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8 Random Things

Recently, I was asked by a friend to share 8 random things about myself. I thought it might be fun to post them here at my blog ...

Thanks for the tag, Wendy!


(If you have time, please feel free to share some random things about yourself in the comments below!)

1. My middle name was Michelle, but when I got married I officially changed it to my maiden name. 

2. I was an early education major when I started college (I wanted to be a nursery school teacher) but switched to English in my sophomore year.

3. I can say/sing the alphabet backwards really quickly - thanks to my 1st grade teacher.

4. I haven't worked - for pay Winking - since 1995. I was a newspaper writer/assistant editor before becoming a full-time mom. I'm very thankful we've been able to do this; living on one income is not always easy.

5. One of my ancestors came over on the second Mayflower.

6. I'm severely allergic to almost all antibiotics. This was discovered when I had pneumonia a few years ago.

7. I've never been to NYC and it's a dream of mine to stand outside the Today Show in Rockefeller Center with a sign and a cup of Dean & Deluca coffee. 

8. I have an irrational fear of bears. (Irrational, because I never put myself in situations where I might run into bears.)


(Bonus random fact: I did my list in my favorite colors.)

Hope you're all enjoying the weekend! See you here again sometime soon ...

A Sunny Sunday Hello

Well friends, I hope you're all having a nice Sunday! The sun is so bright and beautiful here today ... but don't let that fool you ... it's barely 20 degrees!

Bitter cold aside, we're in the midst of a nice, long holiday weekend. Busy Saturday - quiet Sunday - not sure yet what Monday will bring! I thought I might share a few things with you all while I grab a few moments online ...


A bowl of clementines on the table, just soaking up the sun.


A catalog filled with summer promise ...


Bookworm's recent art project.


A craft book I'm perusing.


Our "rainbow angel" nightlight.


(And by "rainbow" I mean, she changes color. :))

Also on my mind this sunny Winter Sunday ...

*-Downton Abbey, of course! Cannot wait for tonight's installment. I'll have my "morning after" post up as quickly as possible.-*

*-This recipe sounds good - and healthy! I'll be trying it later this week.-*

*-The big Pats win last night - we're one step closer!-*

*-Great Expectationswhich I've just started reading - or re-readng, really, though it's been too many years to count!*

*-My desk - I think it's supposed to ship this week!-*


So, a bit of this, a bit of that ... but that's all I have for now. :) Thanks so much for stopping by ... to read, to say hi, or to just take a look! Have a great Sunday night, everyone ... I'll see you all again very soon!

Friday Odds and Ends


Well, my posting plans went completely awry this week! Busy-ness got the best of me, I guess. It was my turn to host Book Group, so I found myself reading every spare minute I got - taking notes, preparing questions, etc. Our clubs met yesterday afternoon; in Crackerjack's group we discussed Hoot, while Bookworm's teen group chatted about the Maximum Ride series ...

(By the way, speaking of books - don't forget another Barnes & Noble Educator Discount Week begins tomorrow! Anything new on your can't-wait-to-read-list?)

We also had a late night Wednesday - I was a chaperone for a "Night Hike," that the older boys participated in. Really fun night! Pizza first, then as the sun set (beautifully, I might add) we headed into the woods where we hiked for an hour - with 17 kids, 5 adults and plenty of flashlights to see by. Kind of spooky, a little treacherous in spots - but so very cool. The waterfall was my favorite part. :)

And soccer started this week - our first game's tomorrow! Bill's coaching Crackerjack's team again this year (with my brother as co-coach and Bookworm as coach's assistant). I'm team "secretary," lol - photocopying schedules, field maps and fielding messages from players who need rides, etc. The weekend weather looks to be beautiful so it should be a great season kick-off!


Now, unfortunately, with all this running around, Earlybird and I didn't get to do many of the "Eggs and Nests" activities I had planned. So I'll stretch that theme into next week (which is tentatively our "Spring Cleaning" week). I know I've said this before, but "more on all that soon." :)


While I'm here I'd like to post the delicious Penuche Frosting my mum used for the Rose Sunday cake. This is for Jennifer. :)

6 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar

1 1/2 tablespoons milk

1 cup confectionary sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Melt vanilla in saucepan. Add brown sugar and stir until blended. Slowly add milk, mix well and bring to boil. Cool 10 minutes. Add confectionary sugar and beat until smooth.

This frosting - atop whatever cakey vehicle you choose - tastes especially divine with a cup of coffee. The flavors together remind me of a caramel latte. Yum.


My mum brought over some small picture frames for me yesterday, and among them was this - my 2nd grade school picture! The boys got a kick out of seeing such a "young" Mama, but Earlybird was insisting it was a picture of Crackerjack, lol! (Which, understandably, didn't please CJ too much.)


(I had long hair for most of my childhood, but this was that "Dorothy Hamill" so very popular in those days. And just look at those teeth, lol! This was pre-braces, obviously.)


Now, both Mary and Lynette have recently left comments about planners ... this is the time of year when the academic planners start showing up in the shops. Blue Sky was my favorite month-at-a-glance planner for years - and I'm always tempted to jump ship (new planners are like my kryptonite, lol) - but for now I'll stick with my homemade binder. It's working well for me so I'll keep plugging on. :) I do need to pick up new file folders for the crate, however - I do the change up next season (May-June) so I'll be needing fresh supplies very soon!


And before I go, I'd like to report in for Elizabeth (and anyone else who suffers from fruit flies as we do) that "Petey," our Venus fly trap, is not doing too much for the situation. Not yet, anyways. At last count - and to our best knowledge - he's eaten only one fruit fly so far. I'll cut him some slack, though - he is only one plant after all - and the fruit flies number in the dozens at least! I will say, Bookworm has found fair success using a handheld vacuum to chase the little buggers down, and I'm considering trying something like this. I really must get these flies out of here before Easter - they are completely obnoxious in general, but especially when it comes to dinner parties!


Oh, and one more thing! I can't believe I almost forgot to tell you all about this ...

Last week, Erin left me a comment and linked me to an Etsy shop featuring lovely wooden saint dolls: Saint Anne's Pixies. You simply must take a look. The tiny dolls are beautifully hand-painted and there are so many to choose from! Something for everyone, very reasonably priced and a portion of the shop's profits go to Food for the Poor. I ordered a "Saint Francis" for our nature table and (shhhh ...) a "Saint Emily" for my cousin's daughter who'll make her First Holy Communion at the end of the month ...


Ok, so there are my "odds and ends" for this Friday. Rambling and random, but there you go. I hope your week has been a good one, busy or quiet, or somewhere in between. Thanks so much for stopping by ... I'll see you again very soon!


Eight Things about Me

My friend Meredith very kindly tagged me for the 8 Facts Meme! I actually asked to be tagged, because I'd seen this around and it looked fun. I have no idea what I will post though. I chat so much here, I don't think there's all that much left to say, lol!

I will, of course, try. :)

Here are the rules: Each player lists 8 facts/habits about themselves. The rules of the game are posted at the beginning before those facts/habits are listed. At the end of the post, the player then tags 8 people and posts their names, then goes to their blogs and leaves them a comment, letting them know that they have been tagged and asking them to read your blog.

Now for my 8 random facts ...

1. We live 1.7 miles from the house in which I grew up (and where my parents still live). It was my childhood dream to one day live in my hometown.

2. Numbers are not my thing; for instance, Sudoku makes my brain hurt. But I love word games, like crosswords, word jumbles and the like.

3. Up until last year, I had never broken any bones. Then I dropped a glass juice jar on my foot and broke two of my toes! But I think 37 years is a good record!

4. I have every issue of Martha Stewart Living as well as every issue of her Kids magazine and Baby magazine. At one time I had every issue of Victoria, but lately I can only find my spring and summer issues (trying not to fret). Yes, that makes me a magazine junkie. ;)

5. My high school yearbook quote: "Hearts will never be practical until they can be made unbreakable. So remember my sentimental friend, a heart is not judged by how much you love, but by how much you are loved by others." (The Wizard of Oz)

6. My high school yearbook ambition: To give my children a life as good as the life my parents have given me.

7. My career goal was to write for a magazine, like Victoria. I worked at a newspaper right out of college (an internship that turned into a job). I began writing service directory blurbs ("Value Painters offer you value work at a value price!") and eventually worked as assistant features editor. Lots of fun - very little money.

8. I cannot drive a stick shift, though I tried - once. After that Bill's beloved maroon Saab never went in reverse again - yet he still drove it for years!

Well, now I am supposed to tag eight people, but so many have already been tagged for this meme. I think I will borrow a page from Meredith's book, and ask that if anyone wants to be tagged, please leave me a comment and I'll pop over and tag you! :)

That New & Random Meme

I saw this at Angela's and thought, well, I'm just gonna tag myself! ;)

1. What time did you get up this morning? Oy - 4:37 exactly.

2. Diamonds or pearls? Well, Bill gave me a pearl ring when I graduated from college and my friend Kathy gave me pearl drop earrings for my wedding (or was it her wedding? I cant remember now, lol) so I do love pearls. But my wedding rings are diamond as is the cross Bill gave me a few years ago. So what is the answer to my question? Both! :)

3. What was the last film you saw at the theater? Well, um .... today the boys and I are joining friends to see Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Before that it was Flushed Away. Ah, yes, I am the mother of boys ... :)

4. What is your favorite TV show?  Northern Exposure. It was on in the early 90s but they re-run it on one of our sattelite channels. I watch it every night! The only current tv show we watch is Lost, but I'm getting a little tired of it.

5. What did you have for breakfast? Coffee and a whole wheat English muffin with orange marmalade. Also, a multivitamin and a B-complex, washed down with some chocolate soy milk.

6. What is your middle name? Michelle. My mum and grandmother wanted Michelle Dawn, but my dad wanted Dawn Michelle. They called me Missy when I was growing up. :)

7. What is your favorite cuisine? Actually, I get really excited about baking! Especially homemade, organic, locally grown produce kind of baking. As far as eating out, I do love Chinese every now and then.

8. What foods do you dislike? Onions - blech.

9. What are your favorite chips? Cape Cod Chips

10. What is your favorite CD at the moment? In the car it's Schoolhouse Rock. At home it's American Picnic.

11. What kind of car do you drive? Toyota Sienna (a minivan).

12. Favorite sandwich? Oh, a BLT in August can't be beat!

13. What are characteristics you can't stand? Callousness. And when people try to be cool. Maybe it's because I am so uncool, lol, but I just think we should all relax and be ourselves.

14. What are your favorite clothes? A cardigan sweater over a scoop neck tee with a pair of pants or a skirt. (Pretty schoolmarmish. Not very cool, lol.)

15. If you could go anywhere on vacation where would you go? If I got up the guts to fly it would be to Ireland, definitely (with a side trip to England and Scotland). Closer to home it would be Vermont or Nantucket.

16. One random fact about myself: Hmmm ... well, I'm pretty crunchy, actually. My family is very supportive of environmental issues. At one time Bill and I thought pretty seriously about moving "back to the land" and owning an organic farm - vegetables, sheep, bees. We still kick that idea around once in a while! :)

17. Where would you want to retire? In Vermont - to a pocket farm or a B&B.

18. Favorite time of day? I love the morning hours when the day is new and the coffee is hot ... but I also really love that hour or so after the kids go to bed when we can relax.

19. Where were you born? El Paso, Texas

20. What is your favorite sport to watch? I LOVE Patriots football! I also like Red Sox games, but not as much. I used to be really into figure skating, but not in years.

21. Coke or Pepsi? Coke, absolutely.

22. Beavers or ducks? Huh, that's a head scratcher. I guess I would have to say beavers because I think this movie is the cutest thing ever.

23. Are you a morning person or a night owl? I have always been a morning person, even before I had kids.

24. Pedicure or manicure? Probably a manicure though I keep my nails short. I would like to get a pedicure before sandal season starts.

25. What did you want to be when you were little? A mother and a writer. :)

26. What is your best childhood memory? Playing in the yard. Making soup and stuff with dandelions and mud. Smelling wild grapes in the fall and wild onions in the spring. "Fishing" in the brook and collecting pussy willows. Though come to think of it, Christmas Eve at my grandparents was probably the best memory of all.

27. Ever been to Africa? No
28. Ever been toilet papering? Yes, when I was a hockey cheerleader in high school.

29. Been in a car accident? Yes. 

30. Favorite day of the week? Hard to say. I have a lot of energy on Fridays because it's almost the weekend and I'm all fired up to have Bill home and get things done. Sundays are the most peaceful, though.

31. Favorite restaurant? What's a restaurant? ;)

32. Favorite flower? It's very hard to choose. I love daffodils ... and morning glories. I also like pinks (dianthus) and foxglove. Basically anything you'd find in an English cottage garden.

33. Favorite ice-cream? Peach.

34. Favorite fast food restaurant? Does Starbucks count?

35. How many times did you fail your driver's test? None.

36. From whom did you get your last e-mail? 4Real Forums

37. Which store would you choose to max out your credit card? Oooh, this is a toughie. Could I split it between Barnes & Noble and The Baker's Catalogue?

38. Last person you went to dinner with? My husband - but it's been a while!

39. What are you listening to right now? Birds and the breeze outside the window, pencils scratching on paper, the toaster just popped, a cat is crying at me to be fed.

40. What is your favorite color? I've always liked yellow - soft and buttery or golden and warm. I also like shades of peach and orange.

41. How many tattoos do you have? None!

42. How many people are you sending this to? I'll have to check my stats at the end of the day to know for sure!
43. What time did you finish this blog entry? 10:55 a.m.

44. Favorite magazine: Martha Stewart and Faith & Family

45. Coffee or tea? Coffee

46. Do you tan easily or burn easily? This Irish skin? Burn.
47. Do you color your hair? Well, that's an awfully personal question! (The answer is yes!)
48. What was the first car you ever purchased without the help of your parents?  I think it was our Ford Windstar.
49. What is your most dreaded household chore? Cleaning the toilet. Yuck!

A Fun Meme!

I saw this first at Theresa's, and then later at Katherine's and Elizabeth's. And you know I just can't pass up a fun meme! (Especially late on a Sunday when I have nothing else to post, lol!) I was actually playing around with a potential grocery shopping meme (couldn't find one online) but so far that's still in a rough draft stage. (Let me know if you have any good grocery questions!)

Coffee, tea or other beverage?  Not that I don't enjoy a good cup of tea, but I cannot do without my morning coffee. I also drink low-fat milk, water (if I remember) and Coca-Cola. (I never drink diet soda - it gives me headaches.)

Are you a morning bird or a night owl? Morning bird here.

Do you have a favorite verse of Scripture? 1 Corinthians 13: 1-13

What is your favorite book of the Bible? I'm not sure I have a favorite ...

Which do you prefer, pen or pencil? A well-sharpened pencil. 

Laptop or desktop? I have a laptop with a wireless mouse. Bill gave it to me on our anniversary last fall. I love it.

When you write do you print or use cursive?  A combination of both.

Do you plan your menus or do you just wing it? I wing it, though we end up eating the same five meals it seems. I am forever working on a "two-week meal plan."

Favorite color?  Yellow has always been my favorite color.

Favorite form of exercise? When I did "excercise" I liked fitness walking (3 miles a day). This was before Bookworm was born so, if you mean recently ... um, vacuuming.

How do you wear your hair most days?  It's gotten very long, so these days I either clip it at the nape of my neck in a low pony or pull the sides back in barette. I just discovered butterfly clips, though, and am loving the up-do! (Still trying to decide if I should go back to my shorter style, cannot decide for the life of me.)

Which do you prefer, baking or cooking? Oh, baking, absolutely. 

In the house are you barefoot, in slippers or in shoes? I wear these all the time. Consequently, I need a new pair. In the summer I wear sandals or Keds.

Do you wash dishes by hand or have a dishwasher?  We have a dishwasher, thank goodness.

Do you have pets? Three quiet, loving, well-behaved cats ~ Midget, Penny and Smokey. 

What do you eat for breakfast? You mean besides coffee? ;) I like a toasted English muffin with marmalade.

Tell me one thing you love about your state. Well, I'll tell you what I love about New England ... I love the four seasons. We have gorgeous autumns, snowy winters, pretty springtimes and scorching summers. I also love that we have so much colonial history here. Our geography is nice too - the mountains and the ocean all within driving distance.

What is your favorite magazine? Oh dear, you've found my weakness! If I had to pick one ... well ... I couldn't! I love Martha Stewart, Faith & Family, British Country Living and I dearly wish they still published Victoria. THAT was the best magazine ever.

If you are reading this, please consider yourself tagged! :)

Well, that was a First!

I think January 9, 2007 will go down as the first day I didn't post a thing here. Not a thing.

Actually it was not entirely my fault. Typepad was down last night between 7 and 8 - maybe later, I don't know - I went to bed. So technically I couldn't post.

(Excuses, excuses.)

Not that I had anything great to say anyway. I was really stretching to think of something to talk about. Goodness, me? Not have something to say? January 9th is the birthdate of Elvis - could I make a post out of that, I wondered? No, probably not. Besides, it turned out he was born on the 8th, which did me no good. So I halted my search for the lyrics to Blue Suede Shoes.

This is an area I need to work on - in blogging and in life. Sometimes it's OK to just be quiet. If there's silence I tend to fill it - but good things grow in silence, don't you think? Quiet is where we hear what we need to.

Even so, I spent a good amount of time at Blogthings last night trying to find a neat quiz to post. (Have you noticed some of their quizzes are, shall we say, a bit adult? I find myself less and less comfortable there.) I even found a really cute "100 Acre Wood Character" quiz somewhere out there in the world wide web - not on Blogthings, at a site I can't remember now - that I was going to post, but the graphics wouldn't work. (Just so you know, I was Owl. I really wished to be Kanga.)

Anyhoo. Typepad had the final say so. And it was all for the better. Because we were all tired in this household yesterday. We needed an early-to-bed.

Usually, that last hour before bedtime is when I post whatever it is I'm going to post for the day. I look at the notes I've made through the day, clean them up, and hit that publish button. I also had many blogs to visit, comments to leave and a few to answer, an email or two to send ...

But instead, last night, I logged off and took extra long with the boys over prayers. Crackerjack is making his First Penance in two weeks' time and it is much on his mind. As is his left front tooth which is hanging on by what seems to be a very strong thread. We talked about these things with his older brother who has gone through both confession and loose teeth.

Earlybird was already asleep. (Have I mentioned he's stopped napping? He now sleeps from 7 till 4. So you see why we too keep an early bedtime.) Bill was also already in bed, and sound asleep before 8. He's a bit under the weather - he needed it.

I spent the remainder of my quiet time reading in bed, the house growing still around me. I read some more in my book and looked back over today's Magnificat ...

That quiet space made room for good words - read and said - and a few extra prayers. By 8:30 I was turning out the light.

And there was nothing new at my blog. Not a thing.

Well, it's a brand new day. I'm working on a post about our Middle Ages study - I'm tweaking the very life out of it (or rather, I hope, into it) and I want to tell you all about that.

So please stay tuned. I think there will be a post sometime later today. :) 

Ten Things I Love that Begin with "R"

I saw this meme at Semicolon, where Sherry listed the Ten Things She Loves that Begin with the Letter C. Sherry very kindly assigned me the letter R, and so, without further ado, here's my list:

1. Rainy days. Call me odd, but I really love them. I don't even mind a week full of them. They provide a great excuse to stay home and do the next thing I love ...

2. Reading. I'm sure most of my visitors agree with me here. As a home educator it kind of comes with the territory, but I've always loved reading. I was an early reader (3) and an English major in college. These days I am pursuing a living books education with my boys who, thankfully, also love reading (and being read to). It is by far my most favorite hobby, and considering how much I love crafts, that's saying a lot. :)

3. Earlybird. My youngest son whose real name, my maiden name, begins with the letter R. What can I say about my 5 year old sweetie that I haven't already said? He's a love, and boy, do I love him.

4.  Religion. Which in my case is Roman Catholic. I was born and raised Catholic, attended Catholic schools and married a Catholic with whom I am now raising three boys in our beautiful faith. I will add to this one, I love saying the rosary - my most favorite prayers said with repitition and in a comforting rhythm. And speaking of rhythm ...

5. Rhythm. No not in the musical sense - I can't hold a tune. What I love is the rhythm of the year, the seasons that come and go. The way the same things happen over and again - falling leaves, morning frost, snow flurries, budding leaves and thunderstorms - each season bringing a new understanding of, and a deeper joy in, the natural world.

6. Rainbow-colored yarn. One of my favorite craft supplies. We have at least three different color variations - pastel, jewel-toned and brights..

7. Recipe cards. Especially those hand-written by my mum and grandma. Not just for the recipes, but for the memories. I love how they represent their (our) vocation - we are mothers, the feeders of our family; recipe cards are part of our homekeeping repertoire. How I love the recipe for Grandma's "Spig" Sauce (shorthand for spaghetti) written in my mother's lovely hand.

8. Red squirrels. If you've been following my blog for a while, you won't be surprised at this entry. After my cats, these tiny critters are my most favorite animals. One of the reasons I love them so is because they remind me of the Beatrix Potter tales (and that little imp Squirrel Nutkin). I've always thought of them as a British species so I was quite pleased to discover we had them living in our woods. I will add to this critter list, robins, roosters and red foxes, too.   

9. Record-keeping. And by that I mean the records of daily life. Bits and pieces - notes on the nuances of the every day. To capture them in print - here and in my journals is a favorite pastime. I love looking back at old journals (and blog archives) to remember what was and reflect on what might be.

10. Rhubarb and roses. My grandfather grew both, famously. His roses were astoundingly beautiful - my favorite was the pale lavender tea rose that grew by the chimney. His rhubarb was an old and hardy plant that grew out in the pool yard. Every spring he would stew it with sugar till it was soft, tender and sweet. Pies and jams came next, but I best remember sitting on the back steps, dipping stalks of rhubarb into a cup full of sugar.

And there's 10! This was fun - and I'm glad Sherry assigned me R because I had to really think about that one!

If you'd like to participate in this meme, leave me a comment below, and I'll assign you a letter!

Friday Notes and Photos

In other words, just a bit of catch-up before bed ... :)

1. First of all, Field Day was enormously fun - thanks again to everyone who pitched in with posts, pictures, plugs, comments  and well wishes! I so appreciate you all! (And if you look very closely, you'll see I slipped in one more entry just this evening!)

2. Secondly, Nina asked about my bulletin board, which I posted briefly about, ah, yesterday I think it was - was it only yesterday?? Gosh time has flown and here it is Friday. I just wanted to let you all know, (since I'm sure you've been waiting on tenterhooks, lol) I made good on my promise and updated my original post with details about what-all is up on the board. Nina asked (hi Nina!) if I have a color-copier and the answer is, happily, yes. We've had our copier/printer/scanner for years and I honestly don't know how I'd get along without it!

3. Thirdly, after I posted about our Autumn Star cookies and made my not so subtle plea for gingerbread recipes, I had a couple of responses! Katherine very sweetly posted her family's favorite recipe at her blog (thank you!) and Beck offered to email hers (again thank you!). Beck, please do; my email address is drhanigan AT verizon DOT net. (I only took it off this page recently after I got a few spammy emails.) Katherine, your recipe sounds so good (and what a lovely story behind it). In fact, I just finished mixing up the dough tonight! Tomorrow our church is holding a toy drive/bake sale and I am planning to bring - you guessed it - gingerbread cookies! Ooh, the dough was so dark and rich smelling I can hardly wait to bake it up. Naturally I will be posting pictures of the results tomorrow!

And you know, I had a little idea (oh, dear) that if anyone else has gingerbread recipes they'd like to share (look out 4Real ladies you know this means you!) please send them my way - by e-mail or (blog) post - and I might pull together a mini-carnival of gingerbread next week! I'll bet you have a family favorite, or even maybe some handy gingerbread tips? Friends, I have three cookie swaps and a bake sale this month - I could really use some help!

OK on to the pictures from the past day or two. This first being a spent, yet striking, dandelion nub I noticed in our backyard. Earlybird was just peeping over my shoulder  and proclaimed it a "spider" and then thinking better of it, a "bee eating a spider." Interesting, EB.


I just had to show you this birthday gift we brought to our dear friend Jared's 7th birthday party Thursday afternoon. I am kicking myself that I forgot my camera! The party was at a local bowling alley and goodness, did my boys have fun! (And you know, they weren't half bad?) Anyway, I am posting this because I wanted to point out the stars we used to decorate the plain craft store bag (attached with little rolled up bits of scotch tape). These are the scraps from our star-making on Wednesday! After the boys used up every last dinosaur sticker on the card (I had meant for them to save a few for the bag), I remembered all these little colorful stars and thought they made a cheerful touch!


Next we have Earlybird during his ahem, morning science lesson. Pajamas and piggies - is there any better way to study the planets?


Well, yes, you can also get up really close and chat about the changing solar system. (This is the other side of the poster. Btw, this is from the current issue of National Geographic which I specifically bought this month for its cover story on Saturn - EB's second favorite planet after Jupiter. (I'm not sure where Earth stands.)


Next we have my cat, Penny. Isn't she the cutest? Please disregard the disarray of reading material spread all around her!


Here is Crackerjack kicking back with a good book - one he can read all by himself! (Again with the jammies! We do get dressed on occasion, I promise.) I can't tell you how proud he is (we are!) that he can read this book cover to cover.


Ah, yes. Here is where you would have found me late this afternoon. Bundled up on the couch, snuggled up to this sight. I am a bit under the weather today and I thought tea and some clementines might help me along. (Now see this is where the jammies come in. Mama took a sick day, Daddy worked from home, the rain poured down outside and we all kept things real casual-like.) :)


This last photo looks somewhat Halloween in nature, but I love how these starry little candles looked as darkness fell. A bit of late autumn starlight piercing the looming winter darkness perhaps?


Well, this concludes another blogging week! I hope everyone has a wonderful time ushering in the new and beautiful season of Advent this Sunday! Have fun and God bless!

Odds and Ends

This is not a very coherent post, I'm afraid. There were just so many little things today that I wanted to mention - nothing of great importance and yet, I didn't get a chance to sit down and create a post around any one thing. And now it is getting late and we're all getting ready for bed, so I will weave a quick recap of the day - all those little stories gathered up into one rather long and rambly post. :)

Morning in the Garden

Very early this morning I went outside to fill the feeders. I try to get outside for 15 minutes or so before Bill leaves for work every day - and while he's inside shaving and dressing (and keeping one eye on the kids), I putter a little outside. I retrieve the paper from the end of the driveway and then head out back to check on the feeders. It's been kind of dark lately so I don't do much looking, but I do listen. I love this time of day; it's so simple and quiet. I can hear the crows off in the distance, the wind rushing through the woods and the chickadees scolding me to get on with it already and just fill up the feeders. :) I got to thinking about the upcoming Field Day and what this time of year means to me. I kicked around a few of my own thoughts and plans for the winter garden - the one I watch outside my windows and the one I carry in my heart until spring. Here are a few pictures:


Spruce branch - new cone buds, I think?


Tiny, withered but stalwart dandelion.


Eastern sky, from our deck, dawn.

My Christmas Kitchen

I am on a mission to make over my kitchen for the holidays. I'm not talking paint or hardwood or anything like that. I'm just talking clean countertops, baking space, merry music and good smells.

To that end, I spent an alarming amount of time cleaning in the kitchen today. In all the Thanksgiving rush I've kind of neglected a few corners, crooks and crevices of late. So I tore apart the windowsill which had accumulated a number of unrelated items (pencil sharpener, pumpkin pie spice, two marbles and a paintbrush for instance) along with a healthy (make that unhealthy) amount of dust. I polished the woodwork and I even took out the screens to clean them thoroughly. (That never happened however, they are still sitting in our tub!) Once the area was spiffy, I put up a few Christmas candles:


Candle light, burning bright ... help me wash my dishes tonight. :)

Next I tackled the lower corner cabinet - the one with the revolving shelves. This is where I store most of our canned goods and other pantry supplies (as well as, for some unknown reason, the crockpot and toaster). I found a small box of Hodgson Mills Cornbread mix so I cooked up some cornbread muffins for lunch. I also discovered 4 overripe bananas and 3 enormous butternut squash hiding in the baking pan cabinet. (I have no idea how they got there, though I'm guessing Earlybird had something to do with it.) I baked the squash for about an hour or so (split lengthwise, seeds scraped out and flesh lightly buttered). They came out pretty well!


I scooped out and mashed the insides and got quite a bowl-ful of squash! I will freeze it in baggies in 2 cup measures - just the right amount for my favorite quick bread recipe. I didn't get around to the bananas. If they are still viable I will bake them tomorrow - Oatmeal Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins is what I have in mind!

National French Toast Day!

I'm sorry I didn't post this earlier today so you too could incorporate French toast into your menu plan today, although it's possible you think serving French toast for dinner is a rather nutty idea! It is, yes, a bit nutty. But it is also delicious and fun! We make ours with whole wheat bread, organic milk and eggs and a dash of pure vanilla. To round out our meal I roasted chunks of apples and turkey kielbasa. Ooh, it was all so good.

Now you might wonder how I found about National French Toast Day - it being, I would guess, one of the lesser known American holidays. Well, this morning I found in my in-box, a charming e-newsletter from mystery author Susan Albert called All About Thyme: A Weekly Calendar of Times & Seasonings.  It sounded so informative and inspiring, I signed right up! True confession - I have not read any of Ms. Albert's books (though my mum is a big fan). I do have The Tale of Hill Top Farm (from the Cottage Tales of Beatrix Potter) on my bedside table ... where it has sat these many, many months. After the holidays, I will get through that book!

New Blogs to Read

I've been thinking about handcrafts and herbs a lot lately. (Not so much in the doing as in the wishing-I-was-doing.) Here are a few great websites I have been enjoying:

Our Homeschool Bulletin Board

I got our bulletin board all done at last! I will post all the details tomorrow. :)

One Last Thing

Oh and one last thing - little, but definitely not fun and possibly problematic. You remember how my husband is recovering from Lyme Disease? Yes, this would be the man who spent the whole weekend working in the yard raking and blowing leaves and this morning woke me up with the news that he had a deer tick attached to him. Oh, for pity's sake, didn't the frost kill the little buggers off? Apparently not. We removed the tick and he dropped it off at the lab for testing. And do you know he just finished his anbtibiotics course last week? Sigh ... any and all prayers would be most welcome!

And One Last Photo

This has nothing to do with anything, I just love it. I call it Boys in Leaves:


Bookworm (in purple) is underneath all this!

So there's the round up of odds and ends! I wish you all a good night and God bless!

A Christmas Meme!

I saw this at Lindsey's and couldn't resist!

1. Hot Chocolate or apple cider?

Apple cider says "fall" to me, so I'd have to go with the hot cocoa. (Willingly of course.) :)

2. Turkey or Ham?

Ham (as in Honey of a ...) - sooo good with my mother's Delmonico potatoes!

3. Do you get a fake or real-you-cut-it-yourself Christmas tree?

Oh, this is a sore subject for me. For years and years it was always fresh-from-the-farm (or at least the local nursery) but last year we switched to fake. Mainly due to cats who insist on eating the greenery, children with mild allergic reactions, and a new fireplace that makes the house very dry. The tree we chose is very nice, but I really miss that pine smell!

4. Decorations on the outside of your house?

Yes, white icicle lights (like every other house in our neighborhood, lol) and white candles in the windows (which are technically inside but are part of the overall effect). Evergreen wreaths on the windows and door and ... some years garland along the front fence. Oh, and I hang a Christmas flag. I think that's it!

5. Snowball fights or sleddin'?

Sledding on a snowy day is the best. (Especially when a thermos of hot cocoa is involved!) Snowball fights are just bad news in my book. (So says the mother of three boys.) ;)

6. Do you enjoy going downtown shopping?

Once or twice as a novelty - just long enough to soak in the jingling, bustling atmosphere, mail our Christmas cards and maybe stop for a yummy treat - then head home before the crowds get too bad.

7. Favorite Christmas song?

Oh, it's very hard to choose. The Carol of the Bells, Sleigh Ride, and O Holy Night because my late grandfather (who had a wonderful Irish singing voice) sang it every year on Christmas eve.

8. How do you feel about Christmas movies?

I like a few - not the goofy commercial ones, though. I love It's a Wonderful Life, Polar Express and A Christmas Story. Oh and Little Women and Meet Me in St. Louis are two of my all time favorite movies (both fairly Christmas-y).

9. When is it too early to start listening to Christmas music?

Well, it's never too early if you're in the mood! I listened back in August when I started some early planning. But in the fall, I like to wait until Thanksgiving night before breaking out all the CDs and setting the car radio to the Christmas station.

10. Stockings before or after presents?

Stockings first thing!

11. Carolers, do you or do you not watch and listen to them?

I would love to have some stop by and would be glad to offer them some goodies and a hot drink! This year we are going caroling with our parish!

12. Go to someone else's house or they come to you?

Mostly everyone comes here (which I love).

13. Do you read the Christmas Story? If so when?

Yes, all throughout the season.

14. What do you do after presents and dinner?

Sip a cup of coffee and put up my feet!

15. What is your favorite holiday smell?

Mmmm - evergreen means Christmas. I also like a mixture of cranberry, clove and orange. I just got a wonderful candle from Wild Oats called Peace that smells just like those three things!

16. Ice skating or walking around the mall?

I might do one trip to the mall just to see the decorations and pick up one or two things I can't get anywhere else. (And to drool over the Williams-Sonoma windows!)

Not a big ice skating fan, though I like the "idea" of it. If I could sit on a log by the side of the bog (as in cranberry, I would never skate on a lake) and pass out treats and hot drinks I'd be very happy. :)

17. Do you open a present or presents on Christmas Eve, or wait until Christmas day?

The boys open one gift on Christmas eve (usually pajamas or something small) and then the rest in the morning. Growing up, my grandparents always gave me a brand new Lanz flannel nightgown and a stuffed animal on Christmas Eve.

18. Favorite Christmas memory?

Oh to choose just one? I may have to do a whole post on fond Christmas memories! One that springs to mind - the year Earlybird was born just a week before Christmas and I sat up through the night with him, watching the lights, rocking and nursing him and humming carols. That was the most peaceful, joyous night. :)

19. Favorite Part about winter?

Well, I'm a January baby so I just love snow! I also love dark afternoons, a warm kitchen filled with good smells, candles burning, watching the snow fall outside ...

20. Ever been kissed under mistletoe?

I'm not telling! ;)

If you're here and reading this meme, you're tagged! Happy Almost Advent!

Time for a Reality Check

And the weekend was off to such a great start, too ...

Then, the plumbing went kerflooey and just about everything that could back up did.

Bill spent the whole day under sinks or at the hardware store (in fact he's there now).

Oh, and that "savory beef stew" that was "cooking away in the crockpot" has indeed cooked away. Far, far away.

And the potatoes and popovers? They never even had a chance.

Lesson plans did not get planned, youngest did not get a nap, olders spent too much time playing Toontown and the Loveliness Fair did not get written!

And, last but not least, the Patriots lost.

To the Jets.


Well, such is life - such is reality! (Lest you think it is all cookies and crafts around here, LOL ...)

Look for The Loveliness Fair to be up sometime tomorrow! Perhaps not as early as I'd hoped ... but the good news is, there's still plenty of time to send me a post!

Good Night and God Bless!

A Bit of This, A Bit of That

We'll be continuing our All Soul's Day activities tomorrow. Our afternoon was spent attending Book Group and running a few errands, so we didn't get to all we had planned!

Not that I'm complaining, mind you - Book Group, as usual, was great fun for the boys. Crackerjack's group read and discussed Bunnicula, while Bookworm's group talked about Midnight for Charlie Bone. Meanwhile I sipped coffee and browsed for books. :)

But before I head off to bed, just for fun, I thought I'd list what we brought home from the library this week:

So what's in your library bag? :)

More random stuff:

Did you know tomorrow is National Sandwich Day? I had no idea, myself - until I checked this nifty little resource that's been sitting on my shelf for far too long: Literature for Lively Lessons: The Month-by-Month, Week-by-Week, Day-by-Day Guide to Great Picture Books That will Help You Plan Your Lessons. Big title, small book - but filled with neat information and inspiration.

So, what is your favorite kind of sandwich? A survey would be fun! I think I would have to say mine is a good old grilled cheese - with smoked ham in the winter and fresh tomato slices in the summer. I'll have to wait till the morning to confirm this, but I'm pretty sure my boys would choose a fluffernutter as their top pick. (National Fluffernutter Day was last month I see here. I'm printing that list out!) I'm trying to pin Bill down, but he says he doesn't have a favorite. (Spoil sport!) Well, I'm going to harken back to our dating days, and recall many a picnic basket packed with turkey, lettuce and cheese sandwiches made on honey- whole wheat. :)

Tomorrow is also the birthday of Janell Cannon (of Stellaluna fame). She was the first author Bookworm knew by heart - oh, how he loved that book! He carried it around with him and even had bat puppets to go with it. I can picture him, all of three years old, holding out that book, and saying in his tiny little voice - "Della-looona by Janell Cannon." You probably have a copy lying around the house ... if not, how about checking it out of the library? Verdi is another great book of hers, as is Crickwing, and I just saw Pinduli at Amazon - looks completely adorable.

And I bet you didn't know today was Cookie Monster's birthday! I didn't either - but my Earlybird thinks he's by far the funniest blue furry creature he's ever seen (though I prefer Grover myself). How about making some of CM's favorite Chewy Cherry Chunk Cookies? They'd taste great after those sandwiches!

O.K., this is getting a little silly now so it must mean I'm better off in bed. Time to recharge those brain cells! In keeping with the randomness of this post, though, I will close with a picture of the Carolina Wren who has been frequenting our front door step - and not for the chocolate, but for the holly berries! He's tiny and shy but has the most beautiful singing voice!


I think I say this every night, but I truly mean it - Good Night and God Bless!

The 10 Random Facts Meme

Stef very kindly tagged me for The 10 Random Facts Meme!

As if I haven't revealed enough about myself over these past seven months of blogging (LOL!), here are some fascinating things you may or may not have known about me. Thanks, Stef for the tag!

1. I loove magazines.

I really, really love them. So much so, in fact, that earlier today I actually took a picture of my reading basket:


As you can see there's quite a few in there. What's in the basket you ask? Why, I'd be happy to list them for you: Country Living (British and American), Better Homes and Gardens, Everyday Food, Country Living Holiday, Country Home (sense a theme?), Family Fun, Everyday with Rachel Ray, Real Simple, Martha Stewart Living, Birdwatcher's Digest, Magnificat and Time!

See I wasn't kidding, I read a lot of magazines. This is where my pin money goes. But I find the ideas they provide and the relaxation they promote are worth their weight in gold. :)

2. I was my husband's little sister.

O.K., let me explain that. The summer before I entered my freshman year of college, I received an interesting letter in the mail. It told me that I, along with all other incoming freshmen, would be assigned a junior student to befriend. Strangely enough (this being a Catholic college and all) boys were assigned girls and vice versa. ;) There on my letter - unbeknownst to me then - was my future husband's name and address. Yes, Bill - a stranger to me at the time - was my assigned Big Brother.

(And you can bet, I still have that letter!)

Now as the story goes - my dear husband, being a big important junior (and a soccer player to boot) was too busy (or something like that) the day of the big meet-up of brothers and sisters, an afternoon cookout held behind the boys' dorm. Yes, I stood around at the cookout, watching all my new dorm-mates find their partners, feeling not just a little dejected and very, very freshman. I think, if I remember, my roommate's big brother, out of the goodness his own heart, adopted me along with my friend.

It was not until my sophomore year that Bill and I finally met. (Oh, I knew who he was by then. Ours was a small college and everyone knew basically everyone else by second year.) My ever-loyal roommate cornered him at a party and laid him out in lavender for "the pain and humiliation" he caused her dear friend (me). Oddly enough, within a few months we were dating and the rest, of course, is history. :)

Every once in a while I remember to tease Bill about that funny reminiscense. Honey, consider yourself teased!

3. I love all things British.

I think that makes me an Anglophile? I especially love British humor (Fawlty Towers), British accents (Jim Dale), British literature (anything Austen), British actors (Robbie Coltrane), British television (Miss Marpel), British film (Time Bandits) and I loooove my monthly subscription to British Country Living magazine (see random fact #1). I've even fantasized about moving to the UK sometime in the future. Fortunately my husband has the same fantasy!

4. I would open a children's bookshop if I could.

Continuing the fantasy theme, I'd love to own a small children's bookshop like the one Meg Ryan owns in You've Got Mail. I would have so much fun being the Story Lady. :) Only I'd serve a special children's tea right after storytime. Come to think of it, there would be a small bakery next door that would cater to families where you would always be able to buy homemade pizza, cookies, cupcakes and special little treats for the holidays. As well as tea and milk and apple juice, of course. I'd plan little parties with names like Autumn Afternoon Tea and Nutcracker Story & Sweets and I'd pipe in soft lilting music and there'd be cozy nooks everywhere for curling up and reading good books. We'd hold nature story puppet shows and craft workshops. There would be a small courtyard garden out back where we could have lovely outdoor parties. I'd send out a monthly newsletter with news from the shop ... Can you tell I've thought about this a bit? ;)

5. I love stormy weather.

And I should preface that by saying I mean the kind of stormy weather that does not endanger human life. Up here in the northeast we get lots of snowstorms every winter. The kind of storms that generate buzz days in advance. I think weather watching is a genetic thing in my family; days before a storm actually hits, my dad and I are keeping each other abreast of the changing forecast.

I love when you run to the store to pick up an extra gallon of milk or a few loaves of bread and all anyone can talk about is the snow on its way:

Do you have enough firewood? Did you start the snowblower? Did you hear they sent the schoolkids home early?

And then everything seems to hush and the first little flakes start to fall ...

6. Once upon a time I wrote for a newspaper.

For a very brief period in time. I think most of you reading this post know the story, but just in case, I blogged about it here.

7. I can sing the alphabet backwards.

Very, very fast. I learned how in first grade and I simply never forgot!

8. I'm fairly shy and I am very much a homebody.

No, no, I'm not kidding. I will tell you a quick story that illustrates both points perfectly.

When I was working for the paper, writing mostly food articles and stuff for the parents and kids section, I was offered a chance to go to New York City and interview Michael J. Fox (Family Ties, Teen Wolf, etc.). I was offered this opportunity by the editor-in-chief himself, and do you know what I said (heart thumping, face reddening, palms sweating)?

"No thank you sir, you can send Betsy." (Betsy being the writer who sat to my left.)

To be honest, though, I have never once regretted it. My friends simply could not understand me, but I better understood myself. I knew the whole shebang was going to be way more trouble to me than it was worth. Plus, I was never a very big Michael J. Fox fan, anyway. ;)

9. And this leads me to my next random fact: I've never been to New York City.

Of course, I feel like I know the city having seen so much of it on tv and in the movies. And oh how I love the Today show! What I would really love to do is to stand there at Rockefeller center with a cup of coffee in one hand and a sign in the other, and get to wave at the Today show cameras. (With what hand, I'm not sure.)

I would love to be there on a day when Martha was visiting and talking about Christmas trees on the plaza. Or maybe Ina Garten was there talking about her new book. Or maybe the cast of Lost was on the set (not likely seeing as how they're on a different network, but still. It could happen.) I would love to be there, to soak in all that New York City-ness.

Of course, as a true blue citizen of Red Sox Nation I would not be caught anywhere near Yankee Stadium. ;)

10. I have an irrational fear of bears.

Irrational in that I don't ever really enter a situation where I might actually encounter a bear. We don't hike - not in the woods, anway. We don't camp - not outside our backyard anyway. We live in suburbia for goodness sakes! And as I keep reminding my Crackerjack, the woods behind our home are woods and not a forest and you have to have a forest to have a bear. (That's my story and I'm sticking to it.)

So there are my 10 random facts! Now to tag a few others ...

1. Jennifer

2. Jennifer

3. Rebecca

4. Sherry

5. Suzanne

Have fun!