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Tea @ Dawn's ~ Birthdays, Bluebirds & Sweet Winter Blessings


Hello my friends, and Happy Sunday! Thank you so much for joining me today - may I offer you a freshly brewed cup of hot tea?

On this breezy - and strangely balmy - January day, I'm pouring a tasty new brew called, "Winter Wake Up Tea." It was a gift from my brother, and I must say - it's delicious!


(Truth be told, since caffeine and spice are things I have to be careful about - I cut my tea with a little plain black decaf and an extra large splash of lowfat milk!)

So I have to tell you, our Tea today is extra special because January 12th just so happens to be ... National Hot Tea Day! Yes, it's a real holiday ... or at least it has been since 2016. #whoknew ðŸ¤·ðŸ»â€â™€ï¸ 

Also happening today, rather serendipitously, is a day-long Jane Austen "extravaganza" airing on my local PBS station! So if you'd care to join me while I put on the kettle, I have this playing on the kitchen tv ...


I'm sure many of you can name that beloved movie on sight - it's one of my all-time favorites! You might recall from my last post there's a whole bunch of fun programming coming up this year, and something I'm really looking forward to is "Sanditon," a new Masterpiece series that premieres tonight at 9 p.m. (An air-time which is sadly after my bedtime so I'll be catching each episode a day (or two) after its first airing.)


May I offer you a little something sweet to go along with our tea? How about a thick slice of birthday cake?


Yep, on this lovely day honoring hot tea AND Jane Austen, I'm also celebrating ... my 51st birthday! :-) 


First of all, I can hardly believe I just typed that number - because wow, I am now decidedly "in my 50s." (And holy crow, how did that even happen? No, honestly. Wasn't I JUST in my 30s?)

Anyways - today I'm raising my glass, er mug, to a brand new year - and a new profile pic! ;-) Had to snap a selfie yesterday because I had just gotten home from the hairdresser and my hair never has a better moment than in that first hour after leaving the salon. Soon thereafter it's back to unruly curls and cowlicks, lol.

Hair issues aside, I'm giving sincere thanks today for so many things - most of all the gifts of Life, Love and Wonderful Friendships. I'd like to say thanks to all of YOU for the kindness and encouragement you've all shown me through the years. For helping me make this a happy and homey little corner of the web. How I have loved keeping this blog going for the past 13 (almost 14) years!

But before I get too far off-topic let's discuss the pretty cake I'm right now setting out on my favorite Irish china plates ...

"Penuche" Cake is a specialty of my mum's. We're blessed to have her as the Family Baker of All Birthday Cakes and though we all have our favorites, she always asks what cake we'd like this year. I usually request Penuche Cake, and since we had a good bit leftover, I'd love to offer you a slice - it goes wonderfully with a hot cup of tea! (As you can see from my first photo - it had disappeared before I got that final shot!)

If you're interested in the recipe - check out this birthday post from 2016. I've posted the frosting recipe in the comments.

And if I may revel in my birthday joy a moment or two longer, here is the card the boys made me ...


Pretty sure I need to have this framed ... I love all those colors!


Ok, now that we have our tea and cake, let's settle in and have a nice little chat. I thought I'd share some of the things I've been thinking about and noticing these past couple of weeks. As you all know, I assign each week of the year a seasonal "theme," and right around my birthday I like to contemplate "winter comforts and joys." Because it's mid-January and we've just finished Christmas and now the long winter looms ahead - so I like to brainstorm the ways we might celebrate the season rather than bemoaning it as too cold or dark or dreary. Not that it isn't some or all of those things at one time or another - but I'd rather focus on the blessings of the season rather than the burdens, if you know what I mean. :-) 

In my Deep Winter bullet journal then, I have a whole page devoted to these kinds of thoughts ...


I take such comfort from the simplest traditions and rituals - little things like saying "rabbit rabbit"on the first of the month, and creating a new planner at the start of the year. Hosting a New Year's roast lunch for my family and watching for the Bluebirds to return, as they usually do, right about this time of the year ...


Aren't they gorgeous? They visited our feeders for all of five minutes one day last week ...




Birdwatching is fun all year long, but there is something extra wonderful about winter birdwatching. When it's hard to get outside in nature (due to severe cold or stormy weather) it's easy enough to sit ourselves beside a window and watch the comings and goings of the local wildlife ...

And as winter rambles on, we get to know the "regulars" - the Finches, Woodpeckers, Chickadees, Titmice etc. - while also looking forward to the more seasonal visitors. There are Bluebirds in mid-winter, and then roundabouts February we'll start hearing (and hopefully seeing!) the resident Barred Owl. One day near spring we'll hear the familiar "squeaky wheel" of the Red-winged Blackbird returning and then before we know it, come April or May, a flash of orange will announce the Orioles are passing through ...

I also take joy in observing and exploring nature phenomena ... like the January thaw which we are enjoying today (it's 70°!) and all the monthly moons and the folklore attached to them. For instance, the Pink Moon in April really does look pink - like an Easter egg! And the Sap Moon brings on sugaring season, while the Harvest Moon is always huge and as orange as a pumpkin ...

But how about January's full moon?


Here is the best shot I could get of the Full Wolf Moon as it rose over our woods Friday night. But did we howl at it? Why, you betcha we did! 

And here are the notes I scribbled in my seasonal journal - ideas for celebrating this moon, this week, and this time of year, with my family ...


And per family tradition, we read this book EVERY year as we celebrate the Full Wolf Moon:


The Story of the Kind Wolf is hard to find but if you do find a copy - grab it! 

We also baked some fun "Wolf Paw Cookies" on Friday afternoon ...


I got the idea for these on Pinterest, and they are basically a sugar cookie with Ghirardelli melting wafers and chocolate chips arranged to create the look of a paw. I'm not sure how well they achieve this, but needless to say they were a hit with my kids! (We left the candies off some of the cookies for those among us who are tragically unable to eat chocolate - the plain ones we called, Full Moon Cookies.)

So a book, a cookie, a moon view and a howl - all easy things to do, all sweet traditions to keep.

I've been doing these kinds of things since my children were tiny and it just never gets old, at least not for me! Obviously as the young ones get older their participation in and enjoyment of each "tradition" changes a little. But I still involve everyone who's home - Bookworm is away visiting friends right now, but Crackerjack is home on winter break and though he didn't howl or read the book with us - he happily partook of the cookies and he did watch the moon rise alongside us. 

I like to think these pastimes create lasting memories as well as a subtle yet meaningful awareness of the turn of the year. I hope most of all it adds a happy kind of glue to the days of our year - the ones that seem to go by too fast, while my boys quickly grow into young men.

I love doing for my family but there are also things that bring me personal comfort and joy, in the deepest days of winter ...


Favorite magazines ... with such lovely, wintry covers.


My favorite weekly "paper" - how I love Maria Shriver's writing! It arrives in my inbox early each Sunday morning, and I try to carve out time each week to savor her words and explore her links.


My planner basket ... helping me feel a little more in control of my time and my responsibilities ...


... and the miracle of the sunrise, which blesses us every day without fail. :-)

I stopped the car while driving Earlybird to school the other morning, just to snap a pic and absorb this peaceful moment. And I must confess, I was not at that moment feeling very peaceful, because it was not an easy ride that particular morning. EB was balking at going to school (kind of a new and challenging thing) and I was a jumble of over-caffeinated, over-tired nerves ...

Will he get out of the car this morning? Will he calm down and relax? Will I get a call from the school nurse today?

But the sunrise was still glorious as it is most days, and that golden orb rode silently alongside us, so I chatted with EB about what a really nice day it could and would be. He calmed - I calmed - and the eventual drop-off went about as well as it could. #phew

More comforts and joys ...


These guys - 'nuff said.


Keeping in touch with family and friends is important to me, though I wish I was a more timely correspondent! But how I love organizing a little correspondence basket - a place to stash stationary and stamps, a thick address book and the bundles of letters and notes in want of a reply.

I love to take pleasure in the little things but ...


Most of all this. THIS is my favorite kind of comfort and joy.

I had just come home from that tense drive with EB and was working in the kitchen - half paying attention to the Today show as I got my own "today" going - when an  interview with a panel of older women who were all reinventing their careers caught my attention. They were all lovely women and the segment was certainly inspiring - but I paused to consider the fact that while I too am "getting older," as a full-time, homeschooling mom, I haven't had an actual "career" to speak of in nearly 25 years. 

And then my littlest guy wandered into the kitchen, fresh from his bed, still clad in his footies and all sleepy-eyed he said, "Mama, I need a hug."

Which of course was a need easily, and joyfully, met by this mama.

And that my friends, is one of the sweetest and most rewarding perks of my decades-long "profession" - the comfort and joy of being there for my kids when they need me. It's a blessing to be sure, and I don't take it for granted, not for one little minute. I am grateful I can be here - for their sakes as well as my own - and that I can devote my time and my energy to the business - and art - of keeping family and home.


A final thought before I go -

Every day is a gift and every new year a blessing! And while  January is still fresh and new, I find myself looking forward to making some fun wintry memories ... and of course, sharing more cups of winter's tea with you all! 

As always, I thank you for joining me here today, and I wish you all a lovely week ahead. I'll be back with a fresh pot of Tea a little later this month, but you can always find me on Instagram and Facebook in between posts. 

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

Autumn Tea & Mitten Strings: Chapter 6, "TV"

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Hello my friends, and Happy Sunday! Welcome to another Autumn Tea, and the next installment in our Mitten Strings for God book study! This week we are discussing chapter six, "TV" - a challenging topic for some of us, I think! 

First though, let's talk about my tea (seen above), which reflects last week's seasonal theme, "Our Own Cozy Dens." I'm taking tea in the library this time where, I should note, there is no TV! ;)

This is the quiet room or "gathering room," where we serve cocktails and desserts/coffee when celebrating holidays with family. It's also the room in which our Christmas tree abides throughout the darkest month of the year, filling it with the softest and coziest light ...

So at Summer's end I tend to migrate back in here, to set things up as I'd like for the months to come. This room also sits on the west side of our house, and the sun sets just behind the woods seen through the windows. I LOVE being in here as the days grow short and dark, catching the very last bit of that golden autumn light. â¤

Now, to continue with the cozy for a moment - with each seasonal homeschooling theme, I like to give myself a little "assignment," something I can do to experience the theme on a personal level, and/or something that will allow my family to observe it as well. This week the boys and I chose a few spots around the house to make up "our own cozy dens" for the winter ...

And here's where I am making (one of) mine!

Cozy corner in library

(It's a work in progress, so I'll post more on my nest later. I'll also be arranging play areas for LB here, too - and that will fit in with next week's chapter!)

It occurred to me though, as we "feathered," that if a family was trying to cut down on TV time, then perhaps intentionally setting up a few "comfort zones" would be helpful! To start with, choose a place where screens are not present (or readily available) - but other kinds of diversions are. And if the kids are involved in this endeavor from the get-go, then these spots will truly reflect and support their own passions and pursuits. Help them think about what kinds of things they might like to work on/play with this winter - puzzles, board games, Legos, reading, imaginative toys, crafting, etc. Organize the materials they'd need, add an extra blanket or two, and designate a space just for them. If we're looking to pry kids away from their screens we're going to need some enticing alternatives at the ready!

Anyway back to the tea for a moment - my brew this time is a lovely Earl Grey and I'm drinking it in a mug that is just perfect for the week, a gift from my dear friend, Kim. The cookies are gingerbread - of the store-bought, break-apart variety I'm afraid, but very good! (Honestly, is there anything cozier than gingerbread?) That cute platter is made of melamine (so in theory, unbreakable) and I picked that up at Target last week. I'm working on surrounding this spot with nice things to read, my journal supplies, simple playthings and good books for Little Bear ... all kinds of things that will entice us to sit down and settle in for a spell. 

Ok, now let's get on with the TV portion of my post! (And for the record, when I say "TV" here, I'm really talking about any kind of screen-time viewing since the options for such have widened greatly since 2008!)

To begin with, here is the original post I wrote on this chapter back in 2008, and since it still represents my feelings on the topic rather well, I won't try to reinvent the wheel today and say all of the same things differently. In a nutshell, I'm still in agreement with Ms. Kenison's stance that:

"When it comes to TV, less really is more." (p. 51)

Instead, I'll address how our family viewing habits have changed since the days when all my kids (the three I had at the time) were little ...

So first of all, the older boys are now 18 and 22 - so I don't really control their TV habits anymore! I asked them though, at dinner last night, how much tv they thought they watched and they both said, very little. (They do play video games and do other online things.) And when they do watch tv, it's usually something they view on their computers, as opposed to a program they watch on commercial tv at a set time of week.

Side note:

Isn't it crazy how pervasive screen time is these day? Computers, phones, tablets, TVs ... WATCHES! It seems there's a way to be connected - or disconnected depending on how you look at it - and watching something, almost anytime, anywhere. It's a wonder network tv is still in existence!

From p. 45:

".. how easily we have come to accept the pervasiveness of the media in our lives."

You know, I'm pretty sure Ms. Kenison would have to rewrite this chapter entirely if she were to tackle the topic of TV nearly 10 years later! Because the media has so many more faces these days! There are devices and distractions available for kids of all ages - and we're not even talking about social media here. She'd need a whole separate chapter for that!

Now, as for the younger boys ...

Little Bear is just four years old and truth be told, he does watch more tv than we'd like. This is mostly because of his older brother's viewing habits, and that's something we're working on (more on that in a minute). I think like most kids, if it's on and he's idle, he'll get sucked right in. Happily he's not usually idle - he has a rich imagination and gets completely absorbed in his play. But he does ask for tv on occasion - usually in the late afternoons if he's tired and wants to crash on the couch. I allow it sometimes ... but other times I redirect him. I'm not too concerned about any interest in TV as I am by his ongoing spectator status. Because Earlybird, our 15 year old son who has autism ... is, well ... addicted.


(Can you guess what they're doing in this photo? Watching something on EB's Kindle Fire, that's what. But just look at those smiles!)

Our EB, (16 next month), watches a lot of video content in various forms. Many kids (people) on the autistic spectrum have a strong affinity for video-viewing, whatever the platform. For EB it's partly a feeding of sensory needs and also, frankly, he doesn't have many other hobbies. Video gives him something to do, a way to entertain himself in a way he's not able to do on his own, while allowing him to connect with the world at a safe distance. (He can change the channel at a whim, he's in control.)

On the up side, he's learned a LOT of interesting information through video. He absorbs things so deeply - which as you can guess is not always a good thing - but he loves science shows, railroad history, nature documentaries ... and he loves playing movies of all kinds. We have to monitor his viewing habits closely though, because sometimes he gets over-stimulated - by the content he's chosen, or just the amount of time spent absorbing video input. Even the over-abundance of options can fry his nerves (not to mention his mother's) at times. Too many choices is not always a good thing, for anyone - but especially not for our autistic son.

I can't predict if this craving for video will always be a part of EB's life, but currently we are working with EB's therapists to teach him to enjoy other kinds of leisure activities. For years now we've just allowed this addiction to build because honestly, there were other battles to face, and this one seemed fairly benign. But over the past several months we've started making some changes. We'd been seeing a connection between EB's neurological tics and his screen-time exposure. The more he watched, the more agitated he'd get and the more likely he'd be to experience such tics as blinking, clicking, grunting and stuttering. So a couple of months ago we turned off the family room tv. Just plain old turned it off, telling him (fingers crossed) that the clicker had gone missing ... and that was that. He still uses his Kindle, and he does have a dvd player in his bedroom, but the family TV is no longer part of his screen-time repertoire.

He's adapted fairly well to the change, which was a blessing. (Also a blessing, Little Bear has no background TV through the day!) Our next step is to start working some time limits into his Kindle viewing, while encouraging other pursuits. He's resistant to the limits for sure, but as with every challenge we've faced ... we take it in tiny steps, and we only ever ask for progress, not perfection. He'll get there, to healthier video habits, in his own due time. What he needs to get there he is getting - help from patient therapists, and understanding from a family who loves him. â¤

To sum up - because as usual I've gone on quite long! - I think TV doesn't have to be a bad thing if it's a proportionate and thoughtful part of a well-rounded home life. Balance in all things, right? Time to sit and enjoy a special program, and then time spent doing other things - enjoying the outdoors, friends and family, honest work, and simple activities that don't flash at our retinas.

I found this comic online the other day: 


(Earlybird, seeing this over my shoulder just now, exclaimed, "Hey, that's a perfect day!")

For most of us, I think, TV is a comforting habit, feeding a need within us ... but as with any habit, it get can get out of control. And some of us are more vulnerable than others. So it needs to be monitored and even reevaluated at times. To reference myself in my original post:

"I don't think we would ever go NO TV, but I do think we can stand to survey our viewing habits now and again. I have always said to the boys re their video game playing and television viewing that as long as we detect no difference in the amount of time they read or in the way they play and imagine, they may continue to watch and play (in the electronic sense) as they do. To this I've also added, as long as they can still "be" (happily), outside - as long as they can connect easily with nature - then I'll know our viewing habits are still under control."

In the end I'd say that I agree with much of what Ms. Kenison has to say in this chapter, but perhaps not all of it is applicable in my life, at this time. That said, going forward I would like to see ...

    Little Bear have AS LITTLE screen time exposure as possible, because it really does nothing for him at this tender age.

    Earlybird have LESS screen-time exposure, as discussed above.

    Bill and I to be aware of HOW OFTEN we turn on the TV ourselves.

And as for my older two, well ... it's up to them now, isn't it? :)

Well, my friends, I'll be on my way now, since I think I've said all I can think of to say on this chapter ... for now! But I'd love to hear your thoughts if you have time - feel free to comment below or send me an email with your thoughts/photos (or a link to your site) ...

---> drhanigan AT gmail DOT com

Or maybe you don't have any thoughts on TV at all, but a pretty tea setting to share with us ... that would be lovely, as well!

Oh, and don't forget my Mitten Strings giveaway! Pop on over to this post for more details - you have until Friday to enter! :)

Now, at next week's Autumn Tea - and I'll aim for Friday but Sunday will be more likely - we'll be discussing Mitten Strings for God, chapter seven, "Play." What a fun topic that will be! But for now, I will wish you all well - enjoy the rest of your weekend! - and hope to see you here again very soon! â¤

My Podcast with Pam!


Good Tuesday morning, my friends! :)

Oh my goodness, I am so excited to share this with you today! And maybe a little nervous too. Well, I was nervous at first, but it was SUCH a fun experience and Pam made me feel so welcome and asked some great questions and as we talked I realized  - we're chatting away here like two old friends! (Who, you know, happen to have just met and live in opposite corners of the country!)


So, what am I rambling on about you all must be wondering? Well, recently I was invited by Pamela Barnhill at Ed Snapshots to chat with her about homeschooling and my family and the file crate and nature study and ... well, all kinds of things! Now, I think I might have talked a little fast - maybe that's a New England thing, or maybe that was the nerves! - but I really had such a lovely time talking with Pam, who is a very gracious hostess. I felt so comfortable and cozy, all settled in with my big cup of tea and Pam on the phone ... I probably could have talked on and on! 

Anyhoo - here is a direct link to the podcast so you can check it out. (If I was tech-savvy I'd link up that neat image above but alas, I am not.) I hope you enjoy our conversation, and if you have a moment, please leave a comment (or question) for Pam or myself!

(Also, if you're new to Pam's Homeschool Podcast series at Ed Snapshots, I urge you to head on over and take a peek (or a listen)! I am just so honored to have been asked to participate in this wonderful community ...)

 Well, enjoy the rest of your day, my friends! Thanks so much for stopping by and I will see you here again very soon!

Children and Chores ...

A very interesting article in this past Sunday's Boston Globe Magazine:

Put Them to Work:

"Children don't belong in factories, but they shouldn't get a pass on toiling at home. Here's why it's so important - to the whole family - that kids grab a sponge and get busy."

By Agnes R. Howard

How do you feel about your own children's chores? Could/should they be doing more?

I'm at a point right now in this pregnancy where I'm looking at what my kids are doing and if/how I can ask them to do more. I tend to think they're doing plenty, but then I read lists of what a "__ year-old" can handle and I'm usually a bit shocked.

Food for thought today, my friends ... just wanted to share!


Rambling Thoughts on Handwriting ~ a Fond, yet Fading Art

In looking over my January notes (handwritten notes, yes!) I see that National Handwriting Day is coming up ~ it takes place on the 23rd of the month, which also happens to be John Hancock's birthday, he of bold handwriting fame. :)

Now, I've made no secret of my fondness for paper and pen, so perhaps I'm a bit biased when I say I think this article rocks:

"Mom, what was handwriting? A novelist examines what we lose as we abandon cursive for typing."

I came across it in the Sunday Boston Globe, and it really got me thinking (as the length of this post can clearly attest). I enjoyed the article so much in fact, that I've requested the discussed book, The Missing Ink: The Lost Art of Handwriting, from the library, and I'm quite eager to read it ... and, naturally, take notes. :)

I do love the written word however it is delivered - I relish reading and I am an avid (albeit amateur) journalist, in both a personal and public way. I write a (public) blog and I also keep (private) journals. I like to think my "voice" is authentic in both mediums, but there's something extra-special about the words I've written out by hand ...

"There’s nothing nicer than going back over things you’ve written in the past. Those things on paper do take you back to a particular time and a particular place where you were when you were writing this stuff. When I look at my book in print, I can’t remember where I was when I wrote anything. When I come across one of my notebooks, I can remember." ~ Author, Philip Hensher


I write all kinds of stuff in my journals and though they are intensely personal - a "brain dump" if you will, written only for myself - I do think that someday my progeny might get a kick out of what I wrote, and how I wrote it. Maybe these journals will help them know me, and life in my time, in a way they might otherwise not.

Without a doubt our society is heading away from handwriting, so I think it's important that handwriting enthusiasts keep the "art" alive in any way that we can. So I'm resolving this year to write more by hand. Now, I already write a lot for myself, so this would mean more handwritten correspondence - for example, our Christmas cards. Although I do love our cards (Shutterfly is brilliant!), and I truly appreciate the ease with which I can order, assemble and mail said cards come (busy) December - I have vowed that next year I will take the time to write something personal inside each greeting. Whether it be a handwritten signature (rather than the pre-printed variety) or a slip of paper with a brief message of holiday cheer ... it will hopefully be something that forms a deeper connection with our family and friends. Because I think when we write someone a note by hand it links its message back to us in a way that a type-font cannot ...

"Take pleasure in your own handwriting even when it’s scrappy and individual, because that’s the handwriting that your friends and loved ones will take the most pleasure in, because it’s you. Do it every day." ~ Author, Philip Hensher

Recently a friend of mine commented that she treasures anything handwritten by her late father, and it made me think of those little notes I've got stashed away that were written by my grandmother ... little post-it notes in her scratchy blue ink that say "Save for Dawn" or "Show this to Bookworm." Because she was always just that way - putting aside interesting things to share with her children and grandchildren - and great-grandchildren! Gram was a great reader and her family meant more to her than anything else. Anyone who knew her knew these things about her. And yet I particularly love those little notes because for one thing, her handwriting's like mine, (or I guess I should say, mine is like hers) and for another, it helps me remember her in a very personal way. It's a comfort even - it makes me feels like she's not so far away ...

Now, I hope I don't sound preachy - I know that technology appeals to many folks as strongly as pen and paper do to me. And I'll confess, I find myself conflicted at times. Like any (relatively) modern mother I have a lot on my plate and I'm too often pressed for time. So the need to be "quick and efficient" is always present. (Annnd that's a whole other post.) But combine my love for all things handwritten with my general discomfort/inexperience with technology (not to mention my resistance to change) and it's no wonder I stick with my "old school" preferences. I know a lot of people are like me to some degree, and yet many folks just naturally gravitate towards technology.

My husband, for instance, is something of a "technerd," if I may use that term loosely and with a bit of cheek. ;) Bill understands computers, and technology in general, in a way I could never hope to; this has made him more successful in his career, and it brings him enjoyment as well. So it's no surprise he uses his iPhone for everything and then some: schedules, reminders, correspondence, shopping lists, travel plans, etc. ... all things I prefer to write out by hand. But we are equally competent in, and satisfied with, our organizational method. For the most part. :)

So I save some of Bill's emails (the ones of a more intimate nature), in a special "inbox" folder - alongside any links and cute emails the boys send me. Just as I save every card my dear ones have given me in a bedroom drawer. Preferences aside - penned or typed -communication is what's important. Love is love, however it's expressed. ❤

OK, enough of my rambling! Today dear readers, I'm curious ~ how much do you write by hand these days, and what areas of your life have you turned over to technology?

Shopping lists?

Thank you notes?

Casual correspondence?

Holiday cards?




And if you homeschool, do you teach your children cursive? Do they practice penmanship in any formal way? And if your kids are in school, did/do they learn cursive at some point?

Please leave a comment below if you have thoughts on the subject, as well as the time to share them! Generations ago - if I were a professional and this was say, a newspaper column - I'd wait for your responses to be mailed in. It's nice that in this setting we can share thoughts immediately - much more does get done with technology, it's hard not to recognize that. It is a changing and ever-progressing world, but like the old saying goes, why throw out the baby with the bathwater?

"We maintain a mixed relationship with food. Sometimes we go out, sometimes we call in for a delivery, and sometimes, like on Christmas Day, we start from scratch preparing food for people that we love. Why can’t handwriting be like that?" ~ Philip Henshaw

P.S. I'm organzing my "correspondence drawer" this weekend - an annual January task - and I will be happy to share it all with you once I'm done. :)

Well my friends, as always, I thank you for stopping by today, and wish you all a happy day!

See you here again sometime soon ...


Tuesday Tidbits

Ralph Lauren to Sponsor PBS 'Masterpiece,' Create 'Downton Abbey' Ads

Ralph lauren DA ads

Just look at all that vintage clothing - so gorgeous!

The funny thing is, I clipped this magazine ad for my journal last week ... I guess I was unknowingly drawn to that posh Downton spirit!

From the article linked above:

"Ralph Lauren’s sponsorship messages will begin Sept. 30 on PBS."

I will definitely be looking for them!


So I'm getting a rather slow, lazy start here ... there just doesn't seem to be enough coffee in my pot to wake me up. Well, we had a late, but wonderful, night out last night, at Bill's company's service recognition dinner. (He celebrates 15 years this year!)

A picture for posterity, if I may ...

Bill and dawn at fid party

And I so wished I had my camera with me, because the party ambiance was just breathtaking, but Bill obliged me with a quick shot off his phone. :)

Flowers at mfa

The flowers were absolutely gorgeous! Deeply hued dahlias, set against amber- and rose- colored tablecloths and lots of cozy, flickering candles. Amazing food and delicious wine ... it was such a treat to have a night out like this. Thanks to my mum for babysitting our boys!


And finally, but certainly most importantly, we're saying a prayer today for all those who lost their lives on 9/11, especially Chris, a friend and co-worker of Bill's. Prayers too for all those who love and miss them ...


Enjoy the rest of your Tuesday, my friends. I'll speak with you again very soon!


On PBS this fall ...

I happened to see a snippet of an ad on PBS the other day, for a show coming this fall entitled, Call the Midwife. Is anyone familiar with this program? I found the CtM page on the PBS website and it sounds very interesting! Very different from Downton, of course, but it's another British period piece, so I'm willing to give it a try!

Call the Midwife begins airing on September 30th ...

Call the midwife 1

The PBS page also mentioned that season two of Upstairs, Downstairs will follow this program's run. Which reminds me - I have yet to watch Upstairs, Downstairs! Do I start with the older show or jump right into the newer version? (Netflix has both.)

Well, I hope this Tuesday's treating you well, my friends ... see you here again very soon!


Sunday ☼ Snippets

I hope you're all having a nice weekend ~ thought I'd pop in to say, "hi."

Monarch comic strip

Do you read the funnies? My boys read them daily, and they often point out ones they find particularly amusing. Well, I added the above comic strip to my journal today ... I just thought it was so cute and seasonal to boot!


And here's some magazine bounty ...

Orange-green magazines

Do you ever notice that magazines tend to coordinate their covers each month? For instance, as seen above, the September crop of magazines are adorned mostly in shades of orange and green. I've noticed this trend over the years and wondered if it's just coincidence, or if there's some marketing genius at work here ... perhaps people buy more magazines if they all seem to match?

(I took a closer look at the parent publishers, and as it turns out, most of these are published by Meredith Corp. and a couple by Hearst. So maybe it's not such a coincidence after all ... but clearly, in my case, the "strategy" works.)


Here's our new bumper sticker:

Bumper sticker

Purchased at our local, much-loved, farm stand.


And finally ... 

Tracks on floor

I just had to snap a picture of these train tracks. I've been "building train tracks" upon request for many, many years now. Sometimes on the floor, sometimes on the couch, sometimes on the deck. I'm pretty sure I could do it in my sleep. I bet some of you can dress Barbies blindfolded while others can build Legos with one hand tied behind your back - well, my forte´ seems to be railroads ...

I'm kinda proud of that. :)


So, that's all for now, but I thank you so much for stopping by ... enjoy the rest of your Sunday, my friends ... and I'll see you here again very soon!


More Food for Thought ....

... from NBC news: 

Avoiding the Grocery Store: A 30-Day Challenge

The author of this article is going to try to avoid the grocery store for a month. She is following a challenge called "The 30-Day No Grocery Store Challenge." Except for a $30 allowance, it's her goal to bypass the grocery store and buy things more locally:

"I’m one of the many Americans who wants to eat healthier, believes in organic food (in theory, if not in actual purchases) and loves the idea of supporting small, local businesses. But, I almost always find practicalities outweighing these ideals ...

As the mother of two, preschool-age children, I worry about the extra time commitment of this challenge. I also worry that this commitment won’t be sustainable for my budget. Will budget considerations make me consider other changes to my diet as well?"

Ms. Macario will be reporting in over the next several weeks, and I look forward to following along!

Where do you do your shopping each week? Have you changed your shopping habits at all?

KG butcher baker

Have a great Friday, my friends! I'll see you here again very soon ...


Downton Abbey News :)

My friend Kristen shared this link with me: 

"Downton Abbey Cast Film Christmas Special at Scottish Castle"

There are just so many nice words in that title. And it does my heart such good to know the world of Downton is "living and breathing" somewhere at this very moment. Season three sure is a ways away ... but we can be patient, right?


Our January will be all the brighter for it.


DA Xmas 5

Hope you're all having  a nice day!

Interesting Budget Article ...

Good Morning!

Well, I'm sitting here with my very first cup of coffee, enjoying this article I found at NBC News this morning: "1940s Housewife Showed How to Tame High Grocery Prices." Thought I might pass it on ... really great "food for thought!"

See you in  a bit!


p.s. What are some of your favorite frugal living resources? (Second cup of coffee's kicking in ...)


John James Audubon's Birthday ...

I just found out it's today!

The Massachusetts Audubon Society was asking its members to report in on chipmunk activity, and since we just spotted our first chipmunk of the year, I jumped into the conversation ... and that's when I noticed another member wishing the late Mr. Audubon "best birthday wishes."


Well! As long-time members of the MAS (and life-long nature lovers), I consider this a great day to celebrate in some small way or another!

First, we could learn more about the man himself, and the society set up in his name. There are things to read online, but I also found a 55-minute documentary called, John James Audubon: Drawn by Nature. It is available on Netflix as "streaming" video, which means you can watch it immediately if you subscribe to that service (which we do). This will be something nice to watch with the kids after dinner!

There are (of course) a few books at the library I'd like to check out ...

The Boy Who Drew Birds: A Story of John James Audubon

John Audubon: Young Naturalist

John James Audubon's Journal of 1826: The Voyage to the Birds of America


And naturally, we took extra-special care to fill all our birdfeeders today!

Now, speaking of special days that are nature and history related ... tomorrow is Arbor Day ... and I have a very special post planned for that. :)

Hope you're all having a great day!


Miniseries/Masterpiece Monday

Titanic logo

This is kind of a "Masterpiece Monday" post, and yet not exactly ... because I didn't actually watch Masterpiece last night! But perhaps some of my readers did, and I do plan to do so later this week when it reruns on another PBS station. If you watched The Mystery of Edwin Drood, I'd love to hear what you thought of it. It's another Dickens tale - his last I believe - and from what I read it sounded (not surprisingly) a bit dark ... I have to say, I don't think Dickens is winning a lot of Downton Abbey fans, lol! Birdsong, beginning next weeked, looks a little more promising.

Speaking of Downton Abbey, though ... FIRST of all ... did you all hear the rumor that Maggie Smith is leaving DA? I'm hoping it's just a contract dispute, but time will tell. The show just would not be the same without her.

Also speaking of DA ... did anyone watch Julian Fellowes' Titanic this weekend? We did - Bill and I, that is - and we really enjoyed it. I thought it was well done, and, for a five-hour production, quite absorbing. I found a couple of the situations somewhat far-fetched, and I wish there had been more to the end ... maybe a glimpse into the lives of the survivors ... but overall I thought the storytelling was solid. This was the first time I've watched anything related to the Titanic tragedy - I have always found it all so disturbing - but now I am eager to learn more. If anyone has any books or films to suggest I'm all ears!

I'll add more thoughts in the comments as I can later today ... right now I have some kiddoes to supervise. :)

Have a great Monday, my friends!


Friday Fun: Sleepy Hollow by way of Lego

Inspired by his favorite American folktale, Crackerjack created a Lego scene depicting the mysterious "demise" of Ichabod Crane ...

Here we have the final, climactic scene when Ichabod almost makes it safely across the old Sleepy Hollow bridge ...


Ichabod is wearing his signature tricorn hat, while his old horse Gunpowder flees the scene  ...


(Note the river reeds, lily pads and small splashes of water. :))


Alas, the tireless Headless Horseman never misses his mark ...

Crackerjack first became enamored with this tale watching the old Disney movie - remember the one narrated by Bing Crosby? - and then years later we purchased a beautiful picture book version illustrated by Will Moses. 


A timeless, spine-tingling adventure!

Cranford ~ What did you think?

Oh my goodness. I was all set to write a glowing review of Cranford (the new MasterpieceCranford1_2 miniseries that began airing last night), because I liked it - I really, really liked it. Everything about it was just to my taste - quirky and interesting characters, gorgeous settings, absorbing plot - but OH, those final ten minutes!!

(If you haven't yet seen Cranford, and plan to, you might not want to read any further.)

Bill and I were completely stymied by those last two plot developments. How shocking and sad!! I can understand the death of Deborah (symbolic of the change coming to Cranford) - though I was certain she had just fainted - but little Walter?? Oh, was that necessary? I suppose the death of a child was all too common a reality in the mid-1800s in England (or wherever you lived). But still. I kind of felt like the rug had been pulled out from beneath me!

Heartbreaking as the episode's conclusion was though, I am determined to continue with Cranford and savor the story as it unfolds over the next two installments. Programs like this are so few and far between, and I can only watch Pride & Prejudice so many times. ;)

One thing I love about British film and television, is how all those familiar faces pop up as you're watching. Just for fun, here's a rundown of who showed up in Cranford ...

From Harry Potter:

  • Dumbledore (Michael Gambon)
  • Delores Umbridge (Imelda Staunton)

From Pride & Prejudice (BBC version):

  • Lydia Bennett (Julia Salwaha)

From Pride & Prejudice (2005 version):

  • Mr. Bingley (Simon Woods)
  • Lady Catherine de Bourgh (Judi Dench)
  • Charlotte Lucas (Claudie Blackly)

From Sense & Sensibility:

  • John Willoughby (Greg Wise)
  • Charlotte Jennings Palmer (Imelda Staunton)

By the way, if you missed last night's episode, you can see it online here. (Or you will be able to very soon.) I'm also thinking about ordering Elizabeth Gaskell's book - though my nightstand is currently quite full. Has anyone read it? Is it true to the miniseries? (Usually that question is asked in reverse!) And if you are watching the Masterpiece production, what did you think?

Well, I'm off now to get our Monday rolling ... have a great one, my friends!

Mitten Strings for God: Chapter Six (TV)


"In our house, eliminating television cleared a space for the things we really care about. In fact, I don't think it is an exaggeration to say that turning off the TV was the greatest single thing my husband and I have done to foster creativity, imaginative play and independent thinking in our children."

I must say, this chapter lined up rather neatly, because as it turns out, next week is National Turn off Your TV Week. Susan has a great post about it here, and she links to an interesting blog here.

This No-TV Week thing always gives me pause to consider ~ Could we live without TV? Would we want to? (It first came to my attention, ironically enough, on Arthur years ago.) We've never actually done it, though - turned the TV off entirely, as Ms. Kenison's family has done. I love that quote at the top of my post because I can only imagine how rich and lively their home life must be without the interference of the Tube. And that's how I kind of see TV in our life at this point. Mostly benign, mostly in the background. We are very selective/protective about what we turn on (for ourselves and or kids), and in the scope of family life, as long as TV remains a condiment and not the main meal, we'll be OK.

But, let me be frank. I LOVE the idea of no TV. Or I should say, I LOVE the idea of less TV. I have nothing but respect and admiration for people who have no interaction with media at all. But, call me a child of the 70s ~ I simply can't imagine having no access to TV at all. How would we watch our Patriots games in the fall? How would we watch the presidential debates? How would I watch Jane Austen on Masterpiece or John Adams on HBO?

And more to the point ~

How would I get supper on the table at night?

Here are my general feelings on this topic: I think we (meaning, my family) watch a fair amount of tv, but not too much. Bill and I watch one primetime series, Lost, and an occasional miniseries such as the aforementioned John Adams. We also watch a local newsmagazine, Chronicle, and the Martha show when we find time. (Yes, you read that right ladies, he watches Martha with me.) And then of course there are those Sox games and Pats games. :) At night, after the boys have gone to bed, mostly I like to read (and now knit), and ahem, blog. Bill likes to relax on the couch next to me, and he is in charge of the clicker ~ he pauses very kindly when I find I have something to say. ;)

The boys watch PBS shows (Fetch is a favorite) and a select few other kid shows like VeggieTales and Pokemon. Earlybird loves videos, especially the There Goes a ... series and he also enjoys How it's Made. Oh, yes, and Tiger Woods. He loves Tiger Woods. :)

(And while we're talking kids's shows, I must mention my personal favorite, which I would watch on my own if necessary ~ Little Bear. Is there a sweeter show? I think not.)

With the PBS shows an exception, we watch things we've Tivo'd so there is very little commercial viewing (if any).

I don't think we would ever go NO TV, but I do think we can stand to survey our viewing habits now and again. I have always said to the boys re their video game playing and television viewing that as long as we detect no difference in the amount of time they read or in the way they play and imagine, they may continue to watch and play (in the electronic sense) as they do. (To this I've also added, as long as they can still "be" (happily), outside - as long as they can connect easily with nature - then I'll know our viewing habits are still under control.)

So, right this very minute (5:52 p.m.) supper is underway, and where are my boys? Well, Bookworm is swinging, Earlybird is playing in the dirt and Crackerjack has strapped on a swashbuckling sword and announced fair warning to all ~ "I'm a pirate," says he.

So we're good. :)

Now, let me open the floor. I welcome any and all thoughts on this chapter, but I'd also like to to know if you plan to participate in the Turnoff next week. (And why or why not?)

And, just for fun, please tell me what SHOW you could not live without? :)

Thanks for joining me here. I hope you all have a good weekend!

"When it comes to TV, less is more."

Won and Lost


The National Geography Bee - by a homeschooler! Congratulations to Caitlin Snaring of Washington State for winning this year's competition! I read about her on, but it said nothing about her being home-educated. But you know ... I just had a hunch. ;) So I googled "homeschool news" and found a site which mentioned that Caitlin is in fact a homeschooler!

So I have to wonder why MSNBC didn't mention this rather, I think, pertinent fact. Is homeschooling so commonplace now - particularly in national competitions - that it doesn't bear mentioning anymore? Maybe so, but I think credit should be given where credit is due - and in this case, to Caitlin and her parents! :)

Anyway, way to go Caitlin! I recorded the Today Show on which she appeared this morning. The boys and I will sit down and watch the interview later today ... and then, I have a feeling, I will vigorously re-work our geography plan for next year.

p.s. The 2007 Scripps National Spelling Bee will be aired next week, May 30-31. We'll certainly be tuning in!



How are you feeling about LOST this morning? That was quite a show last night, wasn't it? If you haven't watched yet, please don't read on, as I am spilling some of the beans by wondering ...

  • Is that really it for Charlie? Why couldn't he have swum out that window?
  • Who was on Naomi's phone? Who is coming?
  • Was Ben telling the truth about anything?
  • Just who - or what - is Jacob?
  • Where's this "temple" the Others are heading for?
  • Was that really Walt? And if so, where's Michael?
  • How much do we love Hurley?
  • Whose funeral was it?
  • Will next season be about life off of the island (I hope not)?

Of course we've got loads of time to ponder all these mysteries and more. Nine months to be exact. I cannot believe ABC is making us wait until February to see more of Lost. I, for one, would gladly watch re-runs if it meant having Lost on September through May.

Well, folks, that's all the entertainment news for now. ;) Have a great day ~ I'm off to bake cupcakes!

Happy Monday: This and That!

SO much to discuss today, I'm just so excited. First, and most happily, today's the day for Jennifer's Loveliness of Gardens Fair! Jennifer is the perfect hostess for this fair. Her love of gardening is so sweet and contagious. Stop by and take time to smell the flowers here. :)

So what's this picture all about?


Well, a few things I got pretty jazzed about this weekend ...

First, in our Sunday paper this weekend was an ad (and a coupon!) for Michaels Arts & Crafts. Now there's nothing too extraordinary about that, BUT! Apparently when I wasn't paying attention, a whole new line of craft materials was introduced there - and not just any crafts, but MARTHA crafts! I cannot wait to get over there and check them out - I'll bet they are lovely! Seriously, I have never seen better craft ideas than in the pages of Martha Stewart's magazines, and to have the supplies available so readily just puts the icing on the cake. Can't you just imagine what her holiday crafts will be like this fall?

Now, in more Martha news, this week on the MARTHA television show, it is Scrapbooking Week. I haven't scrapbooked in years, but I still drool over all the supplies and slick magazines. I'll bet the shows will be fun to watch. I TiVo the Martha show every day, in hopes I'll get to sit down and watch it later at night (or on the weekends) - something I haven't done since Christmas, actually - but I will make a effort to carve out some mommy time to tune in later today.

Oh, and one more Martha thing! If you are a Martha fan like I am, she is now putting out a bi-monthly newsletter, called, fittingly, The Martha Stewart Newsletter. It's filled with personal notes, informal conversation, reviews and that monthly calendar like she used to have in her flagship magazine, Living, before people got snarky about it. I happened to enjoy that calendar. I liked seeing when Martha was, for instance, canning tomatoes and cleaning her screens. I'm nosy like that, but honestly, I loved the seasonal rhythm of it, and I loved the gentle reminders.

Oh, and the cake picture on the left is from the Boston Globe Sunday Magazine. The only thing I read in there is the food section, and this weekend they featured a banana cake. Not a banana bread, mind, but a CAKE. Crackerjack literally grabbed the page from my hand and said, "Mama, you have to make this and then you have to blog about it!" Does this boy know his mama or what? We must wait for our bananas to ripen, and when they do, we'll bake, and when we bake, I'll post. :)

A few more things! (Lol, you'd better grab yourself another cup of coffee, I'm on a roll.)


I had a nice conversation late last week with Theresa about the Feingold diet, and it re-energized my commitment to making it easier to follow. I did a huge Feingold-friendly food shopping trip this weekend (see above), and I'd like to post about what I bought and what I plan to make/serve with it all. This is not any kind of expert opinion - just (as usual) me thinking aloud. I have found that on our better weeks, when I am really organized and efficient, keeping EB on Feingold is not difficult at all, but I haven't been that organized in a while.

Starting this week I plan to do the 2-week diet diary - keeping track of what he eats and his behaviors through the day. Here's my clipboard with this week's chart:


I also got a package in the mail this Saturday - a book I ordered last week:


Can't wait to dig into it - improving habits is an area I really want to work on with my boys (and me!). The company that publishes this book, Simply Charlotte Mason, is one of the Homeschool Blog Awards providers, and they recently contacted me to offer one of their e-books! I had already ordered this spiral-bound edition of Laying Down the Rails: A Charlotte Mason Habits Handbook, so I will peruse their other listings eagerly this week!

The other thing I did late last week and over the weekend was to map out the remaining eight weeks in our academic year. I've been chomping at the bit to plan next year (I always get itchy at this time of year) but I reminded myself we still have plenty to get through before July 1st! (We break for July and August.) I looked through our ed. plans and all our curriculum and figured out what we still have on our plates. Then I divvied the work up over the next eight weeks (beginning today) and tweaked our daily schedule. It does not seem quite overwhelming, but we do need to get down to business - stat! Now, though, I'm free and clear to start planning out the 2007-2008 learning year! Bring on the catalogs!

OK, I've kept you all long enough. :) One final note - our weather is going to be gorgeous this week - sunny and very warm. I'm just betting the cherry tree will break into full fuschia blossom and then - then! - we might see the Baltimore orioles! (If the sparrows don't eat all the buds as they seemed to do last year, lol.)


Have a great week, everyone! I might be a little quieter than usual (she says after a mammoth post) as we delve into our newly tweaked (i.e. heavier) workload this week. See you soon!

Posts, Notes and Laundry

I'm working on so many posts right now it's nutty. There are so many things I want to talk about! New Year's Resolutions, How I Lesson Plan, Thoughts on Our Domestic Church, Middle Ages Activities, Our Mid-Year Review, Meal Planning and How We "Do" the Feingold Diet. And then there are all these pictures I want to upload to The Nature Corner ...

I was hoping to have one of these posts coherent enough this morning to roll with and yet they are all still sitting there as drafts, clunky and half-cooked ...

So! First thing I'm going to do - I am going to update the update to the alphabet meme. And then I am going to send a few emails (I think I have it working again) and then I am going to write out my weekend "to-do" list (see below for the rough draft).

Oh, and here's what my boys have in store for me this weekend:


Do they know me or what?! For my birthday they (and Daddy) gave me the original BBC Pride & Prejudice (2 discs!) and a $20 gift certificate to Barnes & Noble! So now I know what I am doing while I fold laundry this afternoon - drinking in hours worth of Jane Austen's brilliant story. Oh, and that wine was from dinner last night - today it will be tea. ;)

And what else is on my to-do list?

  • Finish Christmas thank you notes.
  • Fold laundry (bears repeating, there's just so much).
  • Make cards for Damee whose birthday is tomorrow.
  • Change all bedding (usually a Monday chore, but the beds are overdue).
  • Purchase 40 lbs. black oil birdseed and fill all the birdfeeders. (Not all 40 lbs. at once, mind you.)
  • Write out bills; do budget for week ahead.
  • Prepare weekly folder of lessons and activities for week ahead.
  • Clean out the van.
  • Cheer on the Patriots!

Oh, there's more to the list; there always is. But I'll stop there to keep it mildly realistic.

But let me ask you in closing, what would you buy with $20 at Barnes & Noble? I always end up buying things in the children's department - which is great, obviously, since as a homeschooling mum my stock and trade is children's books - but today, I want to pick something for me.

Hmmm ... but what should I go for - fiction, nonfiction, CD, DVD? A nature diary, a cookbook, a classic I've been meaning to read? (And by the way, Bookworm has a $10 gift card to spend there as well - he has his eye on Redwall, but he's open to suggestions, too!)

Have a great weekend, everyone!

P.S. Ack! My email is still down - I can receive, but can't seem to send out. Working on it!