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Tea @ Dawn's ~ Cheers to a New Year + 3 Giveaway Winners!


Hello my friends and Happy New Year! I hope your 2020 is off to a great start!

I'm here today to share a cup of New Year's tea with you all, and to announce the three winners of my latest planner giveaway!

So I'll just start by putting us all out of our suspense, shall I? :-)

The three readers whose names were drawn randomly for my giveaway are:


1. Mary Alice Phillips

2. Michelle M.

3. Van


Hooray! And congratulations, ladies! I will be in touch later this weekend to ask about cover choices and mailing details. :-)

Thanks to all who participated in my giveaway and for all the kind, cozy comments. You all shared so many wonderful and inspiring ideas for enjoying the winter season. I have made note of each idea and look forward to contemplating them all in my upcoming Deep Winter Tea series ...

Speaking of ...

Here's what I'm planning for our next series of seasonal Teas!

I'll be sharing a cup of wintry Tea here at the blog every other Sunday afternoon. No more Fridays I'm afraid, friends. I decided Fridays were just too "full," usually coming on the heels of a rather busy week, and it seemed I usually needed an extra day or two to finish my post! So Sundays it will be ...

Here is my proposed series schedule:







I'm still considering the themes for each Tea, so stay tuned on that! I'll most likely announce them on Instagram & Facebook early next week.

So I do hope you'll join me on these upcoming Sunday afternoons! I'll have the kettle on of course, and there will be something yummy to go along with our sweet, steaming brew. I will discuss a little of this and that ... wintry delights, homey thoughts, current crafts and children's books - plus of course, there will be planner peeks!

Speaking of ...

Here is how my own 2020 planner came out:


I was really taken with this golden "brocade" paper and decided it would make a very pretty planner cover! I love vintage florals as you all know, so this sprawling damask rose pattern really resonated with me, especially in light of my chosen "Word of the Year" which is ...

Bloom_Sharable (1)

This year I decided to use a word generator (thank you, DaySpring!) and I was very happy with my result. First of all, I liked that the site had me answer a series of questions before generating my word because it makes the results seem more authentic. Although at first glance I thought, "Huh, bloom? Well, haven't I already done that ... since here I am a soon-to-be 51 yr old married and happy mom of four?"

But then I looked up the meaning of the word, and considered how I might apply it to my new year ...

🌸 to mature into achievement of one's potential

🌸 to flourish in youthful beauty, freshness, or excellence

🌸 to shine out : GLOW 

🌸 to become more apparent or fully expressed

Now, I'm not so sure what I can do about the "youthful beauty" part lol, but I do try to take good care of my skin! And in fact, I plan to chat about "skin care regimes" in an upcoming post. :-)

As for the rest of it ... well, I really like the sound of all those words and phrases. They're all so lovely and encouraging and I think it all just might fit with my 2020 hopes and goals ...

Because I have some big plans this year and I'm going to need to be brave - I'll need to push myself a little and I'm not really a pusher! - but the time has come for me to try to bloom and, dare I say, flourish - a little. See, I was thinking ...

A flower only blooms when it's been nurtured and shown patience. It needs quiet time in the darkness, and it needs a little room to sink its roots. It enjoys the cozy and quiet ... and it's all very safe and comfortable. But eventually that tender seedling has to be brave enough to grow - to push through its earthly barrier - and seek LIGHT and therefore, Life.  

A flower in bloom is truly living its best life then, the life it was preparing itself for all along!

So I just really, really love that metaphor - cliche though it may be. And this year, I'm going to try very hard to live like that little plant ... to acknowledge my anxieties, but be brave, by drawing strength from my (well established) roots. I hope to break out of my comfort zone this year and stretch myself a little ...

But most of all, I hope to become more ... ME. The "me" I've kept planted in my heart since I was little ... the me I've perhaps left untended a little too long.

What I've done so far is to draw up a page in my bullet journal - not ready for sharing yet, but I will - with the word BLOOM in a center circle and then sections (or petals, if you will) of "passion and purpose" spread out all around it. On that little page I hope to iron out more concrete 2020 goals and incremental steps to take - and around that center circle I've written the words:

"Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished." Lao Tzu

And on the practical side of things - I do hope to actually grow a flower garden this year! I say this every year - THIS year I will grow FLOWERS! - and every year I find other things to do but grow flowers. (Or let's say, they find me.)

So this year gosh darn it - I WILL grow that flower garden. And maybe I'll learn another life lesson or two as I do.


Now, have you chosen a word for 2020 yet? I'd love to hear about it if you'd care to share!

Back to my planner now though ...


Here's a peek at my January title page ... set amongst some colorful, home learning paraphernalia. (Yes, we're back to business next week!)

I'm really quite happy with how my planner came out this year, and I will have a full tour for you all in an upcoming post.

In the meantime, here are a couple of New Year traditions I enjoy keeping each year, and first thing I do ...


I always make note of the first bird I see each year, and this becomes my personal "Bird of the Year." This year it was the bird shown above, huddling in the azalea bush outside my front window, awaiting his turn at the feeder ...

The White-Throated Sparrow!

And once again, my first reaction was less than impressed ...

"OH, a sparrow. How ... common."

But then I looked up the symbolism of the sparrow and boy, did that make me smile! Because according to folklore, Sparrow’s message is this ...

“We do not have to be the loudest voice in order to be heard.”

(I like that - a lot!)

Also according to folklore (legend/myth what have you),  the Sparrow symbolizes:


And that’s just a nice long list of worthy goals to weave into my 2020!
What was the first bird you spied this year? It's not to late if you haven't seen one (or noticed one) yet. Take a peek out your window right now! (And then come back here to let me know what you saw!)


Another favorite (personal) tradition, is beginning a new journal on New Year's Day, and I almost always include this pretty clipart on the very first page ...


I've been using my little bullet journals as the place for notes, lists and random clippings. Do you keep a journal as well And if so, where do you keep it?


Now, our New Year's Eve is usually quite calm - i.e. we stay home and go to bed early - but we do love a little celebrating on New Year's Day, itself! Over the years it has become a family tradition to have my folks and my brother over for a family luncheon, and this year our menu was as follows:

New Year's Day Citrus Punch

English Roast with Carrots, Potatoes and Thyme

Brown Rolls and Biscuits

Garlic Couscous

Roasted Butternut Squash

Eggnog Cake


I've linked the roast and cake recipes above but the punch is just something I made up. I used a large bottle of Cranberry-Blood Orange Juice Cocktail, plus some plain orange juice and a liter of Sprite. I added some sliced Cara Cara oranges for a festive touch!

A social media tradition I've come to treasure each year is the popular "Best Nine" or "Top Nine" grids. Here is how mine came out ...


As I said in my original Instagram post (thank you, TopNine!) I think this grid nicely sums up my social media self - because I'm all about my kids, my planners, and our special needs journey!

Clockwise from top left: Earlybird's first successful Target shopping trip, EB practicing phone skills with Nana and Papa, my filled-to-the-brim planner carts, a still from the video of EB's end-of-year awards ceremony, EB's first day EVER at school, EB and me on our way to (or more likely from) school, my planning-the-planners post-it note outline,  EB's well earned smile and in the center, yours truly surrounded by my dear children on my 50th birthday last year!


Now before I go I should make sure to mention the TEA in my very first picture! (This is a Tea post after all, lol.)

What I'm drinking today (or yesterday actually, when I first sat down to type up this post) is a plain old black decaf - what I had near at hand, in other words! I have a bit of a sinus thing going on right now - no fever, so not quite an infection knock on wood but a lot of pressure and a little bit of pain - and in addition to frequent steam showers and Sudafed, and the neti pot and twice-daily Emergen-C, I'm drinking a LOT of fluids and mostly a lot of hot tea.

(Would love your prayers/healing thoughts that this goes away soon ... some of you might remember I'm allergic to nearly all antibiotics! My fingers are tightly crossed I can fend this off with natural remedies.)

My tea snack shown on my plate is part of one of my near year's resolutions - or goals as I prefer to call them - a handful of blueberries and an orange. Trying to be better this year about my nutrition! Better fuel = better energy!

Also shown in that top photo, the corner of my homemade planner and - another New Year's tradition - this year's Mary Engelbreit Page-a-Day calendar! I honestly can't remember how long I've been using them, but I simply cannot do without this sweet little daily calendar. It's something I truly look forward to each and every day .... :-)


Something else I'm very much looking forward to ...



I'm going to see this on Sunday! And I can't hardly wait. I'm not sure anything can replace the 1994 version of this story in my heart - because that one is lovingly entwined with a memory of my dear maternal grandmother, with whom I first watched "our" Little Women brought to life. But the trailers I've seen for this most recent depiction look oh-so-amazing and the reviews have been out of this world!

Have you seen it yet? What have you seen most recently? Are there other things you're looking forward to on the big (or little) screen this year?

I am quite looking forward to an upcoming Masterpiece series, Sanditon, based on an unfinished final novel by Jane Austen and interpreted by screenwriter Andrew Davies (Pride and Prejudice, Little Dorrit, Les Miserables). It looks to be an 8-episode series, and begins on PBS on January 12th - so Happy Birthday to me! Another MP multi-episode series to start later this year, Miss Scarlet and the Duke, also looks amazing! See the trailer for the former here and the latter here.

I'm eager, too, for Dr. Dolittle later this month, starring one of my longtime favorites, Robert Downey Jr. (How I WISH he would make one more Sherlock Holmes movie!) And coming to Netflix at some point this year is a series I am SO excited for - The Bridgertons. It's a little known fact (at least outside certain circles) that I am a HUGE historical romance fan, and one of my favorite authors is Ms. Julia Quinn. Her eight-novel series about a fun and fabulous family living in regency England - The Bridgertons - is just wonderful and I am beyond thrilled to see it on screen!

Well my friends, I have kept you here far long enough, but I thank you, as always, for stopping by to read and "take tea." I hope you all have a lovely weekend ... and Congratulations again to Mary Alice, Michelle M and Van!

As I go, I will leave you with one of my favorite Alcott quotes:


I will see you here again very soon!


We're Celebrating Crackerjack's 16th Birthday!

Which means, I have a whole lotta pictures to share! But first, a little throwback, just to keep it all in perspective ...

Cj bday 2

Some of you may remember this wee fella from way back when I started blogging ... ten years ago (almost)? Well, as hard as it is for me to believe - let alone say - this little laddie is now a young man of SIXTEEN!

And let me tell you - though I know some of you know this - what a different experience it is planning a birthday party for a six year old as opposed to a 16 year old! There's far less planning and preparation involved - for example, there are no pinatas to hang or favor bags to fill, lol. Anyhoo, what we did this weekend was to have Jack invite friends over on Saturday to watch movies in the cool man cave ("cool," as in escaping the heat) and then on Sunday our family gathered for a simple cookout to celebrate our young man.

Jacks fam party 16

The Birthday Boy himself!

Jacks fam party 5

And the family gathered: my folks and Bill's folks and all our boys!

Jacks fam party 8

August means farm-fresh corn at every chance. Seriously, we eat it several times a week at this time of year! And baked beans are traditional New England fare in any season, but I love them at parties, and they are always a Little Bear favorite!

Jacks fam party 27

And here are some beautiful heirloom tomatoes from my friend Debbie's garden ... like jewels in the sun, so pretty in this bowl.

Jacks fam party 11

And voila the birthday party spread! Hot dogs, burgers, (sliced sweet onions, tomatoes and crispy bacon), sausages, potato salad, garden salad, corn on the cob, baked beans, chips-n-dip ... and crabbies (a family favorite)!

 Jacks fam party 7

The liquid refreshments and pretty glassware were set up on the kitchen jetty ... lemonade, sodas, iced tea, and wine. 

Jacks fam party 26 (1)

A tiny pumpkin from our garden! I love how it looks amongst all the summery-ness - a glimpse of things to come ...

Jacks fam party 14

Bill and I with our boys - a bit of Christmas card practice!

Jacks fam party 10 (1)

And here's our Bookworm, talking about his new TA position at BC this fall. He'll be quite the busy undergrad this year!

Jacks fam party 21

I just love this picture of Mum and I with Little Bear. I love that we laugh so much as a family ... we have a lot of fun. :) 

Jacks fam party 2

My brother Matt had to work all day but came up to the house after he got off of work a bit early. Earlybird was so thrilled he ran to the doors to let him in - with a big hug, natch. :)

(He brought some amazing grapes, by the way - he works at Trader Joe's, fyi - they are absolutely the sweetest I've ever had!)

Jacks fam party 3

My brother (aka Unc Matt) and the birthday boy.

Jacks fam party 26

Little Bear enjoying his bubba with his Papa. How sweet is this picture?

Jacks fam party 23

LB giving out hugs and fist bumps. This one was for his Great Aunt Anne.

Jacks fam party 19

What a happy day - love spending time with these folks! With my Dad and Bill's Godmother, Aunt Anne. 

Jacks friend party 1

For CJ and his friends, I made "monster cupcakes" - aka squash muffins with a simple powdered sugar glaze. They were a hit! (And LB was a bit obsessed with the candles.)

Jacks party 2

I am so grateful that CJ has such great friends and that they've been friends since they were little kids. Note the tiny guy on CJ's lap ... sneaking in where the action is. ;) He insisted on being at the table with the big boys. 

Jacks friends party 4

Here's CJ with his friend, Kurt - and a great new Disney t-shirt in his favorite color!

Jacks friends party 5

Crackerjack is a lot of things - kind, funny, thoughtful - but I especially love what a fantastic big brother he is. I think the greatest compliment anyone can be paid in life is to earn the love and trust and attachment of a young child. It says so much about a person when little ones feel safe and happy with them ... and as you can see from this picture, Little Bear and Crackerjack have a truly special bond. Fourteen years apart, but best buddies at heart. <3


Well I'll wrap up now, but I thank you for stopping by and sharing in our special day! I will be back to chat more another time - and I have pictures of my Day Designer to share (remember the daybook I bought at Target a while back?) ... I think I'm liking it!


Enjoy your evening, my friends and see you again soon!

A Cozy Day + New Calendars!

Vintage new year card

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

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

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

Jack and mama at mass

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

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


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

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

New years 1

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

New year 13

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

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

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

New year 3

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

New year 5

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

New year 4

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

New year 6 

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

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

New year 8

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

New year 20

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

New year 10 

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

New year 14

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

New year 15

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

New year 11

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

New year 17

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

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

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

Oz: The Great and Powerful

Oz 1

We finally saw this yesterday! I thought it was very good - an entertaining adventure with vivid scenery and some neat special effects. I have to say, I was not overly impressed with James Franco as Oz, but the three women playing the witches were fantastic. Though there was an awful lot of cleavage displayed for a kids' movie ... call me old fashioned, but I thought that was a bit over the top - literally. ;)

Have any of you seen "Oz" yet, and if so what did you think?

I will say however - this was definitely my last "big screen" movie until after the baby arrives. I don't know if it was the loud sound or the cramped seats but oh my, did he ever squirm and tumble throughout the two hour show!


Well, my friends, have yourselves a wonderful Wednesday ... see you here again sometime soon!


Friday Fun: Slowcooking, Cherries & Snoooooow

Happy Friday, my friends! I hope this post finds you well.

Thanks for all the encouragement and suggestions regarding a possible FCS video ... it seems I've got some thinking and planning to do! I also feel inspired to get cracking on my weekly planning sheet - *digging up old copies and seeing what's what* - and thanks for the feedback on feedburner ... so far it seems to be working pretty well. :)

I have just a few things to share with you today ...


First of all, I'll definitely be checking into this series of posts this weekend:

Slow Cooker Freezer Meals

Each part (there are four) features several family-friendly recipes for the crockpot - to be prepared ahead - ingredients only - and then frozen in plastic bags. You end up with all these flat frozen bags of ready-to-go crockpot meals - I LOVE this!! How great it would be to have several of these meals stocked for after the baby arrives? (Plus crockpot cooking is wonderful for the hot summer months.)

Speaking of slowcooking, Bill has me looking at this Healthy Slowcooker, to replace the old Rival we are currently using ... anyone have experience with this model? Or, may I ask, what kind of crockpot do you use and are you happy with it?


And today is the 22nd of February - on this day in the Catholic calendar we celebrate The Feast of the Chair of St. Peter, which takes on a bit more significance this year as we're soon to begin the process of electing a new pope. I'm starting a very simple conclave study with the younger boys today to continue throughout Lent - or until a new pope is chosen, hopefully before Easter! We're a bit intrigued by the buzz surrounding our own Boston Archbishop, Cardinal Sean O'Malley, so that will be a neat angle to follow ...

The 22nd is also George Washington's birthday and I love to make a cherry cobbler on this day. (Referencing, of course, Washington's alleged childhood indiscretion with a rather unfortunate cherry tree.) So a cobbler will be made later today using up a can of cherry pie filling I had in the pantry. :)


And yes, the snow is still coming - though with less impact than originally forecast. It will begin sometime tomorrow afternoon and last through late day Sunday ...

This is the updated snow map for our area:

Weather map 5

We'd be in the purple neck of the woods ...

Here's a short video preview from PBS featuring a glimpse of Call the Midwife and Mr. Selfridges.

 Sundays This Spring

I'm thrilled to learn CtM will be moving to the 8 p.m. time slot. That is music to this oft-exhausted, expectant mama's ears!

By the way, Sarah asked about catching up with CtM and as best I can tell, full episodes are no longer available on the pbs website. The first season is out on dvd now - perhaps it's available at a local library? Netflix has it as well.


Will you be watching the Oscars Sunday night? I have yet to see even one of the best picture nominees, but we do have Argo in our Netflix queue. And - Oscars aside - I'm itching to take the kids to see Oz: The Great and Powerful, which, going by the previews looks pretty fantastic. I'm hoping to pull together a field trip for opening day.


Well I think I've chewed on your ears long enough, lol! Just wanted to pop in and catch up and wish you all a very happy weekend. :)

I'll back to "check in" again soon ...


Our King Cake for Carnival ...

... aka Shrove Tuesday, or Fat Tuesday or just plain old Mardi Gras!

(It's also Abraham Lincoln's birthday, but that's a whole other post ...)

So here's the "King Cake" that Earlybird and I made today ...

Kings cake 1

A very simple chocolate cake drizzled with a simple sweet glaze and sprinkled with "royal" Mardi Gras colors: purple, gold and green ...

(I love how the colors reflect - perhaps not intentionally - the shades of spring's earliest flower, the crocus!)

Our cake will be served after a pancake supper this evening ... there will be stacks of pancakes, served with maple syrup and fresh whipped cream as well as a platter of roasted kielbasa and potatoes. This is our traditional Shrove Tuesday supper, which is served on the last night before Lent. (More on this holiday can be found here.)

After supper we'll bury our "Alleluia" (a wooden sign we display on Easter Sunday), and hang the grapevine Lenten cross ... and then, in honor of Mr. Lincoln, we'll watch National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets. A fantastic family movie with lots of adventure and great history trivia to boot. We plan to start it early so we can tune into the State of the Union Address at 9 p.m. :)

Have a grand evening, my friends ... see you here again very soon!


From My Advent Notebook (Week 2)

Vh advent angel{Notes for December 10th ~ the 16th}

        * At CCD and at home, read The Lady of Guadalupe in honor of Saint Juan Diego (feast day 12/9), and light our lovely OLoG candle.

* Wish our neighbors a Happy Hanukkah this week. :)

* Attend a homeschool field trip to see A Christmas Carol, a wonderful local musical. Enjoy a little "Dickens feast" for supper that night (roast beef, potatoes & roots, Yorkshire puddings, and mini mince pies). Listen to Inside Fezziwig's, a wonderful collection of merry olde Christmas music.

* Celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe (12/12) with a poinsettia ornament project, cinnamon-sugar tortilla stars served with fresh pineapple salsa, and soft chicken tacos for supper. This is also National Poinsettia Day so we'll read The Legend of the Poinsettia today.

* The lovely feast of light, St. Lucia Day (12/13) is a favorite in our home. We always have a scented (and candle-lit) breakfast bread on this morning - something homemade with citrus and cranberries or simply some refrigerated orange-cinnamon rolls if the day is busy. A few special books are placed about (Lucia and the Light, Christmas in Noisy Village, The Tomten) while our wee star boys will be on display ... and for supper there will be Swedish meatballs over noodles and hot (child-friendly) glogg!

* Earlybird's 11th birthday arrives! How can this little boy be 11 already? We'll have Daddy's "flying flapjacks" for breakfast, and he'll get to choose supper (most likely, Dominos pizza, lol). There will be cupcakes with friends mid-week and a family party over the weekend. His birthday theme this year is "The Winter Woods" :)

* If we can swing it, schedule-wise, we'll be seeing The Hobbit at our earliest convenience. The boys (and I) are ridiculously excited to see one of our favorite novels brought to life!

* And there's Gaudete Sunday to close out the week ~ which means we light the pink candle! A little party for my CCD class. Las Posadas begin on this night ... another favorite book to read aloud!


Our Tree, stage one (lights only so far) ... :)

Tree lights 1

Looking forward to a quiet, mostly-homey week ... Are we halfway to Christmas already?

Have a lovely Sunday, my friends!


All Hallows, All Saints and All Souls ...

Good Morning my friends! And Happy November!

I'd like to share a few pictures from our Halloween, if I may. It was a lovely day - and a dry, cool night. A real mix of clouds and sun (and clouds and moon) and that crisp October air. Very autumnal.

We always begin our holiday by making note of the sunrise ...

Halloween 1

We were out and about earlier in the day, and then after lunch it was all about finishing up lessons and getting ready for our night!

Usually, Bill does the pumpkins with the boys, but with the hurricane and all, it just did not get done. So it was up to me to oversee the project - and wield the knife! - though I told the boys I drew the line at handling pumpkin guts, lol.

Halloween 2

The cats were fascinated with the whole process. :)

Halloween 3

Here are Crackerjack's designs: one "funny face" and one "fearsome face."

Jack o lanterns 1


These two jacks were placed on our front steps, nestled into garden planters on either side of the front door.

Some treats of the healthy kind ...

Halloween 4

And otherwise. ;)

Halloween 5

Throughout the afternoon I tidied the house, decorated a Halloween cake, and baked a couple of carrot breads with Earlybird. I also put on my favorite Halloween movie of all time ~ Meet Me in St. Louis, which may seem a strange choice, but if you remember the Halloween scene ("Tootie's the most horrible! She's the bravest of them all!") you'll know why I love it. :) 

At last the sun began to set ...

Halloween 6

And Halloween night was upon us!

We live in a quiet, sprawling neighborhood so we get a LOT of trick-or-treaters. I'm always anxious over the amount of candy we've purchased - will it be enough? One year we nearly ran out, and I was rifling through the boys' snack stash to see what I could add to the mix!

And we are very fortunate to have wonderful friends gather with us each year for tricks-or-treats. It's fun to see how the kids have changed each year! The dads take the kids around the neighborhood while the moms stay at home to pass out candy (and chat).

Bill took this picture (with his phone) of our younger boys out and about:

Trick or treat 4

Earlybird was a soccer player - though he insisted he was "just Earlybird" - and Crackerjack was a skeleton.

Once the gang got back from trick-or-treating, we had cider and cake ... and then the candy-trading commenced!

Trick or treat 2

 Our group shrinks a bit each year as the older kids get busy with various activities - for instance, Bookworm was at class last night and it felt strange not to have him with us! But that's what happens as life moves on - things necessarily change. Of course, next year our ranks will grow again - we'll have a new little one joining us! I mentioned that last night and Crackerjack piped up:

"I can't wait to take the little papoose out trick or treating!"


Well, now Halloween's a thing of the past, and we have two lovely feast days to celebrate: All Saints today, and All Souls tomorrow. By necessity, I'm keeping plans simple this year ...

Today we'll clean and fill our feeders and spruce up the nature corner in honor of our family patron, Saint Francis. And those of us who can make it will attend morning Mass.

For tomorrow, I'll arrange our altar of remembrance - we have little baby food jars all clean and ready to turn into votives. And if the weather's good and we have time, we'll stop by the cemetery to pay respects and maybe do some grave rubbings. And perhaps I'll bake those donuts I usually bake on Halloween morning (but did not this year) and of course there will be "Mexican" for supper. :)

Simple joys, really - little ways to stay connected to our Faith and all its lovely traditions. I just love this time of year ... it feels like an ending of one season and the beginning of another. And so it is - we're nearing the start of the holiday season as well as a new liturgical year ... and of course, the natural year is winding down swiftly as well.

Well my friends, I'll be off. I hope this week's been kind to you, and I wish you all a good day ...

See you here again very soon!


May the Fourth be with You!

Happy Star Wars Day, my friends!

Well, it's no secret we're big Star Wars fans here (we have three boys, it was a pretty sure bet), but somehow I forgot about this neat "holiday!" (File-folder failure, lol.) Now, if I had remembered, and planned ahead, I would have made (or made Bill make) these pancakes. As it is, I have the younger two dressed in Star Wars shirts, and Bookworm found this Clone Wars Season 5 preview online. (Note: I haven't watched it myself, so it might not be "safe viewing" for younger children.) Another thought ... we might watch Star Wars tonight with the boys. One of the six movies anyway. What's your favorite of the Star Wars movies? I'd have to say mine The Empire Strikes Back. I liked that one even better than the first!

And while I'm here, and since it's Friday, how about a quick "Friday Felines?"

Archie in school tote

This is Archie's new favorite hang out - inside Crackerjack's school tote.

(As soon as got the picture, I disentangled the bag handles from his neck!)

I am also working on a file folder post follow-up, because there have been some great comments and questions left for me! I will do my best to get that up as soon as possible. If not later today (which is looking pretty busy at the moment) then certainly sometime this weekend.

Oh! And while I think of it ... our Bookworm will be taking the SAT exam tomorrow, and I would love for you to think of him and remember him in your prayers. He's been working very hard to prepare, and he's quite excited! I'm excited too - though I'm a little overwhelmed to think my firstborn is at this stage of life! - but I know he'll do his best. 

Thank you so much everyone - for your visit, for your support and encouragement. I hope you all have a Fantastic Friday! 

See you here again very soon ...


Masterpiece Monday (& OUaT)

Masterpiece logo

Well, we here in the Boston markets did not see MT last night - on any of our PBS stations - so I don't have much to discuss on that front ...

And though I did watch Once Upon a Time last night with Bill and the older boys, I must admit I was rather immersed in (i.e. distracted by) a current project, and only paying half-attention ... so I'd love a recap if someone can share! I know this episode featured the "Mad Hatter," and the kidnapping of Emma and Mary Margaret, but I'm wondering what his story means to the overall plot. Despite his "madness" he seemed a bit more "aware" (re ~ the curse, etc.) than other Storybrooke characters.

So it was a slow television weekend for me, but did you watch anything good? And have you been to see The Hunger Games? I'm very curous about that film (enjoyed the books very much) as there's much buzz about the PG-13 rating. (Bookworm has read the books, but not Crackerjack - they're a bit too dark for him just yet.) I'm wondering just how graphic the movie gets.

But here's some good news ... there's only one more week till Masterpiece resumes with all new programming! First up, Great Expectations ...


 You can see a preview here ...

I think it looks amazing and I'm sure we'll have much to discuss!

Well, have a great Monday, my friends ... hope your week gets off to a good start. I'll see you back here again sometime soon!


Sunday Evening Chit-Chat

(A little bit of this and that.)

Just popping on quickly to remind you that I'll be hosting "Masterpiece Monday" here tomorrow, so if you'd like to join us, be sure to tune in to "The Old Curiosity Shop" tonight and then come on back in the morning to chat.


Also, while I'm here (and before supper comes out of the oven), I wanted to talk briefly about next week. There's lots coming up!

KGdaffodilFirst off, we have Leap Year on Wednesday, which is always kind of neat. (For the record, this is a very cute movie - and the scenery is gorgeous!)

Then March comes in (perhaps like a lion?) on Thursday.

Thursday also brings the Feast of St. David of Wales. We always mark this day with special food and dragon stories. (A red dragon is the symbol of Wales.)

Friday is Dr. Seuss Day (also known as Read Across America Day), and if we could, we'd go see The Lorax, but instead (and in true spirit of the day) we'll read the book. What is your favorite Dr. Seuss book? I'd have to choose Green Eggs and Ham - it happens to be the first book I ever read!

And speaking of green eggs and ham, I'd like to make a spinach and ham quiche for Friday (aka green eggs and ham!) but as it's Friday (and Fridays are meatless for us during Lent) I'll probably serve that dish on Thursday instead. Then I'll switch the leek-and-potato soup (for St. David's Day) to Friday. That will taste nice with grilled cheese. :)


Other baking plans this week include making refrigerator bran muffins and homemade pretzels. Crafting plans include working on those Lenten banners I mentioned in this post, and we'll make the first panel of our "stained glass" doorway cross. (One panel for each Sunday through Easter.)

Learning plans include reading this book for Book Group on Friday (my turn to lead!) and kicking off a four-month, four-elements study ...

March = air

April = water

May = earth

June = fire

We'll explore the way the elements affect our everyday life, the world around us and even how they are part of our Faith. I'm really looking forward to it. :)


Oh, and one more quick thing! One of our Lenten goals this year is to spend more of our family time doing things together other than just watching TV. So last night we sat around the table and played a really wonderful game, Around the World: The Ultimate Global Board Game. It was so fun and quite educational! Some of the questions were ridiculously easy but they only illustrated the point that information we take for granted other people might not know as readily. Certainly we were stumped on many questions that focused on lands and cultures unfamiliar to us ... it was a great eye-opening exercise!


Well, now I will wrap up and bid you all a good night. I hope you've had a nice weekend and feel ready to start a new week! I'll see you all again soon ... and remember, if you watch Masterpiece Theater tonight, do stop by sometime tomorrow - I'll do my best to have the chat post up as early as possible.

Thanks for stopping by, my friends ... Good Night, and God Bless!


Family Films and Friday Food

But no felines yet ... I still have to pull that post together (perhaps I'll do a 'Saturday Scamps?'), but I was thinking about movies today and I thought I'd share what we've been viewing lately. (And I'd love to hear what you and/or your kids have been enjoying - we don't watch much TV, but we do love movies! And we always appreciate suggestions. :))

First of all, the Netflix movie we just returned was Kung Fu Panda 2. The older boys and I saw that in the theater last year and we all agreed we liked even better than the first. I'm not much of a Jack Black fan - we couldn't even finish Gulliver's Travels - but he has the perfect voice for Po. The movie may be a bit dark and sad for young children (or sensitive kids like my EB) but we found it poignant, humorous and uplifting.

Now lately we've been watching The Fantastic Mr. Fox on quiet afternoons. For some reason this movie (which we love anyways) brought us much comfort while we recovered from the virus. Earlybird especially loves this movie. My parents gave the boys a portable dvd player which has come in very handy ~ we set it up in the corner of the sitting room. I'd start it up as the day grew dark and before long I'd have three boys gathered 'round to watch with me.

This picture was taken the day Bookworm got sick - Crackerjack was in recovery, EB was still a-ok, and (unbeknownst to me at the time) I was just hours away from my turn.

Afternoon matinee

Now other movies the older boys have watched recently and enjoyed:

Iron Man (1 and 2) ... a bit off-color in a few parts, and of course, there was violence (it's a superhero movie after all) but I allowed my 12 year-old to see both films. (They are both rated PG-13.) Both CJ and BW loved these movies. They are part of the "Avengers" series which also includes Captain America and Thor. (Those were both awesome, too.)

The Goonies ... which the boys received as a Christmas present from their Aunt Ami. :) We watched it one night a couple of weeks ago, and wow, did it take me back! I had forgotten most of the movie so it was kind of new for me again. (Maybe that's an upside of getting older, lol?) There was some colorful and suggestive language but nothing too bad. A little violent and gross at times ... (and come to think of it, this was the night CJ got sick!) ... but you know that kind of humor appeals to kids - especially boys - very much. ;)

Bill and I have been watching old James Bond films now and then. He really loves these movies, so the boys and I gave him a couple of boxed sets for Christmas. I particularly like the older ones, because I love seeing the 60s clothes and settings (though I have to laugh at the chauvenistic attitudes!). And they're really fun to watch together because we both grew up watching Bond. :)

We also purchased Breaking Dawn, Part I, which is part of the Twilight Saga. I loved the books and I find the movies - while certainly not great filmmaking - fun to watch. We haven't seen BD yet - the one film we missed in the theater - so it will be neat to see it for the first time this weekend. (This is a movie for Bill and myself - not the boys.)

Speaking of filmmaking, I have to show you my little Spielberg-in-the-making ...


Crackerjack loves making stop-motion Lego movies. He's working on a minifig version of "David and Goliath" at the moment.

(Gotta love the hat. What's a director without a great hat?)


Now, before I go, I have to just quickly mention that I've been working on my menu plan for next week (and corresponding market list) and I realized it's time to think about Lent! Actually, I thought it was neat that in every store flyer I perused, there was mention  - celebration, even! - of this upcoming liturgical season. I so love the anticipation, the feel of the season, I even cut out a few of the ads for my clippings journal ...

Lenten food planning 1

... because I'm silly like that. ;)

So I have several meatless Fridays to plan for ... so I'm brainstorming on that (looking back at this post which was so very helpful thanks to many readers' suggestions). There are other food "matters" to plan for in Lent - feast days (for example, Sts. Patrick and Joseph) and special baked goods (like homemade pretzels and hot cross buns). So I'm sure you'll hear more from me on all that sooner or later. I'm pulling together our "Lent plan" this weekend - that was supposed to happen last weekend, but you all know how that went ...


I've kept you all here long enough, so I'll wrap up and say good night. I hope you all have a very nice weekend - stay safe and healthy! 

And I'll see you here again very soon ...


Afternoon at the Cinema

Dear readers, today I took a bunch of boys - some mine, some a friend's - to see Sherlock2 Sherlock Holmes 2: A Game of Shadows ... and oh my goodness, was it fantastic! We've been so eager to see it, as Bookworm is a big Sherlock Holmes buff, and we enjoyed the first SH movie so much. I hadn't followed the buzz on this film (i.e. reviews and such) so I wasn't sure what to expect ... but not only did we truly enjoy it, we liked it even better than the original!

Regarding the PG-13 rating ~ our Crackerjack is 12, but he's fairly mature, so this movie was "ok" for him. It was violent - there is a lot of fighting, a lot of things blowing up - but there really wasn't anything inappopriate (which is usually what worries me more). 

Now, on the homefront - Bill and I are still loving Downton Abbey - we've seen the first two episodes so far and have five more to go. (Season two, as I understand it, begins a week from this Sunday.) It's one of those shows that has all "the right stuff" if you know what I mean - a compelling story, great characters (and acting), a wonderful setting and scenery ... the kind of show that leaves you chomping at the bit for more!

Also ... next in our Netflix queue is Rango - something for the kids, but fun for the grown-ups too. :D


Well, friends, I hope you all had a nice Thursday ... have a good night and I'll see you all again sometime soon!

A Few Friday Thoughts ...

First of all, Happy Weekend, my friends! Any special plans on the docket?

As I sip my coffee this morning (I'm on cup #2), I've got lots of thoughts tumbling around in my head ~ so here I am to share them with you all!


Our last soccer game of the year is tomorrow ~ and the weather should be terrific!

We must not forget to "Fall Back" bright dark and early Sunday morning ...  

Crackerjack has Book Group today; the kids read Thimble Summer this month. Next month will be Bud, Not Buddy - and since I'm leading the December discussion I'd best get reading! :)

Speaking of reading, I'm also working through Last Child in the Woods - our homeschool support group meeting this month will focus on this book. (A topic about which I feel quite strongly!)

I'm also having a haircut today - just a trim, but I'm well overdue!

We've been watching that new show "Once Upon a Time." It's pretty interesting, and the boys are enjoying it. Bill and I also checked out "Grimm" but that's definitely a grown-ups only show. 

What's the next movie in your Netflix queue? Ours is Thor - Bill and I will preview it and then see if it's OK for 12 yo Crackerjack to watch (it's rated PG-13). (If you've seen it, I'd love your opinion!)

As for going TO the movies, I'm looking forward to seeing Breaking Dawn, pt. 1 later this month (date night with Bill!) and the boys are eager to see Sherlock Holmes 2, coming out in December.

In planning news, think I have a new weekly planning sheet "prototype" in the works! I'm tinkering with it and trying it out with next week's folder. I'll keep  you all posted!

We simply MUST get those spring bulbs in the ground this weekend! That ground won't stay "diggable" much longer ...

Bill's taking some time off next week so he can get the flooring done in the dining room. (It's the same wood we used in the sitting/learning room.) Think he can get it done by Thanksgiving? Let's hope so!

As for tonight's supper menu? Grilled turkey burgers, cornbread stuffing, maple carrots & parsnips, and cranberry sauce. You all must think we eat nothing but turkey burgers, lol - but honestly, we love them. And it's supposed to be a nice day, so we'll take one more grill if we can!

And looking ahead to next Friday ...

Martinmas, or, the Feast of St. Martin, will be here! The legend behind this saint is lovely, especially for this time of year. As per tradition, I'll bake horseshoe cookies and we'll place our lanterns in the window, to spread light against the darkening sky. (Ours will be fairly humble, but here are some pretty "lanterns" that would make beautiful holiday centerpieces.) Despite a predicted warm spell ("St. Martin's or Indian Summer"), I'll have new pajamas for each of the boys - a symbol of warmth and caring in the face of a coming winter. We'll also spend the week filling a box with donations for our parish food drive.  


Well, my boys are up now, and breakfast requests are being made, so I'd best be off. (My breakfast? Well, there's COFFEE ... and then, toasted tuscan bread with just a bit of butter - delicious!)

I hope you all have a GREAT Friday, dear readers ...

Take care, and I will see you all again very soon.


Grateful Hearts!


First of all, thank you SO much for all the thoughtful comments, blessings and virtual hugs left after yesterday's post! You all made both Bookworm and me smile AND feel lots better. He's heard from many different people, both online and off, that it's quite common to faint when giving blood ...

"Next time we'll take the proper precautions!" I told him. He looked at me, one eyebrow raised, as if to say, "Next time?"

So I took Penny's terrific suggestion to heart today ... and just before we ran out to Bowling Club, I whipped up a batch of "gratitude" cupcakes. (See above, see below.)


(Pre-frosting, just baked.)

It's true - I do bake as a form of stress relief, lol! But since we were on a short schedule today, I used a favorite box mix and my own vanilla frosting. (I am so trying the coffee cake in that link!) I happened to have some little Valentine marshmallows on hand, and they lent just the right to touch. :)

And speaking of hearts ... what are you all planning for St. Valentine's? I can hardly believe it's just three days away! For all the planning I do (and you all know, it's a lot) I'm caught completely off guard this year! Well, I knew it was coming ... I just kept thinking I'd think about it later, lol.

Most likely we'll have a nice family supper Monday night (maybe steak and potatoes?) but I think we will also do a brunch with my folks on Sunday after Mass. Hopefully my brother will be able to come too. Other than that, I just don't know. The boys always like to watch this old favorite, and I may wrangle Bill into watching "Love Actually" with me (the ultimate romantic comedy - it even says so on the box!). Honestly, he likes the movie as much as I do, so I don't think I'll have to do too much wrangling. ;)

Well, thank you again everyone - for the comments, and the caring and concern. And thanks, as always, for stopping by. I wish you all a nice Friday night ... and I will see you all again sometime soon!

Last night was Greek Mythology Night ...

... and it was so much fun!


Once a month our homeschool support group holds an 11-15 year old "Activity Night." We've been participating for several years now and it's something my boys really look forward to. The gist of it is, one family volunteers to "host" a month and organize the night's activities. Most months it's as simple as getting the kids together for pizza and a dvd at someone's home, but we've also gone out to the movies, visited a corn maze, held a Yankee Swap, and spent an evening at the mini golf course. It's always a fun night - for the kids as well as the mums (or dads as the case may be)!

Our family hosted this month's gathering, and we decided to go with the theme, "Greek Mythology Night." Our inspiration was this movie, this game and my boys' long-held fascination with ancient civilizations and mythology.

I started setting things up early Friday afternoon; this was the buffet table in its early stages:


Earlybird insisted the chip bags be part of the picture, lol. And no, chips are not necessarily "Greek" - not as far as I know - but these are 11-15 year old kids we're talking about. Chips are always a must on Activity Night. ;)

For the table I used a light green tablecloth, tall ivory candles and a length of grapevine garland. On the windowsill above, I lined up the Percy Jackson books as well as our beloved (and quite bedraggled) D'Aulaire Book of Greek Myths.

Just above the books the boys lined up some of their action figures ...


Dragons of all sorts, Cerberus (the three-headed dog), a (Lego) ogre, and several knights and gladiators rounded out the gallery.

So with the house more or less ready, and the food order called in, we waited to welcome our guests. (Six families in attendance this month, 12 kids in all.)

Our menu for the night:

Soda and water

Chips & salsa * Hummus & pita

Pizza (both regular and Greek)

Greek salad

Spinach pie (Spanakopita)

Greek Sweet Bread (Kouloura)

Assorted desserts & tea

After supper, the kids tried their hand at a Greek Mythology quiz one of the boys made up for the group. He awarded badges depending on quiz grade: mortal, demigod, oracle, minor god, Olympian god, fate.



It was a very challenging quiz!

After the quiz, the kids split into two teams and we had a little trivia game. I used the a Professor Noggin set of cards called "Creatures of Myth and Legend." The kids handled questions on everything from unicorns to phoenixes to leprechauns to golems! There was much laughter and not just a little competitive spirit. ;)

After the games, the desserts were spread out, plates were filled up and the kids settled down to watch the night's movie. The mom's settled in to drink tea and chat. :)

(Now, I don't know what setting I had my camera on, but all the pictures I took last night came out with an awful yellow hue. I'm still going to share them - just wanted to prepare you, lol! I promise, the food tasted much better than it looks in my pictures!)

And all these lovely treats were made by my friends ...


Holly's delicious Greek sweet bread, or "kouloura."


Beth's festive "Greek alphabet" cupcakes.


Yasmina's yummy vanilla twist cookies.


Laura's sweet, crunchy raspberry crumb bars.


And finally, Kim's soft and buttery "kourabiethes."

Dear readers, this night was such fun - one we'll remember always. And it was a late one too! - we said our goodbyes around 11:00! Needless to say, this was a long lazy morning ... and no cooking! We had plenty of delicious leftovers to enjoy. :)

Next month will be another movie night - February's pick is How to Train Your Dragon ... I wonder if there's such a thing as "Viking" cookies?

Well, thanks so much for stopping by today! I hope your weekend is going well. Take care of yourselves and have a good night ... I'll see you all again sometime soon.


Fire in the Sky


Ok, so I've been going a little overboard on the sunrise/sunset pictures lately, but there's just something SO spectacular about the "crepuscular" sky in Winter!

What drew my attention to the blazing dawn this morning, as I sat here with my coffee, watching "Wild Kratts" with my Earlybird, was EB himself ...

"Fire! Fire! It's on FIRE, Mama!!"

He yelled, as he pointed through the sliding doors that lead onto the deck.

Having been here before, I knew he was most likely referring to the sky and not a real neighborhood emergency, lol. I took another sip of coffee before grabbing my camera and snapping a few shots ...

... including some of the gigantic icicles hanging off the back of our house!


It's like we live in an ice castle (or maybe cottage) these days!

This would be a great weekend to A. go sledding and/or play in the snow, B. make hot chocolate and popcorn, and C. watch these movies while munching on said apres-snow treats.

In the midst of all this snow and ice, Spring feels sooo far away ... but we're due for a little January thaw around this time of the month. A little melting before the next storm moves in would be nice ... but looking at the forecast for next week, I don't think we should get our hopes up!

Well, whatever your weather and whatever your plans, I wish you all a Happy Weekend!  

How to Train Your Dragon: It's a Hit!

How to train your dragon 

Have you seen this yet?

The boys and I went with some friends yesterday and I can honestly say I ADORED this movie. It was fun, funny, exciting, touching, and truly enjoyable from start to finish. Visually it was amazing and we didn't even see it in 3D (my stomach can't handle 3D movies!). The kids all loved it and my friend Lisa and I were grinning from ear to ear and wiping tears from our cheeks as we left. I HIGHLY recommend this movie for families - the action might be a bit much for younger children but otherwise it's suitable for all ages. (It's rated PG for sequences of intense action and some scary images, and brief mild language.)

And by the way, my boys have enjoyed the book series this movie is based on ... 

How to Train Your Dragon


How to Be a Pirate

How to Speak Dragonese

There are several more books in the series but these are the few the boys have read so far. Our library has lots of copies, so I bet yours does too. :)

Have a great Thursday, everyone!