Hello my friends, and Happy Monday Tuesday! I'm popping in today to share some Mitten Strings for God book study scheduling news, as well as a few other bits and bobs. :) I had meant to do this over the weekend, but alas ... life! And in particular, special needs parenting life. I won't get into the details of all that right now, but if I may ask for your prayers/good thoughts for Earlybird, who's having a rough time at the moment, I'd be sincerely grateful. ❤
But on with the good stuff! First I'd like to share this quote from our next chapter in MSfG, "One-on-One Time" ...
That is Little Bear of course, but the picture's a couple of years old. (It's weird that I can say that about his pictures now. Wasn't he JUST a couple of years old himself?!) It was taken during a woodsy winter solstice walk, and technically, it wasn't a "one-on-one" outing - because Bill was there, too! But I feel like this kind of picture represents the quiet times I spend connecting with LB apart from the bustle of everyday life. For this outing, we had left the noise and demands of the household behind us for a bit and it was a wonderful thing - to just focus on LB and his dear developing personality, to watch his funny expressions and listen to his very interesting thoughts. Young children have such a wonderful perspective on life, don't you think? And that's not to say I don't enjoy time spent with each of my boys, but I find myself alone with Little Bear most often these days. Spending one-on-one time definitely comes with more conscious effort as the kids grow older ... they get busy, and seem less enthralled with what their parents might have to say ... but more thoughts on all this at our next MSfG Tea!
And speaking of! Our next Mitten Strings for God study/tea will take place on Friday, February 16th. It's a bit later than I originally proposed, but I am trying to be very honest with myself about my free time - eg. how much I do and don't have! (Not nearly as much as I'd like but that's just the season of life that I'm in!) So please join me a week from this Friday for a wee chat and a winter's tea here at the blog. Let's talk about chapter 12, and the importance of making time for each of our children - while appreciating each of them for who they are. (As the mother of four sons I can honestly say that children are all just SO different, even same gender siblings raised in the very same way!)
Now, this might be a tricky chapter for me, because I don't think we (as in, Bill and I) do exceptionally well with this concept. As homeschoolers I think there's a bit of the feeling that "well, we spend tons of time together, anyway!" And special needs parenting comes into this, too - the demands it places on family life and the effects it has on maintaining balance - not to mention, sibling relationships. So I have some deep reading and thinking to do ...
As always, I'll be very eager to hear all of your thoughts on this, too! I invite you to send me those thoughts (with or without photo) or just chime in at the post itself. All are welcome to join this ongoing book study! (And at this rate we'll be talking about Mitten Strings all year!)
Now, while I'm here, I thought I'd share some photos from the past couple of weeks, beginning with Little Bear's first visit to the Lego Store ...
Can you even believe how big he's getting? Granted, we're all crouched down around him, but he's truly getting quite tall. And the way he's talking has changed, you know? Even the way he walks is different now. It's a little heartbreaking how quickly time flies when our children are small ...
Well, about those Legos ...
Last fall, Little Bear - already a huge Duplo fan - discovered the extra-special magic of building with REAL Legos. Like the ones that BIG boys (and girls) build with. He's just four, so he's a bit young for such Lego building - they can be frustrating for little hands - but he's handling it pretty well and just loving all the creating and getting his biggest brothers (longtime Lego fans themselves) to help him out. I love this picture above because it's me with my Lego kids, big and small. And not to keep harping on the "time-flying" thing, but I swear those older boys were just the "little" Lego kids in my house. I certainly have the zillions of Legos to prove it - stashed in the attic AND the basement - not to mention the scars on my feet!
So since I'm now a bonafide 18 years + Lego Mom, I bought myself a minifig for my key ring ...
That's "Rey" from Star Wars, in case you were wondering! :)
Now, here are some books from my "Deep Winter" basket ...
Books that had gone MISSING because - well, I'm not sure why they went missing. It's a bit of a mystery! Usually I'm very careful about our seasonal book collections, but somehow last year our Deep Winter and Early Spring bin got divvied up and the books ended up here and there in our basement. *GASP* Thankfully though, I found them all on Candlemas morning (Feb. 2nd) just in the nick of time to celebrate Groundhog Day!
But to back up a day, here are some pics from our February 1st, also known as "St. Brigid's Day," a lovely feast we enjoy celebrating each year ...
Firstly, by making our own butter! (St. Brigid, is patroness of Ireland and dairymaids.) This is that ol' marble-and-cream-in-a-ball-jar trick - the one the children think is SO cool until they realize just how hard and how long they have to shake that dang jar! (Mama gets quite an arm-workout on Brigid's Day, let me tell you!) We like to serve the smidgen of butter we end up making with our bread rolls at supper. Daddy always makes sure to be suitably impressed!
We also like to make a Brigid's Cross for this feast, a craft I've only in recent years gotten the hang of ...
We started with "rushes" from our yard. (Actually, dried ornamental grass, but they work!) Because the material was rather stiff though, we soaked them in snowmelt for about an hour before attempting to weave our cross.
(And note I said, "cross," not "crosses." Clearly we gathered enough grass to make several crosses, but in truth I overestimated the interest and energy levels of my children and their mama!)
Here's the end result:
Now this was Brigid's Day morning ...
Muddy, melty and the ground still smattered with snow ...
Not to mention ice once the temperature dropped! February can be a fickle month in New England, but mostly it's just cold and snowy ... and cold.
And YET ...
Our hens have started laying again!! To me that's a sure sign spring is in the air ... or at least, in the amount of light we are getting every day. (Which has been increasing every day since the winter solstice.) I try to keep my senses very keen to the nuances of each season and I can tell you - the light is changing, and the bird song is different ... and yes, the air smells a little different on those drippy days. I feel certain that spring is stirring in the woods, underneath the half-frozen ground, deep inside those tough yet tender branches ...
Meanwhile, back inside ...
Archie is purrfectly content (sorry, had to) soaking up the afternoon sun, spending his winter days in a cozy basket. Even when said basket is not meant for him (but rather, my books) Archie considers it fair game.
But really, how could I move him?
So instead I set up at the kitchen table a little to the left ...
And worked in my homemade planner to iron out some lesson plans for the week ahead. The current week's seasonal theme? Winter citrus ... :)
My kitchen window yesterday morning. It was so bright and beautiful and the air was a balmy 40° ... I allowed myself to focus on these delightful daffs and those fresh eggs from my hens. It made washing dishes a little less of a chore and a bit more of a blessing ... I was home, I had my family to care for, and that sunshine was so good for my soul ...
Oh, and by the way - the first picture in this post is a shot of my writing desk, with a teacup candle I made for Candlemas. Very easy to do with a bit of beeswax and a simple wick ... I think I have a post that explains how this works somewhere here, hang on ...
Yup! Here it is. Same method, just a different vessel this year! :)
Well, my friends, I'd best be off now ... but I wish you all well and thank you, as always, for joining me! I hope you enjoyed these rambling thoughts and photos and I look forward to chatting once again in the not so distant future! For now though, enjoy these lingering winter days, and please take care of yourselves and your loved ones ...
I'll see you here again very soon!
Hello my friends, and Happy Weekend! Welcome to my first Autumn Tea - of 2017! Something I hope to make a semi-regular recurrence at my blog going forward. Every so often I'll pop in with a cup of tea and a few bits and bobs from our homeschool ... a way to catch up and celebrate the season at hand. :) I'm hesitant to set a schedule however, as tempting as it is because you know I LOVE schedules - but it's been a little bit hectic so far this school year. Time at the computer (nevermind time for tea itself!) has been a little on the low side. But two things that make my heart so very happy are blogging and savoring tea, so I'm determined to make more time for both in my life!
So since it's been a while since we talked tea ... what are you drinking these days? I myself am enjoying Allegro Black Decaf during the afternoon (sweetened with raw sugar and a splash of whole milk) but after supper, now that the nights are cooler and darker, I am turning to a cup of decaf Constant Comment. There's something about that orange-spice flavor just makes me think AUTUMN! I still savor a cup or two of coffee in the mornings but after that I limit my caffeine intake as best I can ...
Well, I started in on my tea-taking early today as the above photo was taken just now (Saturday around 11 a.m.) because I was ready to get down to the lesson planning and for that, I absolutely MUST have tea! But before we talk about autumn homeschooling ...
Grab yourself a cup of your favorite brew and make yourself comfortable, please ... I have lots to share! :)
Let's begin with a peek into my October planning. Below you see the cover page for this month's section in my homemade planner (also seen in the top photo) ...
And here is my planner stack on my kitchen counter - aka "mama's command center!"
Sitting below my homemade planner is my Day Designer, and below that is a project clipboard. (I always put something underneath my planners in case there are spills or marks on the counter.)
So after the cover page (which is made from that cute vintage paper I love!) I have the two-page monthly calendar spread ...
I added the stickers and a few quotations written with black ink and soft colored pencils ...
I love peppering my planners with seasonal poems and quotes!
Next page has my October menu calendar ...
I described how I fill out these menu calendars in this post, but I want to stress that this is an ideal - we don't always keep up with the "new" and "varied" meals I've envisioned. Often - especially when we're busy or I'm tired (the state of affairs more often than not around here!) - I fall back on tried and true, easy meals. (Homemade pizzas, baked pasta, grilled cheese and soup, burgers, meatloaf and roasted veg, etc.)
And next comes my monthly overview ...
I added the highlighted notes at the top of the page this month, and of course there are post-its! The green apples reflect our October homeschooling themes and topics. I try to review this page every weekend to see where we're at and what tasks and activities can be scheduled in the week ahead. Note: "October Goals" became a place to write down upcoming movies, tv shows and books.
A closer peek ...
And here is last week's spread!
Next week I will do a WHOLE post on how I'm using this weekly spread, but in the interest of time and word count, let me move on and show you ...
... next week's spread that I'm filling in now!
You might wonder how long it takes me to fill in all those spaces, but honestly, it's not very long. A lot of the information is already available (Days of Note, Seasonal Theme, Dinners, Weekly Rhythm) so I just write those things in first. The to-do list is also pretty quick to fill in - I look at last week's list as well as our weekend planner to see what tasks still need doing. I take another look at the monthly calendar to see what new things have been written in for the week (a new event to prepare for, for example) and I also look back at that monthly overview to see what To-Dos can be fit into this coming week.
Beside my homemade planner I have parked my Day Designer ...
Here's how it looked one day last week (when I first started working on this post!) ...
Ok, moving on from planning (let me know if you have any questions or would like me to follow up on anything!) ... I thought I'd share some random photos from the past week or so ...
First, because it was the week of the Full Harvest Moon, I had planned to make "Harvest Moon Muffins," (a quick bread recipe baked in muffin tins) but due to the aforementioned busy schedule/tired mama syndrome, I stopped short at "Harvest Moon Applesauce." 😉
I love using my grandmother's food press when making applesauce!
This was actually part of a little "science" experiment this week, making applesauce together! The boys helped me with counting and measuring before I loaded the apples, sugar and spice into the crockpot, and good GOLLY did it smell wonderful in our house all day! The apples were done cooking just before bedtime so I placed them in the fridge for the next day. After milling the apples into sauce we set up a little taste-test - our homemade applesauce vs. Stop 'N Shop brand! Could people tell which was which? (The answer, happily, was yes!)
Then last weekend I combed through the autumn book basket and pulled out titles that matched October's weekly themes ...
- Changing Leaves (10/2-10/8)
- Woodland Flora & Fauna (10/9-10/15)
- Pumpkins (10/16-10/22)
- Goodnight Garden/Halloween (10/23-10/29)
Speaking of books though, look at these lovely new titles that arrived in my mail last week!
A couple of picture books we usually get out of the library to celebrate the Full Harvest Moon, a new (and adorable) autumn board book for Little Bear (which might be my new favorite autumn book of all time!), a CD of scientific storytelling for Earlybird (which we once owned but now can't find!) and a new Waldorf-inspired crafting book for Mama. I'm positively swooning over that last one in particular - a bit of a splurge, but worth it!
Here's a gorgeous page from Hello, Harvest Moon ...
Did you happen to catch it last Thursday night?
We are surrounded by trees here so we have to wait a while before the full moon is visible ... but honestly, I think the way it peeks through the branches and illuminates the tree-line is quite magical! We let Little Bear stay up a bit late so he could watch the full moon rising ...
Now, back to books for a moment ... just look and see what arrived in my mailbox early last week!
A very thoughtful gift from my friend (and longtime reader), Penny! When Penny read that I was positively pining for this particular PW book, she offered me her own copy. (How nice is that?!) Naturally I said I would just LOVE to have it, so she popped in the mail and I received it a day later! Hooray for packages in the mail and hooray for the ever-speedy USPS ... but most of all, HOORAY for kind-hearted and generous friends! ❤
Ok, now we all know the Pioneer Woman loves boots ... well, I'm no cowgirl, and I haven't been on a horse since I was 12, but how do you like my new "riding" boots?
I have lusted after these "Westport," Maine-made boots for years ... and finally (with Bill's blessing of course), I made the splurge! I ordered them online because I don't get over to LL Bean's that often, but was very happy that not only do they FIT just as well as I'd hoped, they are truly quite comfortable. I thought they paired rather nicely with a knee-length denim skirt. :)
(This was me on my way to Sunday brunch with my college girlfriends!)
Speaking of shoes though ...
That's my Archie, flopped all over my favorite pair of summer sandals ... the ones I can't bear to put away for the season just yet. (Though truly, we've had plenty of summer-like days recently.) But as you can see, Archie's looking rather relaxed here, smug you might even say ... because while Oliver had to be at the vet's annual exam last week, Archie got to skip it completely. And all because he's just SO naughty when we bring him! Nothing like the sweetie-pie he is at home - at the vet he's all hissing, spitting and growing ... frankly, it's a bit of a horror show. The next attempt was going to include some serious sedation ... which makes me very nervous ... but fortunately our vet is wonderful and fully understood our apprehension. We decided he can wait till next year when he is due for his rabies shot. (My cats are indoor cats, but are still kept up on all their vaccinations.)
In other wildlife news ...
Howsabout this guy???
Isn't he magnificent? This is a Barred Owl, and we hear him (her?) very often in the woods behind our house - usually around dusk, but my older boys (night owls themselves) say they hear hooting late at night as well. Well, there I was at the sink starting supper last Friday night when Little Bear, looking out the kitchen nook window, exclaimed: "Mama, look! It's a snowy owl!!"
And this is what he saw ...
Isn't he GINORMOUS?? And clearly looking for his supper! I took this picture above with my cell phone, then went outside with my big camera to try for a better shot. The first owl picture was taken from beneath the tree just to the right of the feeders. The owl was staring at me - really peering at me with those gorgeous black eyes! - then his attention would be caught by something moving in the underbrush and he'd turn his head downward ...
Finally he'd had enough of me, my snapping camera and restless Little Bear and took off ...
He landed in the front yard where LB and I were joined by Bill and Earlybird and we watched the owl fly across the road and into the woods to the north. Absolutely amazing ...
(Crackerjack and Bookworm were out on a driving lesson and missed the whole thing!)
Ok, and now for some autumn homeschooling ... these pics are all from the past couple of weeks!
First came APPLES ...
Apple Week included apple snacks, an apple star surprise, drying apples, applesauce and an apple-y harvest wreath on the front door. :)
Also, I finally made use of that peg dolls book I showed you a couple of posts back, and look who Little Bear found in his learning room mailbox one morning!
I made this "autumn star fairy" from a wooden peg base, with a little sheep's wool for hair, an acorn cap for a hat and a silk leaf (plucked from a garland) as wings! I made the verse card with a blank postcard and watercolor paints. I just wrote the verse on the card once the paint had dried. I've been using these cards for little poems, prayers and verses this year and I love the effect of those pretty paints!
Next came SEEDS ...
Seeds week included seed gathering, sorting and observation, seed crafts, seed treats, seed experiments ... and very happy chipmunks!
And then on Michaelmas Day we had our first Nature Club meeting of the year ...
My younger boys all came along and we met with other homeschooling families to take a walk along a local trail. We found everything on our Nature Scavenger hunt checklist as well as garter snakes, spiderwebs, several types of leaves and some very cool fungus. Best of all, there were Michaelmas daisies growing all over the woods! :)
The next Monday we celebrated the Feast of the Guardian Angels ...
I made another watercolor card for the Guardian Angel prayer and set up this small scene on our learning room table. I lit the beeswax tealight and read the prayer aloud to Little Bear ... who took great joy in blowing out that candle! :)
We also found time to celebrate the Feast of St. Francis, our family patron saint ...
Little Bear especially enjoyed assembling "all of creation" as I crafted a simple grotto and read aloud our favorite child-friendly version of Francis's "Canticle of the Sun." I made a verse card for the first stanza and plan to make cards for the rest of this beautiful prayer. :)
Last week we also visited a local agricultural fair - along with Earlybird's therapist and Bill who took the day off so he could join us. :)
And the day after that we joined our homeschool group on a field trip to a local corn maze!
It was a beautiful day - as you can see, warm enough for short sleeves! - and what fun we had navigating our way through the rows of corn and listening to the raspy dry ears in the breeze and hearing great vees of geese honking overhead!
✨ 🍂 🍎 🐿 🌻 🌞 🍁 🍄 🌽 🌛 ✨
Well this was quite a long post I'm afraid, but I hope you enjoyed it! I had meant to create posts around each of these collages - with more details - but time kept slipping by and then we'd be onto the next thing! I can certainly expand on any of these themes and projects (as well as my planners) in a future post and happily, though last week was particularly busy with two field trips, a fair trip, a vet appointment AND the SAT ... the coming week will be much quieter! Knock on wood!
So I will leave you now my friends, with my thanks for your visit and my wish that you all enjoy a lovely autumn weekend. I will be back again here just as soon as I can but in the meantime you can always find me on Facebook or Instagram. :)
Take care of yourselves and your loved ones, dear friends ... see you here again very soon!
Hello my friends and Happy New Year! I hope your 2017 is off to a great start! ❤
I hope to have my "New Year's Tea" up soon, but today - without a moment to spare! - I'm getting my planning sheets posted in case anyone is interested in using them. A bit of a caveat though - while I do have ALL the sheets finished, it's taking me a bit of time to upload them as PDF files here at the blog. So this post will have to be a work in progress! Today I will post all the January planning sheets and then, as I can - and as quickly as I can - I will upload the rest of the months. :)
(Design notes at the bottom of the post!)
A few notes about this year's planning sheets:
❤ They're pretty much the same as last year's sheets (with corrected dates of course) but without any graphics. That vintage clipart was pretty, but it really bogged down the creative process - and printing time!
❤ That said, I do have a Cover Page for each month with a bit of vintage calendar clipart found on Pinterest. (Which is, to the best of my knowledge, free for personal use.)
❤ I've added soft lines to the planning sections! Woohoo - I LOVE writing on lined paper!
❤ I increased the Meal Planning section - a friendly suggestion from a dear reader that made perfect sense!
❤ I added a few new pages:
° a Monthly Overview page (To-Dos, House & Garden, Seasonal Ideas, Monthly Goals) ...
° a Monthly Review page (open, lined space) ...
° AND a one page Month-at-a-Glance Calendar, too! Now, in the version I'm sharing here, in order to keep it as user-friendly as possible, I took out my family birthdays (graduations, anniversaries, etc.) as well as notes related to my Catholic faith. (If there is interest, I could create an additional set of calendars that includes feast days. I used lavender for that particular text.)
Note: I'm adding a liturgical version of the monthly calendar but please understand, this is in no way a complete representation of the Catholic calendar! Just reflective of the events and feasts we note/observe/celebrate in our family - these are marked in purple text. (Natural phenomena are in green, holidays and other events are in blue.)
OH! And also, on three of the monthly calendars I had to double up on a block. For example, in April, a sixth row would have been needed for the last day of the month - Sunday, April 30th - so I just added the date to the block for the 23rd. I meant to divide that block in half with a diagonal line but couldn't figure out how to do it! Time ran out and I left it as is. I just used a ruler after printing to make the line myself! This issue crops up in July and December as well.
❤ In my own Home Learning Worksheet, I have three separate boxes for my current students' goals. Three of my boys are homeschooling - one is a senior in college! For the sheet I shared, I kept it to one column since you all have various numbers of children! :) *Apologies - there is a second blank page attached to this PDF and I just realized it now! I will try to tweak the original and delete that extraneous sheet!)
❤ Instead of the aforementioned clipart and "grace notes" I chose a seasonal quote to reflect each week's place in the year.
❤ The colors are pretty subtle, but do change with each month. I coordinated them with my favorite scrapbooking paper which I use as dividers in my planner.
Now, in a separate post I will describe how I transform these sheets into an actual planner, and what my maintenance process looks like. But right now I'm trying to decide between keeping them in a three-ring binder or having them spiral-bound at the copy shop. I'm leaning toward the binder since I don't really plan to take this planner out of the house. But I'll get into those decisions and my planner "management" in a future post!
(Oh, and the spiral-bound notebook you see to the right in the photo above is a companion "agenda" to my weekly planning sheets. Something with time slots for appointments and such. That too is still very much a work in progress but will probably turn out something like the one I used last year. But with tweaks! Always with the tweaks ...)
Well, I hope everyone is enjoying their New Year's Day and I thank you all for stopping by. Please let me know if you have any questions about my planning sheets or if for some reason the links don't work for you. I'm really excited to share these sheets and hope they are helpful to some of you!
Take care of yourselves and your loved ones and I will see you here again very soon!
Happy Friday, my friends! Popping in early to share a few links with you all ... :)
Now, are you looking for some meatless menu planning inspiration today? Here are a couple of older posts of mine with lots of great reader suggestions in the comments:
Meatless Menus? (2011)
Lenten Meal Planning (2015)
And here is a wonderful post from my friend Meredith, "Meatless Meals for Lent." Lots of links and ideas there! And also not to be missed is this post - "Five Meatless Dinners" from my friend, Chris! There's a Lenten link-up at the end of that post with even more meatless ideas!
Here's another spot for Lenten meal inspiration, Leaflet Missal's post, "8 Delicious Lenten Recipes for Meatless Fridays." I can't wait to try the hot cross buns on Good Friday, and the Passion Fruit Cheesecake on Passion Sunday!
Speaking of Leaflet Missal, here are "7 Ideas for Celebrating Lent Your Way" - filled with simple Lenten suggestions - and one of them was mine! I was so honored to be asked to participate in that article. :)
And here's a wonderful, witty and thoughtful post from my friend Karen called, "Five Reasons Lent is Hard on INFJs"- I read this with much interest, as I happen to be an INFJ too! (What is an INFJ you might wonder? Click over to Karen's and find out!) So much of her post had me chuckling and nodding my head ...
And leaping away from Lent for a minute, there's another post I've been meaning to share with you all for some time, especially because recently someone asked me about my "mid-year review" and how I go about it. And to be perfectly honest, I am quite behind this year! I am hoping to work on this important project this weekend - a wee bit past the mid-year mark, ahem - but here's an old post of mine describing my process ... BUT! Even better, here's a fantastic post from my friend Mary Ellen about her mid-year review AND there are printables!
Ok, final link! (I think!) My friend Shirley Ann has updated her blog, Under an English Sky, and you must pop over and take a look. It is just lovely and always filled with great ideas, pretty crafts and lovely tours of England. She has a new series called "The Crockpot Chronicles" and her first recipe is perfect for Lent! I will be avidly following this series as I LOVE using my crockpot at this time of year.
(Speaking of crockpots ... I made this yesterday and it was so delicious. Next time we'll have some some crusty bread to sop up the soupiness, but it paired very nicely with rice pilaf. I just adore artichokes!)
Well I lied, lol - this will be my final link! Have you noticed my new nest button over on the lefthand sidebar? I have started a separate blog called Our Family Field Guide where I am storing nature notes and pictures. I won't be posting quite every day, but hopefully often enough to capture that "rhythm of the year" I find so fascinating and nurturing. I recently found this quote and it struck such a chord with me ...
"There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature." ~ Rachel Carson
So I hope you'll stop by once in a while and see what we're up to, what we're discovering in this beautiful world all around us. ❤
Well my friends I will let you go at last - but I hope you all enjoy this day and I thank you for spending a bit of it here. This weekend I have a couple of Book Party posts in queue - and I can't wait to share them! (Would love to hear from you, too!)
See you here again very soon ...
"Reading should not be presented to children as a chore or duty. It should be offered to them as a precious gift."
~ Kate DiCamillo
So important is "atmosphere" when we encourage children to read ... and not just to read, but to be readers! How do we, as busy (often overwhelmed) parents, do this when we ourselves might struggle with the concept? I adore reading, but the fact of the matter is, I find it a challenge to fit in these days. Partly because I'm pretty busy and partly because I don't always manage my time wisely. Hello Facebook, I'm looking at you! Also, I will admit, in this age of computers and sound bites, sometimes I have to re-train my mind to slow down and concentrate. Reading a book - as opposed to a magazine or web post - often demands greater focus, something I don't always have at my disposal. And yet, still ... I surround myself with books - of all sizes and shapes - and hope that the time (and brainpower) will present itself so that occasionally I might indulge. And that's how I see it - as an indulgence, a gift!
My children are young and have so much free time - as they should! I want them to relish this freedom and choose their passions wisely and cultivate reading habits that will stay with them the rest of their lives ...
So, I say we start with atmosphere. Here are a few of my ideas:
❤ Have your books all about - in tidy piles or pretty baskets if it makes you feel better (it does, me) - but the point is, show that books are important. However often they are opened, they deserve to be part of the family circle. I like to set them up in displays, even - especially picture books that tie in with a current season or subject.
❤ Make trips to the library - with and without the children - and get involved at the your local branch! Participate in talks or clubs or perhaps volunteer when you can to offer help where they need it.
❤ Talk about the books you're reading or long to read, and peruse reviews in the Sunday paper. I'm forever clipping (and pinning) books I'd like to catch up with someday. Also, I just subscribed to a really neat service called "Wowbrary" which sends me a list of new releases at my library each week.
❤ Now, it goes without saying that an occasional trip to the bookstore is a real treat for the whole family - especially when a bit of pin money has been put aside for the occasion. We have a Barnes & Noble not far from here and I love to take the boys a few times a year - usually after birthdays or holidays when they've received gift cards. We splurge on a special coffee and bakery treat and just soak in all the mutual book adoration around us.
❤ It's nice to have a special time of day perhaps just before or after supper, when everyone brings what they're reading to a common area to just read together. This very often coincides with tea-time for me. Nothing says let's read! to a toddler like a mama sitting down with hot tea ;) This might not be possible everyday, but perhaps once a week can be managed? What afternoons/evenings are quiet for your family? I'm thinking of setting up a dedicated puzzle/game table in our library ... because quiet pastimes like this make a nice complement to reading.
❤ If you have a true TON of books (like we do), cycle titles in and out of circulation from time to time. It's amazing how interesting a long-stored book looks upon its return to the family shelves! You could set up a "pretend" library with a homemade library card system. You might punch "borrowing" cards and offer rewards for so many books read, while reviews (which earn extra points, natch) can be kept in a notebook with foil stars. And of course, it goes without saying, as soon as the children are "of age" a very big deal should be made about getting that first library card! We even made Earlybird a special felt pouch for his own many years ago.
❤ Subscribe to magazines and keep them somewhere easy to reach. I myself have QUITE the pile of periodicals stacked beside my reading chair, but I encourage the boys to choose a title or two of their own. Little Bear has a subscription to Babybug and Earlybird enjoys Highlights while the older boys - who used to love Legos and Star Wars - have moved on to Time and Entertainment Weekly. I have posted before about my own obsession with affinity for magazines!
❤ Take books with you in the car, to the beach or even the yard. I've laid a blanket right in the middle of the lawn and read aloud as if they were all sitting beside me and not just swinging on swings, or tossing balls or digging in the dirt. I know they can hear me - and they might even come close enough to listen, especially if I have snacks. :)
It's trendy these days to "simplify" but it's nearly impossible for me to declutter our books. We've been collecting them (one might say, amassing them) for many years and they've played such a big a part in our children's lives. And now that we have our Little Bear, why, it makes no sense whatsoever to start culling this vast collection! We'll need ALL those books again - I'm sure of it! (Or that's what I told Bill who is, in this case anyway, definitely more "on trend" than I.) But boy, am I rubbing my hands over the favorites we'll get to revisit ...
I do try, however, to use the library as much as possible because it does cut down on the volume of books filling our house and also, of course, it saves us money. As a homeschooler, the inter-library loan system is a blessing! I make use of it each week and I have been told, we are our library's best customers ... ;)
Well, we're preparing for our weekly trip to the library just now, in fact - I'm rounding up books and videos etc. and adding them to the big tote in the foyer.
We don't have a set day for our library run, but our library bag stays packed with things to return and I keep an eye on due dates. It's fun just to browse the library of course, but sometimes give the boys an "assignment" to find a particular type of book. For instance, I asked Crackerjack to pick out a picture book he'd like to read aloud to Little Bear, and I asked Earlybird to take out a book that is not about planets. ;) I myself am going to pick up the selection for next month's book group, and ask how long Bill's request will take to come in. And on the way to and from - as whenever we get in our car - we'll listen to our current read-aloud which is a perfect pick for this time of year! When we're deep in winter but longing for spring ...
So, how about a little conversation about how we store and organize our books? I think that will best be saved for a separate post, but it is something I'd very much like to talk about. Would you be wiling to share your thoughts (and perhaps pictures) of how you live with books at your home? I'll be taking pictures myself and we'll throw a little book party in a week or two. Does that sound like fun? :)
But, while we're on the subject of books, I'd like to address one of the pictures in yesterday's post ... I left a few of you wondering!
The book I am currently reading - a chapter every night before I go to bed - is called, One Woman's Year and oh, is this book just my cup of tea! Just the kind of book I wish I had (or maybe could) write myself.
The funny thing is - I bought this last June and didn't get around to reading it till just now! (See first paragraph of this post - its all about finding the time!) OWY was written in 1953 by an English wife and mother recounting her domestic "observations" throughout the months of the year. Every month has its best and least liked chore, a local excursion, a recipe or two, and an anthology, which is to say, a selection of fine reading. Here are a few pictures to give you a better idea:
The illustrations, as you can see, are lovely and Mrs. Currey's sense of dry, Birtish humor is just wonderful! I don't know how to suggest finding a copy - they are quite expensive through Amazon it appears - but perhaps try your local library or look (and ask) around at vintage bookshops or maybe try good ol' Google. In fact, it was while trying out that last option myself that I found a very nice article about the book published in the Yorkshire Post last year: "Diary of a 1950s Housewife."
Well my friends, I have truly kept you here long enough, so I will wrap up now and thank you very kindly for stopping by and reading. Please leave a comment if you have some thoughts on sharing the joy of books with your family, and keep in mind my upcoming post about book storage and organization! I would love to make it a joint effort, so as always, I am hoping for emails and photos!
You may send me correspondence at:
bysunandcandle AT gmail DOT com
Have a nice evening, everyone ... and I will see you all here again very soon!
Happy Tuesday, my friends! I hope your day's been a good one!
Mine has been very nice ... my dear family treated me to a lovely birthday today! By chance, everyone was home, and my folks came over for lunch (bringing said lunch - plus cake and presents!) and now, at the end of the day, I am sitting upstairs in a comfortable chair, sipping tea, blogging and listening to Bill and the boys making supper downstairs ... :)
So originally, I was going to do this big list - a kind of "favorites" quiz I found online, answering "47" things about myself (I'm 47 today!) but my time sort of ran out (and honestly, I'm not that interesting, lol) so instead, I am going to share a whole bunch of pictures from today with you all ... just for fun and kicks! :)
"Birthdays are good for you. The more you have, the longer you live."
❤ Afghans in lots of colors - this one knit by my grandmother many years ago.
❤ LL Bean tote bags - I adore them! This one is my favorite, though - for the color AND the monogram. :)
❤ Carnations are the January birth flower! This is a small $3 bouquet I bought for myself the other day at the grocery store - that's right, I bought myself flowers! - and I have never seen them in prettier colors. All my favorites: buttery yellow, soft peach and deep coral. "Sunrise" colors. :)
❤ Another shot of the front of my 2016 planner. I love what it says, I love the color of the text (that shimmery copper) and I love the background scenery ... This morning as I walked up the driveway, I realized why I love this notebook so much:
Look familiar? :)
"The best journeys take you home."
❤ And these guys ... well, you all know how I feel about these guys. :)
❤ My favorite hobby, I think, is journaling. I love adding bits and pieces of my days (words, ideas, observations, pictures) to this ever-growing tapestry in a three-ring binder. In the background is a mug I love - red squirrels are another favorite of mine!
"I can measure the quality of my life, at any given period, by how much or little I journaled. They go hand-in-hand." Stacy Duplease
❤ My pretty penuche birthday cake - I think they tried to get all 47 candles on there! ;)
(p.s. Penny, I will ask my mum for the frosting recipe - might be similar to the fudge - and the cake was "Golden Vanilla," Duncan Hines I think. All to say ... it was delicious!)
I am grateful, deeply blessed, to have all these healthy lungs (and the young men attached to them) around me!
"Sons are the anchors of a mother's life." Sophocles
And finally, one last "mug" shot ...
❤ Bill found this cute little mug in one of the many boxes we still have yet to unpack since moving here 2 1/2 years ago. He presented it to me the other day as an early birthday "present" and he knew how it would make me smile. This came from my late grandparents' house and it was one of my favorites. The date stamped on the bottom says 1978, and like any child in the 70s and 80s, I just about LIVED for rainbows. I drew them, collected them ... wore them everywhere: on my socks, my pajamas, in my hair, on my suspenders. I'm so happy to have "found" this mug and will use it happily and remember my Gram ... who would have been 102 on Thursday. She was my birthday pal and for that and so many reasons, I miss her, deeply.
"Try to be a rainbow in someone else's cloud." Maya Angelou
I think this makes a mighty fine birthday resolution, don't you? :)
Well my friends, I am going to let you all go now ... you've been so good to humor me! So thank you very much for stopping by and I hope you all enjoy a pleasant evening ... I'll be watching a movie with my fellas in a bit and then hitting the hay early, thankful God has granted me another year here on earth. I look forward to seeing what He has in store for me on my new journey 'round the sun!
Next post - pinky promise! - a look at my 2016 planner! I took the pics today and everything! :)
See you all here again very soon ...
Happy Thursday, my friends!
I thought I'd share this "thoughtful" quote with you all today ... I really appreciate this sentiment, because goodness knows, I can get a bit obsessed with plans - and what I imagine to be THE perfect plan, which is undoubtedly, out there, somewhere, maybe just beyond my grasp ...
So I wrote this quote on the first page of my 2016 planner, and I hope it reminds me to just get on with things - today, not tomorrow! - and not worry so much if the plan/planner isn't perfect. It's more important to just get started and do what we can, while we can!
Not that there's anything wrong with dreaming about that elusive "someday" plan/planner ... right?
But speaking of plans and planners - my own homemade 2016 planner is finally just about done and I am so relieved! It took a good long while to draw out each weekly spread by hand ... 52 weeks, plus seasonal spreads and special planning sections ... and there was probably an easier way to do it, but I didn't take the time to think too much about it - I just did it! I used quiet sitting times (nap times, mostly) to work with my pencil and ruler and Sharpie accent pens ... and now I'm just going back through the individual weeks and adding in as much information as I can. I am really loving how it looks and in just a couple of days I will post a full tour! :)
Now, I also wanted to mention another project I've been working on, and about which I am quite excited! I began designing a set of planning sheets late last year with a different end-result in mind (something spiral-bound) but have since decided they would be great to use with my weekly file folders ...
I have chosen colors to complement the seasons, and the grid is tailored for home, garden, crafts and lessons planning. In the corner of each page is a small bit of vintage clipart I found on Pinterest with a seasonal "suggestion" for the week. I am stapling these sheets to my file folders (home/garden up front and lesson planning inside) and this seems to be working well so far!
(So said in the SECOND week of the year, lol!)
Anyhoo! What I also wanted to say is that I think I have figured out how to save these planning sheets as PDF links and I would like to share them here at my blog! So, if you are interested, you should be able to print out these sheets for your own personal use - whether you use file folders, or not.
So please give me a few more days and I should be able to put up a post with my Deep Winter (Jan-Feb) planning sheets! I will also describe how I'm using them along with my folders (so far).
Well, my friends ~ I'll be off for now, but I do thank you for stopping by and I hope you'll swing by again when you have time. I will be back to chat more very soon!
Happy Tuesday, everyone! I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and that your week is off to a great start! Our Christmas was very nice and I have lots of pictures to share, but in the interest of time and keeping our tea hot and fresh ... I will share them in a separate post. For today I'd like to invite you to sit and share a bit of your Christmas with me ... how your holiday went, is going still, and how you'd like to see it go next year. So grab a favorite mug and let me pour you a hearty cup of "brew" - I need something bracing today - and let's chat!
Firstly, how was your Christmas?
Ours was lovely! Spread out over a couple of days, we celebrated with family and friends and had a really nice time. As usual it seemed to fly by and I can hardly believe we are but a few days from New Year's ...
What was the best thing you ate (or drank) this Christmas?
My mother's homemade penuche fudge is my FAVORITE Christmas treat - she makes it every year and I remember bringing pretty little packages to my teachers when I was a child. As for drinks, our signature Christmas cocktail this year was a really yummy punch called, "Jingle Juice." It made quite a large batch and while potent, was quite refreshing - nice for the mild day we had! Lots of citrus zest and juices plus frozen cranberries and ... spiced rum, Amaretto and Grand Marnier! Recipe found here ... though I will tell you, we used bottled juice instead of fresh. There just wasn't time for anything else!
What are your hopes for next Christmas? What would you like to do differently?
This was something Bill and the boys and I talked about at our family meeting last Sunday. I wrote down what each of us said so we can remember our thoughts next year. I myself wished for more time to just be home and bake and less last-minute running around. We all wished we had made more gifts. We also had to skip our town's tree lighting and caroling on the common. We talked about why these things happened (or didn't) and, moral of the story: we need to start earlier and give ourselves more time. Too many to-do's were left till late in December.
Do you celebrate Christmas beyond December 25th in any way?
Yes! There's so much fun to be had throughout the Christmas season! We keep most of our decorations up till Epiphany, and I try to leave a bit of greenery tucked somewhere till Candlemas (Feb. 2nd). On New Year's Eve we have a quiet celebration at home - a good movie or two (this for me, this for the fellas), cheers at midnight (or as close as we can get) and before bed we'll "wassail" our little apple orchard with a blessing of warm cider (an old English tradition). We'll honor Mary, Mother of God, on January 1st by attending Mass, enjoying a special breakfast after, and refreshing our peace corner ... and we'll bring blessed chalk home from Epiphany Mass with which we'll mark our front door for the New Year (20 + C + M + B + 16). Speaking of C, M and B - every day we're moving our Wise Men closer to the nativity set, and reading stories about their journey. They'll arrive at the manger on Twelfth Night (January 5th), and our dinner that night will feature a spiced beef (slow cooker) stew, hot wassail and gingerbread.
On Little Christmas (January 6th), in Irish tradition, the menfolk will be in charge of packing up decorations, picking up dinner, and doing up dishes! Yours truly will work on organizing Christmas bins and making notes for next year.
Now, I'd love to hear your answers to my questions above - either here, in the comments below, a post at your blog, or in an email sent to bysunandcandle AT gmail DOT com. I hope to hear from you! For now, though, here is ...
My Christmas Tea Journal
What refreshments are you enjoying this week?
In my Christmas stocking I found a box of my FAVORITE tea - Allegro Black Decaf. It's organic, and rather expensive, so I only buy it once in a while, but I just love the flavor. I'm enjoying it in my special snow angel mug along with a couple of festive yogurt-covered pretzels ... sitting at my writing desk which looks out at the side yard, which, as you can see, is (finally) covered in snow!
What are you reading this week?
In my stocking I also found:
I discovered Mary Sharratt's books this past year and I'm so eager to read this one next! I have just started digging in ... but it's so hard to find reading time in a busy mama's days!
And with the younger boys:
The Twelve Days of Christmas, a beautifully illustrated favorite, and so nice for this week "after" Christmas. I have also requested The Chronicles of Narnia (audiobook) from the library - this will be our Winter read-aloud. For New Year's Eve there will be Cider Apples and I've moved the Epiphany books up to the front of the Christmas book basket. I have listed some titles over on the sidebar under, "Epiphany Basket."
What are you listening to this week?
How about some seasonal songs? We Three Kings, Here We Come A-Wassailing, Go Tell It on the Mountain, Do You Hear What I Hear?, Joy to the World, Auld Lang Syne ... and one of my favorites, What Are You Doing New Year's Eve? by Ella Fitzgerald. I heard this standing in line at the bookstore last week and thought, what an oldie but goodie! Next year I think a little unit study on Christmas carols and what their lyrics mean - where they fall in the Nativity story - would be fun.
What are you working on this week?
Oh, I am so in love with this "planner" ... still very much a work in progress! I bought the notebook last week at Paper Source and it's just gorgeous. Smooth, lined paper and NON-perforated, silk-trimmed pages ... sturdy, copper-coil binding ... and a stunning front cover with a powerful reminder (All We Have Is Now). I am transforming this notebook into a very personalized weekly/seasonal planner and am having SUCH fun in doing so! I am trying to replicate the weekly planner I made last year but in a more manageable size. With better checklists and more planning space. I will post all about it VERY soon. :)
What's happening in nature this week?
Winter has finally arrived ...
Christmas was incredibly mild this year - we hit 70 on the 24th! And then today, at last, we had our first snow ... mixed with ice and sleet, however, so it's kind of gunky and wet. Still, it's nice to see white on the ground again!
Any projects with the children this week?
Not really - it's kind of a breather week here!
Any quotations to share, some words to inspire?
"Write it on your heart, that every day is the best day in the year." Ralph Waldo Emerson
Well, my friends, do we have time time for one more cup of tea? Ah well, perhaps not today ... here in my corner of the world it is dark and suppertime is upon us ... so it's time to clean up my crumbs and get back to business. But I hope you enjoyed this Christmas Tea post! I can hardly believe how quickly these weeks have passed ... and now here we have our last Tea together. It's been such a fun journey and I thank everyone for reading and commenting and especially those lovely ladies who sent me their own Tea posts to share here at the blog. What a gift this sharing has been! I would love to host more Seasonal Teas through the Winter ... I'm sure we can all do with a weekly sit down during this long, cold season. Spending time in our nests - WHICH will need some attention now that the festive holidays are winding down. I could use some revitalization next month, how about you?
So please stay tuned! And as always, thanks so much for stopping by ...
I will see you here again very soon ...
"Summer ends, and Autumn begins, and he that would have it otherwise, would have high tide always and a full moon every night; and thus would never know the rhythms that are the heart of life."
~ Hal Borland
Such a lovely, perfect quote - one for my planner!
One of my favorite things about Autumn? A little red wheelbarrow filled with brown, crispy leaves. A treasure to be sure when you're but two years old and working just as hard as your little legs will carry you - back and forth, and up and down, the large, leaf-littered yard. With your big brother by your side, of course. He's not working nearly as hard as you are, but it's good to have him with you just the same. :)
Well, I hope you all enjoy a restful and refreshing weekend! I have a wonderful guest planner post to share with you on Monday morning, but for now, I just wanted to pop in and say hello ... so, Hello!
I'll see you here again very soon!
"If a child is to keep his inborn sense of wonder, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement, and mystery of the world we live in."
We released our last Monarch butterfly the other day, and this one, unlike the others, did not shoot off straight into the sky ... but rather lingered for a bit in our yard! Delighting us all - Little Bear most of all - as it flitted around us, stopping at this flower and that.
He seemed to enjoy the goldenrod very much!
Good Thursday morning, my friends! I was so excited to share that top photo with you all - isn't it sweet? I think it might be one of my all-time favorite pictures of Little Bear ... he really was quite enthralled with the whole butterfly business. He loves nature and is never happier than when he is trucking around the yard - usually with his little red wheelbarrow, and his yellow bucket hat on his head - and just stopping to look at stuff or add things to his 'barrow. We are so fortunate to live in a world filled with so many wonders ... and blessed are we who can share it with children. They remind us to stop, look ... and wonder. :)
Well, while we are on the subject of butterflies, I wanted to mention something important about Monarchs - brought to my attention recently by Michelle M. As many of you I'm sure realize, Monarchs are a threatened species; their numbers are rapidly dwindling. Climate change, pollution, loss of habitat and rampant (irresponsible) pesticide use all contribute to this calamity, but as Michelle has informed me, using butterfly "kits" to raise Monarchs might also be adding to the issue ...
If I may quote her here, as she stated this so well:
"But the problem is these kit butterflies don't have the genetic diversity that wild populations have and some scientists are very fearful that this may weaken the general population as more and more of these kit-raised monarchs are released. They may be less resistant to disease. Plus it takes many generations to complete the journey from Mexico to New England...who knows where these Monarchs' great grandchildren will think they are really from.
I truly truly don't want to rain on your parade, since raising Monarchs has been one of the top joys of my life. But if at all possible, I urge you to look for caterpillars in your own back yard or close by area and raise those on NATIVE milkweed local to your area, again, not just any milkweed from a nursery or seed packet. Perhaps you would consider amending your blog to not recommend kits?"
Michelle, I thank you, honestly, for bringing up this important information - you are certainly not raining on my parade, but only adding important depth and discernment! Learning about nature is vital as is increasing our respect for it. Admiring nature is a great first step ... but we also must seek to understand it, and foster it as best we can ... goodness knows it can use all the help it can get!
I will now be sure to look for caterpillars locally, hopefully in our own yard. (Our friend who supplied us with these beautiful butterflies lives in the next town over and she has plenty of native milkweed in her yard.) We do have milkweed growing naturally on our road, and I hope to help it spread its seed this fall. (This will work nicely with our "autumn seeds" theme this week!) And next year we will keep our eyes peeled for more milkweed, as well as eggs and caterpillars!
Here is a link to learn more: Rearing Monarchs Responsibly
My friends, I must wrap up now but I hope you all are enjoying your week! Another quick note before I go - this one about email. I'm still having issues with "freeing space" on my laptop, so I'm "doing email" from my phone for the time being - which is nearly impossible, lol! (I hate typing on that tiny keyboard!) That said, I am also changing my email very soon ... from now on, please send any blog-related email to this address:
bysunandcandle AT gmail DOT com
(Friends and family, my personal email will stay the same - just substitute "gmail" for "comcast.")
Thanks so much for stopping by ... see you here again very soon!
"There is no lack of produce in August gardens, the best of which is saved for the fairs and reunions. Jars of golden mustard pickles and crisp green cucumber slices wait in rows in the cool cellar. String beans and corn relish are counted by the dozens of jars. Jams and jellies in sparkling colors await such special occasions. Herbs are hanging from the rafters in the warm, dry shed, soon to be pulverized for winter's use, but green herbs are plentiful in the garden for fresh salads: lettuce, parsley, tarragon and chives, savory, thyme and chervil. There is no lack of garden stuff for family reunions, no indeed. Even the tomatoes are ripe, the better to flavor a casserole of summer vegetables."
From The New England Butt'ry Shelf Almanac by Mary Mason Campbell (illustrated by Tasha Tudor) - one of my FAVORITE resources for seasonal planning. I have all those pulled out right now, in a lovely stack in my workspace ... :)
Speaking of tomatoes and casseroles of summer vegetables - here's a recipe I pinned this morning and can't wait to try ... sounds delicious! :)
And here's a bit more from the August chapter, if I may share ...
"Summer falters. Mornings taste of autumn; evenings close in earlier, quietly, no longer filled with melodies of garden birds. Only the thrush may still be heard singing, or a robin calling. A cricket chirps at the door-rock and cicadas forecast first frost ("six weeks from the first song of the cicada"). Swallows gather on telephone wires and sweep through the late summer air to gather such feasts as they may. Elderberries and blueberries are dead ripe. Goldenrod lifts its fringed blossoms over the stone walls. Butterflies hover over the hollows and ditches where joe-pye weed blooms in soft purple drifts. In years gone by, to cure fevers tea was made from joe-pye weed and its sister plant, the white boneset. In the woods' damp shady places, Indian pipe rises in its ghostly white and we stoop to examine it in wonder and delight ... "
(Remember when I showed you our Indian Pipe growing by the mailbox?)
Well my friends, I hope you are all having a nice week. It's flying by is it not? Thursday already ... I am taking pictures right this minute (or in just a few) of my daybook's Thursday-Friday page so I can share how I'm using it. Really having fun setting up my lesson planner for the new year, too ... there's so much promise at this time of year!
Thanks for stopping by, everyone ... see you here again very soon!
*image from Let's Grow a Garden by Gyo Fujikawa
(A bit of a hodgepodge today!)
Happy August, my friends! It sure is hot and hazy here, but I love how the flowers just glow in the summer sun these days. And everything is so green ... I just love this time of year!
Well, I wanted to pop in quickly this morning to tell you I am *thisclose* to finishing our school reports - I just need to finalize Earlybird's ed. plan for next year. His reports are always a bit tricky because, as a special needs child, my plans must be thorough, but flexible, and his progress is not always so readily apparent. I have to put a lot of thought into what we will learn and how I will teach him these things. And because of his learning style and challenges, my methods are not always as clear-cut as just say, ordering a "Grade X Curriculum." Thankfully he does make progress each year ... I just have to really look back through all we did in each subject to remind myself (reassure myself) how said progress was made and measured.
(For example, this year he listened to audiobooks - something he didn't couldn't do before - and in this way we "read" several classic books together. I couldn't ask him to fill out a quiz or write a report, but I could - when the time was right - ask him questions about what we'd heard that day and to re-tell parts of the story, which I would write down.)
So I'm always looking for ways to "think outside the box" when constructing Earlybird's education, and one resource I have found immensely helpful are these fantastic (and free!) Living Learning Lists from Ed Snapshots. There are some terrific ideas here for experiential learning in all the main subjects! I've pinned these lists and printed them out to keep in my homeschool planner for use all year long ... :)
And speaking of Ed Snapshots ... well, I am just SUPER excited to have been invited to do a podcast with Pam sometime in the near future! (You can read other podcasts here ... so much inspiration!) I will keep you all posted about when mine will be happening ... I'm not sure what-all I can bring to the "podcast table," but I am SO honored to have been asked! I haven't "talked shop" in a while ... :)
Let's see, what else? I also wanted to mention that so far I am really enjoying my new Day Designer! I will do a post on how I'm using it as soon as I can - I want to get some more "days" under my belt first - but I wanted to mention that if you'd like a peek at how the planner looks, DD offers free downloadable planning pages to try out before purchasing. Mind you, this is an example of a page from a flagship planner - the original Day Designer - not the Blue Sky version I purchased from Target. I'm still working out how the versions differ ... and how to personalize my own planner. More about that soon!
Ok - and here's a final thought for today - over the weekend I had my hair cut, colored and styled and boy does it feel good! (Some of you might have seen my "after shot" on my Facebook page.) And it got me to thinking ... wouldn't it be fun to do a "hair care" post here at the blog? I would love to chat about how we wear our hair, and how we care for it ... on our own at home and at the salon. Especially when we're busy with other things (kids, work, life!) or being careful with our budget. We could even - if people were willing! - share pictures. I will keep that in mind for sometime in my posting future - let me know if you think that would be fun and any other post ideas you might have for me! I'm always open to suggestions. :)
All righty then ... I will be off now since my kids are clamoring for lunch and I'm the point person when it comes to that situation. For now I will wish you all a good week and hope to see you here again very soon!
(Saw this just before hitting "post" and had to share!)
"But it's not enough to merely exist," said the butterfly, "one must have sunshine, freedom and a little flower."
(Hans Christian Anderson)
I love how easy nature study can be ... especially in midsummer, when life all around us is bursting with color, sound and smell!
Over the past few days we've been noticing a pretty orange butterfly visiting our herb patch. We can see this spot easily from our kitchen window, along with several bird feeders and the woodsy woods beyond. It's a view I never tire of - and I'm grateful for it each time we sit at the table. Well, while I was watering my pots yesterday, I saw this handsome fella again - perched on a coneflower without a care in the world - and hastily drew the phone from my pocket to snap some pictures. Back inside I showed the family my photos and we started to discuss what kind of butterfly it could be ... not a Monarch surely, but a familiar orange and brown/black ...
A quick google search later (our field guide of choice these days) and a match was found - or so we think:
It's our best guess!
I made a note in my daily domestic journal - which sits open on the kitchen counter - re ~ the name of the butterfly and the flower it was enjoying. Also under yesterday's date, I had notes about the weather (beautiful summer day! 80s and low humidity at last! brief showers late afternoon ...). Looking back over those notes I see I also wrote about the blueberry breads I made - and the rhubarb we harvested (tons, because that plant is going crazy) and the grasshoppers that are active along the stone wall ...
Doesn't that all sound so summery ... ? :)
So it wasn't any major project or investigation - in fact, the boys were only marginally aware of my "butterfly moment" ... but they were aware. Nature, as always, was happening around them. It does its thing all the time, whether we pay it attention or not. And, I think, (hope), they couldn't help but absorb some of my curiosity and delight over this simple event. They've watched me embrace life this way this since they were little ...
Another time perhaps I would have stretched this experience into a more involved project ... a big butterfly study or craft or report. A formal journal entry with a poem or quote (like the one above) ... or even a butterfly walk through a local Audubon locale. And all those things are fantastic activities - but they do come with some planning and effort. I love planning those types of things, but honestly, what makes up the the bulk of our family's nature study is simply just being aware - tuning into the elements, the seasons, even our own senses. Remembering where we are in the year, and how it shapes our day. Becoming familiar with the flora and fauna in our own little corner of the world - the trees and plants and birds and bugs and the small furry things that run across our yard. I think that kind of "accidental" learning is equally meaningful when compared to formal studies. The things we know in our bones don't have to come come from books or documentaries or craft kits. They come from an awareness and understanding of the very world around us ... a kind of knowledge we carry with us wherever we go ... and however old we may be.
So whether a nature "event" is planned out and hands-on or simply exists in the background of our busy lives, I feel it matters. I think my boys - my computer-loving, sci-fi/fantasy, gamer boys - are growing up with a real feel for the seasons and an instinctive awareness of the nature around them. Sometimes we take the time to delve deeper, as we will do this academic year with organized outings and scheduled topics - but there will also be plenty of everyday, effortless moments ...
I'll make sure of it. :)
Meanwhile, as I mentioned previously, I am drafting a formal nature study program for the academic year ahead. It will involve multiple ages and abilities (toddler, special needs and high schooler) and it will follow an outline of monthly topics/habitats. I will be very happy to share my initial outline with you all here ... and I hope to have that for you (and myself!) sometime next month.
Well my friends, you all know I can go on and on when I get talking nature, but I'd best wrap up for now. I have a tired baby who's covered in dirt and grass and lunch stains and very much in need of a bath and a nap. He met a dragonfly this morning and was enthralled ...
And his mama, naturally, was thrilled to watch that moment unfold ...
See you here again very soon!
Hello, my friends ~ and Happy Friday! I hope your week went well. :)
I have just a few "bits and bobs" to share tonight ....
Above you see the splendor of our weekly CSA share! Summer's garden bounty is amazing, isn't it? Our share this week included A LOT of green "leafiness," some sweet-smelling basil, a couple of summer squash, a bunch of red onions and leeks and an overflowing pint of blueberries ... a little bit of heaven on (from) earth! Now to use it all up ... :)
And this pic, well, it just melts my heart ...
"Teaching children about nature should be treated as one of the most important events in their lives." ~ Fr. Thomas Berry
How I am enjoying drafting nature study plans for next year! It will be a multi-age (and grade) project, as Crackerjack is now done with lab sciences ... and there will be much to explore in each season, for us all!
And how about these hydrangeas? It's definitely their moment!! They are blooming like CRAZY and in the most wonderful array of pink, purple and blue ... the soil must be *perfect* in this spot. (Soil acidity affects color and vibrancy.)
(I consider hydrangeas as our wedding flower, because my florist used these blooms for my bridesmaids' bouquets ... they wore billowy, floral dresses ... but he had to work with whatever "shade" they had reached by our October wedding date! I was watching hydrangea bushes all fall, wondering - blue, green, pink, purple? - and happily it was a long, mild season that year. (The bouquets were mostly blush, auburn and green.)
Hydrangeas are a symbol of Summer, I think, as are ... "beach" reads!
I haven't been to the beach yet, but my reading basket is certainly overflowing with "summer reads"! I love catching up on my "fun" reading over the summer ... the library is such a blessing, is it not? My reading basket holds:
What are you reading this Summer? :)
Well my friends, I hope you all have a great weekend! I'm so glad you enjoyed the pocketbook post! That was so much fun to put together. I would love to do another "share your stuff" kind of post ... any suggestions? Also, Michelle suggested a Q&A post which I have not done in some time ... that would be fun, too! Let me know if there are any "random" questions you'd like to answer, and I'll start a draft ...
Speaking of drafts ... I have in queue a post about my binders (yes, really! finally, lol) and another about a new and nifty "FCS" trick I've been using and can't wait to share!
Ok, I'm off now to start supper for these hungry men all around me ... I wish you all a very pleasant weekend and thank you all, as always, for stopping by!
I will see you here again very soon ...
(Image courtesy Country Living Magazine)
Wishing all of the mamas and grandmamas out there a lovely, most blessed day!
I am getting the very best present today ... Bookworm is coming home from college for the WHOLE SUMMER! All my chicks will be in the nest tonight!
I hope everyone enjoys their Sunday and whatever the day might bring. It will be sunny and HOT here in New England - near 90, they say! - how far we've come from that long, crazy Winter!
See you here again very soon ...
Happy Sunday, my friends!
Well, we're in the early stages of another monster snowstorm in New England ... and boy, do I feel like I've said that before. ;) It started snowing here yesterday as I was running some errands and it will snow continuously today ... tonight ... and tomorrow ... and tomorrow night! Leaving us with about two feet of snow when all is said and done Tuesday morning ...
Yes, you read that right: we're getting TWO FEET of snow. Which will be added to the TWO FEET of snow we already have on the ground!
(I do love ALL the seasons so much - they all have their charms, after all - I just wish Winter might stop being quite so "charming" for a bit, lol.)
So I just have a few photos to share today, but I mostly just wanted to stop in and say hi. Thank you again for all your wonderful comments, suggestions and encouragement ... I am working on my next Q&A post and hope to have it up soon!
In the meantime ...
I was working on my Lenten plans last evening ... with some tea, natch, in the relative quiet of the dining room. Are you familiar with the above treasure of a book? I'm so happy our new library system has it "in stock!" Just picked it up yesterday and have already dug in. This might be my third or fourth reading, but it's been a couple of years. I think I can renew it enough to last me through Lent!
From my ME page-a-day calendar ... is this not so very true? ❤️
Thinks my bundled-up Little Bear: "It's snowing again?"
Thinks my cozied-up kitty: "Wake me when it's Spring."
And here's my own cozy spot this morning, as I sit by the kitchen window, watching the birds in a frenzy at the feeders. (Rest assured, there are breakfast dishes behind me but I'm not thinking about them at the moment ... ) I have a couple of lovely British mags that hint at the promise of spring ... my sweet squirrel mug with a new tea to try ... and my new African violet sitting in the safety of a glass cloche. The violet is February's flower. :)
Well, my friends ~ from my house to yours, I'm wishing you all a wonderful Sunday. What's the weather like where you live today? Drop me a note if you have the time ...
Thanks so much for stopping by ... see you here again very soon!
Happy Monday, my friends! Welcome to another afternoon tea. :)
Today we begin the second week of Advent, and it is also the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, one of those lovely Marian feasts we enjoy celebrating at home in small, thoughtful ways. At this time of year, we are reminded of Mary's motherhood and her role in the life of her son, Jesus. I have four sons, and they're my whole world; together with my husband, and our home, my life revolves around them. So I often find myself in prayer, thinking of Mary, asking her to guide me in her gentle, peaceful ways. Goodness knows, I can use all the help I can get!
Now, whether we're talking about world peace or inner peace, it certainly means different things to different people. But right now I'm thinking about peace in the weeks before Christmas: how we can find it (create it?) in the midst of all the holiday bustle? Not just for ourselves, but our loved ones as well?
Here are a few of my thoughts - and I'd love to hear yours!
* Keep the December calendar as low-key as possible. I know it's hard to say no to the myriad invitations and activities that take place throughout the holiday season, but there has to be a limit. Make room for peace in your life by setting a less-busy stage.
* Create cozy corners in your home that encourage folks to sit down a spell. Stock some lovely books on the table beside a favorite chair or couch corner (Christmas books would be perfect of course), and add a pretty coaster that will remind you to make yourself a hot cup of tea (or cocoa).
* Find yourself noticing nature. I purposefully filled our Advent calendar with "nature moments" - watching the moon rise, walking in the woods, feeding the birds, apprecating the beauty of a poinsettia. Cultivate a habit of observation - brainstorm simple activities that connect us with nature and remind us to slow down as the earth stills itself for the Winter.
* Light up the darkness - with string lights and candles, real or electric. The days are so short and dark now, I find my home all the more peaceful when there are soft lights to welcome us, and comfort us, late in the day. This only enhances the feeling that our home is a haven from the outside world. Sitting in a quiet room illuminated only by tree lights is one of my favorite things about these short December days.
* Make time to sit quietly in thought or prayer each day - 10 minutes before the kids wake or 10 minutes after they go to bed? Try not to let your mind go right to your to-do list, but instead, keep your thoughts on spiritual matters. A quick "thank you" for the day's blessings, a simple prayer for a loved one, a fond memory, a favorite carol. (This can be done with a sleeping babe in your arms, too!)
* (But, speaking of to-do's) make your list and check it twice. A well-organized list and an internet connecton are great for keeping stress down. Because let's face it - we all have things to buy or make or do, and lots of people rely on us to make their Christmas merry. Peace is hard to cultivate when you're panicking, and if we didn't start early, then the to-do's are best addressed sooner rather than later. Nothing wrecks my Christmas spirit like last minute shopping, whereas feeling prepared gives me true peace of mind. Noble? Maybe not. But realistic.
Ok, here are a few peaceful moments from my day ...
Bill took this picture of Little Bear and me (without my knowledge!) and I just love it. This is quite early - if you can't tell by our "bed hair," lol - and we are starting our day as we usually do ... in the library, in "our" chair, with a few good books (and a cup of coffee for Mama). We're in this chair reading, many times throughout the day ... but there's something so special about that first snuggle of the day. :)
A little "sneak peek" at our Christmas card this year - it reads: "Peace on Earth." ❤
(I'll share the card in its entirety after we've mailed them all out!)
The absolute glee on my little boy's face when he noticed the nativity stickers I placed on the window behind our chair ...
Where's the baby, Little Bear?
Working on the Christmas mantel, here's a pretty corner: flowers and stars for the Mother of God.
Our Oliver, mid-scratch. :) It's impossible to see in this picture, but there's a cardinal at the feeder just beyond this window. Also, it is lightly snowing and this is what I'm looking at as I drink my tea ... a little bit of domestic tranquility, with some serene nature thrown in.
And speaking of tranquil ...
Here's what else I am looking at as I enjoy my tea ... a sleeping Little Bear who opted not to stay in his crib for the entirety of his nap. He slept for a good hour here while I sipped and worked on this post.
A happy, sleeping baby = a happy, refreshed Mama.
~ Tea Journal ~
In the natural world ...
A cold day of clouds and flurries here, and a Nor'easter arriving tomorrow! High winds and heavy rain in our part of the region (if it was snow, we'd be buried!). Here's our front walkway as I stepped out to get the paper this morning:
What I'm drinking & eating ...
Oh my goodness!
I wanted to do something white in honor of today's feast, so I chose a London Fog Latte for my beverage. I had heard from friends that it was a simply delicious drink - and now I can happily agree - it is! Sweet and milky, with a nice citrus-y bergamot flavor. And as you can see in the picture at the top of my post, I once again used a pretty "vintage" tea cup, another from my grandmother's collection. It is called "Yuletide," and fittingly, it was made by Royal Albert of England. :)
Keeping with the "British Christmas" theme - and more stars for the Feast! - I made mini orange-mince pies for a lovely holiday treat!
I have always loved the look of these traditional English confections, and knew someday I would try making them! (Though admittedly, pastry intimidates me.) Well, my dear friend Shirley Ann inspired me to give them a try this week, after she shared a picture of her own on Facebook! I made these up Sunday afternoon while the baby slept - very easy to do - and goodness, did the house smell like Christmas!
And I must tell you - they are so very, very yummy. A tender crust with orange flavor and a spicy-sweet filling ... gah, so good. Bill had one on his way out this morning and he absolutely loved it! And this is a man who had never before tried mincemeat because "it frightened him" lol. I will definitely be making a large batch of these for Christmas day ... I wonder if I can freeze them ahead?
What I'm reading ...
I've just started reading back through my annual domestic journal pages, which are kept in this gigantic binder. (Only the current month is kept in my primary binder.) Also, lots of board books. (A post on LB's favorites to come soon!)
What I'm working on ...
Well, the big thing this week is setting up the tree ... we just brought it home yesterday. Also, still packing away all the fall decorations and finding all the Christmas books. Then there's lunch for Earlybird and Dad on Sunday ... and oh, getting the Christmas cards mailed out!
Words to ponder ...
It does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble, or hard work. It means to be in the midst of all those things and still be calm in your heart.
I love this quote so much - I have the magnet, I have the mug! - it's kind of my personal mantra. And, it's a skill I'm working on all the time - because as nice as it is to slow down and "make room" for peace - life just doesn't always work that way. My life as a mum - a special needs mum, especially - is filled with all the things mentioned above. But I know how I want to be. I want to be a source of peace for my children, their beacon in any sea. It's important, especially as a mother, to carry peace with me, and keep it with me for when I - we - need it most.
(I plan to revisit the theme of peace next month. I'd love to hear your ideas on the subject.)
And now, my friends, I'm finally going to stop talking, lol. This really was a rather long journal entry! But I'm so pleased to share my dear friend Mary's contribution to our Advent Tea Journal this week. Here are her thoughts on keeping peace in the season ...
What a lovely theme for a tea - Peace - especially since slowing down to make and drink tea can definitely bring peace into one’s life during the hustle and bustle that leads up to the Christmas season.
As a family, things that help us to find peace during this season is the simple process of eating a family supper together at night and starting by saying grace before we eat. We do this all year long but during this season, in particular, our family meal continues to serve as a wonderful anchor to slow us down, light the advent candle, and talk with one and other remembering to focus on all that we are grateful for.
We also enjoy walking around different “trails of lights” hosted by different towns around the Texas Hill Country. (We avoid the Austin Trail of Lights because it is a zoo - and definitely doesn’t bring peace to our lives!) The cool nights, the lights, and sipping hot chocolates as we all walk together as a family is always so peaceful.
And this may sound funny - but we also enjoy walking around an open air shopping mall looking at the lights - and watching the other people hustle and bustle to shop. Instead, we walk slow, look at the lights, and chat. It’s funny how peaceful it is for us. At Christmas we exchange very few gifts freeing us of the need to rush and shop. It is so liberating - and brings peace to our lives.
Here is a picture of me with our teenage son, walking around a festive open air shopping mall.
On our Tea menu...we are continuing to enjoy Celestial Season's Peppermint tea and also some decadently rich double chocolate hot chocolate. And for a real treat - we twirl both with a candy cane!
Thank you so much, Mary, for this wonderful reflection on how you bring peace to your family at this time of year. I love the picture of you with your son - those smiles are beautiful! Family togetherness is a gift he will remember all his life!
Thank you, all, for joining me here today. If you are so inclined, please leave a comment below with your thoughts on finding peace in the hoilday season. Also, what are you drinking for "tea" this week? Baking anything special?
Hope to hear from you, but until next time, take care of yourselves and your loved ones ... I'll see you here again very soon!
Happy Monday, my friends ... Happy December! And a Blessed Advent to all! Thank you so much for stopping by ... now, how about a nice cup of tea while we talk about our hopes for the season?
What are your hopes for this Advent and Christmas? Are you hoping the season will be different this year? Are there specific activities you hope to see happen? For myself and my family, my biggest hope this year is to keep things as simple as possible. I find it very easy to get overwhelmed in December - it feels like I have all the time in the world to prepare, but in truth, Christmas comes quickly - and I'd rather meet it with a peaceful spirit and present mind. Lots of breathing room and thinking space is what I need and want to share with my family as we prepare our hearts (not just our homes) for Christmas.
I think it's important to think about our hopes because they are all important, the big and small - as are the hopes of our spouses and children. Stop and let them roll through your mind, write them down in your planner or post them on the fridge - figure out how to work the ones that matter most into the weeks ahead.
In a world in which Christmas is equated with presents and ornaments and lights and toys and trees and all kinds of stuff ... the simplest way to celebrate is to just share our love for one another. With kind words and thoughtful actions, gestures of understanding and a little bit of our time when we can. I do love the bustle and wrapping as much as anyone (just see my Pinterest folders, lol) but I try to remind myself that simple is a good thing ... the best thing, actually ... after all, the Holy Family had little, but loved much.
Speaking of simple, here are our Advent candles ...
I love the idea of a proper round wreath adorned with tall gorgeous tapers, and set in a place of honor. But for now, we keep our "wreath" in the window - the safest place for candles in a house full of curious children and cats! These are glass votives we decorated with pink and purple tissue paper years ago - we stuck some evergreen branches in the corners ... and you know what? I think they look lovely. Even if they do sit above a sink which is quite possibly half full of dirty dishes - they won't be overlooked, that's for sure! And in a way, this is kind of a place of honor ... we spend a lot of time here (somedays it feels like most of my time!) this is my favorite window and what I do at this sink, under this window, is to serve my family - cooking, cleaning, washing up and taking care. Which I know in my heart and soul is my gift to them and to God. A good reminder that there is sacred in the every day. :)
My Tea Journal
In the natural world ...
It is again, a strangely mild day - though there is still a healthy smattering of snow on the ground! Any leftover Thanskgiving snow ... will be melted by the end of the week. Temps near 60 today - down in the 30s tomorrow!
I am drinking/eating ...
I chose a very special teacup today, one that bears the pretty thistle, Scotland's national flower. As it is the Feast of St. Andrew of Scotland (observed), it is a nice pick for today. This cup was part of a collection that belonged to my maternal grandmother who would tell you (with no small amount of pride) that she was in fact, Scotch-Irish, not just Irish alone. ;)
I'm drinking Harney & Son's Holiday Tea - a delicious blend of black tea and Christmas spices - and my snack is a simple but sweet clementine, in season just now. Clementines make me think of that scene in Little Women when the March family gives up their meager Christms meal for a poor hugry family. The way Amy hangs on to that big orange makes me realize how far we've come (or not) in food appreciation ...
At that time a sweet juicy orange was a true indulgence, not just for the cost, but for the flavor itself. Nowadays we assault our senses with all kinds of brash flavors and artificial foods. An orange might seem ordinary - something we might have to cajole our kids (or ourselves) into eating - but in so many ways it is truly spectacular. I'm savoring every bite.
p.s. You might notice the teacup is perched on my kitchen island above (and the front windowsill at the top). I am not actually sitting in my comfortable "tea chair" this time ... as there was no nap for Little Bear today! So tea was pretty much taken in spurts, while standing ... stil tasted good!
What I'm reading ...
Mostly I'm reading the Magnificat Advent Companion, a small section each day, as well as my latest library book, Sunday Suppers. A lovely book that has me thinking up posts for January (keeping Sundays special per my dear friend, Emma's suggestion). Other than that it's just all board books, all the time. I would like to put up a post about what Little Bear's reading now, because he definitely has his preferences!
Speaking of Little Bear, may I ... ?
Working on ...
An Advent Calendar for Earlybird ...
It looks pretty busy but it's really a pretty simple project. I used mostly what I already had on hand. (Craft store trips don't happen as often these days!) I'll do a thorough post about this project and our children's Advent activities tomorrow (or possibly the next day, but soon).
Words to ponder this week ...
"Hope is some extraordinary spiritual grace that God gives us to control our fears, not to oust them."
~ Vincent McNabb
(I LOVE this.)
And this week I have another dear friend, Mary sharing tea with me. I am so happy to share her thoughts with you here ...
"Below is an electric tea kettle that my husband gave to me as a gift a number of years ago. I love it because it heats water quickly, keeps it hot, and turns off automatically. I would often leave the other kettle on the stove, which did not have a whistle, and forget about it! I also keep a jar near by with our favorite teas and a little lemon shaped tea caddy that belonged to my Mom. :-) My family and I regularly enjoy our "tea time" after supper. It's a nice way to finish our meal."
Thank you so much, Mary! I adore that beautiful kettle! And I also love how you store your sundries in those pretty glass jars ... and ooh, the silver platters behind them! All so inviting and lovely ... like a picture from Victoria Magazine!
My friends, thank you so much for joining me for another Tea Journal post! I would love to hear about your hopes for this Advent, if you have time. And of course, I always love to hear about your tea!
Next week's Advent Tea theme will be >> Peace. How do we find (create) peace in the midst of a hustle-bustle season? If you have thoughts or pictures for next week's post, please send them to me at your earliest convenience:
Hope to hear from you soon!
* Ooh wait, I forgot a recipe to share!
How about Scottish shortbread in honor of St. Andrew? Quite possibly the simplest cookie - three ingredients! - and best tasting in my opinion. Much like those cookies I posted about last week! They can be dipped in melted chocolate to dress them up (and even sprinkles), but I like them best plain:
Happy Monday, my friends, and welcome! I'm so glad you could stop by. Would you care to join me for tea?
This is one of my favorite weeks all year. Thanksgiving is upon us and folks are bustling about, making their way homeward. Families are reunited, nostalgia abounds, and home cooks are doing what they do best: taking care of their families ... feeding them, body and soul!
I think it's clear I am someone who likes to look for the simple joys in life. I have always felt this way and try to bring that positivity to my blog as much as I can. We all know life is not always (often, ever?) perfect or easy - but there is always much for which to be grateful. Family and home, good health, good work, good food, good friends. And always, above all, God's love and grace. More than anything, I hope and pray my boys are blessed by all of these things throughout their lives ...
In my weekly teatime journal, I hope to sit down and take a moment to feel grateful for, not just the "biggies" (as mentioned above) but also, the little things that I might easily overlook or take for granted. I would love to have you join me when you are able. :)
(And let me just say right here and now, I am grateful for every one of you dear people who take the time to stop by and read whatever I might have to share. I am humbled to think you spend some of your time here and honored by your encouragement and friendship.)
Now, I'm still sort of piecing together how these teatimes will work ... how I'll make them happen for myself and how I will share them with you all. (I fear this first one is a bit rambly.) So please bear with me as I find my way, but for today, here are some pictures of my teatime and the happy things surrounding me right now ...
Thankgiving decorations along the mantel ...
Vases along a sunny windowsill, stuffed with a last bit of autumn.
A lovely "vintage book" filled with children's poems and prayers.
One pretty tablecloth, fairly new ...
And another, fairly old ... but much loved. This woven cloth belonged to my grandmother and was one of her most often used kitchen linens. It's faded now, but so very soft, and I love the memories it brings to mind ...
And I think it looks rather pretty beneath an apple-filled cornucopia. :)
A lovely season's greeting card. (I like to prop special cards on a small art stand like this. Gets them out of the mail basket and into the open!)
A cocktail napkin for Turkey Day, featuring Good Ol' Mister Tom, himself.
My Tea Journal for 11/24/14
In the Natural World ...
The day started out drizzly and gray - wonderful tea-drinking weather! Though strangely warm for this time of year, as well and overcast skies parted as the afternoon waned. There's a rather large flock of robins in the neighborhood that seem out of place (though are quite welcome) in November.
What I'm drinking (and eating!) ...
My cup (pictured at the top of the page) is an old favorite. Part of a set I grew up with, famliar in my parents' kitchen cabinets. They're mine (and Bill's) now and I think they originally came from Vermont. Which of course, makes them all that more special to me. :) Today I'm drinking Constant Comment Decaf - another old favorite of mine and just right for the holiday season: black tea + orange + spices. Quite fitting for Thanksgiving, too - the blend was first formulated by a home cook here in New England!
To nibble on: a couple of THESE COOKIES which OMgoodness I cannot stop eating. My parents gave me a box last month - well, they gave it to US, but they quickly became MINE - and I am hooked. Hooked, I tell you. For me, they are quite possibly the perfect cookie - buttery and dense with a scant touch of salt. The kind of cookie I truly have no business ordering in bulk.
What I'm reading ...
Not a lot right now - too busy! But I did get this from the library after reading an interesting review and I also picked up this today (again from the library). Magazines are piling up - the Christmas issues look amazing.
What I'm working on ...
Aside from Thanksgiving Day preparations, I am also working on my Advent planner and the kids' Advent calendar. I'm using library pockets, index cards and stickers - and I will post about it very soon!
Words to inspire gratitude ...
For each new morning with its light,
For rest and shelter of the night,
For health and food, for love and friends,
For everything Thy goodness sends.
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
And now, I'm very grateful to two dear friends, longtime readers, Michelle and Emma, for sharing their thoughts on teatime ...
Good Afternoon Dawn! I am sitting here reading your blog with a hot cup of apple cider. So yummy on this wintery day in Indiana and to go along with it 5 inches of snow! It was so beautiful this morning to awake to a winter wonderland. This is our first snowfall for the season and my boys are loving it. I am so excited that you will be starting up your Tuesday teas again. When the boys were younger we would have tea/story time. I would try to coordinate the tea and sweet treat (of course) to go along with the book. One of our favorites was a gingerbread tea with a little dab of sugar. Precious memories! Thanks for letting me share.
And from Emma:
Dear Dawn. Thank you for making me even more mindful for all my everyday blessings, you and your blog are so dear to my heart. Tea time in my kitchen: a favorite cup of warm, sweet earl grey, a piece of pumpkin gingerbread cake, the last Autumn greeting to mail out later today, a shopping list - and in the background a CD with Thanksgiving hymns and one of my very favorite Yankee Candle" Cranberry Chutney", so wonderful. A calm, joy filled moment. Thank you for inviting me, have a lovely afternoon.
Thank you for the lovely thoughts and kind words, Michelle and Emma!
I would be so happy to hear from more friends about their teatimes this week (or next week or whenever you are able). If you'd like to participate - with words and/or pictures - please send me an email at your earliest convenience ...
>> firstname.lastname@example.org <<
I look forward to hearing from you!
Next Monday we'll begin our Advent Teas, so there will be lots to to talk about and share. Some thoughts on our hopes and ideas for the season ... so please stay tuned!
But before I go, how about a recipe for the week? If you were all coming for tea I might make this since it is so seasonal and yummy-sounding! (I'm making it for Thanksgiving, so I'll let yo know how it turns out!)
Cranberry Spice Cake
1/2 cup unsalted butter
3/4 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 cup currants
1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts
1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup jellied cranberry sauce
1 tablespoon orange zest
Cranberry Cream Cheese Frosting
1/2 cup dried cranberries, chopped
3 tablespoons orange juice
1/2 cup (4 oz.) cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, softened
Pinch of salt
1 pound confectioner's sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a tube pan or two 8" round pans.
For the Cake
In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar. Add the eggs, one at a time, scraping the bowl after beating each egg in. Stir in the currants and nuts. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, cloves, baking soda and salt; mix into the sugar mixture. Stir in the cranberry sauce and orange zest.
Pour evenly into the tube pan or divide between the round pans. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the cake begins to pull back from the edges of the pan(s). Remove from the oven and cool completely before frosting.
For the Frosting
In a medium microwave-safe bowl, combine the cranberries and orange juice. Microwave for 30 seconds in high, to allow the fruit to soak up the juice. In another medium bowl, mix the cream cheese, butter and salt until no lumps remain. Add the confectioner's sugar and mix well. Add any unabsorbed orange juice, and vanilla and mix until creamy. Use the cranerries for garnish or mix into the frosting as you please.
Yield: 16 servings
(From The Baking Sheet (published by King Arthur Flour) which is SADLY going out of print. I have many years' worth of back issues. Earlybird loves to read them as well.)
Enjoy your Monday evening, my friends ... see you here again very soon!