Kitchen Chat Feed

Advent Tea Week 3: Holiday Cleaning and Crafting!

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Hello my friends, and welcome! I'm so happy you could join me for another cup of holiday tea in this third week of Advent. :-)

But before I get to this week's tea, I must apologize to you all for missing last week's tea entirely. We've had some family challenges lately, and I won't bore you with the all the details, but let's just say the past week involved a nasty cold virus, a broken tooth, a broken computer AND a broken teakettle. And then Earlybird's ABA therapist (who provides daily support) quit unexpectedly.


Thankfully though, things are getting back on track. And so what we have here is two-fer-one kind of post, fairly jam-packed with pictures and notes on what we've been up to lately, despite all the setbacks! I hope you enjoy ...❤️

So my friends, may I offer you a cup of "spiced orange mulled tea?"

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I found this recipe on Pinterest as I searched for a signature Christmas cocktail. Every holiday we host features a signature drink (so fun!) but I like to offer something special that's non-alcoholic too. And this tea just looks so pretty in my little red cups, a set of 12 (with a matching punch bowl), that once belonged to my grandmother. With cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, fresh oranges and black tea this made my kitchen smell like the Christmas season itself as it brewed!


Now as I've mentioned many times before, our annual Advent journey is heavily influenced by Waldorf tradition as well as the natural world. In the first week of Advent (as detailed in my prior post) we explore the concept of "heaven and earth" - crafting with and celebrating this first layer of creation: minerals, stones, stars, shells and earthly foundations like soil and sand. The second week has us embracing the blessings of the plant kingdom, most especially the Christmas tree itself! We also learn about Christmas plants and one of the things I like to do at this time of year, in this specific week, is to clean out and organize my baking pantry. This is a great way to become familiar with the herbs and spices of the season!

Ok, so this is the before pic ... yeah it was bad.

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And here are the in-betweens and afters!

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Gosh, was it a mess in there! And so many expired things ... I'm kind of ashamed. Well, we hauled everything out and wiped down the shelves, which were sticky with who-knows-what and dusty with random seasonings, etc. Then we went through all the stuff - smelling as we went - and consolidated, organized and then - rearranged!

The bottom shelves still need some work - boxes of oatmeal and tea and cocoa are in need of better storage. And I've started a pantry list in my planner in hopes of keeping better track of what I have on hand and what needs replacing. (Somehow I had four jars - all opened - of molasses, and three separate, half-empty containers of cornstarch. Of course, this is not all that surprising considering the state of affairs in that first pantry picture!)


Now how about a tour of the rest of my kitchen? That too was a bit of a mess, so on one of the days we were staying home with kids feeling under the weather, I devoted myself to a thorough late autumn cleaning. It's nice to have the kitchen clean before I really get into the holiday baking!


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(Store-bought star cookies - so good with a cup of decaffeinated tea!)


(I just love how the window stars form pretty shadows on this wall of cabinetry.)


(Couldn't resist a picture of Fenway - one year old now! - basking in the afternoon sun. He loves to be underfoot in the kitchen, or anywhere really!)


Here are a few pictures from plants week, which had us exploring not just the pantry, but the yard as well. We found hardy rosemary, crawling mint, plenty of evergreens ... 


And frosty rose hips in the front hedgerow!


And this little guy will be our solstice tree, as yet undecorated. We'll hang lights and edible treats for the wildlife here next week.


Last month we busied ourselves gathering pine cones for holiday crafting. The Eastern White Pines in our yard are extremely tall and drop humungous cones! For this craft we first arranged the cones on a cookie sheet and baked them at 200 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes (to kill any bugs). Then we coated the tips of each petal with a mixture of white acrylic paint and school glue ...


So easy to do! And with such pretty results!0-7

A sprinkle of glitter made them really festive, and especially lovely hanging in a sunny window ...


A few cones were further decorated with tiny felt balls. I just love how these came out!

Another craft that was simple to make and sweet with the fragrance (and taste!) of fresh peppermint:

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Instructions found on Pinterest: Place greased metal cookie cutters on a parchment-lined cookie sheet and fill them loosely with starlight candies. Then bake for 5-6 minutes at 350 degrees F. You really have to keep an eye on them because some will melt faster than others depending on the size of the cutter and the amount of candies in each.

Ready for the oven!
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And here's how they turned out! :-)
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And, as promised, here's our Christmas tree for 2023 ...

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Note the playdate around the bottom of the tree! This would be to keep the puppy and the cats out of the tree water!


A closer peek at the Advent "wreath" on our kitchen table:

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Four little red lanterns, one for each week of Advent, each holding an LED tea light. The lanterns stand around a Christmas tree candleholder and the whole set up is surrounded by a tangle of tiny golden bells, (fake) red berries and fairy lights.

It's so beautiful at night, especially!

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Ok, two more simple "makes" starting with these sweet wooden bead snowmen:

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I saw this on Pinterest and knew I had to try it! You basically just thread twine through three plain wooden beads, knotting it at both ends, leaving a loop at the top. Then use sharpie markers to make a snowman face and tie a little baker's twine around the "neck" for a bit of extra color.

Thank you to "Creating Me" for the idea! You can find the full instructions at her post.

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Final craft: a little pumpkin leftover from Halloween, transformed into a pretty woodland friend ... 0-38

Again, something I found on Pinterest! The book shown in this picture is one of our favorites to read in the week leading up to the winter solstice: Goodbye Autumn, Hello Winter by Kenard Pak.


And last pics I'd like to share are from yesterday, which was Earlybird's 21st birthday. (I KNOW - how did EB get to be 21?!?!)

My folks and I took EB to a local toy museum and then to lunch at Wendy's.

It was a really nice day!



Well my friends, I hope you are all doing well and enjoying these last weeks of the year. I hope you are staying healthy, too! Thanks so much for joining me for tea and I will keep my fingers crossed I'm able to be with you here again next week!

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

#52 Weeks: My Cookbooks & Recipes ❤


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 ...


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. :)

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Now, my recipes on the other hand ...


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).


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


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 ...


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! :)


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


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




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 ...


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


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


baked goods





ice cream/sorbet


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


I used a purple pen for the tabs - not just because it matched the floral binders, because it reminds me of my late grandmother. 💜  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. :)


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


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


Naturally, I had help ... :)


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 ...


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



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 ...


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 ... :) 


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


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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! :)

Kitchen Chat, Week 9: Kids in the Kitchen!

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Good Monday morning, my friends! And welcome to another Kitchen Chat!

I can hardly believe we're on our ninth week already ... has Downton been off the air that long, lol? I think we will do one more week of kitchen-focused chat, and then we'll switch our domestic "gears" a bit and step out of the kitchen ... and into the garden!

But for today, I'd like to discuss our kids in our kitchens ...

Sometimes we want them out of our way, and other times we want them to step up and help. I love to bake with my boys, and I appreciate help with the dishes, but the kitchen is mostly a "Mama" domain.

What's it like at your house, with your kids? If you have a moment, please answer some or all of these questions in a comment below ...


Do your kids help out in the kitchen? 

What do you enjoy doing/making with your kids in the kitchen?

How do you keep your "little kids" busy while you work in the kitchen?

Any favorite resources or recipes to share?


I woud say my kids like to help out in the kitchen ... sometimes. And some of them, more than others. They're all pretty good about helping if asked ... and emptying the dishes, bagging and taking out trash and recycling, and putting away groceries are chores all on them nowadays. My Earlybird does love to help cook, especially baked goodies. He loves to help out with that when he can ...

Little Bear, up until recently, would sit in his exersaucer while I got the dishwasher unloaded, or started supper or something along those lines. Now that he's much more active he doesn't have much patience for that contraption anymore! He loves to cruise/crawl around the kitchen - which is really cute, but not exactly conducive to getting any work done!

Right now, I time my kitchen work around naptimes and/or snack time (he'll sit in his high chair and "watch") ... also, I'm very fortunate to have a fantastic babysitter in Crackerjack. When I need help, he's always happy to play with his baby brother for a while.

A few books to recommend:

Family meals

Family Meals: Creating Traditions in the Kitchen

Kids baking

Williams-Sonoma Kids Baking

Usborne children's cookbook

Usborne Farmyard Tales: Children's Cookbook

Grow it cook it

Grow it Cook It

I've also found excellent recipes to make with (and for) kids in several magazines - Kiwi, Family Fun and Parents, especially.


Well my friends, I look forward to hearing about your kids in your kitchens! I could probably say a whole lot more on the subject, but in the interest of keeping this post brief(ish) and getting it posted sooner rather than later, I will wrap things up and perhaps jump into the comments later as I can ...

So for now, and as always - thanks for stopping by! See you here again very soon ...

Kitchen Chat, Week Eight: Cookbooks!

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Good Monday morning, my friends!

Welcome to another week of Kitchen Chat! Please help yourself to the bread basket - a warm rhubarb scone, perhaps? - and pour yourself a hot cuppa something - tea or coffee, there's plenty of both. Let's settle in and talk about COOKBOOKS! From conversations I've had, and comments I've read - here and elsewhere - I think it's safe to say a great many of us have a bit of a cookbook obsession!

So to start, I have just a couple of "cookbook questions" for you all today ... so if you have the time and inclination, please leave your answers in the comments box below.


Where do you store/display your cookbooks?

What is (are) your favorite cookbook(s) - and why?



I also have several wonderful cookbook pictures to share and I must thank the lovely ladies - Michelle, Jo, Shirley, Carol and Mary - who sent me photos for this post! I think it adds such a fun element to these chats when we open our kitchens up to each other!

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As for me, I store my cookbooks in a kitchen cabinet ... as of about five minutes ago, lol! They've been packed in boxes since we moved here last summer ... but this upcoming post gave me incentive to get them out of those boxes and into a cabinet! (And I'm still missing a few favorites, so there's got to be another box around here somewhere ... hmmm.)

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At the old house I kept my cookbooks on the counter to the right of the stove, but since I now have more cabinets to "play" with, I felt I could devote a shelf (maybe a shelf and half) to these books. I like how they look here - I can obviously see them through the glass, and it makes me smile to see them on display.

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I've been collecting cookbooks since I was a teen ... I loved looking through my mother's and grandmother's cookbooks - especially the really old ones, with the super-thin pages and personal notes in the margins. I would say my favorites to read through nowadays are The Silver Palate Good Times Cookbook (currently, MIA) and Jamie at Home, shown above. I tend to enjoy books that reflect New England and British cuisine/lifestyle as well as those that feature baked goods and organic/seasonal recipes. I can read a cookbook like Pippa Middleton's Celebrate, front to back, just for the comfort and joy it inspires!

But that's enough from me ... now let's hear from some dear friends - regular readers, all - who are also sharing their own cookbooks today!

From Jo:

Cookbooks jo

"Here are some of my favorites in their home in our kitchen. Some of them are books that I just enjoy looking through. Others, like the Indian Vegetarian cookbook, are cherished ones that I use for inspiration regularly."

From Shirley:

Cookbooks shirley 1

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"I have attached a few pics of my cookbooks. My favourite ones are falling apart! One of them is stored in a Ziplock bag to keep it all together. Of course the pages have splashes and stains - all evidence of being well used and well loved. I am lucky to have a very convenient little shelf in my main storage cupboard that holds all my cookbooks beautifully. I have not really added to the collection for years as the Internet is a wonderful free source of endless recipes."

*And here I must add that I agree with Shirley - I used to buy cookbooks quite often, but these days I find most of my recipes online or in magazines. That said, I would buy another Barefoot Contessa or Jamie Oliver cookbook in a heartbeat - just on sheer principle. ;)

From Michelle:

Cookbooks michelle 1

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"My cookbooks are special to me because most of them have been given to me as gifts. My family and friends know how much I enjoy cooking and baking so I am always excited when I receive new recipes to try. In the modern age of technology it is easy to find recipes online but I like to sit down with my cookbooks and thumb through the pages. I just like the feel of the book in my hands, the smell of the pages, and being able to write things down in them.  Hopefully they will be passed on and cherished by my future daughter in laws or even my boys. They like to cook also. Some of my favorite cookbooks are ones I received as wedding gifts over 23 years ago. I am also fond of the Southern Living (circa 1970'S) cookbooks that my 
grandmother gave to me. I display my cookbooks in my kitchen on shelves that are below my kitchen cabinets, but I also have several binders that contain printed recipes stored inside my kitchen cabinets. And last but not least, sitting on my kitchen countertop is my tried and true recipe box holder. It contains handwritten recipes that I have used for years and years."
From Carol:

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Cookbooks carol 2

 "Here at Chestnut Hill I have cookbooks in many places. I have this Shaker Shelf in the kitchen between the large wood cook Stove and the Electric stove. I keep every day cookbooks, and anything that will fit on the shelves. Then in the living room I have some stacks of overflow or of cookbooks that I do not want regularly exposed to grease and wood stove dander. I would love to have a Library or at least nice built in shelves, but our home is almost 200 years old and neither are possible. Favorite Cookbooks . .  tough . . .

 College Cooking by Megan and Jill Carle 

Motherhood and Apple Pie by Junior Leaque Rochester NY

Passion for Baking by Marcy Goldman
From Mary:

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Cookbooks mary 3

Cookbooks mary 4

Cookbooks mary 5

Cookbooks mary 6

Cookbooks mary 7

Cookbooks mary 8

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(Note: Mary told me I could share whichever pictures I wanted but I had to include them all - there are so many wonderful titles to peruse!)

"I've included assorted pictures of my cookbooks. I have over 1,000! My mother was a collector and passed that gene on to me. :-) Together, we have amassed quite the collection over the years. In my home, our dining room also functions as our library.  In addition to the "library", I also stash my cookbooks into every available nook and cranny I can find! I once read that Nigella Lawson brought in a librarian to catalog all her cookbooks ... what a dream that would be! :-)"

From Theresa:

Cookbooks theresa 1

Cookbooks theresa 2

From Elizabeth:

Cookbooks elizabeth

"My husband put together a couple of bookcases for me over the weekend to put in my breakfast area to hold my cookbooks. I recently weeded out my cookbooks because our eating style has changed. I am starting a new collection to match the way we eat now.
Each month I get a few more with my book money."


Well, my friends, I hope you've enjoyed our cookbook photos and comments. I would love to hear about yours ... so if you can, please take a few moments and leave a comment answering this week's questions (shown near the top of the post). And if you want to send me a photo, please don't hesitate - I can always update this post with more submissions.

I'm thinking for next week ... how about "kids in the kitchen?" I'll post more on that idea, but in the meantime, if you have a suggestion, please let me know! 

Have a wonderful Monday, everyone ... I'll see you back here again very soon!

April showers bring ...

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... Baby's 1st rain slicker!

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Just like his big brothers' ... only tiny and yellow.

O in rain slicker 4


Well, enjoy your Thursday, my friends ... and remember! We're talking about COOKBOOKS for Monday's Kitchen Chat and I'd love to see where you store/display/hide yours! If you have a moment, please snap a picture of your collection and send it to me at ...

bysunandcandle AT comcast DOT net

And speaking of cookbooks, did you hear Ina Garten's next book, due in October is all about making food ahead? I can't wait to see that!

Have a great day, everyone ... thanks so much for stopping by!

Kitchen Chat, Week Seven: Easter!

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Good Monday morning, my friends!

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

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


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

What special activities do you look forward to most?

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

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


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

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

At Eastertime, I always look forward to ...

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

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

Our church overflowing with fragrant lillies.

Bright light streaming through stained glass.

White chocolate. :)

Wine glasses sparkling in the sunlight.

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

A long, leisurely day with my family.


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

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


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

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

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

See you here again very soon ...

Kitchen Chat, Week Six: Food Storage

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Happy Monday, my friends! I hope you are all feeling refreshed and ready for a new week. :)

Welcome to another Kitchen Chat! I hope you'll pull up a counter stool and join me for a hot cup of brew and something warm and buttery from the oven - how do blueberry scones sound this morning?

This week we're chatting about food storage ... where you keep food and how you keep it, and what you have on hand. Below I have my questions for you all, I hope you'll take a moment to leave your thoughts! I have some visuals to share as well ... with sincere thanks to Elizabeth, Mary and Tanya for sharing their own food storage photos!


But before I get to the pictures, first let me ask you my questions:

Name 10 things in your pantry right now.

10 things in your fridge?

How about 10 things in your freezer?

Please describe the area(s) where you keep food. Are you happy with your current food storage space(s)? What would you change if you could?

Do you preserve food in any way - canning or drying, perhaps?

Do you ever shop in bulk?


 Noq, I'm going to work backwards in answering myself ...

Do I shop in bulk? Not really, no. But it's not for lack of interest - I just don't really have the time/energy to get organized on that front. I love the idea, though ...

I do not currently can or dry foods in any way (except for the occasional year when I make picalilli). I would love to do this someday, however. I'm forever collecting articles and even books on the topic of preserving food. :)

And I am quite happy with my food storage space at the moment (we have much more space than we did at the old house), though I would love to add a separate freezer - chest or upright, not sure? - downstairs. We have a set of cabinets in our kitchen which are really well sized for dry good storage. 

10 Things in My Freezer:


chicken nuggets * french fries/alphatots * frozen waffles * kernel corn * ice cream & sorbet * frozen tortellini * fish sticks * frozen juice * frozen fruit (raspberries, in particilar) * meatballs

10 Things in My Fridge:


yogurt * milk (1% for drinking, whole for tea and the baby) * half-and-half * butter * eggs * pizza dough * leftovers * hummus * chicken * pasta sauce

10 Things in My Pantry:

Pantry open 1

 Take your pick, lol!

 macaroni & cheese * pasta * sauces * baby food * cereal * cookies * crackers * baking needs (flour/sugar/spices/etc.) * canned soups  * tea


Clearly, there's a lot more on those shelves than just those 10 items! But the ones I mentioned are real stalwarts of our family meals. And I must confess, I did clean those pantry cabinets before taking pictures ... I really had not done too much with them since we moved. I purged a lot of out-of-date foods and tried to organize the three main areas by food types. It could be much better organized certainly, but it's a start. :)

(The fridge and freezer are hopeless at the moment, in dire need of a pruning, scouring and sorting. But I wanted to show you what I'm working with, and well ... that's it!)

And now for some wonderful thoughts and photos from my dear friends, Elizabeth, Mary and Tanya ... thank you, ladies for taking the time to put your submissions together!

From Elizabeth:

Pantries 1

Pantries 2

 "As you can see I don't keep much in the pantry. We eat mostly fresh foods. I keep mostly ingredients on hand for baking and cooking from scratch. The bottom picture is my new refrigerator. Which I love. It has a bottom freezer and double top doors."

From Mary:

Pantries 3

Pantries 4

Pantries 5

Pantries 6

"For storing food, I use my pantry, and my refrigerators - one in the kitchen, the other in the laundry room.

The first picture is of my kitchen fridge. It's a french-door top fridge I found on sale at Home Depot ... and I love it! (It replaced a 20+ year old fridge!) You can't see the doors on either side but there is a special place to store milk, butter, etc. which is nice, as it gives me more room in the main part of the fridge where I like to use plastic bins to help organize things. In the second picture is the freezer. It's on the bottom and has multiple "draws" that slide back and forth to make searching for things easier. It's not very organized at this moment...more of work in progress! ;-)

The third and fourth pictures are of my pantry. It's packed! The fourth picture is of the deep side of the pantry that goes rather far back. It's even hard to take a picture! This is where, I will confess, things get lost! ;-) I try using some tiered shelving and wire baskets that pull in and out to help corral the teas, herbs, and spices, but everything else is sort of in an "every man for himself" state of affairs!  LOL!! ;-)"

From Tanya:

Pantries 7

"These show two areas of our kitchen storage that I'm still quite happy with over a year after we moved in. When we started unpacking, I tried to create some stations within my kitchen to make everyday tasks easier and more efficient. The picture on the left is my tea and coffee cupboard. It's situated right above the alcove where the coffee maker and electric kettle are.

On the right, the two photos are the top and bottom cupboards of my baking station. The top cupboard holds sugar/baking necessities/chocolate chips etc. The bottom cupboard holds our flours and oils. Gluten free flours on the top shelf and wheat flours on the bottom one. The drawer you can just see above the bottom shelf holds our mixing utensils, measuring cups and spoons.

I've really loved having these stations set up in our kitchen ~ I find baking and other tasks so much easier since I have everything I need within reach!"


Well, I would be so happy to hear from you on the subject of food storage - if you have thoughts to share and the time to share them, please do so below. (And please feel free to answer one, two or all of the questions!) I think it's such fun to hear about how other people make these household areas work best for them ... to compare notes, challenges and strategies, etc.!

So I do hope to hear from you ...  but in any account, I will say goodbye for now and wish you all a good day ... take care of yourselves and your loved ones ... and I will see you here again very soon!

Peekin' in the Pantry ...

Good Thursday morning, my friends! I hope your week's going well. I wanted to let you all know, officially, what our next Kitchen Chat topic will be ...

O in pantry 1

O in pantry 2

Let's talk food storage - pantries, fridges and freezers!

I thought we could discuss how we manage food storage in general, where we keep things and what we keep ... what methods we use (freezing, preserving/canning, drying, etc.) and perhaps reveal what we have in storage on an average day. I.e. Name 10 things in your freezer right now ... something like that. :)

As you can see, Little Bear has taken a great interest in food storage lately, namely the pantry. Little fingers have figured out how to open cabinet doors! I sit with him as he does this, because some of the items he pulls off the shelf (like the vegetable oil above) are quite heavy! He's also aquired a "partner in crime" ... 

O in pantry 3

Archie is hoping LB will make it down to the third cabinet on the right ... that's where the catnip is kept. ;)

As you can also see, my pantry is not AT ALL well organized, so maybe we can talk about that, too ... ahem.

So meet me on Monday for a little "shop talk" ... and if anyone has pictures to share regarding their food storage (pantry, preserves, freezers, etc.) please send them along! I'd love to include them ...

bysunandcandlelight AT comcast DOT net

In the meantime, a quick note about our most recent Kitchen Chat - I've had one more submission so I've updated the post with a few more (beautiful!) pictures from Lorelei - please take a look!

Thanks so much for stopping by, everyone - have yourselves a good Thursday! I will see you here again very soon ...

Kitchen Chat, Week Five: Kitchen Style!

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Good Monday morning, my friends!

I am so excited to share this post with you! This whole series has been fun, but today's post is truly special because I have many contributors helping me out this week. Today we're talking about "kitchen style" and so, first off, I have a bunch of questions for you all ... and then I have my own "take on the topic" ... and finally, I have a whole lot of pictures to share!

So! Let me start by posing our questions for this week ... if you have the time to share your thoughts, please leave me a comment below. I'd love to hear about your kitchen and how you feel about kitchen style ...


In as many (or as few!) words as you'd like, please describe your kitchen.

What kitchen "style" do you like best? (e.g. country, retro, modern, etc.)

What do you like best about your kitchen?

If money was no object, how would you change/improve your kitchen?


 You've all seen snippets of my kitchen since we've moved here, but I did share some new pictures at the bottom of the post ...

What I like best about my kitchen is the space. I was very fond of my old kitchen but it was a bit small for the amount of cooking I like to do (and the amount of children I have, with whom I love to cook and craft). Our new kitchen has a healthy amount of counter space as well as a lot of storage. Not that it's well organized mind you ... but it will be ... someday!

If money was no object, I would love to replace some of the appliances - notably, the double ovens, fridge and cooktop. I'd really love an induction cooktop someday ...

And now it's time for some pictures!  

I had several kind readers send me pictures of their kitchens ... some folks had one picture to share, some had a few ... and some had lots to say, while others had just a simple reflection. I loved EVERY submission and I am very grateful to all the ladies who took the time to help me out with this project. I'm so pleased this post struck a chord with so many!

So without further ado, please join me for a little kitchen tour ...

From Marianna:

Kitchen chat 1

"The kitchen is truly the heart of the home here so I’m thrilled to be able to share mine. This was taken during dinner prep one night last week. I couldn’t resist the way the sunlight was coming in." 

From Michelle:

Kitchen chat 2

Kitchen chat 3

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"We hold almost all family gatherings at our house becuase we built this kitchen so that many family and friends could gather together. My husband runs a resturant so we are used to cooking for a lot of people. I would say 90% of my family's day is spent in the kitchen area. The kitchen table is to the right (where you see the tip of the chairs) and to the left back of the picture there is a seating area with two couches, t.v., and a fireplace. A view of fireplace and the sitting area and the couches are behind my boys. I LOVE my kitchen! It is warm and cozy. I love cooking, baking, and canning in my kitchen, but most of all I love it when there are many people gathered around eating good food, talking, laughing, and making great family memories!"

From Andrea:

Kitchen chat 4

"Our kitchen is small (not a lot of counter space), and it doesn't have a dishwasher. Those are the things I look forward to having one day! But apart from that, I like my small kitchen. It's painted yellow, and it has a window and screen door (lots of lovely light). And since I don't have a window over my sink, I put up a bulletin board that I love (top right in the photo). It holds my recipes, so it's very practical. But it also allows me to put up photos, Scriptures, quotes, and hymns. We added a small shelf below the bulletin board that holds the remote for my kitchen radio, a candle and a vase for small flowers. My kitchen also has some shelves where I store some of my most-used cookbooks and some other supplies and decorative items. So even though my kitchen is small, it has a very homey feel, which I'm thankful for."

From Elizabeth:

Kitchen chat 5

Kitchen chat 6

"Here are pictures of the kitchen in my new house. Top view is looking out toward the great room and the bottom one is looking toward the breakfast room. I love the extended island my husband had made for me. The counter tops have a touch of pink in them, my favorite color. My mixer is pink. :) My sink is a deep black farm house sink. The appliances are black."

From Tanya: 

Kitchen chat 7

"This is one of my favourite rooms in our (relatively) new house and was the thing I loved the most when we moved in last year. Our previous kitchen faced out at the next door neighbour's siding ... not a favourite view! Our new kitchen faces out towards a 1924 house across the road and a large stand of ancient Garry Oak trees. I love it! I also love our kitchen cupboards space and am so pleased at how we were able to set it up when we moved in. The only downside to our kitchen is that lovely large island which so easily gets cluttered up with papers and whatnot."

 From Divina:

Kitchen chat 8

A serene spot in her kitchen .. a sunny windowsill with a St. Francis statue.

From Mary:

Kitchen chat 9

"A picture of one of my favorite spots in my kitchen ... It is my wing-back reading chair near the fire place. I love to sit here and read and pray and jot down notes and sometimes just plain collapse! ;-) When my son was young he would cuddle up on the chair and cover himself with the quilt while I made breakfast. Also, many a visiting mom has enjoyed nursing a baby here ... including me! The chair has a lot of nice memories. And who knew it when I purchased it so many years ago as a single woman. On the little table next to the chair I keep my various notebooks nearby to make my lists, etc. along with a few books that I am perusing. The table is hand carved and was found by my Mom many years ago on one of our many "junking" adventures. ;-) I remember it in our home as a child."

From Heather, a handcrafted treat from her kitchen:

Kitchen chat 10

"I put together this little platter for our Bible study group that meets our house on Thursday nights. The hand-dipped straweberries took less than ten minutes from start to finish and that delightful Lindt bunny came out of hiding last night to adorn the platter. He's an Easter gift for our kids."

From Jo:

Kitchen chat 11

A peek at the corner where she bakes with her children. :)

From Shirley Ann:

Kitchen chat 15

Kitchen chat 17

Kitchen chat 18

A few favorite spots in her kitchen (which is in England, so naturally I'm especially enthralled!).

From Arlene:

Kitchen chat 13

Kitchen chat 14

"A favorite spot in my kitchen. Living in a townhouse, we do not have a huge kitchen but I like it! I have white cabinets, gray granite countertops and black appliances. I needed additional storage so I found this cute hutch at Hobby Lobby. It is filled with my Bachelor Button Louisville Stoneware and topped with my favorite blue and white ceramics that are scattered through out my kitchen. I love pears so my kitchen is "popped" with some bright green touches. I love how it looks with the blue and white ceramics as well as my black appliances. (Bottom photo) My "Purse Bench". I got this little bench and painted it bright green, put it in the hallway from the garage. Now I have a place to put my purse and anything else I am carrying so it does not get dumped on the kitchen cabinets or table!!"

From Erin:

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Kitchen chat 26

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Kitchen chat 19

"First photo: This is a corner of my counter space, which I have recently found to be much more functional if it has very little on it! I used to have a bread machine out here, and since clearing it and other things off the counters, I have enjoyed the space much more. I have my cookbook stand, a pretty bird tray, and a pottery canister made by my old college roommate in her pottery class - I like to keep it there because it matches the birds on the tray! 

Second photo: My handy shelf along one wall of the kitchen ... this was here when we moved in, and I found, after years of keeping decorative knick-knacks on it, that it was much better for keeping canisters of grains, seeds, etc. Plus my pottery cup that matches the canister in the previous photo, my catch-all home for writing utensils in the kitchen. And just for a bit of decor, my very first tin of Republic of Tea's Earl Greyer tea, my very favorite type. I have saved this tin since 1998, according to the date on the side, and have gone through several more cans of it over the years!

Third photo: This is just a zoomed out shot that shows the location of the wall shelf. I have debated putting hooks on the underside for hanging teacups/mugs, but it may look too cluttered. Maybe I need to lose the corkboards to open it up a bit!
Fourth photo: The view through my kitchen sink "window." Most kitchens have a window over the sink that looks into the yard, but mine looks into our sunroom, which was an addition to the house before we moved in. I have my little chicken decorations hanging above it, and in the sunroom, I can see my lisence plate collection hung up as a border along the top of the wall, which makes me happy to look at ... and the sunroom lets lots of light in for a cheerful view!

Last photo: This is the same counter space as in the first picture, which makes itself available to keep birthday cupcakes and other such goodies."

From Jen:

Kitchen chat 20

Kitchen chat 21

Kitchen chat 22 

"The "island" is an old workbench that I rescued from the trash. I cleaned it up and finished it with a protectant to the wood so we could use it in the kitchen. We added casters to the bottom and an old shutter as a shelf so I would have more storage. I use it as a kitchen workspace and we eat at it all the time. Stools are just a Target find.

The shelf underneath holds my beloved Kitchen-Aid mixer a few other bits and bobbles. I use an old Coca-Cola crate to store my spices. They are in small glass jars with labels on top. They are actually very handy in that spot!

The red hutch is a hutch that was in our home when I was growing up. I painted it red and distressed it a bit. It now holds my collection of white dishes."

From Helene:

Kitchen chat 24

"Here is our kitchen. We had a small "renovation" last year when our dishwasher leaked and ruined our flooring and cabinets. We had to replace nearly everything but the best part was that we added an island! I didn't think our kitchen was big enough for this, but we we're told it would be fine. And now I don't think I could live without it! The extra storage underneath and the extra countertop space are indispensable for our big family."

From Sylvia:

Kitchen chat 27

Kitchen chat 28

Pretty splashes of color! :)

From Lorelei:

Kitchen chat 29

Kitchen chat 30

Kitchen chat 31

"Our log house was built entirely by my husband. He cut the trees, milled the wood into "logs" (square) and lumber for the floors, cabinets and trims. It seems the kitchen is the heart of our homes. Mine is no exception. The eating area is just next to the counter. Open concept, with the patio doors opening to the deck. If you lived closer, I would love to invite you for coffee on our deck, watching the sun as it descends. My favorite place. No need for traveling to exotic places ... I already live there."

From Emily ... who offers a lovely tour of her kitchen in this post:

"My husband is an Orthodox priest and we live in a rectory that is attached to the church building and fellowship hall. Our kitchen is very beautiful and far more than we deserve. The property was originally a house and business for a man who ran a tile installation company and his home was his showcase for all of the beautiful tile work that he did. Everything was in pristine order when we moved in two years ago, which was good because the parish had to take on a monumental task of converting a three car garage, office, and bedroom into our sanctuary!"


And finally, from Dawn (me): 

My kitchen 2

My kitchen 6 

My kitchen 3

My kitchen 1

My kitchen 8

My kitchen 9

I feel very much at home in my new kitchen ("new" as of last summer). When we first saw it last spring, I liked it immediately, even if at first glance I would not have picked the color scheme for myself. (I have since come to appreciate the soft colors and black accents.) I love spending time in here, which is a good thing considering I find myself here more often than not through the day!

Top picture shows my kitchen sink and the window above that looks out at the back yard and woods beyond. I love this view, and the light (and breeze) that comes in through here ...

Second and third photos show the breakfast nook, another spot where we spend a lot of time. Little Bear's high chair tucks in nicely here and he divides his time looking out the window and   watching all the "action" around him. In the lower photo he's having a snack with his Daddy.

Fourth photo shows the pantry cabinets which line the wall between the breakfast nook and dining room. (That's the family room just beyond.) Lot of great storage here which is something I really yearned for in our old kitchen. I've got Yankee blood in me, I like to stock up on supplies. :)

 Next photo shows the island and other end of the kitchen. In all honesty, the counters are never quite this clean, lol! The peninsula, roomy as it is, tends to get littered with newspapers and mail and whatnot. (Tanya, I feel you on this!) We're trying to figure out a better way of storing all that stuff - in a drawer? Or a basket? Hmmm ...

Final photo, my sturdy little cross with one of my favorite scripture verses ... it sat above my old kitchen sink as well and it brings me peace and energy when I need it.


Well, ok then!

That was quite a long post, but I do hope you enjoyed it! I had such fun putting it together and am very grateful to all the lovely ladies who sent in photos for me to share. And thank you to all who stop by to read and say hi! If you have a moment, please join the conversation and fill us in a little on your kitchen ... just leave a comment below! :)

As for next week's topic ... I'm thinking food storage perhaps? Pantry/freezer/fridge ... but more on that later. For now I'm ready to start the morning ... with a hot cup of coffee and a wedge of raspberry crumb cake leftover from Sunday brunch! 

Care to join me? :)

See you all here again soon ...

p.s. I have not yet caught up with Call the Midwife which began a new season last night on PBS. So I'm torn over posting "Masterpiece Monday" at the moment ... I don't want to "spoil" myself until I've watched, so please bear with me while I do just that. I'll have a chat post up as soon as I can. :)

A Kitchen Chat Update

Happy Friday, my friends ...

My Little Bear is feeling a bit under the weather this morning, so I'll have to be brief, but I wanted to announce upcoming topics for our Kitchen Chat series.

This coming Monday, March 24th, our KC topic will be ... Recipes!

Let's discuss ... where we find recipes, how we store them/keep them organized, maybe share a favorite recipe or two. 

And then the following Monday, March 31st, our KC topic will be ... Kitchen Style!

Let's share ... descriptions of our kitchens and how we'd change them if we could (what's on our wish list?), how we make them as efficient as possible, but still add those homey touches. 

But, wait! There's more ...

Here's what I was thinking ... to make our conversation a little more personal and fun, perhaps you all - or some of you - or a few of you! - would like to email me a picture of your kitchen (or a spot in your kitchen that you particularly like). I will then include those pictures in the body of my post. 

Wouldn't that be fun?

So if you'd like to send me a picture (or pictures) of your kitchen, please email them to me at bysunandcandlelight AT comcast DOT net, along with a description of what's in the picture (and any other comments you'd like to make). I'll include it all in my post.*

*Alternatively, if you have a blog and would like to do a kitchen post there - let me know and I'll link you up! :)

If possible I'd like to have all "submissions" by next Friday, March 28th. That would give me the whole weekend to piece it all together. 

So I hope to hear from you! I'll post reminders of course, and look forward to our recipes discussion in the meantime. I'm off now to soothe my snuffly babe.

Enjoy your Friday, everyone! See you here again very soon ...


Kitchen Chat, Week Three: Clean Kitchens!

 🍀 Happy Monday, my friends - and a top o'the morning to you! 🍀

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For this week's conversation, how about we talk about keeping the kitchen clean? It's not the most romantic or inspiring topic perhaps, but it's something we all have to do, right? As in ... all the time ... day after day ... meal after meal. ;) So let me pour you a nice cuppa tea (Irish Breakfast?) or a fresh mug of joe (Jo Jo's Java?) and plate you up a warm pumpkin scone - there's some sweet cream butter here if you need it - and let's chat!


 Ok, my questions for you are as follows (though certainly, feel free to say what you'd like on the topic! I'm just trying to get the ball rolling ...):

What is your kitchen cleaning routine like? How often do you clean it - i.e. what gets cleaned daily, weekly, monthly, seasonally?

Do you have particular methods (a la FlyLady) or materials you use (Mrs. Meyer, Seventh Generation, homemade)?

What spot(s) challenge you most - stovetop, sink, oven, counters? (high chair, lol?)


Obviously kitchens need daily attention ... and if you, like me, are at home a lot, meaning, you're feeding your family at home a lot, then your kitchen is getting a lot of use. 

So in order to keep things hygenic (if not spotless), every day I/we try to ... 

run the dishwasher/empty the dishwasher

clean up/wipe the kitchen sink

keep counters as clear as possible

sweep along edges of floor (mostly because I now have a crawler!)

wipe any spills on counter/floor

neaten breakfast nook table & chairs (baby's things, newspapers, dirty dishes left behind)

clean Little Bear's high chair tray

So there are the daily chores then, but also, a deeper weekly cleaning is a good thing, too. I like to schedule my kitchen day around our trash day - cleaning the day before trash pickup. And periodic tasks like pulling the fridge out to clean behind, freshening the disposal, etc. are important as well. I don't always keep up with these as I should because they're not so immediately necessary, but I find if I actually schedule them into my calendar I have a better shot at getting them done.

I follow no particular method, though I do love reading about the cleaning routines described in Home Comforts. (I'm not even close to her standards of clean, but a girl can dream, lol.)

For materials, we tend to stick with Seventh Generation "Free & Clear" because of Earlybird's sensitivities, but I like the idea of homemade cleaners very much. I just never seem to get around to making any.

As for challenges - I'd say trying to keep the stovetop and refrigerator shelves clean drives me nuts. Also, the cabinet fronts - they get spilled on and smudged constantly, but I never seem to wipe them down as often as I should. 

And oh yes, that high chair ... it should really be sand-blasted daily!


Ok, I think that's all I have time to write right now ... but I do look forward to hearing your take on the topic! If you've written about this topic at your own blog, either presently or previously, please feel free to leave me a link. (And if you'd like, you're welcome to grab the "Kitchen CHat" button displayed above, too!)

So I'll catch up with you again, my friends ...I'm off to get breakfast started. :)

See you here again very soon ...

Kitchen Chat, Week Two: Menu Planning

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Good Monday morning, my friends ... I hope this post finds you well!

Welcome to week two of Kitchen Chat! I have a fresh pot of coffee waiting - as well as a hot pot of tea - so please pick your poison and pull up a chair. Care for a warm slice of banana bread?


This week's topic of discussion is menu planning, and that's just a huge area to explore, but here's what I want to know ...

What are your feelings on menu planning - is it something you do (or avoid), and if so, do you enjoy it? Or does it drive you crazy, and how so?

What works well for you? What confounds your menu planning?

Do you find any websites or books helpful? (Please name names.)

What's on your menu plan this week?


Menu planning

I do try to menu plan as much as possible - I love to be as organized as I can, especially in areas that directly affect my everyday life. A neatly arranged linen closet is wonderful, but at the end of the day it doesn't contribute to my well-being. Having my family's meals figured out and ready to go? Now that makes me (and them) happy. :)

I've talked about menu planning in the past (archives here and here) but I think menu planning is one of those things that we can hash out repeatedly. I'm always looking for new ideas - trying to do it better or make it simpler and shake things up now and again. Because goodness knows, my meal plans get tiresome!

So my overall feeling about menu planning is - it interests me (absorbs me, even) but it also drives me crazy because it's hard to keep on top of it. If I don't devote adequate time to menu planning, it all goes awry and then the kids are asking me what's for supper and I just have no idea. Or I'm spending way too much money on take out and/or ignoring good food in the fridge, which will soon evolve into science experiments.

I'd say time constraints confound my meal planning most of all (not taking or having the time to put thought and energy into it), whereas what I've found to work well is ...

1. Having a dinner plan in place before shopping (thereby shopping for items that will make dinner-making easier and more efficient). At least one week planned is a hope, but a whole month is a goal. (And having a list of my family's favorite/regular meals to work from is also helpful.)

2. Coordinating with our calendar as I write out the week's menus. I can see what nights somebody might be out or late coming home - what nights are better for more time-consuming meals vs. nights that demand something simple. And of course, any seasonal or holiday events that dictate a special meal.

3. Having a well-stocked pantry, fridge & freezer - for obvious reasons. This might be a topic for a whole separate post.

4. I think that's it.


Websites - I love the Taste and Tell blog as well as - they both feature really fantastic seasonal and holiday recipes. I don't do Pinterest (yet), but I have "liked" a lot of food-related pages on Facebook, and get a lot of recipe ideas in my news feed. And of course, there are my magazines - by their very nature they are great for seasonal ideas.

 And finally, my menu plan this week:

Monday: turkey kielbasa with roasted potatoes/carrots/peppers/onions 

Tuesday: homemade pizzas, vegs & ranch dip

Wedesday: grilled panini (cheese/turkey or ham) and squash soup

Thursday: TBA

Friday: cheese ravioli, lemon-butter broccoli and parsnip pie

Saturday: chicken caesar kabobs, ice cream & raspberry sauce

Sunday: Irish Brunch - still working on menu!


So there is my take on menu planning, my friends ... I'd love to hear yours! I think there is much more I could say, so I will probably jump into the comments when and as I can.

Remember - in addition to leaving your thoughts here, you are welcome to use my Kitchen Chat button (generously dontated by the lovely Divina!) and link back here from your own blog. Perhaps you'd like to do a post of your own? Maybe you've written about menu planning in the past? Any way you want to share, I'm all ears!

In the meantime, have yourselves a good Monday, and thanks so much for stopping by! I'll see you here again very soon ...

Kitchen Chat, Week One: Seasonal Eating

Good Monday morning, my friends! Welcome to Kitchen Chat!

Baked apples

This will be a weekly discussion post, and our first topic will be "Seasonal Eating." I'll share my thoughts in a few moments, but first, I'd love to hear your take on this topic. How's about a cup of coffee - or perhaps tea? - and let's sit and chat a bit. If you have time, please leave your comments below and let's get the conversation rolling!

What does "seasonal eating" mean to you?

Which foods do you eat only in season, and where do you find them?

Are there foods you preserve in some way, when they're plentiful and cheap?

Are there special foods/dishes you serve your family through the year in celebration of certain holidays or events?

How are the changing seasons reflected in your kitchen - through food and/or decor?


Now, seasonal eating, to me, means ... 

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1. Eating food in its natural season.

2. Celebrating liturgical seasons/annual events with special foods.

3. Setting a seasonal "stage" in my kitchen. 


I love feeding my family produce at its peak when it's available locally - apples in autumn, peaches in July, corn in late summer, etc. - and as much as logistically possible, I try to do that. If we want strawberries in March, well ... tough. Lol. Actually, frozen or otherwise preserved would do in a pinch, but nothing beats a June strawberry picked fresh at the farm. It's a summertime joy not to be missed ...

Foods we try to eat only in season: corn, tomatoes, strawberries/raspberries, melon, winter/summer squash, peaches/plums, cranberries.

That said - any of those items, except for the melon, can and should be enjoyed frozen or canned/dried year-round. But still - frozen kernels are a far cry from a fresh ear from the farm! Steamed or grilled and slathered with butter ... perhaps eaten outside? Mmmm - perfection! And canned tomatoes really have nothing on a sliced garden fresh beefsteak ...

I'm not going to deprive my children of corn or tomatoes through the year, but I do want them to get a sense for what grows when, and eating by the seasons is a great way to do that.

So how do we figure out what's in season when? Well, it's easy enough to look up that information online, but asking at your local farm/farmstand is a way to get the most personalized information. As for how to best cook produce at its peak - again, I'd say ask your farmer! There are also wonderful cookbooks devoted to seasonal foods ... one of my favorites is Jamie at Home. It's a British book so the seasons are perhaps slightly off, but it's just lovely all the same. Another book I love for seasonal eating and menu planning is The Silver Palate Good Times Cookbook. I've had it for years (as in, since high school!) and I've always found it very inspiring.

Now, if you live in an area with lots of local farms/stands, well, you're golden when it comes to eating seasonal foods. Or perhaps you grow your own - even better! If you live in a more urbanized area, there are farmer's markets and CSA's to join. For a few summers several years ago we belonged to a local CSA (community supported agriculture) and what a wonderful experience that was! We received such a thorough education in seasonal eating and learning to adapt to the whims of the growing season. In New England for instsance, that means lots and lots of greens to start, before finally - finally - seeing some color. Early rhubarb, onions and strawberries. But you know ...

"Limits are a tonic to the soul."

I think that quote is from Mittenstrings for God by Katrina Kenison (fyi - that's another post series I did a while back ... might be nice to revisit that) and I think it applies nicely to seasonal eating. Yes, we have to limit ourselves if we stick to eating only (or mostly) what's in season, but how wonderful it feels to eat those foods when they're meant to be eaten. We are truly nourishing our souls as well as our bodies.


And then there's a second type of seasonal eating, the kind that has more to do with tying food into our own family experiences ... holidays, feast days, special events and the like. Celebrating a special day on the calendar with food is a simple yet meaningful way to create family memories.

For instance, blackberries at Michaelmas ...

Michaelmas jam 4

 Shortbread on St. Andrew's Day ...

Saint andrew 1

Fresh eggs on the vernal equinox ...

Fresh eggs 1

Green tomato relish (aka picallili) on Labor Day ...

Picalilli jars 

And ... wassail on the winter solstice, shepherd's pie on St. Brigid's Day, pancakes on Mardi Gras, soda bread on St. Patrick's Day, hot cross buns on Good Friday, autumn veg soup on the harvest moon, homemade donuts on Halloween, etc. 

Clearly there are many opportunities throughout the year to celebrate faith, family - life! - and the very seasons themselves with food of all kinds. It's easy enough to weave these things into our daily life - though it's also quite easy to let opportunities slip by. We're all busy and time does fly ... but I find brainstorming broad notes for a season and then planning more specifically for each week very helpful. It's also convenient to have a separate file (or binder) for keeping these particular special recipes at hand.

I love both kinds of seasonal eating! (I love seasons, period, as you can tell.) Eating seasonally in this way - whether we're drawing from nature or the liturgical calendar - creates a rhythm in our family's year and lovely memories our children. And that's the bottom line for me ... it's all for them, after all. :)


Ok, finally - and I know I'm really rambling on here - I want to touch upon a third aspect of seasonal eating ... which is creating a sense of season in our kitchen, the very heart of our home. And this is very easy to do ...

Advent joy bowls

Displaying special dishes we use only at certain times of the year ...


Setting a bowl full of seasonal produce on the table ...

Easter 8

Using table linens that represent the colors of the landscape ...

Easter candle

And candles that look (or perhaps smell) just right for the season. 

Other ideas ... seasonal items perched on the windowsill (plants, knicknacks, framed prints, cards), background music, pretty lights and garlands here and there ... making things that smell like the season, too. Warm gingerbread at Christmas, cinnamon and citrus in the dead of winter, fresh roses in the heat of summer ....

I guess it's all about feeding the senses, isn't it?


Before I go, here's a list of produce in season for March and April. It's for New England, but I think it's pretty general ... though obviously it won't apply to everyone.

March >> humble roots & keepers, a few early spring treats << April

potatoes, parsnips, carrots, turnip, apples, pears, cabbages, onions, winter squash, maple syrup, leeks, fiddleheads, asparagus, chives, radishes, dandelions, rhubarb

What am I looking forward to most? Well, I would have to say rhubarb. Rhubarb is so fleeting and it comes at that time of year when we're just dying for spring - and we're so very nearly there! My first rhubarb dish of the  year (most likley a grunt) is always a sweet celebration of spring - in flavor and feel!


Ok, I'm done now, lol. Boy that was a long post - I hope it made sense! We must be on our third cup of coffee by now ...

Although I clearly have a lot to say on the subject, I would love to hear your take on seasonal eating (see my questions far, far above at the top of this post) ... but please don't feel you have to follow these questions or write as much as I do - even just a quick note would be welcome!

And I'm not entirely decided on next week's topic, so I'm still open to suggestion. Let me know what you'd like to discuss next!

And, as always, I'll see you here again very soon ...

Thursday This & That

From the "food pages" ... I'm loving all the suggestions for our "Kitchen Chat" series, which begins on Monday. I wanted to announce that our first topic of discussion will be "seasonal eating" as it seems to be a very popular concept! I also want to stress that I will simply play host(ess) for these chats - I don't mean to profess any sort of expertise in any area! I will share my own take on the topic and then open the "thread" up for comments. So please think about your own idea of "seasonal eating" and if you have any questions or thoughts to share on the subject ... on Monday we'll begin our conversation!


In "baby news" ... Little Bear had his 9-month check-up today and it went great! We talked with our pediatrician about finger foods, as LB is at that transition stage - from smooth to chunky. I always find this a challenge - figuring out what are good (safe) options to offer. (Suggestions?) We actually gave LB some steamed butternut squash the other night ...  and despite the faces he's making here, he seemed to like it!

O finger food 3

O finger foods 2

O finger food 1


A quick "weather report" ... things got a bit crazy this afternoon! We had a sudden whiteout ... and then five minutes later it was bright out!

Squall 1 Squall 2


And finally, in "family faith" ... Lent begins next week ... are you ready to bury the Alleluia?



Hope you all have a nice evening ... see you here again very soon!


Mondays in the Kitchen ...

Primroses on sill

Good Monday afternoon, my friends!

So I have a little idea I thought I'd throw out there and see what you all think. I'd like to start a new series of postings (on Mondays), to bridge the gap between Downton Abbey and Call the Midwife ... how about we talk about a new "kitchen" topic each week?

We'll officially begin next Monday, giving us four weeks to chat, and four topics to address. I thought I'd kick off this idea with a picture of my kitchen window view above. I was gazing out it this morning as I washed dishes and it struck me how much I enjoy my kitchen. I really loved my old kitchen so I was pleased to realize this new one now feels ... not so new anymore .... but really, very much like home. :)

So I'm open to suggestions - what kitchen topics are you keen to discuss? Meal plans? Pantries? Kitchen style? Lenten recipes? Kitchen memories? Kids in the kitchen? Those are just a few thoughts, but I'd love to hear your ideas if you have a moment to share them ...


Thanks for taking the time to stop by, everyone ... see you here again very soon!