Home Style Feed

Holiday Tea at Dawn's ~ Cozy Nests (Pt.2)

IMG_E2801

Hello my friends, and Happy Monday! Welcome to part two of last week's Tea post! (Yes, I am a  bit "off-schedule" here - but that's the way of things lately! Please see my updated Tea schedule at the bottom of this post.)

Now, to continue with our conversation on "cozy winter nests," I thought I'd share some pictures of my own special spot as well as some thoughts on how to go about creating your own! I'll get to the nest photos in a moment, but to begin with, a quick word about the tea set shown above ...

Some of you might remember this pinecone tea set from the days when my older boys were little. I came across these darling dishes at the Christmas Tree Shoppe for a song and just knew immediately they were perfect for our nature-loving, woodland-based homeschool! My boys and I had "seasonal tea" regularly throughout their childhood and this basically involved milky tea or cocoa (or maybe hot cider) and something yummy (and hopefully homebaked) as well as read-aloud or puppet story. This sweet set began with bowls and plates, but those are long gone! I still have a small set of mugs, the charming tea pot and one little bowl which I use to hold tea bags. Happily nowadays both my younger boys love tea, too - and so the homeschooling tradition continues!

In the above photo we were enjoying a special "candy cane" cocoa for St. Nicholas's Day, our traditional treat on this feast day. I usually hook candy canes on the mugs of hot chocolate (aka bishop staffs), but had forgotten to pick up some natural ones at Whole Foods. (You may recall we have EB on a special diet free of artificial colors and flavors.) So instead, I just added some organic/natural peppermint extract to the simmering milk and mixed it with our homemade hot cocoa blend. ❀

I've been keeping this pretty tea set on a high shelf in my kitchen but have decided to bring it down and keep it handy - it won't get used otherwise! And so our pinecone set has found a home in my "cozy winter nest ... I'm keeping it on a tray so it can be moved about as needed. 

DSC02170

(Notice the little Lego on the corner of that table? That would be a Minecraft pick-ax, in case you didn't know.)

Ok, now back to our NEST discussion!

I'd like to first talk about a list I made for myself when I began setting up my nest. I first asked myself some questions about the concept of "keeping cozy" and then brainstormed some general ideas. My first list just appeared rather randomly in my doodle notebook ...

IMG_2720

This is my brain dump, and as you can see it's a bit of a mess! I use it for writing out weekend plans and shopping lists ... and lots of odd bits and bobs, too!

I then refined my list to be clearer and more "presentable," lol ...

IMG_E2938

I'll keep this list in my December planning pages. :)

Here's my own Cozy Winter Nest breakdown. I would encourage you to ask yourself the same questions!

Why? Because there's a long cold winter ahead and instead of dreading it, let's make the best of it. Why not feather a cozy little "nest" for ourselves - a spot exclusively for comfort and joy - where we can hunker and hibernate till spring?

Where? This will be a space where we can rest and replenish our winter "stores" - ideally out of the way of the general household hubbub.

What? What will make this spot comforting? What items will bring joy? This list will be different for everyone!

When? How often can we actually BE in our nest? Will we roost here daily or will it serve as an occasional retreat?

Now, I think I've probably addressed the "Why" question pretty thoroughly by now so let's skip to the "Where." It is my firm belief that your nest can be ANYWHERE ... from a whole separate room to the end of a couch and/or bookcase ... even a dedicated window space can serve to enhance your level of winter coziness.

(I think it's helpful to start by brainstorming WHAT your ideal nest looks like and then look around your home for a fitting spot.)

Personally, my nest needs to be somewhere a little apart from family "traffic," but still close enough that I feel I'm handy to my kids if they need me. So I've claimed a portion of our living room for my nest, and here are some pictures I took the other day ...

DSC02170

DSC02170

DSC02180

This is the epi-center of my nest - Mama's Reading Chair!

DSC02180

It's a bit old, it's a bit squishy - but I love it! I keep a small table next to it for my tea mug (etc.) and I use an ottoman on the other side for planners. There are also plenty of baskets about for books!

DSC02170

(The basket beneath the ottoman holds catalogs and coupons.)

DSC02173

DSC02173

DSC02173

Cats are a nest must-have - even when they're being naughty!

IMG_2862

A birdfeeder outside the window is another must ...

DSC02170

And plenty of natural light plus cozy lighting!

IMG_2792

Library loans are kept nearby - it's handy to keep them all together.

DSC02180

I like to fill the coffee table with seasonal reading materials ...

IMG_2610 (1)

And there needs to be special spots for the cats to snuggle in, natch.

IMG_2569

Cats are natural-born nesters ... :-)

IMG_2847

And blankets are always a draw!

Nesting kitties

And they too love sunny spots ... in the winter, a south-facing window provides soul-soothing warmth and light.

Other essential nest items not shown include:

journal-keeping supplies: notebooks/binders, pens, scissors, tape, clippings to add

children's storybooks: my nest is a GREAT spot for read-alouds!

music: I like the Pandora app; currently I'm listening to old English Christmas carols.

video: I use my computer for watching DVDs - now showing, "Take Peace: A Corgi Cottage Christmas."

correspondence: notecards, stamps, address book, etc. I'm working on Christmas cards at the moment!

candles: I have scented candles here and there but I like battery-lit ones for every day use.

hand lotion: I keep Curel at my kitchen and bathroom sinks but a tube of lovely rose-scented cream in my nest!

What would you add to my list? :)

As for the "When" question ... well, for myself, I enjoy "nesting" every day. Because I'm up so early, I start my day here (I'm talking 4 a.m.), and I also sit here at least once a day to read with Little Bear and/or Earlybird. On the weekends I try to have a block of time devoted to keeping "office hours," and here is where I like to work. If you're used to being in your nesting space you will naturally gravitate there, but if it's a new idea to you, you may have to create an actual nesting schedule! At least to begin with. Begin by feathering this space as you like, and then consider how often you can indulge in a little nesting behavior. Let your loved ones know this is important to you, and if you have to write it on the family calendar then do just that!

Because a nest of our own is a help as much as it is a haven. It's a place where we might battle winter's darkness and soothe our world-weary spirits. It's a place to cultivate creativity and bask in the comforts of home. Even if all the space you have is a kitchen window-sill, arrange a few special things there (a pot of herbs, a picture frame, a nourishing lotion, a scented candle) and let that be a place you go for a moment of mindfulness each day. ❀

There's so much more to say about the benefits of "nesting" but I will wrap up for now. That said, I would love to revisit this theme after the holidays - say mid-January. The next month is busy for most of us, with Christmas coming and all, but once Epiphany's come and gone, I will take a fresh look at my nest and see how I can spruce it up for the "deep winter" months. I think for many of us there is a sense of melancholy when the festive season has passed and the pretty decor of the holidays has been packed away. But let's not let that happen! We'll come up with a wonderful winter plan and see ourselves through the long cold weeks ahead ... 

Now, about my Tea schedule going forward! I have to be honest with you all and myself - I had hoped to sneak in another Tea post mid-week, but instead I will stick to my original schedule and be back on Monday with our next Holiday Tea. Our theme will be "O Christmas Tree" and I will share pictures of our home's holiday decorations, plus we'll talk about the upcoming Winter Solstice.

For now I will say goodbye and thank you all for joining me ... I'd love to hear your thoughts on Cozy Winter Nests so please drop a comment if you have the time! I'd also love to see YOUR Christmas trees, so please consider sending me a picture if you are able: drhanigan AT gmail DOT com.

Take care of yourselves and your loved ones, my friends ... see you here again very soon!


Mitten Strings for God: Ch. 14 "Healing"

IMG_0734 (1)

Hello my friends, and Happy Sunday! Thank you so much for stopping by. It's been a bright and mild weekend here in New England, and the brisk air smells like woodsmoke and soft earth ... I think it's safe to say Spring has finally sprung! πŸ’š

How are things where you are these days? I'd love to talk weather, and compare notes ... but first, may I offer you a cup of tea?

As many of you know, I drink tea nearly every day, and as I suspect most tea-lovers would agree, it never tastes (nor feels) quite so good as it does when one is feeling a bit under the weather. I find it to be the very best kind of medicine - much like a hug in a mug. :)

Now, generally speaking, I stick with black teas (and usually decaf) but I do love a nice herbal tea from time to time. The soothing heat and fragrant herbs seem to go straight where I need them. I find all teas both physically and spiritually nourishing, but herb teas really seem just a bit magical, don't you think?

Have an ailment? There's a tea for that:

Can't sleep? Lavender. Tummy upset? Peppermint. Need to relax? Floral. Brain fog? Lemon.

I am definitely no expert in herbs and herbal teas, but I am eager to learn as much as I can. It's a bit of a hobby of mine, though my thumb isn't quite as green as it could be. But with each growing season I get a little more "authentic" as a budding, amateur herbalist, and I try to expand how we incorporate herbs (and other natural alternatives) in our household with each passing year, too. 

As for today's tea, though - it's a rather healing one, and perfect for this post. Because honest to Pete, I am in fact nursing a sore throat. It seems a bit early in the year to blame allergies, so instead I'll point the finger at Crackerjack who brought home a lousy cold early last week. Usually I'm fairly immune to most cold viruses - for some happy reason, they skip over me - but this one is gathering steam and has become a bit of a bother. So herbal tea was my choice today (a lovely Buttermint I'm particularly fond of) and for good measure, I threw down a few of my favorite cough drops. (I also snuck a dollop of honey in my brew ... I think half the battle is lifting one's spirits when fighting an illness and I'm the first admit I like things rather sweet!)

Ok, so that's enough about my tea - which as you can see above was taken at my writing desk, with a nice view of the side yard where Bill and the older boys were doing some burning. At the other window, a little further down on this wall, I had situated the younger two, who were not allowed outside until the burning was done (or nearly). I encouraged them to sit here in the window and watch, while I worked on my weekly planning on the other side of the room.

IMG_0666

As you can imagine, the leaping flames caused a bit of excitement! Finally, once the pile was nearly done, I brought them outside to sit and watch ... at a distance:

IMG_0694

We haven't burned in years, as we try to compost as much as we can instead - but this past winter's tree damage was really above and beyond what we can handle. So burning was the thing to do on this day!

Ok, so now you're all wondering - weren't we here to talk about a book?

Well ... continuing on with our Mitten Strings for God book study, this week we are talking about "Healing," an important (and multi-layered) parenting concept. Because there's taking care of our children's bodies when they are injured or ill ... and then there's taking care of their insides - wounded feelings or weepy moods - when it's needed. These are all opportunities to teach our children how we treat those we love, and show them how much they mean to us.

"When we minister to our children with love and care, we teach them to care for others in return. Through our own loving example, we show the healing way, opening their hearts to the needs of those around them." (p. 102)

Healing our children is so much more than just tending to a knee bump or a head cold - because as we do, we are also comforting and soothing their very spirits. We are showing them how love works. We're reminding them they're not alone in this world. We're proving to them that they matter. And we are telling them we are here for them always - a little blood or boogie isn't going to keep their mamas (or papas) away!

"But sometimes our children are really asking for more from us than a perfunctory response, and that is when we must minister not only to the skinned knee, but to an inner need as well. It does not good to advise a weeping child that the pain will go away on its own. We are mothers, after all, and it is our job to DO something." (p. 100)

And so that's what we do, we mamas ... we figure out just what TO do. Sometimes it's just a brush of the bottom and a kiss on the cheek. "Ok, you're fine - off you go!" But sometimes a little more attention is warranted, and that's when we reach for the heavy artillery: cough syrups, calamine, soothing salves and perhaps best of all, the bandaids ...

What would we ever DO without bandaids??

"To an adult, a Band-Aid may be nothing but a sticky plastic strip; but to a child it is a badge of honor, imbued with magical healing properties. Be grateful, and stock up." (p. 101)

Now you might keep these kinds of medicinal products and first aid accessories on a shelf in your pantry or a bin at the bottom of your linen closet. But what I LOVED best of all about this chapter was the suggestion to make up a special basket to use when tending to our children in their time(s) of need.

"And so I created the "hurt basket," a treasure chest of magical lotions, potions, and healing aids." (p. 101)

We keep our medicinal supplies in a few different places. There is a small assortment of vitamins, cough drops and pain relievers at the very top of the kitchen pantry, but the bulk of our supply is kept in our bathroom cabinet:

IMG_0647

Aka the subject of a future "Full Disclosure Friday" because like most of the storage zones in our household, it's woefully underused and despairingly disorganized. So while we're at it, here's another storage area that I have yet (in five years living here) figured out best how to use:

IMG_0647

(This one is located just outside of the bathroom, inside the master bedroom. Truly, we have so much storage space in this house there is really no excuse for clutter - but I have been TERRIBLE about taking advantage of it!)

Alas, I digress (as I'm wont to do) ...

So here is what I set up some time ago, our own "boo-boo basket" ...

IMG_0647

This lovely basket was hand-painted by Bill's grandmother many years ago ...

IMG_0755

 It was just the right size and shape to hold a nice selection of supplies, and still fit inside my cabinet.

IMG_0647

I chose items that would soothe and comfort - no yucky medicine or stinging sprays here!

A closer peek:

IMG_0647

I think the very ritual of bringing out a basket filled with "mama's special potions" - all pleasant-smelling and kind to tender skin - is healing in and of itself. It won't always be so easy to comfort our children, but such special treatment will not go unnoticed. This kind of care goes deep, and lingers long ...  

"The day will come, of course, when our small ministrations are no longer enough to ease our children's pains, but until then, we can stock their emotional larders with a bounty of love and tenderness, precious stores for the future." (p. 103)

Sometimes all our hurt or ailing child needs is a hug, and sometimes he or she needs an actual prescription ... but for those in-between those times, there is a place for gentle, whole-body healing. 

(And here's an idea - how about setting up something like this, just for ourselves? Maybe a mommy-care basket? Now that's a topic for a future post!)

Before I go, here's a quick list of the books I'm using to learn more about herbs and homemade herbal products. It's easy nowadays to find natural and herbal products in the stores, but I really love growing and making my own!

IMG_0647

The Wild & Weedy Apothecary

Earth Mother Herbal

Natural Beauty for All Seasons

101 Easy Homemade Products for Your Skin, Health & Home

Essential Herbal Wisdom

A Kid's Herb Book

I have a large binder in which I've been taking copious notes, and by now I know more about herbs than I should for someone with so pale a green thumb! But I am getting there, slowly ... this year I hope to grow a nicely-sized herb garden and continue to expand my hands-on learning while keeping up with my "studies." If you are an herb grower (or crafter, or enthusiast) I'd love to hear from you! I would love advice and especially would love to hear how you USE the herbs you grow and how you keep your herbs ALIVE over the winter! (If possible.) 

Well my friends, I am going to wrap up now, but as always, I thank you for stopping by and reading. I would love to hear your thoughts on this chapter (and topic) if you have a moment to drop a note. Please remember - all are welcome to join this book study! And we are only about halfway through ... many more topics to talk about and more opportunities to support each other in our mothering! 

I hope you enjoy the rest of your weekend, and I will see you all here again very soon!


A Bunch of Autumn Bits & Bobs!

Autumn equinox cookies

Hello, my friends and Happy Friday! And Blessed Equinox, too! βœ¨ πŸ‚ 🌞 🌻 🍁 🍎 🐿 πŸ„πŸŒ›πŸ‚βœ¨

I'm popping in today to share some autumnal thoughts and photos with you all ... but first, thank you so much for all the incredibly kind comments left at my learning room post. I had such fun putting that post together and I'm so glad you all enjoyed it! There will, of course, be plenty more pics and posts to come as we wind our way through the new year ... but for today, let's talk a bit about AUTUMN, which just began here about 20 minutes ago! To celebrate I made up the plate of "equinox cookies" seen above ...

Now, this was not my idea mind you - I saw a few variations of these cookies on Pinterest. I just took some vanilla cookies we had in the pantry and dipped them in some melted chocolate chips (also from the pantry) and gave them a good sprinkling of autumnal jimmies. (A mom can never have too many jars of colored sprinkles on hand!) One pretty china plate and a bunch of silk leaves later and I had a festive treat for our Friday teatime! :)

Autumn books 2

Oh, children's books ... how I love organizing children's books! Last weekend I had Bill bring up the Autumn book basket (actually, a rather heavy wooden crate!) and I spent some time reacquainting myself with old favorites. I have a post to come (hopefully this weekend) with a look at our September book lists and plans ... I've had some requests since I've been sharing lots of book shots here and on social media lately! 

IMG_2018

I ask you - what is sweeter than chubby toddler hands?? Especially when they're trying to grab more than they can hold? This is actually an older photo but it popped up in my Facebook "memories" today and I had to include it ... it's always been a favorite of mine. :) 

IMG_2524-2

And look how those little hands have grown! Here we are on the couch the other day enjoying one of Little Bear's new board books. The sweetest little forest-themed board book I ever did see!

Kitchen autumn blessing

Now, if you follow me on Facebook and/or Instagram you've probably seen some of the photos in this post, and you might have heard me talk about my "Autumn Blessing" week. Well, I decided since the first day of Fall fell on a Friday, I would use the week leading up to that special day to prepare my home with a little cleaning and "cozifying." Basically, I just cleared each room of any extraneous stuff (aka clutter) and then swept corners and wiped surfaces as best I could. (It wasn't a super deep cleaning, more of a freshening up.) Finally, I added some warm autumn touches here and there ... :)

Above you see the kitchen on Monday evening ... and let me tell you ... it took me ALL day to get it that neat! (Because no, my house is not normally super tidy ... we really LIVE here ALL WEEK, if you know what I mean!)

Autumn blessings library

On Tuesday I worked on the front rooms: foyer, library and ...

Dining room

... dining room! :)

Autumn blessing family room

On Wednesday and Thursday, I worked in the family room ... and as you can see, Archie approves of the "autumnal" changes!

DSC00178

Heading back outside, here's a shot of Little Bear at a local farm we visited recently ... it was a beautiful crisp day here in New England!

IMG_2386

We also swung by a gorgeous sunflower field ... aren't they breathtaking? And can the sky really possibly be that blue? Nothing like an Autumn blue sky ... though this technically was taken in Summer. ;-)

IMG_2233

Here's a picture collage from our first day of home learning this year ... and that's alphabet pasta up top in case you're wondering, lol! I made Crockpot Alphabet Soup for supper that night. :)

Image-1

And here are some pics from Little Bear's first "official" nature walk of the new year. Honestly, I can't think of anything I like better than spending a "school day" roaming our yard looking for curiosities and wonders!

IMG_1726

And finally, here's a book I borrowed from the library recently. Making Peg Dolls is a craft I've wanted to try for a long time now and as you can see, I've got the supplies well in hand! At least the wooden peg part ... I need to see about getting some more felt and thread - perhaps a few more bottles of paint - and then I'll be good to go.

Something else I like to do in early Autumn is to come up with a few hobbies to carry me through the winter ... and brainstorm homemade Christmas gift ideas ... because as we all know, the Autumn will absolutely FLY by and suddenly we'll find ourselves knee-deep in Advent. Plus, it will get dark and cold fast (at least here in New England it will) and it's nice to have some cozy handcrafts to work on during those short afternoons in between busy and bed. βœ¨πŸŒβœ¨

Oh, and before I go!

XGKV2254

This is my lovely new Autumn "go-bag!" I bought this - a bit of splurge - at Barnes and Noble a couple of weeks ago. I just fell in love with the look and size of this tote! (And if you read my #fridayintroductions post at Instagram this morning, you know how I feel about tote bags!) It fits my handbag and a few notebooks and planners and I just find that sharp navy blue paired with the "Autumn Rose" print so striking. When I considered the price (not too bad as large bags go) and the fact that it not only fit all my stuff but it also matched my minivan ... AND my kitchen ... well, there was just no way I could pass it up! :)

Ok, I will be off now my friends as I've kept you here long enough! As always though, I thank you for stopping by and I wish you all a good evening (or day as the case may be). Take care of yourselves and your loved ones ...

I will see you here again very soon!

Summer sunset

The last sunset of Summer, 2017 ...

✨ πŸ‚ 🌞 🌻 🍁 🍎 🐿 πŸ„πŸŒ›πŸ‚βœ¨ 


✨ Welcome to Our Learning Room! ✨

DSC00056

Hello, everyone - and Happy Sunday! How about a tour of our "recently revamped" learning room? I have a nice cold pitcher of apple "tea" in the fridge and some cranberry-oat cookies to share, so please come on in and let me show you around a little! :)

Now, four years ago when I first saw this sunroom, as we toured our potential new home, I immediately thought "Omigosh, this would be THE perfect learning room!" But for a few different reasons (which I won't bore you with now), it's taken us a while to fully commit this space to our homeschooling needs. But here we are at last ... and I'm so happy with how it came out!

As you can see, this room gets a TON of natural light thanks to all those south-facing windows. And that's what I love best about this room - feeling like we're outside even when we're inside! :) So first let me show you some wide-angle shots and then I'll talk about just what-all is in all those baskets and shelves! True to form, I may have gotten a little carried away with the pictures, but I hope that in addition to showing you our new setup, this post will also share a little of our homeschooling style and early learning methods ... β€

*And for the record, I am homeschooling three of my children this year - my 18yo Crackerjack is a senior in high school, my 15yo Earlybird (who has autism) really doesn't have an official grade but is developmentally very young and in many ways matches well with my youngest, Little Bear, who is four and just starting preschool! This room is geared towards the younger two boys. :)

As for location, this learning room (nΓ©e sunroom) sits just off the back of the house, and you enter it from a door in our family room. The only drawback at the moment is that it is actually a three-season room - so it gets awfully cold in the dead of winter! We're working on that dilemma though, and hope to have a permanent solution figured out very soon!

Ok, here we go ...

Sunny learning room

Most of what you see in these pictures are items we own, and some for many years. Case in point the trestle "work" table - a 10 year old, unfinished furniture store purchase that Bill finally got around to finishing!

DSC09859

He sanded the whole thing down (smoothing out cat scratches and stray crayon gouges), treated the top to a plain polyurethane finish and then painted the base with some pretty paint I picked up at, of all places, Target. It was just the warm, soft red I was going for! The "saddle seat stools" we've also had for many years now - these were also purchased at a local mill store.

But the real game-changing element we added to this room would be the new white cubbies we purchased from Target. They were not terribly expensive ($35 for a 6-cube set), but as you will see, we bought quite a few! So it added up a bit, but this was something I really wanted (and needed) for organizing the younger boys' toys and learning materials. And happily Bill not only agreed, but very easily put the cubbies together! (He had help, natch.) Fyi, the cubbies are available online if you can't find them in your local store.

The seagrass baskets, also from Target, were another "splurge" at $11 apiece (on sale), but they are very well made and in my honest opinion one can never have too many well-made baskets - especially a homeschooler! The rest of the baskets in the cubbies and elsewhere throughout the room are ones we had on hand.

Ok, turning to the right, looking out towards the deck and patio ...

DSC09879

Those doors lead to our second classroom - aka, the great outdoors! We're in the process of making the upper deck a little more child-friendly - a "nature lab" if you will, but for now let's turn back towards the house ...

DSC09777

This is the wall that faces the family room ... and that beautiful Union Jack flag was a gift from my dear (and very generous) friend, Shirley Vels. When she found out we were studying England this September she put together a wonderful package of British goodies for us, including that glorious flag!

Here's another angle ...  

DSC09833

I just love this shot of Archie and the dinosaur ... :)

Now, turning towards the east-facing wall (which looks out over the driveway) ...

DSC00028

I'm standing in the doorway of the family room taking this shot, to give you an idea of the size of the room. It really is a great room for entertaining in ... but even better for spreading out with your kids! :)

Now, back to that south-facing wall and the tallest windows of all! (One of my favorite things to do is watch a storm from these windows!)

DSC09814

I made the alphabet banner myself, using a few supplies from the craft store and a glue stick. It wasn't hard, but it took me a bit of time and when I finally got that banner up I stood back and said, "Yep, this is now officially a learning room!"

Ok, now I'll focus in on some smaller shots ... and here's your fair warning: I might get a little wordy because I'm so excited about every corner of this room!IMG_2120

✨ Just as you step in the room we have a little "mud and mail" corner. Here we park our boots/shoes and Little Bear's jackets ... as well as the "errands" bag (for library trips and such). There's not room for all of our footwear here of course, but these are the shoes and boots we wear when we're going outside ... usually to "muck about." In this corner we also keep Little Bear's broom and on the wall hangs a sweet "forest mailbox" ...

IMG_2088

✨ This mailbox is a true family treasure - a gift to Earlybird on his 5th birthday from my Mum. (Here's the post from 2007 with a few more project details. I can hardly believe it's been 10 years!) It's been sitting high up on a nursery shelf, "keeping safe," but I decided it really was time to introduce it to Little Bear!

And just last week, Little Bear found a sprig of something bright gold inside his mailbox, and I had a little verse ready to go along with it ...

IMG_2129

"The goldenrod is yellow, the corn is turning brown ... the trees in apple orchards with fruit are bending down." β€

IMG_2187

Later that morning we looked for goldenrod growing in the yard ... and we found some! (Plenty in fact! Next week we'll use some to dye a Michaelmas cape.) βœ¨

Next, on the other side of the doorway ...

DSC09767

✨  We have a seasonal calendar on the wall, with a handy-dandy caddy-cart beneath ...

IMG_1643

✨  This is a monthly, at-a-glance calendar purchased at Staples. It has lots of space and nicely lined boxes, but instead of writing down class times and activities, I'm just writing special, seasonal events here and shading them in with soft colored pencils. I like keeping the focus on the rhythm of the season and in truth, this is all the information my younger boys really need to know. Some days are already anticipated in September (The Full Corn Moon, for example), but as a special activity gets planned I add it to the calendar. (Case in point, an apple picking field trip got scheduled after I took this photo.)

I made the decorative monthly cards myself - and it was very easy! I found images online (I adore Edith Holden's vintage nature sketches) and printed them out in the size I wanted. I used a glue stick to adhere the images to pre-cut cardstock. Then I used plain wooden clothespins to secure the cards all around a craft wreath base (found at the craft store for a couple of dollars). I hung the whole thing from an adhesive hook on the wall - situating the current month's card at the top - and that was that!

Now, a closer look at the caddy ...

DSC09773

✨  This is one of those rolling caddy carts I purchased at Michaels last spring. I placed our seasonal book basket in the top tier, and this is filled with the books that go along with our seasonal homeschooling themes and any special days/events that pop up.

DSC00128

✨  Right now the basket holds both August and September books since I haven't had a chance to file last month's titles yet! This week we added apple books and next week I'll add more books about Autumn.

Next tier down ...

DSC09836

✨ Another little basket with some playing cards and flash cards, special prek planning books and our current audiobook case.

And finally, on the bottom ...

DSC00132

✨  Coloring books!

Ok, let's continue on around the room ... :)

DSC00079

✨  The Tree Fort/Elf House comes next with a dinosaur hand puppet clearly having taken over ...

IMG_2483

✨ And a basket of wooden puzzles beneath a pretty red table which once belonged to me - and my mother before me! β€

IMG_2485

✨ Here are some old wooden cubbies (meant to be painted, but I rather like the look of natural wood!) holding more baskets of toys - cooking things, favorite vehicles and Duplo legos. (We've had Duplo Legos - and I mean A LOT of Duplo Legos - since 22 year old Bookworm was tiny. None of our boys really ever took to them - they held out for the "real" Legos! - but Little Bear plays with them every single day. He loves them!) On top of the cubbies are a wooden cooktop (it perches on the edge of any table) with pots and pans, an alphabet abacus, and our ages-old, plush, nature puppet tree.

DSC09793

✨  Across the large picture window (that peers into the family room) I had Bill string some twine so I could hang some lovely vintage-look zoology cards. I have a whole bunch of them so I'll swap them out every so often. I used wooden clothespins purchased at Target last month to hold the cards here and if you look closely you can see each pin has a number corresponding to the number of creatures on each card. :)

IMG_2488

✨ Here's another small table meant to be re-painted (butter yellow if I have my way) with our wooden barn situated on top and a basket of wooden figures underneath. Little Bear uses this "starry night" playsilk to put his animals to bed each night. :)

IMG_1891

✨  Goodnight, everyone!πŸŒ›

DSC09838

✨  More cute wooden clothespins, another Target dollar bin find! (Those bins have since changed over to Halloween theme, but keep an sharp eye out next back-to-school time! I will too, and post when I spy those great deals!)

DSC09794

✨ This easel was such a find last year! A neighbor had it out for - gasp! - trash pickup one day ... and we nabbed it! On one side there is a chalkboard which of course can be used for all kinds of things, but Earlybird uses it with his therapist every day for counting down to upcoming events. (EB is especially motivated by holidays!) On either side of the chalkboard we have baskets of miscellaneous stuffed animals and puppets. Directly below the chalkboard is a basket of various picture books, not related to any season or holiday - just really good reads. :)

DSC00035 (1)

✨  Now the other side of the chalkboard was a dry-erase board but since dry-erase markers and EB don't mix well, I had Bill cover it with some felt I picked up at the fabric store. This is still a work in progress, but it will eventually be a felt story board!

True story: the lady at the fabric store tried to shame me for picking brown, lol:

"Why not blue or red for goodness sakes - why brown??"

So I told her that most of our story-boarding will revolve around nature ... πŸŒ›πŸ‚πŸŒ²πŸΏπŸ„πŸπŸŒž

"Aha, I see now ... good pick!"

DSC00036

✨  This is my storytelling apron hung from a hook ... and it's basically a plain canvas artist's apron, but I'm using the pockets for finger puppets!

IMG_1771

✨  We've been collecting finger puppets (as well as hand puppets) for so many years, I've lost count! All my boys have enjoyed them on some level (though Earlybird not as much, having a strong aversion to finger plays and too much conversation) but I'm happy to say Little Bear just ADORES puppetry! I have little nature stories outlined to go along with each of our weekly seasonal themes and these are part of our Wednesday homeschool rhythm. I'm tying them in with our forest mailbox and so far it's a HIT! (Of course, we're only beginning week three, but I have a pretty good feeling about this!)

(The pretty clothespins? Yep, Target again! They'll hold little notecards for story prompts - simple sketches or sight words for the most part.)

Ok, rounding the bend! 

DSC00061

✨ Here are the first two sets of cubbies (they can be connected, as they are here). Some have baskets and some have little "play arrangements."

DSC00033

✨ Little Bear so enjoys the book, Hug (as well as Tall), and his two monkey puppets allow him to act out the parts of Bobo and Mama. β€

IMG_2499

✨  I filled this basket with Water Wow booklets - one of Little Bear's favorite activities! I'll often take one or two with us if we're going somewhere he might need a quiet diversion. 

DSC00032

✨  And here we have some favorite counting and number recognition board books as well as a basket of wooden hand-size numbers. Now, I know you don't want to hear this again - but they are from Target, too! I scooped them up last month! They are stackable and the perfect size for little hands. :)

DSC00114

✨  I think I love this set of nesting wooden elements - more than any of my kids! They have so many uses, and yes, they are pricey, to be sure - but Santa brought them one Christmas years ago. I feel incredibly blessed to have another chance to enjoy them with one more of our children! β€

IMG_2498

✨  Here is the finger puppets basket - I always perch a couple on the edge peeking out! Beneath that sit wooden fractions cups, and a favorite watering can.

DSC09796

✨ Another learning line, strung across windows that look down over our driveway. Here's where I hang worksheets, paintings and other kinds of work to be displayed.

IMG_1769

✨ Right in front of these cubbies we have a wonderful little "Discover America" rug. I bought it at Babies R Us a few years ago and it has held up really well! In this photo, Little Bear is sporting a new pair of slippers for the new homeschool year! β€ (Yes, things like "slippers" go on my back-to-homeschool shopping list!)

DSC00072

✨  At the end of these cubbies is a comfy bean bag chair, just the right size for Little Bear. This was a new purchase last month and I'm quite pleased with it - it's comfortable (or so I'm told) and seems to be holding up well. (We have not always had great luck with bean bags, but this just seemed to fit the room!) Also, I hung some little wooden stars along the side of the bookcase just because they looked kind of magical. :)

IMG_2492

✨ Turning another corner we have a very tall bookcase (some might remember it from our old house and long-ago posts!) which holds a real hodgepodge of items! Bottom shelf holds nature study supplies - a flower press, display cases and stands, cloches, etc. - as well as a wooden house shape I'm crafting into an outdoor shrine. (A project in progress!) Upper shelves hold some of my beloved mothering and seasonal idea books, and not seen on the top shelf are my favorite liturgical resources, as well as a statue of the Blessed Mother which once belonged to my paternal grandparents. ❀

And at the very top of this bookcase ... 

DSC00121

✨ On the very tippy-top of this super tall bookcase is a large basket filled with crafting materials of all kinds. I'll have to do a separate post on what I keep in that basket because I didn't get a picture of the contents. (Let's just say it was precarious enough me getting this shot, lol!) Now, it might seem awfully inconvenient to keep oft-used craft supplies up here way out of reach, but it's the only safe place to keep them! Earlybird would only get into (and has done) all those craft things when I'm not looking and make an unholy mess (of himself and the supplies) and so it's easier just to keep things up and out of sight. The trick of course is remembering to check the basket before making a craft store run!

✨ The timer is also up here for similar reasons - EB is just way too fascinated with this cool gadget to leave it alone! I had been looking for a visual timer for EB to use (with me and his therapists) but was hesitant because of the typical "tick-tick" sound which really grates on his nerves. Thanks to a recommendation from Jennifer Mackintosh, I purchased this pretty little gem of a timer which makes NO NOISE AT ALL. (Thanks again, Jen!!) Using a visual timer is very helpful for EB when he needs to be patient for something ... because patience is not really his strong suit and numbers don't mean as much as does that vivid red wedge!

Turning the corner again ...

DSC09817

✨ The next set of cubbies holds reading materials and more play arrangement! And goodness, do I love the light coming in at this time of day! :) Shown on display in the picture above is a favorite source of nature study inspiration, open to a September page. On the windowsill are a couple of poetry books for young children as well as a heart-shaped wooden caddy holding foldable, laminated field guides. (I painted that for my grandmother back in the 80s!)

Also shown here ...

DSC00110

✨  Favorite children's periodicals on display - and these appeal to Earlybird so much! Thomas, Peppa and Nick Jr. Friends, especially, but he had made off with the Ranger Rick and Ranger Rick Jr. issues when I took this picture! I have collected Babybug for years (off an on) and I still read them with Little Bear ... because they are so sweet and they are such a nice size. Perfect for little hands and for popping in Mama's bag when going out and about! β€

DSC00115

✨  Here's a handy basket of early readers, another favorite resource for Earlybird ... :)

DSC00113

✨  And here we have one of Little Bear's FAVORITE board books, beside the little stuffed beluga whale he adores. We've long since lost the Raffi audiocassette we listened to in the car with Bookworm back in the day, but we do sing that song nearly everyday - out of earshot of Earlybird, of course! 

IMG_1611

✨  And there are plenty of crayons here ... and I've never found a better storage space for crayons than a wide, shallow basket. :)

DSC00096

✨ Here's another favorite board book of Little Bear's ... and that beanie baby chameleon belonged to Bookworm back in the day! His name is "Rainbow" for obvious reasons, and he's been well loved over the years. (He's as soft as buttah!)

DSC00100

✨  Stacked neatly in this cubby is a collection of favorite books celebrating morning and the new day ... πŸŒž

DSC00101

✨ And nestled just beside is a soft and lovely baby doll - crafted in the Waldorf tradition. "Baby Jack" was a gift to our now 18 yo Crackerjack when I was pregnant with Earlybird. My mum crocheted the hat and scarf (as well as booties that have long since gone missing). The cradle basket was part of a gift basket we received from Bill's co-workers after we had EB. It makes a perfect crib for this little laddie!

DSC00105

✨ Propped up here is an older picture book, all about community helpers. I added some corresponding vehicles to this cubby to keep things lively!

IMG_2491

✨ Another set of cubbies - the basket on top holds playsilks (for capes, etc.) and a royal fabric crown. (There is also a wooden camera that sits in here but it was MIA when I took the picture!) The bottom cubby has a sweet book of nursery school lessons and two plushie favorites - Peter and Benjamin Rabbit!

IMG_2490

✨  This set of cubbies holds favorite field guides and a pair of binoculars (top) ... as well as some favorite floor puzzles and games (bottom). Missing is the dinosaur floor puzzle which was being put to good use in the family room. ;)

DSC09819

✨  Tucked behind the table are a few tote bags - one big one for Mama and two for Earlybird's primary homeschooling and ABA therapy resources.

Paper chain learning room

✨  A paper chain is a simple, pretty (and cheap!) learning room decoration! Earlybird LOVES paper chains, and counting down to special days. I used green and orange cardstock as well as some printed vintage print paper to make a paper chain with links for each day in September and October. We move a wooden clothespin along the links each day so EB has a visual reminder of how time is moving forward. (I'll make a new chain for the next season - Late Autumn, aka November & December.)

IMG_2515

✨  A garland of family photos strung above the worktable ... because, that's what it's all about! β€

IMG_2505

✨  I found this pine slice lazy susan at HomeGoods this summer and immediately thought it would be great for our homeschooling work table! And I love using mason jars for holding things like colored pencils, rulers, glue sticks, etc. The windowsill just behind the table holds our cute little prek mascot (a small fox Little Bear picked out at the craft store), a couple of new books for the season and a sweet log lantern, as well as our classroom cross ...

IMG_2516

✨ We've had this grapevine cross for a long time now, something bought at the craft store. (We use it at Easter as a living cross.) I haven't looked in a while but a few years back I checked Michael's and they had them. I added the wooden phrase, "Be Still" just recently (using a hot glue gun) because ... well, it's just a nice reminder to myself, and hopefully my children, to take time to breathe, listen, love - be loved - and feel blessed. ❀

Ok, we're nearly done now!

IMG_2571

✨  The final set of cubbies hold even more baskets and books and toys ... but on top we have our science/nature station, currently holding an assortment of late summer weeds, herbs and flowers. (What's still growing in our yard this month?) Science focus books up above ... What is a scientist? Nature focus books below ... In the Forest.🌲🌲🌲🌲

DSC09827

✨  And here's my Little Bear enjoying his cubbies!

DSC00084

✨ A stack of favorite car/truck/boat/plane/train books ... kept in place by a truck!

DSC00087

✨ And this is Little Bear's snacktime basket, filled with a beloved Elsa Beskow set of dishes, a gift from my dear friend, Emma from Norway! Beneath the dishes are placemats and cloth napkins. Earlybird also has a cup and plate to use when we do snack together. (This is a weekly activity, a special snack that ties in with our seasonal theme.) 

IMG_2514

✨  A fantastically looong dragon lives in this basket! He originally belonged to Bookworm and has survived many years of "knights and dragon" play with my boys! He looks a little tired, doesn't he? But don't let him fool you! πŸ‰

DSC00147

✨  And there are still more hand puppets! These are all of a certain size and style so I kept them together.

IMG_2510

✨ Here's the last end of the cubbies - with its atlases and social studies books as well as a wonderful wooden US puzzle, all leading to our "global awareness" corner ... 

IMG_2529

✨ Those cute magnets are gifts from Shirley, as well as the lovely post cards and some of the photos tacked to our boards. I had Bill hang two corkboards here and I placed our globe on top of the small fridge. A gift from my folks last Christmas, we use this fridge for parties and of course holding extra food! I bought a pretty white "farmhouse" pitcher in which I have that aforementioned apple "tea" - which is just organic apple juice and a fruity herb tea mixed together, sometimes with apple slices floating in it. And because it makes it feel a little different and special, we've been having "homeschool snack" at our worktable, while watching the wildlife outside our windows. :)

And speaking of wildlife ...

DSC09955

✨  Here is the first stage of our outdoor "nature lab," which is just a regular old evergreen stump from our yard, pulled up onto the deck, in view of the sliders, where we can watch birds and chipmunks and squirrels up close!

FullSizeRender-3

✨  And here's my Little Bear adding seed to the stump ... as you can see, he takes his job very seriously! (Even when wearing socks!😜 )

DSC09788

✨  Oh, I forgot to show you these little chalkboards! They are hung above the coat pegs and I bought them at the craft store for a couple of dollars - including the wooden initials (one for each of my younger boys). I debated how to use these boards ... for assignments? Reminders? Vocabulary words? Poems? 

I finally decided to use these as "blessings boards" and each week the boys will read a new message about how they BLESS us with their very special selves. Something that is unique and treasured about each of them, perhaps something they've done recently that deserves notice and gratitude ... just a mention that I hope makes them feel appreciated and loved for exactly who they are! β€

(I already have Monday's ready in my head: O will read: "You ask such great questions!" and R will read: "You've shown great patience lately!")

Ok, I think I'd better wrap up at this point or else I might just go on and on ... and I've definitely kept you all here long enough! I hope you enjoyed this tour of our learning room and I thank you for stopping by! I will be devoting tomorrow to ironing out lesson plans for the week ahead because, while a pleasant atmosphere is certainly a good start, many ideas and activities need to be planned out and set up ahead of time. I'd love to do another post about that side of the equation - WHAT we do in addition to WHERE we do it! But I hope I at least gave you a little peek at how we spend our days. Little Bear is out here constantly, enjoying all those toys throughout the day and evening ... but we're still working on the concept of putting things back in place! And Earlybird comes out here often, too. Sometimes just to chill but also he does table work with his therapists here everyday. And I find myself out here lesson planning quite often ...

DSC00005

It's been such fun coming up with ideas for making this a room that works in a lot of different ways!

Well my friends, I hope you all have a great rest of the weekend and once again, thanks so much for reading and let me know if you have any questions or would like me to follow up in any way. I hope to be back again soon with a post about those September event pages - Autumn Equinox and Michaelmas Day. Can you even believe we're already more than halfway through September???

Take care of yourselves and your loved ones, my friends ... see you here again very soon!


Our Family Easter, 2017

Easter collage

Hello and Happy Wednesday, my friends! I hope you all had a nice weekend, and a lovely Easter too, if you celebrate! I am currently writing up a post about the file crate, but for today I thought I'd pop in quickly to let you know I just added a photo album to my sideboard (right side of the blog and linked below) with many pictures from our Easter. Most of them are from Holy Week but there are several from our Sunday celebration as well. I hope you enjoy, and I will see you here again soon!

Our Family Easter, 2017


A Peek into Our Sunny Schoolroom ... ❀

DSC05562

Hello and Happy Monday, my friends! I hope your new (and Holy!) week is off to a great start. :)

So last August I mentioned that we were finally ready to turn our sunroom into a formal learning room. But I guess "finally ready" wasn't quite accurate ... more like, "we're nearly ready" or "it's time to make a list" or perhaps, "when we can find some spare time let's get a few things set up!" Meanwhile life carried on, learning and play happened, while the room slowly came together - taking time out to host Thanksgiving for 20 and a Christmas Day Open House - then shutting down completely throughout the coldest weeks of the winter, because, as a three-season room, it doesn't have its own heat!

Well, warm and sunny days are here at last and the room has come together rather nicely! So how about a tour? :)

DSC05548

This is looking in from the family room ... through what used to be the back door of the house before the previous owners built this south-facing sunroom. Archie is relishing the fresh breezes and constant critter activity!

And as you can see, there are patio doors leading out to the ... well, patio. And just beyond that are the birdfeeders and herb garden - both important parts of our homeschool! Inside we have a portable greenhouse (aka "classroom garden") and a small fridge. The fridge was a Christmas gift to Bill for his "man cave" downstairs but this is as far as it got! It's actually pretty handy having it on the main floor, especially when entertaining.

On top of the fridge I have one of our favorite seasonal books open to the April spread, along with some spring flowering branches ...

DSC05605 (1)

And a lovely sign I got at Home Goods a couple of years ago. :)

I decided this would be a monthly verse corner ... not really a nature corner because that would mean tiny treasures and hands-on, investigative projects. This is more of a seasonal (top of fridge) shelf with an illustrated poem on display which I'll change up each month. The water-filled vases are set just up and back enough to be out of the way of little hands and paws - so far, anyway. Knock on wood! I'll change this corner up for May with the first dandelions and violets, flowering crab or apple branches and one or two other seasonal flourishes. Later on there will be driftwood, beach roses and a jar of seashells maybe ... then in the fall a small harvest sampling - apples and pumpkins and branches of burnished leaves. ETC. :)

(Clearly this corner is meant more for ME than the boys, but hey - even teachers need their visual inspiration, right?)

Right now the classroom garden has plenty of sprouting seeds!

DSC05556

(Catnip for our kitties ...)

Just inside the doorway is a spot for Little Bear's jackets, backpack and shoes ...

DSC05559 (1)

(Plus Mom's boots!)

On the floor we have a few different area rugs. Some are for comfort and some are for scraping shoes! And some are for learning and play ...

DSC05560

The US map rug gets a lot of use since this year we're studying American history! (Crackerjack takes a local homeschool class but Earlybird and I are studying US geography - with a focus on state birds and flowers - at home. In fact, this coloring book and this picture book - along with a favorite geography book as well as several kinds of maps - have really kept EB curious and on track! (I can go into further detail sometime if anyone would like. This has been a really fun study.)

Ok, here's the back wall of the schoolroom - it faces south and lets in a good deal of light!

DSC05595

I use the window ledges to display the books we are using that week (tying into seasonal themes and study topics). So this week we have ...

DSC05600

Eggs!

DSC05569

Easter, rabbits and (from last week) rain ...

The rooster postcard I've had for years - it's part of a lovely set purchased through Nova Natural. And speaking of roosters, next week Petook will take its place on this shelf. How I love that Easter story! And the bunny is a finger puppet - he appeared in one of the boys' Easter baskets last year. I tie storytelling and puppetry into our homeschooling whenever I can. ❀ Fyi, our educational approach has always been a mix of Charlotte Mason and Waldorf philosophies, primarily. As you probably know, if you've read my blog for any length of time! :)

And here are books about our current read-aloud:

DSC05573

The Spiderwick Chronicles were beloved by my older boys (and me!) back in the day - and since Earlybird really enjoyed Harry Potter and The Sorcerer's Stone last fall, I thought I'd try this series. We listen to audiobooks in the car - a great way for EB to experience all kinds of literature! - and I'm happy to say he's really absorbed by the Spiderwick series as well. We are on book four right now, The Ironwood Tree.

And beneath these windows stands the train table ...

DSC05630

We've had this train table forevah and it has really held up quite well! I think we got it for Crackerjack when he was ... um, two? So that's about 15 years! Both Little Bear AND Earlybird play here every single day. EB (15) is developmentally delayed so he still plays with a lot of what one might consider "young" toys. Plus he has loved trains since he was tiny. It's nice (most of the time) that both our younger boys enjoy playing trains because often (though not always) they play with them well together. (Though we do go through phases where the standing rule is one kid at a time. Complete with timers.)

I use baskets to contain the tracks and trains beneath the table. Much like the cars and trucks collection described in my "Tale of Four Carts" post, these are only a fraction of the tracks and trains we own. The bulk is downstairs and we switch things up from time to time. (Legos are handled similarly - or were since nobody plays with Legos at the moment.)

Next comes this great easel ...

DSC05563

This was a roadside find last fall! It's beautifully made - the other side has a dry erase white board, but we pretty much just use the chalkboard right now. I use it to write questions for EB to figure out (usually during his therapy hours). Beneath the chalkboard is a crate full of "extraneous" books ... not currently connected to any topic or theme, but reserved for the future or books we like to return to on a regular basis. (The bulk of our books are stored ... wait for it! ... in the basement.)

Never one to let good storage space go to waste ...

DSC05023

I have the On-the-Go Water Wow activity booklets tucked in a little basket here ... and oh my GOODNESS does Little Bear just love these things! They keep him busy for hours ... or you know, at least 10 minutes. We have a whole bunch of them and they are well-used and still work great!

Now, just behind the chalkboard you can see our faith and nature shelves ...

DSC05571

Top to bottom:

DSC05611

Liturgical resources - these are the ones I like to have close by - many beloved storybooks organized by feast day (more or less) and my most-used Catholic idea books.

Next shelf:

DSC05609

My favorite seasonal resources - including ones I've had for years and re-read often even though I pretty much know them by heart! These are quite crafty and "Waldorf" in flavor. :)

Bottom shelf:

DSC05574

Here is the location of our new nature shelf!

It's just the right height for Little Bear to observe and manage. Admittedly, it's pretty sparse at the moment - we're just coming out of winter so we don't have many "fresh" treasures to display! But I do have some preserved items here as well as a flower press, binoculars, and two of my favorite children's nature guides: Round the Year by Enid Blyton (a gorgeous and generous gift from my dear friend, Kimberly) and Nature Hikes - an OLD but priceless nature walk resource.

In the cabinet at the bottom of this bookcase I keep most of my nature study resources ...

DSC04951

And in a small basket perched on a small table I have all our field guides ...

IMG_5001

Now, tucked in on the other side of the bookcase is our homeschooling cart:

DSC05578

This cart holds ...

Top bin: Earlybird's go-to educational resources, as well as my homemade lesson planning notebook

Middle bin: my favorite early learning teacher guides, and a fun little "basics" book for Little Bear

Bottom bin: favorite flash cards, educational games and a toddler workbook for when LB wants to "do school" like his brothers :)

I love how this cart looks out here - but what I really love though is how easy it is to move around! I can wheel this cart out to my "teacher desk" in the next room when I'm lesson planning!

Next comes the learning line and more books on display ...

DSC05579

The clothespins hold pages EB has used for his studies during the week. Some are photocopies of books we're using and some are coloring pages he's worked on. He is a very visual learner  - doesn't really care to talk too much about things but likes to look back at stuff we've done. I sometimes use post-it notes on these pages to prompt further connections. For example, on a state bird & flower coloring page I might ask EB to look up that particular bird in our field guide, or find the flower in our yard. On a human body coloring page about breathing, I might ask EB to do a simple science experiment involving his own breathing. And so forth ...

The books displayed here, from right to left, celebrate the themes of ...

DSC04676 (1)

Spring!

DSC05582

Colors!

DSC05610

The World around Us!

I do have a lot of wooden toys and educational items out here - these are treasured items that we've been collecting for many years! And can I just say how much I LOVE Toot & Puddle? Thankfully, so do the boys. :)

In the next corner of the room I'm in the midst of organizing a geography corner ...

DSC05583

It's still in need of a little work - for one thing, that pretty table (a yard sale find!) needs a new coat of paint (something more boyish) and for another, Little Bear's chair is a bit cramped here! But the heating element is on the wall just to the left and I really don't want him sitting here until it's turned off for the spring-summer-fall. (Which should be any day now - thank goodness!)

The other items here are a globe (which is a bit wobbly), a wooden US puzzle (which is missing Missouri), a small planets board book EB and I made for LB last year, and tucked in the far corner against the wall are several large, child-friendly atlases. These are GREAT for spreading out on the floor!

I would very much like to add some book ledges on this wall so I can display picture books about the current state or country we're studying. We've been using the Discover America State by State book series as we move from region to region and they have been a HUGE hit with Earlybird! I might also like to add a small bulletin board here so we can tack up articles about, and prayer needs for, the people and cultures of this great wide world.

Ok, turning the corner now ...

DSC05584

This wall is mostly all Little Bear's toys ... and mostly hand-me-downs from his older brothers!

DSC05585

Our collection of nature puppets - oh, how they have been loved through the years! (And please note the bandaids on several of them. This was Little Bear's doing some time ago when just about everyone had a "boo-boo" of one kind or another.)

More stuffed animals here ...

DSC05048

And here ...

DSC05047

And the wooden barn that I'm pretty sure I love more than anyone ...

DSC05141

The barn sits on a sweet red children's table that belonged to me when I was little - and my mum before me, and my great aunt before that! It was soft yellow when I had it, but my mother painted it this cheerful red after Little Bear was born. The basket beneath the table holds our wooden figures collection. I am so pleased Little Bear has taken a real interest in these. I bought most of these when Earlybird was young (and I was just getting into all things Waldorf-inspired) but EB didn't really take to them. (Imaginative play was and still is a challenge for him.) 

Then we have a couple of wooden stools and an unfinished cubby holding an assortment of toys ...

DSC05149

Favorite wooden puzzles, an alphabet abacus and a farm-themed tin filled with a bunch of favorite board books. All years-old and well-used! (Are you sensing a theme here, lol?) Little Bear got the tool set for Christmas (does this boy ever love to "help" Daddy with his work!) and the red basket underneath holds play-doh stuff. The lower cubbies hold (l-r) Duplos, a wooden tea set (in the woodland box) and story stones (sea animals and wooden puzzles are stacked in bins just behind). The wooden bin on the right holds yet more wooden puzzles!

(We have always been big on puzzles around here! Bookworm used to like doing them upside down. I kid you not.)

And then we have the treehouses ...

DSC05589

Also several years old but Little Bear enjoys both of these toys - hooray! Mostly it's the dinosaurs that live in the wooden tree fort (they were off somewhere else when the picture was taken) and the soft tree stump is usually stuffed full of wooden alphabet blocks. Go figure.

Finally, our work table ...

DSC05612

And it is truly a worktable as you can see from the picture above! A bit of a mess, yes - but beloved, as it once sat in my grandparents' kitchen. It's hardly in the pristine shape in which they kept it, but I like to think they'd be pleased their great-grandsons have all spent a whole lot of time around it ... learning, crafting, playing, snacking. In the middle of the table I have a tray holding a basket of crayons and the day's paperwork.

And now for my favorite part of the whole room ...

DSC05603

A view of the rest of our "schoolroom" ... which lies just outside these big windows! β€

Well I guess I'd best wrap up now ... but I hope you enjoyed this not-very-brief tour of our schoolroom! I took all these pictures over the past week or so - waiting for sunny days so the light was good! - but tomorrow I am dismantling a few areas to make room for Easter dinner tables. Thankfully this room is still versatile enough that we can use it for entertaining when needed. :)

So thanks as always for stopping by ... and my best wishes to you and yours as the Easter holiday approaches ... and to those who celebrate, Happy Passover!

And of course, a Joyous Springtide to all! β€

Take care of yourselves and your loved ones, my friends ... I'll see you here again very soon!


A Tale of Four Carts ... ❀

DSC04853

Hello everyone, and Happy Hump Day! If you follow me on Instagram you may have seen one or more of my recent posts in which I gush over my brand new rolling "caddy" carts. Well, I'd like to share them here too, because I'm having such fun setting them up!

But a bit of backstory first ...

I have admired these rolling carts for years now, ever since longtime reader, and Moscow-friend, Mic shared hers for my "Autumn Cozy Nest" series. Mic's pretty cart, in that iconic robin's egg blue, lives in her family's study room and holds all kinds of happy desk and craft supplies. When I saw Mic's picture - with her neatly stored pens, notebooks and purse, plus a couple of my favorite books tucked in there too - well, my heart just went all a-flutter! And then later on my friend Jen shared how she was using her own lovely cart on Instagram - and once again I found myself coveting another's cart just a little! Well, since these pretty carts were made by IKEA, I made a mental note to get myself right over to our local IKEA, only ... I never seem to get over to IKEA! (It's actually not quite local, but a bit of a drive from here.) But those carts have never gone off my radar ...

So then recently I was shopping at Michaels Arts & Crafts for Easter stuff when I found these remarkably similar carts made by a company called Recollections and they not only looked well-made but came in a wide-range of soft colors - PLUS they were ON a really good SALE! So honestly, what could I do but buy one? Or ... um, four?

Well, I did start with just one ... I hemmed and hawed a bit over the color, finally deciding on the charcoal grey because I planned to park it in my family room and we have a lot of gray in that room. Back home I set Bill (and his helper) to work putting the cart together ...

IMG_4628

IMG_4636

Bill said it was a cinch to assemble (how could it not be with that kind of help, right?) and seemed quite solidly made. In fact, he was so impressed with the cart - and my plans for it - he hardly twitched an eyelid when I returned to Michaels the very next weekend (before that sale ran out!) and came home with a few more!

(Ok, each cart was on sale for $23 and change so, not exactly a cheap investment, but I made sure I had specific intentions for each cart before I splurged. I don't mean to make it sound like it was nothing to drop $100 on home storage!)

Anyhoo, here's a little tour of our carts and their new homes ...

DSC04908

In the family room: The GRAY cart quickly became Little Bear's because he just loved it so. It's already logged many miles! This cart holds (a portion of) our vast cars and trucks collection as well as LB's favorite vehicle-themed books. I used a few bins I already had here too, so LB can lift out a bin at a time (in theory) and keep things a little tidier than they might otherwise end up. He can also wheel his car collection to other rooms if he wishes.

The bottom bin holds "monster trucks" and the middle bin holds the interchangeable parts of a set of wooden, buildable trucks while the bin at the very top holds assorted matchbox-sized cars (and planes). We actually own far more than the vehicles seen here (we've been raising boys for the past 22 years so this should not come as a surprise!) but I whittled down the family room assortment to these few bins. We can switch trucks out every so often to keep things fresh!

And next ...

IMG_5873

In the learning room: The AQUAMARINE cart holds the younger boys' curricula and various educational resources including my lesson planning notebook, teacher guides, Earlybird's clipboard (which holds his daily seatwork), a current board game and a few favorite flash card sets. I've parked this cart near the worktable where EB works with his therapist every day. (You'll hear more about this cart in my "Learning Room Tour" post coming up soon!)

Now the white cart ...

IMG_6058 copy

Ended up in the library! And it holds my 17 yo Crackerjack's academic materials - binders, textbooks, reading assignments, etc. - so they don't clutter up his (already cluttered) desktop. CJ was a little skeptical about his need for this cart (he keeps most of this in his backpack) so I may end up finding a different use for it ...

And finally ...

DSC05206

In the kitchen nook: The ROSE-GOLD cart sits by my command central and holds various notebooks, post-its and notecards. I also parked my week-at-a-glance calendar here but have since moved it back to the countertop. I roll this cart out of the kitchen to my computer desk in the family room from time-to-time - if company's coming or on weekends when command central closes up shop. Of course I can't help but notice this cart's shade matches the coil-binding in all of my favorite notebooks! :)

❀

Ok my friends, I guess that's a wrap! I hope you enjoyed seeing how I'm using my new rolling carts - as I mentioned above, I'm really quite happy with the way they are made and the way they look and the way they are organizing several areas of our family home! Toys, books, notebooks, and more books! I can always use help in corralling these types of things. Little Bear's play is more creative (and the mess is easier to manage), our lesson-times (and my lesson planning) are smoother and I'm able to quickly pick up my planning paraphernalia when needs be.

And four carts are a lot, I know - but I AM thinking of getting yet one more cart (should they go on sale again) in our kitchen proper ... we're getting rid of an old trash compactor and one of these carts would fit perfectly in it's place. I think it might be a good spot for storing produce that usually ends up (all over) our counter - apples, onions, potatoes, garlic, etc. But we shall see!

Well always, thanks so much for stopping by, everyone ... take care of yourselves and your loved ones ... I'll see you here again very soon!


🌞 Books for Happy Mornings & Good Nights 🌝

IMG_5371

Hello and Happy Monday, my friends! Today I'd like to talk a little about favorite children's books - in particular, ones that celebrate a happy day and/or a good night!

We certainly enjoy books of all kinds and at any time of day, but Little Bear himself has what he calls his "sunny stories" and "bed stories." :) Before he settles for sleep, he insists on at least THREE bed stories ... and in the morning, before we head downstairs to get the day going, he requests time spent in the rocking chair by the window, talking about the day, "snugging" and looking at a couple of favorite books ...

So I decided to make up special baskets to go along with these special times of the day! I took advantage of a sale at Michaels, and picked up two similar-sized and shaped baskets - one in a light shade and one in dark. Then I picked up some wide ribbon for a bit of embellishment. 

DSC04619

Sunrise colors for the day basket and a sparkly indigo for the evening bin. The baskets are not too big and have handles so it's easy enough to tote them from room to room. (Little Bear still sleeps in a toddler bed in our master bedroom but we're working on transitioning him to the nursery down the hall. Taking the books back and forth helps bridge the gap a little!)

IMG_5350

One of the things I love best about Little Bear's nursery (seen in depth here in this post) is the direction it faces - it catches the sunrise every morning and on warm evenings I love to sit in that same window and watch the birds in the spruce hedge along the property line - cardinals flitting in and out as dusk approaches, mourning doves cooing from the rooftop ...

Mornings are especially nice though - even Archie loves that window!

IMG_5399

 Ok, here are the books tucked in those baskets ...

Happy Morning Books:

The Baby's Good Morning Book

Hey! Wake Up!

Peek-a-Boo

Give Me Grace

All Creatures Great and Small

Little Owl's Day

Humphrey's Corner

Oh, What a Busy Day!

Good Morning Sun

Little Golden Books Classics: Three Best Loved Tales (Play with Me, So Big, The Boy with a Drum) 

Playtime

I Can Help

🌞

Good Night Books:

The Baby's Bedtime Book

Humphrey's Bedtime

Good Night, Fairies

Steam Train, Dream Train

How Many Kisses Good Night

Pajama Time!

Owl Babies

Sleepy Time

Little Owl's Night

🌝

I'd love to hear about your favorite books for bedtime and morning time! Please leave a comment below if you have the time. I need more books like I need rocks in my pockets, but I am always on the lookout for new favorites. :)

So this post was first in what I hope will be a series of posts talking about our favorite children's books for different activities and themes. I am currently going through a rather ginormous stash of storage boxes in the basement which hold mostly craft supplies and assorted children's books. These bins have not been unpacked in the four years we've lived here! And they're taking up a rather large portion of the mudroom ... and would-be home office ... and ahem even a corner of the laundry alcove!

I'm not going to set a posting schedule because goodness knows I won't stick to it, but as I go through these boxes and find old gems and organize them into a better storage system, I will share on occasion as I can. I'm thinking of upcoming themes like:

❀ books about nature

❀ counting +/or alphabet books

❀ funny books

❀ farm books

❀ books embracing faith

❀ books exploring world cultures

❀ books about handling fears

❀ poetry books

❀ books about enjoying different foods

Etc.!

I think this will be fun and I hope you do, too! If you have an idea for a theme, let me know. It's possible I might have a giveaway at some point during the series as well ... so stay tuned!

For now though I'll wrap up. My littlest man is itchy for some late afternoon reading ... this is our time for truck books and tea! And books about boats, trains, planes ... any old vehicles, really. We have QUITE the collection of those kinds of books as you can probably imagine!

So please take care and I will be back just as soon as I can. I am thisclose to finalizing that Office Hours Agenda pdf to share with you all - hopefully that will be my next post ...

Ok friends, I'm off! See you here again sometime soon ...


A Quick Craft to Welcome Spring ... ❀

DSC04101

... because spring IS coming, without a doubt - nevermind the historic BLIZZARD bearing down on New England as I type up this post! Yes, we are in for a lot of snow tomorrow - over a foot, maybe a foot and a half - plus high winds and all the usual hazards that arrive along with a Nor'easter ...

However! I'm keeping a steady weather eye on next Monday, which is in fact the first day of Spring - with the vernal equinox arriving at 6:29 a.m.! Early spring can indeed be snowy in our region so it just is what it is - cold and blustery perhaps - but the birds are still singing a different song, and the bulb shoots are still breaking ground, and the days are growing longer and lighter ...

Well, big snow or no, I decided on this bright and sunny (albeit cold) morning to make up a wreath in order to welcome the new season, once it arrives and whatever the weather it brings with it. It was so super easy to do, and turned out so well, I just had to share!

I began with a grapevine wreath. I like to have these on hand as they make nice seasonal wreaths or centerpieces, and can be changed up quickly with ribbons, silk flowers and little holiday do-dads. Many families use a wreath like this for a Lenten crown of thorns project at this time of year - a tradition I love, but opted not to include since I have a curious little fellow at home who would make short - and undoubtedly dangerous - work of all those toothpicks. But maybe next year ...

So to this plain wreath I added a couple of simple embellishments ...

DSC04081

My materials: a spool of ecru lace ribbon (sturdy, not sheer), a bag of speckled plastic eggs in soft shades of green and white, and a sweet "moss" covered rabbit.

I found all these items at Michaels Arts & Crafts yesterday where they were having a fantastic 40% sale on Easter decor. (I also bought a really cool metal utility cart which I will tell you all about in a post later this week!)

The first thing I did was to wrap the ribbon around the wreath ...

DSC04106

... using a hot-glue gun to secure the two ends. Then I used the hot-glue gun to attach the eggs and bunny to the wreath ...

DSC04108

And that was it! I won't hang this until Monday morning, but here's a sneak preview ...

DSC04133

(Note: I had to reattach a couple of the eggs which did not have enough glue on them. I think it helps to press them into the grapevine for a minute or so to allow the glue to take hold.)

I have always wanted an "egg wreath" for the front door but the ones I've seen at the stores have either been quite expensive - or reasonable, but a tad garish. I really like the soft greens and beiges here because to me, these are the shades of earliest spring ... just before the world explodes in a riot of Easter pastels!

(I also have a forsythia wreath which we'll hang closer to Easter, probably on Palm Sunday.)

And I love featuring two special Easter symbols in my springtime wreath - because both rabbits and eggs represent new life and have ancient roots in their holiday connection! This is something the boys and I are investigating this year: how so many aspects of nature - including the four elements and various flora and fauna - are tied in with our faith traditions. And not just ours but other faith traditions as well!

DSC04155

(A page from one of my favorite holiday books - Lilies, Rabbits and Painted Eggs: The Story of Easter Symbols by Edna Barth. She has a whole series of books about holiday symbols and they are all wonderful!)

Nature has always played an important role in the shaping of humanity and its interpretation of the world around it. We obviously don't need to rely on nature as much as our ancestors once did (for example, if a crop fails, I just pay a bit more at the market - my family doesn't starve), but I think a healthy amount of knowledge and respect (along with a good dose of awe) should be part of every child's upbringing. :)

DSC04140

So come on, Spring - we're ready for you! Don't be shy ... let's send Winter packing and get on with the business of new life!

❀

Well my friends, I thank you all for stopping by! I'll be back again soon with a new post - I have so many drafts percolating, I hardly know where to begin! - but for now I'll leave you with my wish that you all have a good week ... and my hope that wherever you are, your winter ends peacefully and promptly!

Take care of yourselves and your loved ones and I will see you here again very soon ...


Command Center Cleanup ❀

DSC03921

Hello my friends, and Happy Friday! I hope you've all had a good week. :)

It's snowing lightly here today but yesterday that late winter sun was just glorious! I had just tidied up my "command central" when I stopped to appreciate the pretty light filling the kitchen, so I snapped a quick pic. In my last post I promised a peek of "where I work" ... and so, here it is! Not that I don't love getting to sit down at my desk when I can ... but this spot is where I work throughout the day as I check in with my daybook or perhaps jot a note in my journal.

Here's a closer look because I want to talk about that small upright planner ...

DSC04026

I showed you this compact and cute woodland planner in a post last December, and it's something I've been using on and off. It fits in my purse rather nicely, but mostly I use it right here in command central, propped up over my Day Designer and my homekeeping binder. It helps me keep an eye on where I'm at in the week - reminding me in one glance just how busy each day will be and showing me when I'm doing something outside of my normal routine.

And how cute is my new mug?! I spotted it at Michaels earlier this year and just loved the sentiment! It's wide and deep and I use it for tea only - unlike the yellow mug in the top photo which is one of my go-to morning coffee mugs but can also be used for tea, too.

(Yes, I'm afraid I really am that obsessive about my hot beverage habits!)

Also seen in that above photo is my project clipboard - the thing that's covered in yellow post-it notes!

DSC04007

What I'm working on here is a new printable ... an "office hours agenda" that will hopefully make it easier for me to work through my list of planning tasks ...

Nest with Office Hours Agenda

I started by playing around with some vintage clipart (found on Pinterest) and creating a new "Pages" document on my computer. Then I started brainstorming just whatall goes on during said office hours (which generally take place over the weekend).

DSC04033 (1)

I find post-it notes so very helpful when trying to organize my thoughts. I write one specific item/idea/action on a note and then - a gazillion notes later - move the notes around, grouping them in ways that hopefully make sense. Loosely arranged in the order in which I do things, and separated into things I do on my own as opposed to things I do with the rest of the family. 

DSC04041

My next step will be filling out the sheet using the post-it notes as a guide and then saving it as a PDF. Then I can print it out, stick it in my binder, and use it as a guide each weekend as I prepare for the week ahead. Because even though I've been doing these things for years and could probably rattle them off in my sleep, I find it helpful to list them in a visual way. Sometimes my brain deserves a break and needs to go on auto-pilot! Plus, checking things off is always very satisfying. :)

(And yes, I will make the PDF available at the blog as one of my printables - in case this list might be helpful to someone else!)

Something else I did today ...

DSC04044

Switched up my weekly file folders ... looking back over the contents in last week's folder and finding things saved in next week's. In a separate post I'll walk through that process so as to give you a better idea of just how I use my file crate folders.

Before I go ...

DSC03963

Note the child racing towards me on the lefthand side of the shot. :) I was taking more random shots around the house (I get inspired when things are clean and the light is bright!) when Little Bear smelled the popcorn I had just popped (seen there on the island) and came running. I love how he's running! Hair flying and all ...

And I love the fox on his shirt ...

O popcorn

And I love the smile on his face!

❀

Well my friends, I hope you enjoyed this "command center check in!" I'll have more on this topic in the week(s) to come ... and I'll be back this weekend to catch up with comments and questions. Sorry I've been a little slow on that lately! I do appreciate each and every comment and do eventually catch up as I can!

Well, I hope you have a great Friday evening and as always, I thank you for stopping by!

See you here again very soon ...


A Late Winter's Tea ... (and a Winner!) ❀

DSC03327

Hello my friends, and Happy Friday! Goodness, is it ever a BEAUTIFUL day here in New England! The temperature, as I type up this post, has soared to a balmy 73 Β° ... the sun is shining ... the birds are singing ... the snow is melting ... we even spied a chipmunk darting across the backyard! What a tease this weather is though, as I'm sure we still have plenty of winter ahead (March can be quite snowy in our parts!). Still, this is a lovely break - a fresh mental breeze to awaken one's winter-weary spirit. β€

But in spite of this day's decidedly spring-like behavior, I'm here to share a cup of Late Winter's Tea with you all! And at the very end of our Tea I will tell you who won my Day Designer giveaway! You can of course, jump down to the end of the post to see who that might be ... ;)

So for today's tea I am using a very pretty cup and saucer set - a gift from my dear friend, Emma. I love the red toile pattern and shape of this set - especially the handy little nook for a snack! Today's snack is a couple of oatmeal-raisin cookies - but as you can see - and as I noticed after I took this picture! - someone had made off with one of the cookies! Ahem! ;) The tea is a new one for me - Newman's Own English Breakfast. Not my usual afternoon tea as this one is fully caffeinated and rather bold-flavored, but on this particular day I was in need of an energy boost!

So I prepared my cup and moved out to the library where I've been busy cleaning this week - haven't really done that since this was December's "Christmas room" - and I'll have a post with a tour in a bit because it's slowly becoming our Spring room. :) I just got our Lenten mantle organized and I'm now working on our homeschool shelves and my writing desk ... as well as our liturgical bookcase! Yes, this room was in dire need of a lift! (Not to mention a good dusting and sweeping!) I love the light here at this time of day though ... the sun sets just behind the woods outside the window shown above and below ... the light lingering later and later each day. I use this desk as a spot to sit and write ... rather than compute (my computer desk is out in the family room). It's a more feminine "mother's desk" and I love changing things up as the seasons turn ... :)

DSC03294

Also shown in the these photos is my brand new spring purse! I had some birthday money just burning a hole in my pocket, and spotted this pretty bag at TJ Maxx. Honestly, I was just running into the CVS next door but that robin's egg blue really reached out and grabbed me, right through the store-front window! What I really love about this bag (aside from the color and the affordable price) is the softness of the bag itself. Very flexible but with a sturdy bottom. And roomy! Plenty of space inside for all the things I like take along with me when I'm out and about ...

(A more detailed Spring purse post to come!)

DSC03321

It's not often I can spend a lot of time here puttering in notebooks and writing out letters, but I try to get here a few times a week. I have some things set up in this room to keep Little Bear busy (toys and puzzles, puppets and books) while I sit for a bit, and there's always the promise of "a story or two" once Mama is done. :) 

Speaking of books ...

DSC03315

I have a small table at the end of the desk which holds reading materials and an in-basket. A small bin holds notecards and seasonal cards. In the foreground are two sets of our favorite seasonal picture books - one set by Gerda Muller and the other by Eva-Maria Ott-Heidmann. These are wordless picture books with the loveliest illustrations celebrating the many nuances of the year. My boys have loved these books for years - we just pore over them and talk about what we see in the pictures, what might be going on. I try to keep them together and out of the general stash of board books- not just to keep them in good shape, but also so I can look through them myself from time to time!

Also in this picture you can see we have our window open ... that made tidying this room all the more enjoyable! The little baskets were Little Bear's doing - he was collecting (wooden) eggs to set aside for Easter. :) And an open window always invites the kitties out from wherever they're slumbering ...

DSC03241

Needless to say we got ourselves outside for a bit!

IMG_4024

Late winter is such a special time of year ... spring comes so slowly, and each little hallmark is a treasured gift. The brighter days, the softness of the air, the change in the birdsong ... the dripping and melting ... and resulting muddy puddles!

IMG_3992

The boys attempted to shovel away any lingering snow patches from the driveway ... while I just closed my eyes and enjoyed the warmth of the sun, the freshness of the air. What a glorious day! (Note the double-trunked tree in the background - my favorite oak.❀)

Ok, now before I go and before I get to announcing my giveaway winner ... here's a look at a little project I'm having fun with right now:

Homemade planner 1

Homemade planner 2

Some of you might remember last year I made myself a homemade weekly planner. I loved that notebook so much - though I ended up not using it as I'd hoped to. Well, I determined to try again ... so I ordered myself the very same notebook!

DSC03144

These Fringe notebooks really do it for me. They're just beautiful - inside and out - and perfect for my needs. Love the binding, the paper, the covers! So I am tweaking how I organize the insides (learning from last year's mistakes!) and taking it very slowly. So far all I've done is this ...

IMG_3906

A dated reference calendar washi-taped into the front cover. :) I'm counting pages and sketching grids now, and will share more details very soon. (Would you all like a how-to post on diy planners?) This one, which is meant to organize our family's seasons, will run Spring through Winter, and since we are on the very doorstep of March I'd best get cracking!

More to come on this project, but for right now I'd like to finally announce just who won my extra Day Designer planner! And so after a random drawing I am happy to announce that the giveaway winner is ...

BETH!

Congratulations, Beth! I hope you enjoy the planner! I will be in touch this evening to arrange mailing details and then get this planner out to you ASAP!

And my sincere thanks to everyone for taking the time to leave me such wonderful comments. I loved reading each and every one of them and am grateful you took the time to share your thoughts with me! Your very kind words, thoughtful suggestions and interesting questions are all much appreciated. And you've all got me percolating with ideas and inspiration! So I printed out the comments thread and highlighted each topic area mentioned (color-coding them, naturally). I will keep these pages in my binder and work up a list of "posts to come." I will say you definitely like organizing and planning posts the best! There was also many mentions of homeschooling, seasonal celebrations, meal planning, homemaking and weaving our family faith into everyday living. Lots of tea and chat posts, too! 

DSC03340 (1)

So stay tuned for all kinds of posts to come ... but for right now, before I go, I'd like to answer one question that popped up a couple of times ...

"Why do you call your mother, "Mum" which sounds so very British?" :)

Well, I have to say I think it might be a New England thing as I have other local friends who call their moms "Mum," too, but I think for us it's just a family thing. My mother called her mother "Mum," and her mother (my grandmother) did the same. My maternal great-grandmother was Scottish - as in, came here from Scotland - so I'm thinking perhaps this is where it began.

So there's that! :)

My own boys call me Mama - although as they've grown older that has pretty much morphed into, "Mom." :)

So that's all for today, my friends ... but I do hope you've enjoyed my post and as always I thank you for stopping by! Take care of yourselves and your loved ones ...

I will see you here again very soon!


#52 Weeks: My Cookbooks & Recipes ❀

DSC02131

Hello and Happy Tuesday, my friends! I hope your week is going well!

Well I've been terribly lax on the progress reports, but I am still following the "52 Weeks to an Organized Home Challenge!" We just received our decluttering calendar for March and I am sooo excited about the upcoming target areas - laundry, cleaning, household routines, and ... gulp basement! All things I need to work on for sure! But first let's catch up with February's missions ...

So at the beginning of the month we were assigned "Cookbooks and Recipes," and then came "Trash/Recycling," "Coupons" and most recently, "Meal Planning" (our current week's mission). I loved the Cookbooks and Recipes challenge especially, though it did take me some time to get all the way through it. The Trash/Recycling mission I kind of skimmed over since we're pretty good in that area - didn't actually take any photos, though I can if anyone's really interested in how we do trash and recycling! :) As for coupons - currently I'm not doing them because honestly, I just wasn't using them and it was taking up a lot of time and creating a lot of clutter! That's not to say I don't use a few store-produced coupons on occasion - most notably, the craft stores, the supermarket and Bob's clothing store (for the boys). Those I just keep clipped to my errands notebook and that's worked out well. I will say I would like to revisit the "Price Book" challenge because I think that's a good thing to have in one's meal planning/money-saving arsenal ...

But for today, let me share what I did to declutter and organize my cookbook collection and horde of amassed recipes ...

DSC02224

Cookbooks were easy enough - I tackled them not too long ago, back when I ran a blog series called, "Kitchen Chat." But as you can see, I have added many more cookbooks to my shelf than I had in that earlier post! (Many were still packed in moving boxes until recently.) This might look like a lot of cookbooks to you, or maybe not that many, but all of these are valuable to me and if nothing else, I like the way they look in my kitchen. :)

DSC02226 (1)

Now, my recipes on the other hand ...

DSC02087

Well, they hadn't been addressed in some time ...

I had basically been setting aside recipes to try, as well as recipes tried and liked, AND recipe cards from friends and family, together in a bin. Or bins, I should say - there were more than just this one to begin with! And at one point I had some things in file folders but that system had pretty much fallen apart ...

Well, I took ALL those loose things and went through the whole big pile of them! This took several days because it was a rather time-consuming activity - though quite a pleasurable one! I found so many things I thought I'd lost or had forgotten! So for a week or so, in the late afternoons, I'd make a cup of tea, sit in the family room with the boys and just sort through all these clippings one by one. I purged a lot of things - found a lot of things I'd been missing! - and kept a pile of things to organize by type.

While I was doing this I also went through my rather large collection of "foodie" magazines, whittling it down to what I truly wanted to keep on hand. First and most importantly was my Everyday Food mags ...

Everyday food mags

Everyday Food - published by Martha Stewart but sadly, no longer in print - is hands-down my favorite food magazine. I have every single issue! This was a small-sized monthly publication filled with wonderful, useful, and family-friendly recipes. And best of all, lots of seasonal flavor. (Eg. rhubarb in May, tomatoes in August and squash in the fall.) I store the bulk of my EF collection in the library along with my main magazine "stash" but I've brought the current and upcoming months out to the kitchen to keep in a small basket situated between my cookbooks and recipe binders (more on those down below).

DSC02106

My other favorite foodie magazine (which is also, unfortunately, out of print) was King Arthur Flour's The Baking Sheet ...

DSC01507

I don't have every issue, but I do have a lot! At first they were published in a rather small size (seen above on the left) but eventually they changed it to a larger format as seen in the photo below ...

DSC01522

The Baking Sheet is filled with baked good recipes, obviously, and the recipes range from easy to more advanced - but what I loved most was their wonderful seasonal flavor and the many traditional New England recipes they shared. I was so disappointed when KAF stopped publishing The Baking Sheet ... I haven't quite warmed up to their newer publication, Sift. Sift is quite lovely - and large - but awfully expensive.

Anyhoo ... I keep a great deal of my TBS issues in a handy binder (a gift from my folks) and the whole collection has also found a home on my cookbook shelf. I guess that tells you how important Everyday Food and The Baking Sheet are to me! :)

DSC01580

But let's get back to recipes - and that overstuffed bin! I took that pile of clippings - still hefty but now, purged ...

DSC02111

... and set about separating it out into recipe types ...

DSC02113

DSC02124

DSC02127

Once I had them all sorted, I stacked them back in a pile (separated by sticky notes - you can see this pile in the very top photo) and dashed off to Staples for some binders ...

DSC02089

I went in thinking, "plain white binders" and came out with these beauties!

DSC02090

I have such a fondness for a bright, feminine floral set against a dark background - just like this one! (I'd love a Vera bag in this pattern!) I also liked how this floral picked up my soft green cabinets and black appliances. :) These binders are part of the Cynthia Rowley collection at Staples and have very smooth-working D-rings. (D-rings are so much better than regular round rings!) I also bought a few coordinating binder pockets, tabbed dividers and sheet protectors.

Now, this is where things stalled for a while as I decided how to set up the binders! But then eventually - aka this morning - I got down to organizing the three binders. I had all the clippings separated by recipe type in this way:

main dishes - beef, poultry, pork, seafood, vegetarian

side dishes - vegetable, other

vegetables, general

breakfast

baked goods

fruits/herbs

soups/stews

appetizers

beverages

ice cream/sorbet

frostings/jams/sauces/candy

pickles & preserves

food gifts

holiday spreads (entire articles focusing on a particular holiday)

non-food recipes (eg. cleaning products, natural egg dye and play dough, etc.)

sentimental (family and/or handwritten recipes)

general food information/meal planning

DSC03105

I used a purple pen for the tabs - not just because it matched the floral binders, because it reminds me of my late grandmother. πŸ’œ  Purple was "her" color and my mum often uses a purple pen, especially when we're writing out holiday meal plans. It just felt special to me. :)

DSC03084

I found it handy to use small sticky notes to move the categories around as I decided which binder would hold which tabs.

DSC03085

Then I started filing those pages into sheet protectors and adding them to the appropriate binders!

DSC03119

Naturally, I had help ... :)

DSC03113

Oh, forgot to show you the binder pocket!

Cookbooks binder pocket

Each binder has one of these - to hold recipe cards and small or oddly-shaped recipes like the punch booklet shown above.

At last the binders were ready to go up on that shelf ...

DSC03118

I used a beige "vintage-look" sticker to dress up the binder labels ...

DSC03127

DSC03123

Now I have another area of recipe storage to tackle, and that I will save for a separate post because it's a rather complicated affair ...

DSC02297

If you've read any of my posts on journaling then you know I have a habit of storing pretty/interesting/timely/seasonal recipes in my domestic journal. I know many journal-folk who set up an "index of information" to use when they want to find something in particular from a random journal page. My indexing has been fairly hit or miss over the years so I am currently embarking on a quest - yes it's that epic, lol! - to comb back through ALL my journals and create a master index of information and observations. Well, I'll begin with recipes anyway ... :) 

DSC02246

My current journal shown above and a few older ones shown below ...

DSC02291

DSC02228 (1)

DSC02229

DSC02230

So more recipe talk to come ... though it will be a bit before I get through all the journals. I think I'll try to comb through them a seasons' worth at a time and then do separate posts - like say, "Early Spring Journals" and then "Late Spring Journals" and so on. Otherwise that would be one monster of a post!

And speaking of monster-like posts, I'd best wrap this one up! I do hope you've enjoyed this progress report and would love to hear about how you organize your cookbooks and recipes. Also, if you have any questions, please let me know - I will try to get back to you as soon as possible. Drop me a note in the comments box below if you have time ...

For now I wish you all a nice afternoon and a pleasant night ahead ... hope to see you here again soon! :)


Welcome, February! ❀

IMG_3268

Good Thursday morning, my friends! I hope your February is off to a great start! We've been busy here with homeschooling and home projects and some of us are nursing a head cold, while a couple of others are just getting over feeling unwell. (I'm happy to say, I'm in the latter group!) Currently I am working on a post about the February section of my planning binder but computer time is a wee bit scarce right now ... so it might be another day or two. Still, I thought I'd pop in and share a few photos from our week so far. This is one of my favorite weeks in the year because it's just rich with "deep winter" goodness - St. Brigid's Day, Candlemas, Groundhog's Day ... not to mention, the Superbowl! (Go Pats!)

Anyhoo ... as I type up this post (late on Thursday, nearing teatime) the snow is flying! It's been sunny all morning (though chilly), but just now the skies got very dark and then suddenly the flakes were falling fast! We're all home now - including Bill (the one with the head cold) - so I don't mind one bit. Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow ... seems the groundhog was right after all!

Speaking of groundhogs ...

DSC01921

I made this for the boys today and they got such a kick out of it! (Not to mention they were thrilled for a cake out of the blue!) I saw a variation of this idea on Pinterest and had to add it to the week's "crafts and comforts." It's just an 8x8 vanilla snack cake (Trader Joe's) topped with homemade cocoa frosting - mounded in the middle to resemble a groundhog's den. Then I stuck a Teddy Graham in the middle (taking on the role of the groundhog here, popping up to look for his shadow) and sprinkled the "ground" with crushed chocolate cookies (dirt), green sugar (grass) and tiny white candies (snow). Cute to behold, but even more importantly ... really delicious with a cup of milk after lunch!

Also in the kitchen today ... I have several potatoes baking for tonight's shepherd(ess) pie. Don't potatoes in the oven just smell amazing? In a bit (meaning, once I finish this post) I will put the kettle on and get the younger boys to help me make a loaf of Irish soda bread to go with tonight's dinner. And do you know what we will have on that bread ... ?

DSC01745

DSC01774

DSC01784

Yes, our very own homemade butter! ❀

DSC01787

We've been making butter on the feast of St. Brigid (patroness of Ireland, dairymaids, cattle and midwives) for many years, but this was Little Bear's first time with the project! And he was pretty impressed - if not much help with the actual shaking. He's only three, so I cut him some slack!

Also for St. Brigid's Day and Candlemas (yesterday and today, respectively) ... winter citrus candles!

DSC01740

I like to melt beeswax and make candles on Candlemas, but this year I kept it a bit simpler. As crafts go, this was pretty quick and easy! The trickiest bit is getting the orange flesh away from the orange shell neatly. So I just hollowed out an orange and split it in half ... pressed a small star-shaped cookie cutter in one end and stuck whole cloves all around the opening. Then I placed a beeswax tealight inside ... smelled SO amazing. Even after the orange peel started smoking. Oops!

(Of course, it goes without saying, I keep burning candles well out of reach of the children and I never leave them unattended. It's nice to light them while you say a verse or prayer - then quickly snuff them out.)

IMG_3255

I thought the star shape was reminiscent of Brigid's cloak as described in this story - one of our favorite February books! There are so many wonderful picture books to enjoy all through the year ...

DSC01932

I try to organize mine by seasonal flavor. I have huge baskets in our basement with books filed by season. Right now we have our "deep winter" books up in the schoolroom ... and I must admit - as much as I enjoy them, I'm itching to get to those "early spring" titles!

But there is joy and value in every season, and winter certainly has us in its grip ...

IMG_3269

Now that I have a "real" camera again (a birthday present from Bill and the boys) I am always hoping to get outside and snap photos. I particularly love the early morning ... although this (pre-sunrise) picture is dark, I like how it represents the harsh beauty of winter. I also just love rosehips, period. :)

Back out in the learning room (aka the sunroom), I have a nature corner set up and this is our verse for the month ...

DSC01936

Lovely words from Be Blest: A Celebration of Seasons, one of my favorite poetry books. β€

Another family tradition at Brigid's Day/Candlemas (nevermind what the groundhog says!) is to organize and bless our spring seeds ...

DSC01736 (1)

I have all kinds of grand plans for the gardens this year! Last year it was all about building the coop and settling our hens, but this year I hope to expand our gardens - flowers, herbs and veggies. Maybe some fruit bushes. Clearly, there will be plenty of morning glories ... ;)

Another quick craft for February ...

DSC01671

I cut out hearts from pretty scrapbooking paper and made up a garland for the library mantle ...

DSC01803

I had the grapevine balls on hand (they came off a string of lights) and threaded them with the paper hearts on a length of twine, then hung the garland just beneath the lip of the mantle. Meanwhile, up above ...

DSC01807

A boxwood wreath - the last of our "Christmas greenery," which was supposed to come down today  - is sporting several Victorian valentines. (Barnes & Noble has the loveliest, old-fashioned notecards for each holiday ... reasonably priced, too!) And just below the wreath is a message for the month (craft store letters painted robin's egg blue ... need a second coat!) and some red beeswax tea lights. I'll be making salt-dough candleholders with the boys for these tealights later this month. The jar candles on either end were made last Candlemas.

Oh, and finally!

DSC01862

I saw an idea on Facebook - and I cannot remember its origin now! - but it was to use post-its as little love notes for your child(ren) ... one a day leading up to February 14th. I found these cute heart-shaped post-it notes on Amazon (actually, with Lent in mind but they work well here) and embellished a plain craft board wreath with a "Love" banner. (Glittery adhesive stickers against scrapbook paper cut into a banner shape.) Each day I will add a note, filling the whole wreath, with all the different ways we love. Maybe something to love about life, about the world around us ... or maybe something we love about each other. They're not personalized but something I hope each family member enjoys reading each day. Thinking about all the ways we are blessed by love in our life!

DSC01865

Well my friends, I'd best wrap up now ... this post has gone on MUCH longer than I intended ... teatime has arrived and the sun is shining once again! So as always, I thank you for your time and attention and I wish you a pleasant evening (or day as the case may be). I hope all is well with you where you are ... and I hope to be back again in just a few days to talk more about my February planner ... and plans! :)

In the meantime, take care of yourselves and your loved ones ... I'll see you here again very soon!


#52 Weeks: My Fridge & Freezer!

DSC01395 (1)

Hello my friends, and Happy Monday! I hope you all had a nice weekend. :)

Well it's time for another "52 Weeks to an Organized Home" progress report! And this past week we focused our decluttering muscles on the refrigerator and freezer, two spots in my kitchen that are almost never as clean and well managed as they should be. I can't fault the refrigerator anymore ... our appliance is relatively new, since the old one went kaput last October. The shelves and compartments are supposed to make sense and lead one into an easy and efficient (not to mention edible) state of organization. Even so, I still manage to have overcrowded, sticky shelves and somehow food still gets overlooked (and goes bad). Not all of it of course, but enough of it that I cringe when a visitor takes a peek in our fridge or if someone brings something to a party that - heaven forbid - needs refrigerating!

But no more! I spent a few mornings this week working on this very area and all its - er, my - faults. With my trusty helper by my side, natch!

DSC01153

Well, in this picture he's just moved on to the ovens but honestly, do you see the sheen on that refrigerator? Little Bear's been such a wonderful cleaning assistant - just as he loves working outside with Daddy (gathering branches is a favorite task), he also enjoys "working" inside with Mama. As soon as he sees cleaning spray in my hand or a chair pushed up next to the cabinets, he's all: "I help, Mama?" So I give him a damp dishrag and set him to work! :)

Ok, so here's the before picture of my fridge/freezer ...

DSC01027

So maybe it doesn't look too bad, but clearly it was pretty crowded ... and that's because there was a lot of old food that needed clearing out. Salad dressings for example. (For people who don't eat nearly enough salad we certainly have more than enough dressing on hand!)

Oh, and note the dead/dying flowers on top of the fridge. These were a lovely birthday gift from my husband ... but because we have naughty cats who like to eat plants - poisonous or otherwise - any type of floral arrangement must be kept well out of reach. Where it's usually forgotten and left to die.

Anyway, I cleared EVERYTHING out - the fridge kept beeping at me because the door was open too long! - and got rid of food that had spoiled. (For the record, we did clean out and recycle the containers.) Then I gave some thought to how I had items organized, tweaked the plan a bit, and then put it all back.

Oh yes - we wiped each shelf and drawer as we went!

DSC01042

The after ...

DSC01058

I don't think you need to hear about all the food, but there is a rhyme and reason to it. And look! SPACE! There's a whole shelf there that has next to nothing on it. (Save some lettuce put aside for "the girls.")

Interesting fact: This particular fridge came with an easy-access door which I almost never use but does seem terribly smart. It's hard to explain, but there is a latch on the fridge handle that allows you to open an outer door that reveals the things you see on the shelves inside the door itself. The milk and whatnot ... the things you'd need to grab most often. This is supposed to conserve energy since you don't need to open the fridge wide every time the kids want a glass of juice or a cheese stick. I didn't take a picture of that but if I think to do so I'll grab one tomorrow and plug it into this post. 

(Note: I don't usually have so much pudding on hand, lol - but I'm currently nursing a "dry socket," which - if you're not familiar with this affliction - is when a wisdom tooth extraction goes awry. Very painful! Soft foods have been the norm for me for the past 10 days. God bless my mum, she brought me all kinds of yogurt and pudding and protein drinks and applesauce AND made me egg salad to have on hand. I'm healing slowly but surely - but boy, am I getting tired of pudding!)

And here's the freezer ...

DSC01187

... which we did a few days later. :)

The freezer was in better shape than the fridge, but there wasn't really a good system in place. After removing it all and weeding out old items, it's a little better now ... And yes, we have a lot of ice cream on those shelves, but no they don't have anything to do with my tooth! We host a lot of parties as you know, particularly birthday parties, so ice cream gets bought - half eaten - and then returned to the freezer. Bill can't eat ice cream (he's lactose-intolerant) and I try not to, if you know what I mean. ;) And the boys are allowed ice cream only on occasion ... so it really piles up!

Oh, and did I mention Bill's new hobby is making ice cream?

Ha-ha, go figure! Seriously though, his lemon sorbet and vanilla custard ice cream is to die for! (Especially since the latter is made with our hen's fresh eggs!) Those white containers are holding his recent concoctions and the white object in the bottom drawer is the ice cream maker bowl. (Kept frozen and ready to go!)

Now one of the things I just LOVE about this program is how Taylor assigns a challenge (or zone) for each week - case in point, "fridge/freezer" last week and "recipes" next week - but then instead of just sending you off on your own, she ALSO gives you daily missions that will help you on the way to conquering that challenge! So this past week, on one day we decluttered the fridge, and on another we cleaned the fridge thoroughly. Then we tackled the freezer another day, and the front and top of the fridge another day entirely. This challenge is so VERY doable!

Speaking of the front of the fridge, here is mine ...

DSC01352 (2)

Love this sweet teapot wallie!

DSC01356 (1)

On the left is a board for Earlybird's ABA weekend homework, and on the right is a pen cup, the teapot wallie (which is like chalkboard) and our week-at-a-glance. I love how they look against the black fridge! I am using the teapot to list a seasonal verse or idea each week - something that ties into our home/learning theme (which next week is "candles"). The calendar is pretty self-explanatory ... I have this here so the rest of the family can see what's going each day of the week. :)

(I bought the homework board at Staples (Martha Stewart Office) and the items on the right were found on Amazon.)

So there we have it! Another week behind us and several spots in my kitchen are much cleaner than they were on January 1st! This coming week we are targeting "recipes and cookbooks" and I am SO looking forward to digging into those things. I will be back with a report on how that challenge went and I hope to also return in a few days with a peek at my binder's February section ... how those planning sheets are working for me and some thoughts on the month ahead!

For now though I will leave you, but as always, it's with my thanks for your time and attention. I hope you all have a nice week ...

I'll see you here again very soon!


#52 Weeks: My Pantry & Bakeware ...

DSC00306

Hello, my friends and Happy Tuesday! I hope your week is off to a great start! I have just finished up week three of the 52 Week Organized Home Challenge and I'm here to report in! (Please see my previous progress reports here and here.)

Above you see my kitchen pantry and if I may say so, I just adore my pantry. It's located in the kitchen proper, on the wall across from the kitchen "nook" and just before the passageway into the family room. When we were first shown this house (almost four years ago now) there were several things that really stood out to me as a prospective buyer (already half in love with the house from the first foot out of the car!) and one of them was this pantry. It was built by a local craftsman and apparently several homes in our town have the same feature. Short of a separate room with a utility sink and work table - and maybe rafters for drying herbs - I thought this was pretty perfect as pantries go! Certainly a "luxury" we had never enjoyed before in our previous homes. Food storage was always tricky especially as our family grew and I yearned to cook more at home.

Now, I grew up with a back hall pantry (the stairwell down to the back door) and my grandparents had a wonderful pantry in their basement (also in a back stairwell). My grandparents went through the Great Depression and lived by the old adage "use it up, wear it out, make do or do without" ... AND, always be prepared. I remember having such a feeling of comfort and security just knowing those shelves existed. Grama would often send me down to fetch a can of this or that ... but sometimes I looked it over all on my own ... just because. Full of jars and bottles and cans of all kinds, I found them fascinating and maybe even a little mysterious. :) Both my mother and grandmother were fabulous home cooks (my mum still is!) who loved caring for their families and so by extension, their pantries provided more than just physical nourishment. Nowadays of course we can just run to the grocery store and get what we need - almost at any time of day - but still, my Yankee roots urge me to secure for the future, stock up on goods, fill the larder, and never take any of it for granted. How blessed we are to know we can feed those we love when they are hungry ...

Tasha tudor pantry

Art by Tasha Tudor

Well, anyway ... back to the pantry in question! And if you can't tell, the photo at the top is the "before" shot. ;) I was told by a few folks that this looked pretty good as is (was), but honestly, things were really quite messy. There was so much out-of-date food (that moved with us from the old house!) and crumbs and stickiness of all kinds. And I really didn't have a good idea of just what all was in here. It's hard to "work" a pantry with which you're not completely familiar! And as I've mentioned before, one of my 2017 goals is to cook more at home - to make more of the food we eat rather than rely on packaged/prepared/processed kinds of foods. Better for us and our budget!

So the first thing I did was to empty the WHOLE thing out, shelf by shelf, and place things on the kitchen table.

DSC00493

(I mean, how many bags of flour does one family really need?)

See, here's an example of one of my problems. I don't cook with flour as often as I should (or would if I had my A-game going) so I had no idea how many bags of flour we actually had. I'd buy flour if I saw it on sale, or if I was at the store thinking how I'd like to make pizza dough from scratch, then I'd buy flour just in case I didn't have the right kind on hand at home. Several of these bags were past their expiration date and honestly, that is just shameful.

(I'm baring my soul here friends ... just in case you thought I was some kind of super-organized, homemaking maven! Lol.)

I also had SO many supplies for cupcake baking ...

DSC00497

But that makes sense because we do make cupcakes quite often (apparently not from scratch though) and sprinkles don't ever really go bad. (Do they?)

Ok, so once I had ALL the foodstuffs out (I worked cabinet by cabinet - my kitchen table's not that big) I stood on a chair and vacuumed and wiped all the shelves. (The boys were beside themselves ... Mama, come down from there! That's not safe! We'll tell Dad!) Next I combed through it all and got rid of expired items. (This was better done when my husband was at work ... he would have fainted to see me toss so much food!) Finally, I set things back in place, again going shelf by shelf - trying to come up with some efficient storage solutions as I went along.

And voila!

DSC00520

A trimmed down, clean and organized pantry. With plenty of room for adding more! Generally speaking, the left cabinet holds savory things, the middle cabinet is for baking, fruits and sweet mixes and the last cabinet is for health, pets, baby and breakfast items.

How about a tour? :)

DSC00526

Top shelf has beverages. We don't drink soda often, but keep it on hand for company and large-scale entertaining. The shelf just below that has snack-type foods - chips, taco shells, crackers and salad croutons.

DSC00533

Next shelf down is for rice and soups ...

DSC00527

There are two handy pull-out metal drawers for seasoning packets/sauce mixes, soup bouillon, and seafood cans/pouches.

DSC00545

Ok, on to the middle cabinet ...

DSC00525

Top shelf has flours, oats, cornmeal and pancake mix. (p.s. As I went along I worked on a pantry inventory - using handy printables from Taylor at Home Storage Solutions 101, noting any pre-made packaged foods I'd like to make from scratch - such as pancake mix.) The next shelf down has sugars (confectioner's sugar, brown sugar (hidden in an air-tight container just behind the Domino boxes), stevia, organic raw sugar and plain old granulated sugar. Also, a bin full of decorative sugars, colored sprinkles, icing gel, cupcake liners and toppers, etc.

DSC00532

Moving down ... we have the spice shelf! The rack on the far left has pull out shelves and the two bins hold spices for cooking (left) and baking (right). (Generally speaking of course. Just how it made sense in my own head.) Then there is a mortar-pestle for grinding whole spices, an air-tight jar with cinnamon sticks, a pretty crock of Herbs de Provence (a gift from a friend), and a few other assorted spices ... vanilla beans, dry mustard, Bell's seasoning, cream of tartar, chili powder and seasoned salt.

DSC00538

More pull-out drawers below  ... these hold gelatin, yeast, pudding mixes, and chocolate chips/baking chocolate of all kinds. Just below that are assorted baking ingredients: cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, coconut oil, corn syrup, molasses, honey, shortening, and cocoa.

DSC00539

(Notice I'm spending more time on these shelves ... I'm much more a baker than a cook. Flour issues notwithstanding.)

Ok, next we have flavorings and seasonings ... salt, No-Salt (for my dad), assorted seasoning rubs and blends, cinnamon sugar and vanilla sugar (in the latched jar), packets of raw sugar, vanilla and assorted flavorings (peppermint, almond, lemon, orange, hazelnut, etc.), a large bag of mulling spices, a small bag of dried flower petals, cloth spice bags, and rosewater and orange blossom water. And a pack of flavored Italian honey. This is a fun shelf - it might be my favorite! :) Madagascar vanilla is my favorite thing in my kitchen. Well, after coffee ... and maybe tea.  

DSC00540

Ok, on to the next shelf! Here we have dried fruits (dates, raisins, cherries and cranberries), a good ol' jar of Marshmallow Fluff (a New England staple), a jar of mincemeat (which actually contains no meat whatsoever) and many, many cans of squash and pumpkin. (One can never have too many cans of pumpkin, imho.)

DSC00541

Allrighty, last cabinet!

DSC00524

At the very top is a cabinet with medicinal things, matches, bandaids, sunscreen and, oddly enough, bubble solution. Bubbles bring high emotions in this household, so it's best to keep them somewhere out of sight when not in use.

The next shelf down holds my "master stash" of tea and a basket of assorted cocoa packets ...

DSC00549

Then we have a shelf for larger containers of cocoa, marshmallows and leftover Halloween (and um, Thanksgiving and Christmas) candies. Nobody eats these really, but I can't bear to throw them out! (Actually, that's not entirely true - the Annie's Halloween bunny grahams are gone now.) And behind the tea tins on the left is a large container of protein powder we never remember to use. I love reusing those pretty Harney & Sons tea tins for storage!

DSC00550

And here we have the pets and baby shelf, holding a basket of canned food, pouches of treats (one for cats, one for hens), a tupperware container of homegrown catnip, Little Bear's toddler snacks and bottle liners. (He's actually off bottles now - he really held onto that bedtime bubba! - but we're saving those liners in case my sister-in-law - who is due soon with her first baby - might need them.)

DSC00551

Next shelf down holds cold cereal boxes - they don't fit standing up and we have yet to find another storage spot - and a bin of oatmeal packets, plus a jug of spring water.

DSC00555

And then we have ... hey, wait a minute!

DSC00570

Oh, do cats love it when you clean. :) But this is actually an empty shelf! (Which is fine ... sometimes, especially when Bookworm is home, we have lots of cold cereal boxes on hand.) And below that is a bottom shelf holding extra boxes of food wraps.

Ok, a couple more photos showing you how I tackled the "organize bakeware" mission ...

DSC00463

Same procedure as the pantry, more or less - took everything out of these cabinets and weeded through it all. What do we need up here in the kitchen? What can go down to storage in the basement? Then cleaned out the cabinets themselves and finally, placed all of my bakeware back inside.

DSC00470

Far left holds baking molds and and muffin pans, plus a large half-sheet cake pan. The middle cabinet holds bundt pans, springform pans, quiche/tart pans, and regular 9" round pans. Also, a couple of waffle makers. And the third cabinet holds a bin of random baking supplies - cookie cutters, candy molds and popsicle molds - as well as our Griddler and deep fryer.

You can probably see that these under-counter cabinets have a neat feature - a surprise cabinet on the backside of the jetty! (Do you see Little Bear's tiny face peeking in through the light in the back? :)

In this cabinet, which opens on the kitchen nook side, we store our crockpots, pressure cooker, juicer and salad spinner just behind.

DSC00476

(The crockpot on the let was missing its inner pot - it was in the dishwasher!)

So that was last week's challenge in a nutshell. Pretty big nut there, Dawn - I bet you're thinking! Well, you know how I can talk. But thanks so much for sharing in my pantry joy - I hope you enjoyed hearing about the process! This week we're assigned missions that target the refrigerator and freezer and as you can see below ...

DSC01050

I'm getting a lot of help from my little guy! :)

Well my friends, thanks again for stopping by and I'd love to hear about your pantry if you have the time to leave a comment. Or pantry memories? I'm very fond of those. :) I'll be back next weekend (or so) with another progress report ...

As I've said before, I am really enjoying this challenge! It feels so good to devote my time and attention on my home and really get things back in order. This is my workspace after all! I'm here all day (for the most part) really using these spaces with my family and it's my hope to become even more comfortable in the kitchen, cooking more often and with more purpose than I usually do. I think a tidy pantry is a good step in that direction, as will be a clean fridge and freezer!

So see you next time ... I hope to be back again this week, perhaps with a "home office" kind of post, but we shall see what the week brings!

Take care of yourselves and your loved ones, my friends ... see you here again very soon!


#52Weeks: My Kitchen Cabinets & Drawers ...

IMG_2741 (1)

Hello my friends, and Happy Sunday! I'm here with a report on my "Organized Home Challenge" progress! And I'm happy to say it's still going well ... :)

As I mentioned in last week's post, I am following a challenge called, "52 Weeks to an Organized Home" this year. It's run by Taylor Flanery of Household Storage Solutions 101 and each week we tackle a different section of the home, working our way through daily "decluttering missions." Along the way there are all kinds of supportive posts to encourage us (on Facebook and Instagram) and daily email reminders to keep us on track ...

Happily, I'm finding it easy to keep up and honestly, I'm having fun too!

You can find out more about the program through links provided in my earlier post, but here is a peek at the Challenge printables I have stashed in my planning binder for easy reference ...

DSC00331

On the left is a breakdown of all 52 challenges - one for each week of the year - and on the right is January's daily decluttering missions calendar. I have been using a blank cleaning schedule I found online to keep track of my weekly tasks as seen here ...

DSC00333

I just copy the daily missions into each daily block and use a red pen to mark off each completed task. This sheet shows tasks for the next two weeks - 1/16-1/22 "Pantry/Food Storage" and 1/23-1/29 "Refrigerator/Freezer." The underside of this sheet shows the last two weeks' tasks which I'm pleased to say is filled with red checks! :)

Anyhoo - today I am here to catch up and show you how last week went. I really hope to do this each week as a means of keeping myself motivated and dedicated! (And don't hesitate to nudge me or ask about my progress if I've gone quiet on the topic, lol!)

Well, our first week of the year focused on The Kitchen Sink, Table & Countertops, while this past week's challenge targeted "Kitchen Cabinets & Drawers." And I think I'll probably say this each week but, BOY did my cabinets and drawers need a lot of work! But by taking just one small challenge each day I found it to be definitely do-able. I even finished a day early - doubling up yesterday by tackling food storage containers AND pots and pans. :)

Ok ... here we go!

Here is my utensils container on the kitchen counter, parked next to the microwave ...

IMG_2739

I could probably fill three of these stands, but instead, I pared things down, including only the tools we use most often. The rest of our utensils were placed in a small pile tucked rather tidily in this bottom drawer filled with random things ...

IMG_2760

Which also now holds paper bags, wax paper sandwich bags, paper plates and a small amount of paper napkins. (We try to avoid using disposables, but sometimes they're handy to have on hand!)

I did remember to take before pictures of that above "junk" drawer ... hang on:

IMG_2733 (1)

Above as it first appeared, and then below, after removing a layer of debris ...

IMG_2735 (1)

(Is it just my kids or do yours also come out of the woodwork whenever you start "weeding out" some kind of stuff and so suddenly they MUST be involved in order to see whatall is going down and whatall might be of use to them. Heaven forbid you get rid of anything as essential as an oversized warped wire whisk!)

So yes, this was very much a JUNK drawer and had not been cleaned out ... well, ever. Things just got stashed here when we moved in (3 1/2 years ago!) and stuff kept getting thown in here. Extra utensils, party goods, plastic utensils, egg cartons ...

Once I removed EVERYTHING from this drawer and the one above it  ...

IMG_2729 (1)

... I got down to business. In each case I cleaned the space first (vacuuming and/or wiping out with a damp cloth) and then went through all the items, whittling down what was essential and what was not. Once I had those essential items in neat piles, I returned them to the clean spaces.

Here is the potholder/kitchen cloths drawer now:

IMG_2731 (1)

It might not look like a lot of towels, but these are very deep drawers. Under that basket (which holds smaller-sized dish rags and microfiber cloths) are more folded towels. And under the oven mitts (which are scorched and well used!) are even more pot holders. Under the scented bluebird mug mats are a few trivets.

I can't tell you how good it felt to get these drawers - long neglected and forever overcrowded - all tidy!

Ok, moving on ... here is my silverware drawer:

IMG_2929

This didn't need too much decluttering, but I did lift out the divider and vacuum all the crumbs! (Cute story about the dual sets of stainless steel measuring cups and spoons ... many moons ago, Bill and I each bought the other a set of these for our first Christmas as husband and wife. It's actually convenient to have two sets since we do cook and bake quite a bit.)

One of the more time-consuming challenges for me was this absolute mess ...

IMG_2882

So yeah, that happened. Lol, I can't believe I'm showing you this! As you can see from the scribbles somebody once made use of the Sharpies hidden in this drawer ... only he didn't bother to find paper. sigh Eventually we will paint the drawer to cover up all the scribbles ... but today was not that day!

So what's in this drawer? Well, what isn't, lol? Clearly a real hodgepodge of things - kitchen twine, garden twine, writing utensils, take out menus, notepads, batteries ... and um, a Christmas ornament???

Anyway, here's the after ...

IMG_2930

:)

Small glass jam jars for glue sticks, rubber bands, erasers, paper clips and thumb tacks (in the covered jar). Local menus, notepads, an assortment of pencils and pens, stapler, scissors, tape, rulers and a bin of index cards which I use for Earlybird's daily therapist. I'm also considering using the alphabetical tabs for a simple and easily accessible family address/phone book.

Next up I tackled foils, plastic wraps and plastic bags ...

DSC00329

It's a bit of a tight fit but it's everything I need. Actually, I really don't need that second box of Press n' Seal. That could be kept in the pantry ...

And here is last Friday's challenge: Food Storage Containers.

DSC00201

We use all glass containers made by Pyrex. It took a while to phase out the Tupperware but it was worth it! These take up one end of the cabinets where we keep our dishes.

And here we have our pots and pans ...

DSC00288

This is a rather dark photo (this cabinet is under our island, facing the sink) but what we have here is a large wok on the top shelf, sitting on top of an oversized cookie sheet. The orange thing is a flexible cutting mat. (Or I'm pretty sure it is, anyway. It could be a silicone baking mat, but I've yet to test that theory.) The lower level has a pull-out rack with (not seen, tucked in back) a few fry pans, including our cast iron pans and our two main pots. (Above the fridge I have our oversized dutch oven and stockpot.) Stacked on the right hand side are cookie sheets, cookie racks, cutting boards and our pizza stone.

Last but not least, it was time to address the cabinet under the kitchen sink! A rather gloomy and cluttered cabinet if ever there was one! I had hoped to paint the inside of this dark cabinet as part of the challenge, but ... not enough time! (Added to our master household task list!)DSC00313

I basically cleaned everything out - tossed or recycled old stuff - and then set up some nice storage containers.

DSC00315

The blue plastic bins I found at Target and the aqua wire bin I picked up at Michaels. I pared down the cleaning supplies to sponges, cleaning sprays, sink powder, dishwashing liquid, dishwasher tabs, hand soap and an all-purpose cleaner.

(Note: We have a child-proof lock on the outside of this cabinet!)

And now a sneak peek at next week's challenge ... the pantry!

DSC00306

As you can see, I will DEFINITELY have my work cut out for me here!

Taylor has a great suggestion to go along with the challenges for the next couple of weeks. We're going to - as much as possible anyway - eat from the pantry, fridge and freezer in order to use up what we have on hand and make space where we can. I will have to tweak my menu plan a little but I think this makes sense and clearly, we have plenty of foodstuffs to choose from ...

I tend to over-buy food, but hey - we are a family of six including four growing boys - and because we homeschool we eat at home quite a bit. Plus, we hardly ever eat out and only order take out once or twice a month (if that). So it's good to have plenty of food on hand! Non-perishables are fine in that scenario, but I have a hard time keeping the fresh foods in balance. How many times do I buy produce only to have it spoil before it's been utilized? And UGH do I hate wasting food. It's a waste of money, yes, but it just makes me feel awful. Too many people go hungry and I honestly feel shameful when we let food go bad. A goal this year is to be less wasteful - all around.

So clearly my pantry shelves are not as organized as they once were and honestly, I've lost track of what we have here. Plus there are likely some things in here that are out of date and/or need replacing. (Especially baking supplies and such.) Another family goal for the year is to eat less prepared and processed foods so keeping basic ingredients on hand is important. If we're going to make our own pizza dough we need our yeast to be fresh!

But all this is something to tackle next week ... I am looking forward to it, though! :)

One more thing before I go and I know I've kept you here quite long!

DSC00327

I have had this book on my shelf for a few years now, but have yet to really dig in. (I tend to over-buy when it comes to books, too!) Well, I found it the other day on my library floor - yes, just sitting right there on the floor as if it leapt off the shelf and then waited there for me to stumble over it! (Which I did, because I'm graceful like that.) So I perused the contents for a moment - and found my interest piqued because the program is divided by weeks AND they are starting in the kitchen. Which is of course right where I'm at! I am going to try reading along as I work on the #52Weeks Challenge and see what kind of extra tidbits of encouragement and information this book brings me! More on this later though ... I've only just begun reading! :)

Well my friends, I thank you for stopping by and I hope you enjoyed my weekly "progress report!" I'll return next weekend with another check-in ... but this week I will also be sharing pictures from my "Birthday Tea" and I hope, a close-up look at my Day Designer daily page. But for now I leave you with my gratitude and my wish that your evening is pleasant and peaceful. Take care of yourselves and your loved ones ...

I'll see you here again very soon!


A Tale of Two Desks ...

IMG_2836

Last autumn I blogged about my "new" desk in the family room, and since that is where my computer is, that's where I do most of my working/planning/blogging.

waves hello from computer desk *

Consequently, it is also the spot where most of my "desk mess" accumulates! Planners, papers, receipts, pens, rulers, cups, washi tape, notepads, coupons, catalogs ... etc.! But as I've mentioned before, I also have a "writing desk" in the library (shown above). I call it a writing desk because I envision time spent crafting my book here and penning letters to faraway friends - a la Jane Austen - but mostly I dash off quick thank you notes and/or get sidetracked by the view ...

So I don't sit here to write nearly as often as I'd like, but I still like having this space should I need it ...

Well, this morning I decided to celebrate "National Clean Off Your Desk Day" by cleaning off my desk - but I chose the easier desk! I mostly had to remove a few Christmas decorations, a large stack of magazines, Crackerjack's homework and an overflowing basket of received Christmas cards (with envelopes) that need to be sorted and stored. I tweaked the decor a bit for the winter season and wiped down the desktop ... and then enjoyed how the morning sun lit it up!

IMG_2832

Now, if I was really brave I'd post a picture of how my other desk - the computer desk - looks on this national holiday ...

* deep breath *

Ok, hang on ...

IMG_2858

Now, this was taken at 5 p.m. - there's no sun streaming in any windows to speak of right now - but it's not quite as dark a corner as it appears in this photo. And maybe you can see it for the mess that it is - or maybe not - but suffice it to say, it's definitely not "cleared off." And it's not very organized at the moment.

(Confession: The basket you see in the lower lefthand corner was added to the desk at the very last minute - to hold a whole bunch of debris scattered around and behind the monitor. Now THAT was a crazy mess. And I really must remember to look back through that basket before I lose sight of some potentially pertinent information!)

But ... I don't have time to tackle this hot spot today, so it's just going to have to wait a bit! Clearly I'm not letting the disarray slow me down, lol ... I'm finishing this post in this very spot with kids and chaos all around me. But sometimes you just have to let go of the vision and work with reality, right? Well, most times, I'd say.

So there you have it - a tale of two desks! My pretty writing table ... and my built-in workhorse. I'm grateful to have both of these cozy, sometimes-clean and sometimes cluttered, corners in my life. :)

Enjoy the rest of your evening my friends ... see you here again very soon!


My Kitchen Table, Countertops & Sink ...

In other words ... it's week one of the Organized Home Challenge! Who's with me? :)

Hello my friends and Happy Friday! 

As I've mentioned a couple of times on Facebook, this year I am following along with Home Storage Solutions 101's 52 Week Organized Home Challenge. (Boy that's a mouthful isn't it? Lol.) I was all ready to revamp my housekeeping calendar (since it didn't work as well as I'd hoped last year) when I came across this program (hosted and created by Taylor Flanery) and I thought, "You know, this sounds pretty do-able!"

I like that Taylor's really thought out where to start and how the tasks should flow. And I really I like that the challenge is broken down into 52 weeks - that means there's plenty of time to get around to all the THINGS. (Take a peek at the 52 Week breakdown here. It makes such sense!) And I need ample time like that. I would LOVE to have my house clean and organized as soon as yesterday, but realistically I need to go slow. I know I'm not alone when I say I have a lot on my plate and not a lot of extra time in my day! Another plus is the program is free, and there are printables, email reminders, a Facebook group and even Instagram sharing, too. There is also a coordinating Daily De-Clutter Calendar for each month of the year. I signed up for that, too!

Ok.

You can read more about the 52 Week challenge here.

You can sign up for the daily emails here.

You can get the monthly Decluttering Calendars here.

So this week, for example, the Weekly Challenge is "Kitchen Organization: Countertops & Sink." This is where our organizing focus will be aimed this week! And today's decluttering mission was the kitchen table. (Yesterday's was the sink.) I LOVE how this program is mapped out! It feels really "possible" and I love all the support and encouragement that comes with it! I especially love perusing her various "Halls of Fame" - which are collections of pictures that people share when they get their missions completed. All very inspiring!

Anyhoo, let me know if you are following this program too ... I'll be posting at Facebook and #hashtagging at Instagram and ... what I'm going to TRY to do each week is to blog about how things went for me in the assigned challenge area. Now, I say TRY because you know me - and I know me - and we both know I won't always find time to post. And if we're going to be brutally honest ... I won't alway keep up with the challenges!

But as best as I'm able, I'll try. I am resolved to make THIS the year we finally really move into this house and make it our own. And treat it with the respect it deserves. β€

So we're off to a pretty good start so far, even though this week was pretty tricky because we were all sick (some of us still are) but fortunately, when you're sick, you stay home ... and then as you start to feel better you just want to get everything back to normal. So, because I had all week and could do a little here and there, I got most of it done!

(And now you're thinking, Dawn, enough of the rambling - let's see the pics! So here they are ... but um, conveniently I forgot to take "before" pictures ... πŸ˜³ )

Walking into the kitchen from the foyer, look at all that (visible) counter space!

IMG_2683

Don't look further into the family room though ... that zone has not been assigned yet! ;)

IMG_2696

I find keeping my sink neat (and the surrounding area) nearly impossible. For one thing, it's just so hard to get ahead - and keep ahead - with the dishes! We are a family of six (four of them boys, mind you) and we homeschool - so we're here a lot. We eat here a lot. The kitchen sink gets used ... A LOT. And dagnabit, my sink is porcelain and darn near impossible to keep white! I don't like to use Soft Scrub but it seems to be the only thing that does the trick ...

IMG_2667

But since I needed to declutter here, I pared down the sill to have just a few things. I will try to keep it that way but this is definitely - to use a bit of FlyLady speak - one of those hot spots in my house. I'm always putting out fires here!

IMG_2702

have to have my hand lotion here even if that bottle isn't the prettiest. I use it constantly throughout the day, especially after washing up - dishes, hands or eggs and such. Next is a small china dish where I place any eggs I've gathered that day - a kind of "holding zone" before they get sorted into cartons. Then we have my small cross and peace rock ... and a pretty snowflake-design candleholder, a gift from my cousin Kara.

IMG_2681

I like to keep a candle on my kitchen windowsill year round, changing it with the seasons. I do adore candles - but with young kids and curious cats around, they need to be lit somewhere well out of reach. I find it so deeply satisfying to light a candle at the end of the day as I putter about my kitchen ...

In the far corner there is a small golden pot in which I keep syringes for administering Earlybird's twice daily anti-seizure meds. And a sweet and colorful glass rooster that holds a small photo of my beloved grandmother ... whom I miss dearly and who, without a doubt was the best homemaker I've ever known. I try to be like her in so many ways and one of them is in the care and commitment I show to my home.

Now, along the top of the window is the garland of herbs I grew and dried this year as well as our "winter blessings" angel. And finally, on the back of the sink itself is our preferred liquid hand soap and the dish wand resting in its metal tray.

And that's as pared down as I could get it! It may still be considered a bit cluttered, but I'm ok with that. :)

Ok, the rest of the counters ...

IMG_2685

These countertops - also white - are no fun to keep clean either. One day we might replace them with something different. I'm just grateful there's a lot of them - because in our old kitchen we had very little workspace. Here above you see where I'm parking my homekeeping binder these days. I am trying very hard to whittle down what I leave out here because this is probably the worst hot spot we have in the house. I can get a little carried away with the "stuff" I feel I need to have in my line of vision ...

IMG_2692

At the end of this stretch of counter there is a simple basket where I'm now keeping the mail. I wanted to move it (the mail, not the basket) elsewhere but Bill said he likes to look at the mail in this spot so I let it go. He's the one that deals with the bills so I can't complain there! (I deal with other types of mail but he's the finances guy.)

Also seen in this photo is a book stand with Earth Psalms open to this week's passage. I had been keeping it in my personal reading basket, but because I want to make this a family devotional I decided to try keeping it open on the kitchen counter - where I might remember to share it with Bill and the boys each week. This week we're marveling at sunrises and sunsets and contemplating how they're like God's way of saying good morning and good night. It's really a very lovely book ...

The small red tea light lanterns were an Advent purchase at Michael's and I just like how they sit here - how there are four of them, one for each of my boys. :)

There is also a small tv here as you can see in this photo below ...

IMG_2697

It's not a fancy one - just antenna, no cable - but it allows me to catch the news as I can through the day. And ok, yes - turn on PBS Kids when we need the little guy otherwise occupied!

Also you can see this final counter (the "jetty" we call it, as opposed to the "island," lol) divides the kitchen proper with the kitchen nook. Today's decluttering mission was to clear the kitchen table ... another scorching hot spot in my home!

IMG_2676

I love this tablecloth - it belonged to my grandmother and it's soft as butter! (These are my favorite table linens ... made in Vermont and very "New England!") My mum and grandmother always had a few of these on hand for their kitchen tables, and now I'm collecting them. I "inherited" this soft blue and an olive green ... I'd love to purchase a deep blue someday and perhaps a butternut ... something to tie in with the braided rug underneath the table:

Braided rug

In the middle of the table is a lovely "led" lantern my parents gave us for our anniversary in October. I love having it lit after dinner as the household slows down and we button up for the night. We eat most of our meals here - unless we have company in which case we move to the dining room. (Which is a zone for October!)

From Taylor today at FB:

"The results from completing this mission are so beneficial, from encouraging family meals, allowing kids to get their homework done, and even letting you just sit and relax with a cup of coffee or tea at a nice clear table. It really just makes you say, ahhhh."

Very true. What a difference in your day when you have a nice table to sit at - especially at suppertime with the family. But in my house, any "horizontal surface" is vulnerable, and this particular surface attracts all kinds of things: dishes, schoolbooks, magazines, novels, newspapers, toys, coupons, cats ...

So there has to be some sort of strategy, doesn't there?

Ahhh ... so that will be a post for another day because I'm running long here - plus it's something I need to think on a bit anyway! How do we cultivate habits that support this decluttered lifestyle? I am going to have to come up with some routines for myself and my family ... and I'll be back to share my thoughts on that soon. And I'm all ears if you would like to share your own methods for keeping your kitchen areas clean and simplified! And please, if you decide to follow the 52 Weeks to an Organized Home Challenge, let me know! It would be fun to compare notes and share strategies! :)

But for now, I'll be off ... my kitchen is still pretty clean, but as the dinner hour draws near, I'd best strategize a little to make sure we stay on top of our game!

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


Advent Tea, Week 4: Happy Hearts at Home

IMG_2030

Hello my friends and Happy Friday ~ Merry Christmas Eve! As I feared might happen this week, things just got too busy, and I didn't have time to finalize my post yesterday. But I'm here today - on this rainy and mild Christmas eve - to share with you one last cup of Advent Tea. For tonight we begin a most beautiful and blessed new season ...

"Blessed is the season that engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love." ~ Hamilton Wright Mabie

❀

In our final week of Advent my family continued our celebration of God's amazing creation. We had previously explored the wonder of earth and sky, the peacefulness of plants, the joys of wild (and not so wild) creatures and now, we aim closer to home. This week it's all about God's greatest creation - humankind - and the love He has for us - that we have for each other! So this week we relished our family being together and rejoiced in our beloved home ... while remembering the holiest family, their humble first home, and the noble journey that started it all ...

Let's start with a look at our Advent Garden. This was a really fun project and I am sure we will do this again next year ... remember how it started?

IMG_0338

In week one (earth & sky) we added pebbles (and later soil) and surrounded our garden (a shallow glass terrarium) with beeswax tealights. Well here is how it looks now as Advent comes to a close ...

IMG_2156

Soil was topped with moss from which frosted tiny trees soon sprouted ... then a pretty spotted deer appeared. And this week, up rose a cozy little neighborhood. β€

(Note: I bought the trees, deer and houses at my local Michael's craft store. They were fairly inexpensive. The houses were plain but I spread the rooftops with a little white paint and added a few shakes of white glitter. The moss and pebbles came from our yard and the earth was found in a bag of potting soil parked in the garage. The candles I ordered through Amazon.)

Today I moved the Garden off the kitchen table (which will soon be set up for a Christmas buffet!) and into a small nearby alcove ...

IMG_2145

Above it I hung a pretty wooden ornament also embellished this week ...

IMG_2160

This was a very inexpensive wooden craft, one of several I've picked up this season ...

IMG_2127

I actually really love the look of unfinished wood, but the addition of a little white paint and glitter lends a soft and simple touch ...

A few more nativity scenes around the house ...

Love tea 28

This is a new lawn decoration this year! Bill and the boys "gave" me this as a gift last Christmas - but it took me till this fall to find one I really liked. We have this nestled beneath - appropriately enough - our family room windows. :)

Let's pop on out to the library and take a peek at the tree for a moment ... 

IMG_1993

Isn't this ornament gorgeous? You'll probably tire of hearing me say this but this is another treasure I found at Michael's. This was discovered in one of the boys' Advent pockets this past week.

And how about this one? :)

IMG_2129

I found this picture frame ornament up by the registers for a couple of dollars. So very pretty and perfect for a small family photo. I think I'd like to make this a tradition - add a new family picture ornament each year.

Speaking of ornaments, one of our crafts this past week celebrated our family members and what Mama loves most about each of them.  

IMG_1912

I started with a plain plastic ornament ball ... wrote our family names on small heart stickers and placed them all over the ball's surface ... and then filled the ball with colorful strips of construction paper. Each slip of paper was curled up tight, with a hidden message inside.

IMG_1918

I think this might also become a new family tradition ... :)

One more peek at the tree, a few new ornaments were added this week ...

IMG_1992

I found these pretty red glass initial ornaments at Target, and bought one for each of my boys. (The "H" is actually made out of cardboard or some such material.)

And since we're talking about my boys, here's a peek at our Christmas card this year!

IMG_2142 

It's the first time we've done a collage and I rather like it! It was such fun to look back over all the photos from last year ... though it proved a shocking reminder just how quickly time has flown. We even added a couple of photos to the back - one of the chickens and one of the cats!

I absolutely adore Christmas cards, don't you? We display ours here on this door leading into the library ...

IMG_2143

Bill sets up the ribbons and then I attach the cards with tiny clothespins. I love to see this doorframe fill up! Visually, it's a wonderfully decorative spot - but also a lovely reminder of the friends and family we have been blessed with over the years.

And though we've been doing "photo cards" for years, I still love traditional Christmas cards. We always bought ours from a company called LANG, and when I spied some boxes of Lang cards at Joann's Arts & Crafts recently (marked down 60%!) I just could not help myself. I bought a few varieties for next year ...

IMG_1995

IMG_1994

❀ 

Switching gears now - because we haven't even talked about tea yet! Now, if you scroll way back up to the top of this post I showed you my teatime spread this week ... or, here it is again ... :)

IMG_2039 (1)

As you can see, I was in my glories at Tea this week, surrounded by all my boys. They were supposed to be helping me with neatening the tree - I bribed them with cookies! - while I sat down to look over my holiday notes. In my "Blessed" mug (a new favorite) I had a large serving of my preferred black tea with a lot of milk and a bit of sugar. The cookies are store bought, but were still gobbled up quickly! I had hoped to make Bill's grandmother's much-loved gingerbread recipe this week but that just did not pan out. (I'm going to try again at Epiphany.) So a box of "Gingerbread Family" cookies had to do. Thank you, Pepperidge Farms!

Yes, it is wonderful having our Bookworm home! I never sleep as well as I do when all my sons are home. The older boys do love to sleep in though if they are allowed ... but this morning we needed to get an early start so I made up a platter of cinnamon-sugar toast in hopes that the fond and familiar aroma would get them out of bed!

IMG_2140

Cinnamon-sugar is without a doubt, one of the best things in my kitchen. (Along with my fresh coffee beans and a large bottle of vanilla.) I grew up eating cinnamon-sugar toast made by my mum or grandma and its scent still says "cozy, home, comfort" to me. :)

It's little things like this that make a home feel warm and welcoming. Because a home is so much more than just walls and windows and a (hopefully) sturdy roof. Home is where our loves live ... it's where we come together to share our journey, our thoughts and our memories. We are nurtured and encouraged and accepted here. We are allowed to crave comforts and seek solace ... it's the place we can relax and rejuvenate and gather our strength when we once again face the world outside that front door ...

IMG_2003

Jane Austen had it right. Home is where it's at ... and that's that. :)

❀

IMG_2060

Oh, and how could I forget? Here's another "Giveaway" sneak peek! January is a perfect month for letter writing - in fact, 1/23 is National Handwriting Day! So here are some pretty notecards to help you catch up on all those holiday thank-yous. :) And once the busy-ness of Christmas has past, time frees up again (in theory!) for leisurely pastimes like reading for pleasure ... how about a nice issue of Mary Jane's Farm? Both of these things will be tucked into that Winter Comforts Basket! :)

I am having such fun putting together this basket, and although only one reader will win it, I really wish I could send a little wintertime "comfort and joy" to each and every one of you. I am so grateful for you all - for all your support and kindness and encouragement over the years. I know most of us have never actually "met" in "real life" but I count each of you as my friends. I always look forward to hearing from you and I keep every one of you in my prayers. My wish for you on this beautiful Christmas eve morning is that your coming days are filled with the blessings of family and home, that you know friendship and love, good health and happiness, and that your new year will be an AMAZING one. I look forward to sharing 2017 with you all!

Now, before I go - I am still accepting teacup (mug) submissions! And I have several more friend posts stockpiled to share next week ... if you'd like to join the Giveaway contest, please send me a picture of your favorite mug - whatever you most enjoy drinking your tea (or coffee, cocoa, cider, etc.) from ... and you are entered. I will announce a winner on New Year's Eve - a week from today!

You can reach me at: drhanigan AT gmail DOT com.

Next Friday I'll have a Christmas Tea of my own, but in the meantime, I wish you all a wonderful weekend. Take care of yourselves and your loved ones and see you all here again very soon ...

MERRY CHRISTMAS!


Advent Tea, Week 2: Plants & Peace

IMG_1146

Hello my friends, and Happy Friday!

And what a fine Friday this is - beautifully bright if perhaps a little colder than is seasonably acceptable in these parts. ***brrrrr*** Still, it's one of those days that make being cozy at home seem all the more wonderful. Well, whatever the weather, I'm so glad to be here and share a cup of something hot and happy with you all ... to slow down for just a moment and catch up. ❀ It's hard to believe, but we're making our way through our second week of Advent now, and I hope the season is unfolding in a way that feels right and good for you and your family. I also hope you've all been enjoying our daily "tea with friends" posts! I am very grateful to all who have shared their cups (and thoughts) with us so far this month ... and so pleased there are many more to come!

So this week in my own family's Advent journey we are finding peace in the natural world around us - in trees, plants, and the spices and herbs that are special to this sacred season. We began on Sunday, St. Barbara's Day, with an easy little craft, preparing a small vase to hold our feast day branches. (Legend says that branches snipped on December 4th will bloom come Christmas morning ... this has never failed us before!)

IMG_0895

The vase is an inexpensive terra cotta pot I purchased at the craft store. I spread glue on the sides and wrapped the bottom section with twine and then, using a hot glue gun, covered the upper rim with cloth floral stickers. (Bill sealed the little hole in the bottom of the pot with hot glue so it would hold water.) Next we added forsythia branches from the yard and a few pretty (craft) pine cones just to anchor those branches (and add visual interest). I think it came out very pretty! We'll be making a few more of these for teacher gifts this year ...

But now, about today's Tea ... :)

IMG_1125

Actually, today we're enjoying a hot winter wassail instead of my usual tea. It's easy enough to make your own, but this bottled blend from Trader Joe's is very yummy and quick to prepare. Just heat it up and - voila! - a hot cup of Christmas cheer at the ready! I floated an apple slice on top for an extra bit of fun ...

Would you care to join me in a cup? A little something sweet and spicy to warm us as we walk through my frosty gardens?

IMG_1024

IMG_1045

IMG_1018

IMG_1016

The above photos were taken after an overnight snow, when everything was crunchy icy. Yes, I think we might be in for a white Christmas if this cold and active weather pattern holds over the next couple of weeks! We still have our "mild" days though, and so after yesterday's thaw, we harvested some moss from the stone wall ...

IMG_1066

... to add to our indoor Advent Garden. :)

IMG_1141

As I described in this post, we are rejoicing in God's glorious earth throughout Advent. One of our rituals is the tending of an indoor Advent Garden and we're reveling in the anticipation, slowly building up our tabletop terrarium with a new layer of life each week. Last week we added stones and soil, while this week we added some plants (the aforementioned moss) ...

IMG_1136

Oliver thought this was a GREAT idea.

And the boys found things in their Advent pockets this week that also reflected our theme ... a poinsettia, peppermint candy, fresh mint and evergreen sprigs. Each item symbolized a simple activity or treat or outing ... something to channel some of that wonderful Advent energy!

IMG_1010

Oh, also here in the kitchen - a new bottle of hand soap on the counter. This is such a little thing but I just love changing up the sink soap with the season. :)

IMG_1062

In New England, a touch of frost, a sprinkling of snow and the hint of spices in the air ... these are all hallmarks of the Advent season! Clove, allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg, mint, citrus, apple and cranberry ... these are the "inside plants" we're exploring this week. As you see below, I brought out the mortar and pestle so the kids could try grinding some whole spices ...

IMG_1126

I'll be perfectly honest, this activity lasted all of two minutes. Not that it didn't appeal wildly to the younger boys, but the whole "hitting things with a marble wand" was getting a little out of hand. (Straying from the bowl to the table, fingers, etc.) Still, it was a fun activity and the kitchen smelled really good. :)

Soon I'll be starting fruitcakes ...

IMG_1165

... and we'll be filling small muslin bags with a mulling spice blend I purchased. These will be given as gifts along with fresh apples and pretty mugs. And speaking of pretty mugs ...

IMG_1143

Isn't this cup lovely? It is a very generous size and the golden letters spell out PEACE ... with snowdrops and winter greenery all around. I can see myself using this all season ...

AND .... if you enter my Winter Comforts Basket giveaway ... you might be enjoying it too! This mug will be one of the goodies tucked inside that basket. :)

Before we go, let's talk books and planners for a moment ... two favorite subjects of mine! Here are some of the reads we're enjoying this week ... 

IMG_1168

The bottom two are for the boys (still waiting on a few library requests to come in) and the rest are for me! :)

I'm taking some time this week to revisit one of my favorite author/illustrators, Tasha Tudor. I find such comfort and inspiration in her work - her children's books are family favorites - but I especially admire the way she lived her life. Not that we could all live quite as "off grid" as she did, but there is a lot to be said for "unplugging and slowing down" ... not just at Advent, but in any season. Forever Christmas was a gift from my dad many years ago, who bought this book in Tasha's home state of Vermont. I also absolutely love losing myself in the video, Take Peace: A Corgi Cottage Christmas. In this pile there is also a book of Christmas poems (a wonderful rec from my friend, Gill), my daily Advent read, and a fascinating little book about the folklore and tradition of Christmas plants.

I keep this pile of books stacked in a hopeful fashion beside my favorite reading chair ... I've been determined to find a little reading (and resting) time every day. :)

Late in the afternoon, with the sun heading for bed quite early, I took my cup of wassail to the library, so I might sit at my writing desk and get to work on our Christmas cards ...

IMG_1180

Yes, I am just that selfish enough that I need not one, but two desks, lol! The one in the family room (where I am sitting at this very moment) is for my computer and file crate and bill basket, etc. The white window writing desk you see above I keep for ... well, writing! It feels just a little bit "Jane Austen" to sit down at this desk and pen a chatty bit of correspondence to a friend. In January I will share a more thorough post on this happy writing corner ... as I get my holiday thank-you notes in order!

IMG_1177 (1)

Now in this "aerial" photo I spy two more small items that will pop up in that Winter Comforts Basket! A small tin of Trader Joe's body butter - just lovely for dry winter skin - and a small monthly purse planner (though in a different print than the one shown here). Fun little things to bring a smile to your winter days ...

Speaking of planners - parked here is my Day Designer and as I mentioned on Instagram last night, I don't usually do much with stickers and whatnot, but I found some very pretty ones at Paper Source this past week and I had to indulge. That washi tape especially is just SO so pretty. 

*❀*

Well my friends, I will wrap up for now, but I hope you enjoyed our time together, sharing another cup of Advent Tea! I have several friends lined up to share tea with you all again next week (every day at 4:00!) and then I will return again on Friday with another longer post. Next week our family's Advent theme is "Joy in the Woodland."

Remember, if you'd like to join us for Advent Tea please send me a picture (or pictures) of your favorite cup by email: drhanigan AT gmail DOT com. I'd love to hear about your cup and any other Advent thoughts you'd like to share! Your pictures will be featured in a daily teatime post and you will be entered in my Winter Comforts Basket giveaway. I'll announce a winner on New Year's Eve and send the basket out shortly after the new year begins. :)

For now though, I will wish you all a wonderful weekend and as always, I thank you sincerely for stopping by. Take care of yourselves and your loved ones ...

See you here again very soon!