Cherice did a fabulous job, and we'll treasure this outfit always.

:)

Also, yesterday was Martinmas, and for the first time in several years we did not make lanterns ... which makes me a bit sad, because I so enjoy making lanterns ... and now I'm remembering happy craft days with the boys through the years ... 

Martinmas lantern 3

Martin lantern 1

Martinmas lantern 4

Where do the years go?

And did you know that tomorrow (11/13) is National Indian Pudding Day? I did a post on it a couple of years ago, including a wonderful Susan Branch recipe found here. I have long loved Indian Pudding, a truly comforting dessert which is especially nice with freshly whipped cream.

Speaking of desserts, doesn't this make you want to bake pie?

Apple pie 1

:)

Oh, and if you're a fan of Starbucks, you might want to know about a special offer they have going on later this week: between November 13th and the 17th when you buy one holiday beverage you get one free to share! Offer good between 2 and 5 p.m. Isn't that fun? I may have to plan a Barnes & Noble stop this weekend ...

Which drink would you choose? I myself am a huge fan of the Peppermint Mocha. Peppermint, chocolate, coffee and cream - what's not to love?

Last of all, look what happened this morning ...

Snow 2

Our first snow of the season! Hot cocoa all around!

It's already gone now, an hour later. But it was fun to see - Earlybird was all excited and you should have seen Little Bear's face! I'm sure we'll have more snow to marvel at before too long.

How's your weather in your corner of the world?

Have a Happy Tuesday, my friends ... see you here again sometime soon!

*❀*


Monday Bits-n-Bobs (+ a few leftover from the weekend)

Happy Monday, my friends!

I hope you all had a nice weekend. I have a whole bunch of notes and pictures to share this evening, things I "jotted" down while I could ... :)

* Bought our spring-flowering bulbs at the nursery Saturday morning. Hope to get them in the ground sometime this week (but more likely next weekend).

Bulbs 1

* On Sunday I made an apple-blackberry crisp in honor of Michaelmas ...

Apple blackberry crisp 1

As legend goes, when St. Michael threw the devil out of Heaven, he landed in a blackberry bush, and so, those fruits are cursed (i.e. no good for eating) after Michaelmas Day. I love to serve blackberries in some form around - but not after! - this feast.

Apple blackberry crisp 2

This recipe was new, but proved to be a keeper for sure!

(Note: I used Macintosh apples, not Granny Smith as did the author.)

* Ok, another gratuitous Little Bear pic ... 

Owen trouble 1

Here comes trouble, indeed! ;)

* Did you hear that HRH Prince George (Kate and Will's little one) will be christened on October 23rd? What a special day that will be for the royal family - and for England as a nation. Fun to watch for the rest of us, too! (It happens to be a special day for Bill and me as well - it's our 20th wedding anniversary!)

* Our priest's homily on Sunday was so beautiful, it moved me to tears. Half of it has already leaked out of my brain, but I know the message was to A. appreciate the small things (slow down and see them) and to B. see Jesus in everyone and allow that to lead us to do good works. I'm wildly paraphrasing but nothing beats a really good homily to inspire your week. :)

* So apparently it was National Coffee Day yesterday, and how on earth did I not know this? Well, I have marked it down in my calendar for next year. (And yes I do have a 2014 calendar already!)

* In each of the houses we've lived (there have been four), I gather together a mini "acorn family" made up of acorns found in the yard. I keep them on the nature table, sometimes on display, sometimes tucked in a treasure jar. Well now we have our new little family for this house - complete with one extra acorn this time!

Acorn family

* One last thing: Don't forget Rabbit-Rabbit tomorrow!

*❀*

Enjoy your evening, my friends ... see you all again sometime soon!


Tons of Easter Pictures & a 32-Week Bump Shot!

Happy Easter, everyone! I hope you all had a lovely holiday ... our weekend was wonderful, and the weather was perfect. Just like early spring in New England should be ... sunny and 50 degrees. I have about a bajillion pictures to share with you, so I'd best get on with it!

:)

Easter crocus

Bookworm took the picture of the crocus above. A beautiful sign of life on this most blessed day.

Easter 1

On the Easter Vigil, a plate of hard-boiled eggs ready to color ...

Easter 3

Bill helping Earlybird with egg-dipping. I had really hoped to do "natural" egg dyes this year (all the rage right now, but more importantly, a great idea for chemical-sensitive kids like EB) but I just couldn't pull it together. A project for next year perhaps? I'm sure things will quiet down once we have an infant in the house. ;)

Easter 2

Easter eggs always remind me a bit of Christmas lights ... two bright ends of the same circle. :)

Easter 5

Eggs drying ...

Easter 4

And baskets ready to fill ...

A few hours later, veeerrry early Easter morning ...

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(Some of us were more awake than others.)

Easter 7

The boys and their baskets ~ time to start the day!

Easter 9

Four baskets this year, including one for Baby-O on the far right.

Easter 31

We've had this silk forsythia wreath for a few years now, and to me it has become such a symbol of spring. I love hanging it where it can catch the sun.

Easter 30

Cut flowers soaking up the morning sun, waiting to be arranged into vases.

Easter 8

My mum made 20 of these beautiful felt napkin rings ... in addition to the colors above, she also made white, lavender and deep purple flowers.

Easter 11

A sunny bay window filled with Easter treats for our guests ...

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Earlybird receiving a special Easter gift from his Nana and Papa ...

Easter 13

A gorgeous wooden tree house handmade in Vermont!

Easter 15

The dessert station filling up ...

(Penny, these next two photos are especially for you. :))

Easter 16

Pineapple Upside-Down Cake made by my Uncle Karl.

Easter 17

A sweetly sprinkled and frosted chocolate cake made by my Mum.

Easter 18

Mixed candies ...

Easter 34

I love using old family dishes for parties like this ...

The above "asparagus" dish belonged to my grandmother - perfect for Easter or any spring gathering.

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The dining room table set for eight with blue dishes (some mine, some mum's).

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And the family room tables set for 12 with old family linens and our wedding china.

Easter 22

Just before dinner ~ it was time to look for those eggs! 

Easter 23

This is Connor, one of our cousins from New York. He worked so hard helping EB find all those eggs!

Easter 24

My dad and my brother, Matt.

Easter 25

My lovely Aunt Marcia with my one of my cousin's dogs ~ this is either Sophie or Lily, I'm not sure. 

Easter 35

A bit of a fuzzy shot, but this is my cousin Kara and her boyfriend, Manuel.

Connor's little brother, Finn ~ just two years old and the sweetest little boy.

Easter 27

Bookworm and my cousin Kate who kindly agreed to be Baby-O's godparents!

And speaking of Baby-O ...

Easter 28

32 Weeks today! (I felt like a giant Easter egg, lol.)

***

Whew, that was a whole lot of pictures! If you're still with me, I thank you for your patience, and for sharing in our day ... one of the things I love most about blogging is having this convenient place to store family pictures and memories. It's fun to look back at how we did things, who was with us, and how things have changed (or not) through the years.

:)

Have yourselves a good night, my friends ... see you here again sometime soon!


Our Easter Menu this Year

Good (Holy) Thursday, my friends!

Easter lily

Well, we're getting ready for the big day here - just a few days to go! And I'm trying to balance all the "outer bustle and busy-ness" with an "inner awareness and peace." Balance is always a tricky thing, but never more so at the holidays.

All this "bustle" of course is in preparation for our big family dinner ~ we're hosting it here at our house and expecting 20 people this year! I'm very much looking forward to seeing everyone and enjoying the holiday together. :)

Here is the menu I've organized with my mum:

Appetizers & Cocktails

sparkling peach sippers

soda/beer/wine

a simple punch for the kids

hot artichoke dip

shrimp dip

salsa & tortilla chips

fresh veggies & spinach dip

*

Dinner

baked ham and smoked turkey

hot fruit compote

roasted potatoes with onions

squash

corn

roasted asparagus

Annie's mac and cheese (per Earlybird's request)

assorted condiments

soft rolls and biscuits

*

Desserts

pineapple upside down cake

lemon cake

gingerbread

chocolate coconut "nest" cupcakes

salted caramel Easter popcorn

assorted candies

coffee

*

Weather permitting, there'll be an egg hunt for the kids, and maybe a little walk down the bike trail. The weather for Sunday is still looking good: highs around 50, sun giving way to clouds with perhaps a late day shower. I can live with that, especially now that he snow has all melted!

So early this Holy Thursday we're washing china and wine glasses, cleaning out the fridge, organizing table linens and neatening the boys' rooms. Meanwhile, Crackerjack is fighting a virus and Bookworm has a couple of classes to get to ... and this evening I have my echocardiogram. I'll keep you all posted on how that goes.

So, there's lots going on ... but I do have my quiet moments planned.

:)

Have a great Thursday, my friends ... see you here again sometime soon!

*❀*