Seasons of Joy Feed

Advent Tea Week 1: "Setting the Stage"

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Hello my friends and Happy December! Are you as startled as I am to find ourselves in the last month of the year? Where did the fall go? Where on earth did 2022 go?! And where did all those posts I had planned since this past spring go??

Well, I'm very happy to be here with you all after (yet another) very long and unintended hiatus. I'm afraid it's really been challenging finding my blogging groove again (not to mention, the time to blog!), but if you are over on Instagram, I do post there pretty regularly. And I do still intend to do more with my website, and - though I say this every year - I hope THIS year I find my way back to connecting here (and elsewhere) more consistently.

But all of that is fodder for another post (perhaps one closer to New Year's), so for now, I will look forward to these little holiday teatimes and hope that you will join me when you can. :-) 

Now, if you do follow me on IG, then you might have seen my recent monthly photo challenges. Here is the schedule for the month of December:

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As I said in my post, I can't promise I'll post *every* day, but I will do my very best. And honestly, I just like using this list (the same as last year's) to inspire a fun holiday “mood” in our home, as well as in our daily homeschool activities! ✨

I'm really excited to revive my weekly Advent Teatimes - I have such fun putting them together. As always, all are welcome to join me, and if you do post about your tea, please send me a link so I can read and share it!

 Here is the schedule I made up for these teatimes:

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But now let's move on to my very first cup of 2022 Advent Tea, which is pictured at the top of this post. Yesterday was St. Andrew of Scotland's day, and it is tradition in our family to bake a batch of shortbread on this day. This year I decided to try baking it in my new cast iron skillet ...

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And I'm delighted to say, it came out just lovely! Thick and soft with crisp edges and a solid bottom. Shortbread is just so easy to whip up, and to my mind, the perfect kind of cookie to enjoy with a cup of hot tea.

And speaking of today's tea ...

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Nevermind that this is a "Bedtime" brew - I love to drink it on winter afternoons because the flavors are so cozy and comforting. Also, I don't do caffeine after 9 a.m.! And I love to find really good-tasting, full-bodied decaf tea blends.

What tea are you enjoying lately? Or are you more of a coffee or cocoa kind of gal?

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Now, the theme of this first tea of Advent is "setting the stage," and that's because for me, the time between Thanksgiving and the first of December is is a time to prepare a welcoming environment and cultivate an atmosphere of quiet joy and anticipation. This is something I give a good bit of thought before we find ourselves immersed in the bustle of the season. I like to write out my ideas and possibilities, perhaps create a collage of images that convey the kind of feeling I hope to create in our home.

Here is a spread I made in my bullet journal along these lines:

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Every year we follow a Waldorf-inspired, nature-based Advent journey. This means that during the four weeks leading up to Christmas we explore a different aspect of creation: minerals, plants, animals and humankind. We've been doing this for many years now (ever since Bookworm was little and we first discovered Waldorf education) but every year I like to tweak our Advent countdown a little bit.

This year I decided to create a cozy window nook where we could hang some daily activity cards and prepare an Advent spiral garden ...


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In this first week of Advent, we enjoy activities inspired by things like pretty rocks, shells and crystals. So on Monday, the kids and I collected rocks from the yard (as well as pinecones and acorn caps, but I'll get into that later) which we then painted as "story stones."

These four shown here (which I painted using craft rocks) represent the four kingdoms of creation:

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Over the weekend I prepared 24 tags - numbered 1-24 on the front, with a simple activity suggested on the back.

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I also hung some copper star lights around the window frame. These give off just a touch of soft light, keeping in line with our atmosphere of quiet joy. :-)

Yesterday the kids and I made a salt-based dough (first admiring the salt crystals under our jeweler's loupes) and I fashioned it into a spiral. I baked it for a couple of hours in a very low oven.

Today we made acorn cap candles, following directions found on Pinterest!

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(Note: I pressed an acorn cap into the spiral - 24 indents in all - before it hardened, so the caps would nestle snugly into the finished dough.)

I cut a bit of beeswax hemp wicking for each cap ...

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... and then we melted some beeswax in a makeshift double boiler. The liquid wax was then poured very carefully (by me) into each acorn cap, creating a tiny and adorable candle!


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I also made a heart-shaped candle (using a shaped ice cube mold)...

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This one will be lit on Christmas Day!

(Needless to say, the lighting of these candles, surrounded as they are by tiny pinecones and moss, is undertaken with much care and adult supervision. I plan to only keep the candle lit until we've read aloud a verse of the day, then one of the kids can blow it out.)

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I placed the spiral in the window nook, on top of a wooden lazy Susan. Each week we will add items around the spiral - treasures we have on our shelf, or find on a walk - that reflect the beautiful layers of nature ...

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And today we lit the first one!

 

"Winter is dark, yet each little spark

Brightens the way to Christmas Day.

Shine little light and show us the way

To the bright light of Christmas Day."

(Heidi St. John)


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In each of my teatime posts I will share little corners of our home where we are living out our Advent. Shown below is the crafting table I set up in the family room ...

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Here is where we can make, bake, snack, or even do a puzzle -  and watch Christmas videos as we work, play or eat. (Showing here in the background: Stick Man, a holiday favorite!)

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So! The stage has been set and the plans have been (tentatively) made. December can be cold, dark and hectic - but I hope these simple activities encourage my family to connect with the season, kindling a little light in our hearts day by day. 

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Thanks so much for joining me today, my friends! I will be here again next week with a tour of our Christmas tree AND my Christmas kitchen. :-)

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


Yuletide Tea at Dawn's ❤

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Hello, my friends and welcome to another spot of Tea at Dawn's! I am so happy you are joining me today, even if it's just virtually. As crazy as it seems, virtual is more a "reality" than ever these days, isn't it?

Coronavirus and other global stresses aside, I'm greeting you on this last Sunday of Advent with a feeling of hope in my heart that better days are ahead. I hope, too, that this post finds you, and your loved ones, all well and safe. How are you faring as this year comes to a close? Are you hanging in there? Are your holiday plans (like mine) very much altered in light of the pandemic?

Well, today I have a few things to share with you, including some festive holiday tea pictures, a peek at a few of our recent Advent activities AND ... the name of the winner of my homemade planner giveaway! I will make my announcement a little further along in this post, but first, let's take a look at today's Tea ...

Now, if you were coming to my house on an afternoon such as this, I would invite you in out of the cold New England weather to take a seat at my breakfast nook table. I have set it with our favorite "homeschool tea" china - a charming little pinecone set I bought when my boys were very young ...

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(Before you ask - I found these dishes at a local "Christmas Tree Shoppe" many years ago, and it was not only *just* my style, but also, incredibly inexpensive! In hindsight I wish I had bought more than I did because it is very hard to find such woodland-themed china in a reasonable price range!)

On my table is a "colonial blue" woven tablecloth that originally belonged to my maternal grandmother, as well as a barn red braided pad, a gift from a dear friend who knows I adore braided rugs! There is also a pair of blue and cream spongeware mixing bowls holding an assortment of fruits. I just love all these soft cozy colors - the way the blues and soft reds complement the pale gray-green of my kitchen. :-)

And in our little pinecone pot I have a spicy warming brew awaiting us ...

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Trader Joe's Winter Wake Up Tea!

As yummy and seasonally on-point as this tea is, truth be told, I am sticking with a plainer tea these days. (Spice gives me heartburn, alas!) So I also have plenty of that sort available for those who would prefer it, as well as mulled cider on the stovetop - and between the beverages and the baked goodies fresh out of my oven - boy does it smell good in here!

Speaking of those goodies, the treats I baked up for today's gathering are some of my very favorite holiday pastries ...

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Mincemeat-filled, buttery, orangey tarts! Here is a peek at the preparation ...

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The pastry dough is a blend of flour, cinnamon and orange zest ...

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Using a kitchen glass I cut out 3-inch circles of dough, and set each circle inside a greased muffin tin well, gently pressing on the bottom and along the sides. I then spooned a tablespoon of prepared mincemeat filling into each well. (For those who are not familiar with "mincemeat" there is actually no meat at all in most modern blends. The brand I use (Nonesuch) has raisins, apples and spices - plus a wee bit of brandy and rum flavoring.)

Next I used a small star-shaped cookie cutter to make little pastry stars ...

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And then I topped each tart with a star!

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Last step - a light egg wash and they were ready for the oven.

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About 15 minutes later:

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All done and ready for a light coating of "winter snow" - aka powdered sugar!

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The perfect Yuletide confection, these would also be lovely at New Year's or on The Epiphany.

The full recipe can be found here. (Baker's note: this dough also makes a wonderful jam-filled turnover, wonderful for Christmas breakfast!)

Ok, now for the lovely photos sent to me by my dear readers! I was thrilled to get a peek at your favorite special drinks ...

From Jennifer:

The mug is from a homeschool field trip about six years ago to New Melleray Abbey just outside of Dubuque, Iowa. The Trappist monks were so kind and I loved the peacefulness of the Abbey. This mug reminds me of that peace : )  I had to go caffeine-free about 6 months ago and am really liking peppermint herbal tea for the winter (I like something fruity for the warmer months).

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From Shelly:

Here is a picture of my current favorite mug! In the morning it is usually filled with tea, Oolong or Eggnogg’n. Sometimes in the afternoon I squeeze in a cup of Tazo’s Glazed Lemon Loaf tea. If you haven’t tried it, I highly recommend it! In the evening, after dinner, you’ll find it filled with warm and creamy cocoa.

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From Mary:

My favorite Christmas beverage is - Bonfire Mulled Honey Wine! I tried it for the for the first time last year.  Produced and bottled by Spirit Hills Ltd, in Millarville, Alberta, Canada this wine is delicious! This is what the the blurb says:
"Christmas in your mouth! A warm blanket around your heart!"
I have never like mulled anything before, but this is really, really good!! And it sure makes it easy to support local, when their product is absolutely delicious! And even though I am gushing about this product, really, the only time I drink wine, is when someone brings us wine for a dinner party gift!
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From Penelope:

Black coffee in my lovely mug made by Annie Quigley (you can find her easily on IG), sitting on my desk with books reflected ... The text reads, “Trust in God & do the next thing.” 


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From Stacey:

I am attaching a photo of one of my favorite mugs for this season. When I am sitting down with a book, reflecting or planning, I often have coffee. This time of year, I love to have a peppermint coffee with a dash of cocoa. Our oldest, age 11, is on the spectrum and he loves penguins. I have learned so much from him when he shares his knowledge about his interests. Seeing this little penguin brings me joy each time I use it. 
 
I often find seasonal mugs or fancy teacups & saucers secondhand and switch them out, which all of my kids enjoy. We homeschool and often have poetry teatime, so using "fancy" cups make it extra special for them. Our older daughter, age 8, is my crafty one & loves to set a pretty table! In the last year, our little lady (2.5 years) doesn't want to miss out, so we even have a little teacup set for her to use. She's mostly there for the treats and sugar cubes in her tea!
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From @makefeast on Instagram:
 
"A warm cuppa hot cinnamon sunset (from Harney & Sons Tea) and some festive, inspirational fare to browse by the twinkle lights . . ."

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And this cozy scene comes from @blessedandbusy also on Instagram!

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And last but certainly not least, from Holly:

Now my favorite tea ... It is hands down without a doubt Russian tea. When I was little we lived in Houston and all of our grandparents were in Alabama. During Christmas we would drive to Alabama to spend the holidays. Often times my sister and I would have a night with my Mamacite (grand mom) and our Aunt Susan. Mamacite would always make us Russian tea. Now when I make a cup and get that first smell of it, oh the memories flood back. It immediately takes me to those nights drinking Russian tea and listening to Jingle Bell Rock by Brenda Lee on my Mamacite’s record player, tree lights sparkling and my sister and I feeling oh so mature to have a girls night without mom and dad there! I've since introduced it to my two little ones and they love it just as much. I am now making sweet memories having tea with them and reading a good book or some poems.

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There were also several thoughtful comments shared in my most recent blog post - pop on over to read them there! :-)

But now, without further ado, here is the randomly selected winner of my homemade planner giveaway ...

MARY MASON LESKOWITZ!!! 

Congratulations Mary! I am very happy for you and will be in touch soon to arrange mailing details. Thank you to everyone who participated in my giveaway - it was so lovely to "have tea" with you all in this virtual way. To all my friends who are interested in my homemade planner, I will be posting the edited 2021 sheets here for everyone to print just as soon as I have them all finished! (Hoping, fingers crossed, that will be next Sunday!) I will also have a post coming next month about further plans for my planner - but we'll leave all of that for 2021. ;-)

For now, let's get back to Advent and a peek at some of our recent activities!

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Today we added the last bit of creation to our Advent Garden - a tiny tin cabin. Just to recap, the first week of Advent we added the first layer which was stones and shells placed on the bottom of the bowl. The following week we covered those stones and shells with some soft moss from our backyard, as well as planted a couple of pinecone "trees," also from the backyard. Last week, an assortment of wooden animals gathered along the outside of the bowl to wait along with us ... and now finally as we head into this last week of Advent, we focus on the highest of all the natural kingdoms, that of humankind. (I have the candle turned on for the picture, but it won't be lit in reality until Christmas Eve.)

In the meantime, our windowsill Advent journey is progressing along nicely ...

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Every day of Advent, our figures move forward (towards the creche in the far right corner) and a stone is replaced with a star!

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We had some lovely nature experiences these past couple of weeks - including a beautiful blizzard!

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I love watching the birds in the snow, but the absolute highlight for me was getting to feed our own backyard chickadees by hand!

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The kids and I have done this at our local Audubon sanctuary, but the birds there are practically tame. They need no coaxing to hand-feed! Here at home however, our chickadees are much more cautious, but on this snowy afternoon, they decided to trust me ... what a gift!

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How I love this quiet, cold and candle-lit late autumn season. With the Winter Solstice (aka Yule) arriving tomorrow, we are seeing the shortest and darkest of days ...

I just feel this is such a special time of year ... a time to really hunker down and turn homeward ... to respect our natural human instinct to rest and hibernate. To reflect on the rituals of our ancestors as one season blended into the next.

But as the sun finally "returns" tomorrow - growing stronger every day until June - we are reminded to wait patiently for brighter days. To fire up our own inner lights by caring for ourselves and each other ... and of course, as well, the magnificent creation we are surrounded and inspired by every day!

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Ahhh ... this is my little Narnia spot. :-)

And now here a few pictures from our Audubon homeschool nature program this past Friday. We took a wintry seaside trek on a blustery dark day!

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Little Bear and I just love our Audubon adventures ... the one "outside the home" activity we participate in, we look forward to it each week!

Now of course we got up to some nature crafting which is absolutely my favorite Advent activity! 

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These are ornaments we made using natural materials we found in our backyard (and in our spice cabinet). It was fun to turn personal treasures into meaningful mementos!

I started with tiny grapevine craft wreaths as a base, and found some plain twine for hanging, then sorted through the materials for inspiration ...

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Treasures from nature included: acorn caps of various sizes, hemlock cones (which look just like roses when open), dried lavender buds from the garden, anise stars, cinnamon sticks and whole cloves from the pantry, bumblebees (expired but intact, found on cold early autumn mornings), feathers found beneath the feeders, rose hips, pine branches, and a few wooden snowflakes I had in my craft stash!

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The first ornament is made with an assortment of feathers we've found this year (Oriole, Cardinal, Hawk, Mourning Dove, Owl). I glued an anise star at the bottom and then added Little Bear's picture ...

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For the reindeer ...

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... I just used cinnamon sticks for the face shape, and hemlock cones for the eyes ... a rosehip for the nose (must be Rudolph!) and added evergreen branches for the antlers!

Next I created a "summer memories" ornament ...

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I spread glue on the wreath first and then shook dried lavender buds all over ...

(I used the hot glue gun for all of these crafts, by the way!)

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I added two of our preserved bumblebees to the sides ...

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And finally, a picture of the monarch butterfly who "hung out" with us one lovely August afternoon. :-)

This next ornament was made up very simply with bunches of clove buds ...

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... plus an anise star and a tiny sprig of evergreen topped with a "rosebud" hemlock cone.

To the back of this ornaments we added a picture of the beautiful barred owl who calls our woods home!

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Now this next ornament was actually the one I made first - so inspired was I by the hemlock cones natural rose shape!

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And to this lovely "frame" I added an old photo of my maternal grandparents when they were first married:

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And the next ornament was almost an afterthought - I just had one more wreath to use!

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And lastly, this wreath was adorned with two acorn "bells" made with a double cap, rose hips and evergreen sprigs.

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And this could only be fitted with a precious photo of Little Bear and his cousin strolling along our road hand-in-hand. This photo was taken one day this past summer - the last time we visited as it happens. Boy do I miss seeing our loved ones!

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Here's a glimpse of a craft I'm working on this weekend, little gifts for a couple of special little girls in my life:

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During our second week of Advent, the younger boys listened to a story about an evergreen farm and then painted pinecones for the tree ...

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There was a little bit of glitter involved, too!

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Another day we made woodland candleholders with materials we harvested ourselves and slices of a birch log we had on hand (felled in a storm a few years ago). And while the boys worked on this craft I read aloud another favorite Yuletide story ...

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There was cookie-making one chilly morning ...

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... and on a sunny Sunday afternoon we made a yummy cake for a couple of special fellas' special day!

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Finally, before I go, I would like to share the images from our family's 2020 Christmas card:

Here you see our tree:

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(Plus my goofy husband, lol.)

And here's the picture on the front of our Christmas card ...

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Can you believe how big these kids are getting?!

(Bookworm (25), Crackerjack (21), Earlybird (19) and Little Bear (7))

And not to be forgotten - our cats, Archie and Ollie (9) are on the back of the card!

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Well my friends, at long last I will finally wrap up this rather long post ... but before I go I would like to wish you all a wonder-full winter, the merriest of holidays, and a peaceful and joyous new year ...

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


Advent Week 1 ~ Stars, Sticks & Stones (+ A Giveaway!)

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Hello, my friends and Happy 2nd Sunday of Advent! I hope this post finds you all safe and well.

As I sit down to begin my draft, it is a very dark and rainy afternoon here - but there's a nor'easter blowing into town today and we're expecting perhaps 10 inches of snow by morning. So maybe a white Christmas will be in the cards this year?

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Now, as I described in my last post, our family's Advent traditions are strongly rooted in nature. Each week we explore a variation on the theme, "All Creation Waits," and we begin with a focus on "Heaven and Earth" - i.e. stars, stones, sticks, shells and snow! Throughout the week we spend time in nature, we make ornaments and gifts, and we enjoy simple activities that immerse us in one of the four natural realms. And at week's end, I plan a little sit-down, seasonal story-and-tea. :-)

I thought you'd like to see some pictures from our week - but first here is our home-spun Advent Journey, set up in our front window.

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I used wooden peg dolls to represent Joseph and Mary, the Wise Men and the shepherds. (At first I thought I might paint them but ultimately decided to leave them unadorned.) There is also a wooden angel ornament which will appear on Christmas eve, as well as a tiny wooden peg doll to represent the Christ Child. He will appear (in his walnut shell crib) on Christmas morning!

In this large front window (newly dusted and wiped out) I laid down a wide strip of burlap "ribbon" and then placed 24 stones along its length. In the far right corner of the window is a wooden creche. You might remember this was a craft we worked on last year, adding bits of "creation" as we journied through the weeks of Advent.

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And below we have Joseph and Mary, traveling on our sweet wooden donkey. As each day passes, we pick up a stone, leave a star in its place, and move our couple closer to the creche.

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This picture below shows the wooden angel who will appear on Christmas ... notice, the wooden stars get bigger as we get closer to the creche! 

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(Oliver was intent on supervising. This is his birdwatching window, after all!)

To complete the window I added some simple, natural decor - pinecones, apples, a ceramic woodland Santa and a rustic wooden angel decoration. (Next week we'll add evergreens we've gathered.) I also wove a string of tiny wooden stars, pinecones and lights in the background, and set out four small tea-light lanterns to light each Sunday of Advent.

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Now, here are some things I did with the boys, last week! Last Sunday, we set up our traditional Advent Garden ...

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I use a glass terrarium bowl for this lovely activity - an idea I first came upon when we started investigating Waldorf education, way back when Bookworm was 4 and we were deciding between Waldorf education and homeschooling. We ended up choosing to homeschool our children but our lessons are strongly inspired by this gentle, imaginative and nature-focused educational philosophy. But that's a topic for a whole 'nother post!

Anyhoo - so each week we add something new to our Garden, and this first week it was pretty stones and shells. Next week it will be fragrant  soil and greenery - some moss from the yard and/or, perhaps, some paperwhite bulbs. The week after that the wooden animals will start showing up and then in the last week of Advent, there will be tiny homes nestled in amongst the earthly layers.

Next we arranged a little Advent corner for Little Bear to manage ...

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Little Bear (with help) made those rolled beeswax candles on Candlemas, and he was pretty excited to actually *use* his own candles for something!

I also printed out a pretty graphic with the verse for the first week of Advent, and placed it in the middle of the candle corner.

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Another day this week, Little Bear and Earlybird made ornaments for the tree using shells and stones ...

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I love making crafts that bring natural materials together!

And then one misty morning, after a windstorm brought lots of branches down in the yard ...

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... we gathered sticks and twigs and set them to dry on a stone wall.

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The next day they were ready to be made into ...

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... twig star ornaments!

Some other branches (trimmed from the forsythia bush) were set in a jar of water, in HOPEs of Christmas bloom ...

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(We do this every year on December 4th, per St. Barbara's Day tradition. And every year ... we have flowers on Christmas!)

"Hope" is a big part of our first week in Advent. We talk about our hopes for the season, our hopes for the world (currently in quite a state of distress), and we sometimes we gaze at the clear night sky to look for a star to wish upon. This year, Little Bear has been quite taken with the moon, which rises behind the woods just outside his bedroom window. He insists on leaving the shade up in the window over his bed, so that he may sleep in the moonlight. :-) 

And then on Friday, our baking-taking-tea day, we made up some buttery shortbread star (and moon!) cookies. 🌟🌜

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Earlybird preferred to dust his with cinnamon-sugar, while Little Bear chose to sprinkle his cookies with colorful sugar "sparkles."

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And this was my tray ...

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I couldn't help but think how nicely the sugar colors matched the cover of our teatime storybook!

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The Man Made of Stars by M.H. Clark is a new book for us this year ... and it is simply exquisite. Absolutely a new favorite! We have collected sooo many wonderful books over the years, but every year I splurge and purchase a few new ones that I know we will return to again and again. And this will be one of those select few!

From the inside flap:

"The man made of stars is hard at work every night, bringing more and more light to the world, bit by bit. But what is his secret, and where does he go every evening when he walks out past town with his lantern twinkling? This is the story of one curious child who, determined to come up with an answer to this mystery, discovers something incredible about himself. It is a reminder that small acts have great consequences, and that there is always room for more light in the world."

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Now, beginning today, we move into another aspect of nature, and that would be the next level up from stones and shells, etc. - the plants! And so this week we will be exploring "winter greenery and Christmassy fruits and spices." Time then to begin a new spread in my bullet journal!

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(Watch Instagram this week for a peek at my spread!)

Peace is the theme for the second week of Advent, and the one that resonates most deeply with me. Every year I to balance the busy-ness of the season with a more mindful approach, and create an atmosphere of peace and joyful contemplation for my family. Advent, after all, is the time of waiting, of anticipation ... we are instilling in our children a feeling that something BIG is coming our way - but we have to be patient and pay attention!

Peace is found in so many ways - and in different ways for different people - but I think it can be most easily savored in those quiet, restful moments ... the ones that call our attention to the beauty of nature and the contentment of home. Such as when a soft snowfall begins, or we all find ourselves together at the dinner table, or when the afternoon sky lights up with "advent" color:

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When we spy a view like this through our windows, well we can hardly remain inside! So outside we go, breathing in the cold air and watching the birds make their last visits to the feeders, hearing the horses and goats next door being put in for the night, noticing how quickly the vivid sky grows dull and dark ...

And then inside we go to our bright and warm home, to sit by the lights of our tree ...

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"Winter is dark,

Yet each little spark

Brightens the way

To Christmas Day.

Shine little light

And show us the way

To the bright light

Of Christmas Day"

~ H. St. John

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Ok, NOW - about that GIVEAWAY!

As I mentioned in my last post, later this month I will be sharing my homemade seasonal planning sheets with you all. I will show you how I use the sheets to make my own planner (in a couple of ways) and you are free to use them for your own personal use. That said, I would also very much like to make up an EXTRA PLANNER to give away to a reader!

But I'm making it a little more challenging this year - to enter my giveaway I'd like for you to tell me about your favorite mug/cup/glass - of tea/coffee/cocoa or wine! Or whatever is your preferred libation! Simply tell what you like to have by your side when you sit down to relax and reflect.

(And if you send me a PICTURE - or post a pic on Instagram and tag me - you will be entered in the giveaway TWICE!)

Then, in two weeks' time, on December 20th, I will post a special YULETIDE TEA here at the blog and I will share your pictures (with permission, of course - please make note in your email if you'd rather I not share you photo) AND announce the winner of my homemade planner!

If you are interested in winning my homemade planner, please send me an email (drhanigan AT gmail DOT com) with "giveaway" in the subject line. (And again, be sure to tell me if you'd rather I not share your photo in my next Tea post.) If you are on Instagram and would like to share your photo on that platform, just let me know by tagging me in your post. :-)

I have such fun creating these planning sheets and I LOVE to share them and hear how you use them! 

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And with that, my friends, I will at long last wrap up ... but I do hope to hear from you! And I wish you all a wonderful week ahead - peaceful and happy - and above all, healthy and safe.

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


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

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

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

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

So I have to tell you, our Tea today is extra special because January 12th just so happens to be ... National Hot Tea Day! Yes, it's a real holiday ... or at least it has been since 2016. #whoknew 🤷🏻‍♀️ 

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

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

Anyhoo.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

✨🌸💛☕️❄️✨✨🌸💛☕️❄️✨✨🌸💛☕️❄️✨✨🌸💛☕️❄️✨✨🌸💛☕️❄️✨

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But how about January's full moon?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

More comforts and joys ...

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These guys - 'nuff said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

✨🌸💛☕️❄️✨✨🌸💛☕️❄️✨✨🌸💛☕️❄️✨✨🌸💛☕️❄️✨✨🌸💛☕️❄️✨

A final thought before I go -

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

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

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


Tea @ Dawn's ~ All Creation Waits, Welcome Winter & Gingerfolk!

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Hello my friends and Happy Sunday! Thanks so much for stopping by for Tea today.  :-)

With Christmas just around the corner, this is the last of my Late Autumn Teas - but I would like to continue in the new year with a follow-up series of "Deep Winter Teas." I haven't an official schedule or a list of tea themes in place yet, but will let you all know my plan just as soon as I can ... most likely I'll have information to share in my very next Tea which I'll host on January 3rd.

Well, we're really down to the wire now aren't we?! So how are you all doing? If you celebrate, are you ready for Christmas? Or do you (like me) feel like you could use just a little more time? And I mean this both practically and spiritually speaking. As much as I try to absorb the beauty of Advent, and to make the season meaningful for my family - it always seems like the weeks fly by ...

And then there's me, torn between trying to slow down and trying to keep up. I do love to be organized and efficient - but I don't want any of us to feel overwhelmed or over-spent. I think that's perhaps one of the best arguments for keeping a planner and using it consistently - not necessarily to get MORE done, but to make room in our days for MORE of what's meaningful to us ...

A calm and peaceful home environment is very important to me - especially as the mom of an autistic child who struggles with anxiety and overstimulation. This is why I come up with these detailed plans for keeping Advent in such a way that our time is spent on slow-lane activities - like making homemade gifts, baking goodies, watching holiday specials, and getting out in nature. Inevitably however, reality intrudes upon my "quiet little Advent plan" and then there's a last minute flurry of activity thrusting me out into the world for things like forgotten gifts, tip monies, feast day ingredients - batteries! - etc.

For the most part however, these past couple of weeks have been quite lovely - and now this mama bear has all her cubs around her in the ol' family den! Bookworm (24) is taking his last final as I type up this post and Crackerjack (20) came home from college a few days ago ... Earlybird (18) finished school on Friday and Little Bear (6) and I are on a little break from (formal) homeschooling. The younger two will be back to school/homeschool after New Year's and the older two will be back at classes later in January.

Speaking of all my kids - here is our Christmas card this year!

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(front)

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(back)

(With thanks to my cousin, Kristen, for taking our family photo on Thanksgiving Day! The photos of the younger boys on the back are their "class pictures" this year.)

Now, let's get on with our Tea, shall we? As you see in my top photo, it's a rather basic tea for me this week - a favorite seasonal blend served in one of my sturdiest holiday mugs. I've had this set of mugs (and a matching pitcher) before I was even married! I like to serve the boys cocoa or wassail in these mugs (and eggnog in the pitcher), but they do a bang-up job holding a generous amount of tea, too. I snapped this pic as I worked in my bullet journal the other night, sitting beside our tree. I didn't even have a snack with me at the time, though I do have some lovely ginger "folk" cookies in my oven right now and oh my GOODNESS do they smell good!

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Cookie making is a holiday activity I've unfortunately let slip the past few years, and everyone misses it. Especially my husband who fondly remembers Christmases when his mom was busy baking in the kitchen and he and his siblings were gobbling up his grandmother's snappy and spicy gingerbread men. So Little Bear and I made up a batch of dough this week to keep in the fridge so we could bake cookies whenever the mood struck.

Here's my little kitchen helper ...

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So earnest ...

So as I've mentioned in previous posts, our Advent journey is nature-based, celebrating the wonders of God's beautiful creation. The first week was all about the HOPE of heaven and earth (stars, stones, shells) and the second week focused on the PEACE of the plant kingdom while in this third week of Advent we are finding JOY in the animal realm - in particular those that live in our local habitat but most especially those that live in our own home!

Here's a peek at my planning for this week in which "all creation waits" ...

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And here is my journal spread open and set on our sunny work table ...

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I love our wooden animal collection but perhaps never more so than during Advent!

Here are some of the books we read this week ...

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... and this is the verse I read aloud:

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(The lovely poem comes from this book, a favorite resource among Waldorf homeschoolers. I use each seasonal volume ALL THE TIME in our seasonal homeschooling!)

Speaking of books, do you have favorite holiday stories you return to year after year? 

The page spread below is from one of my favorite Christmas books - Baby's Christmas by Eloise Wilkin. It's a very simple little story depicting sweet and precious Advent activities in a home with a few small children and every page is just like this one here ...

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This picture just says Advent to me - that sky, that snow, the birds at the feeder and the natural decorations in the window. Not to mention the little ones bundled up singing carols! I read this book with Little Bear this week and we really looked this page all over. I pointed out the birds and how beautifully they blended in with the celebration - perhaps the birds were listening to the children's voices, maybe they were singing along themselves? We noticed how the sunset sky looked just like the one outside our own windows - Advent colors, in fact! I thought this whole scene complemented our theme this week nicely ...

We also spent a lot our "school mornings" making crafts this month. I love to craft, but try to be mindful of making things with a purpose and using materials responsibly. Here's what we've been up to ...

HOLIDAY SPICE SACHETS 

Exploring seasonal spices on St. Lucia's Day ...

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I placed whole cloves, cinnamon sticks and star anise in a small bowl and then let Little Bear go at them with a pestle ...

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Boy did he enjoy grinding those spices! A satisfying activity and wonderfully fragrant as well!

We next filled a little muslin sachet bag with our "holiday spice" blend...

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... and then hung it in the tree!

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(I made the little tag using a snowflake craft punch and some natural brown card stock.)

This is the book we read on St. Lucia's Day ...

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... and this is the cinnamon-maple biscuit bread ring we made for tea!

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("Tea" being a child-friendly, gently spiced juice blend - but we called it "Glogg.")

Also last week, we expanded our little Advent Garden ...

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The beeswax candle (supervised closely and nestled in pebbles for safety) represents a gift of the bees.

Meanwhile, Oliver stood guard ...

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Let me tell you, it's been quite a challenge, keeping the cats away from this little shell-, stone- and moss-filled garden ... but look how prettily it it sits on our table, echoing the late-setting sun in the distance:

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(Not to worry - I blew the candle out as soon as we were done taking pictures!)

Another craft we had much fun making last week was a merry mini mitten made from sheep's wool and felt ...

MITTEN ORNAMENT

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We began by cutting out mitten shapes from the red felt, and a snowflake shape from the white. (This was mama's job and I used that craft punch again to make a snowflake stencil, then traced the shape onto the felt with a marker.)

We placed a bit of sheep's wool in the center of one mitten half, and sprinkled it with a wee bit of catnip ... that was all Little Bear. ;-)

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I could have sewn the edges together and honestly that might have been the better plan, but instead, we used glue to seal the mitten and attach the little snowflake embellishment.

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This is a project that might be too fiddly for little hands alone, but with a big person's help it should turn out ok!

Although ...

We hadn't taken into account just how NUTS our cats become when there is catnip in the house!

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I'm not sure about other cats, but catnip does not make my fellas all dreamy and happy and relaxed. Oh no ...

MY cats go absolutely feral ... beserk, even! So we quickly realized the pretty mitten with its bits and bobs would be torn apart in a heartbeat (and most likely ingested) so instead we decided to hang the mitten high up on our tree.

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(I just glued on a little ribbon edging and made a loop for hanging.)

A wonderful story to go with this craft - and for wintertime in general:

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The Mitten by Jan Brett.

We are BIG Jan Brett fans and have nearly all her books in our collection. I have a very happy memory of taking two (or maybe three) of my kids to a small bookshop in Cambridge many years ago, to wait in line for an author signing. The wait was long and I remember my kids were a little cranky but Ms. Brett was quite lovely!

Returning to the present though ... because if you get me waxing nostalgic this post will become very long indeed!

On another day we stumbled upon a wooden shape I had in my craft stash, and when Little Bear declared it "the perfect stable," we decided to fancy it up a bit to represent each layer of creation ...

COZY CREATION CRECHE

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We first gathered some stones and sticks from the yard ...

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... and brought the lot of it inside.

(As  usual, Archie considered himself project supervisor ... ahem!)

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Stones were applied to the foundation of the creche, and trimmed branches were fitted along the framework ...

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Our last step was to glue bits of (craft) moss and lichen to the rooftop:

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A very simple but very satisfying craft!

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I asked Little Bear what should happen inside our stable as we move closer to Christmas - and he's mulling that one over, considering our vast animal collection and some wooden peg dolls his mama has set aside for a nativity scene ...

But in the meantime, we talked about another big event approaching - the changing of seasons this weekend! So as the week drew to a close and the first day of Winter loomed near, we made up little treats to honor the many types of wildlife that visit our backyard ...

SOLSTICE "TREE" TREATS 

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Oranges are such a lovely wintertime treat - healthy and delicious, their shape and color reminds us of the sun which is now growing stronger every day. I sliced some oranges for Little Bear's critter treats but set some aside for drying in my oven (200° F for 2-3 hours). I love using dried oranges in festive winter garlands.

Little Bear meanwhile, set to work ...

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Crunchy peanut butter smeared on pinecones and tp rolls, rolled in black oil seed ... orange and apple slices, too!

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All ready to go!

We like to choose a tree (or bush) for an outdoor "Solstice Tree" each year, and this is where is where we hung our treats!

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We also remembered to honor our chickens with a few treats on this cold snowy day ...

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Our hens just love black oil seed and (not shown) a tray of sweet corn kernals is always a hit.

But we were not yet done with our Solstice gifts!

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We made a sun shape from seed on the patio - how fun!

And as we watched the last sunset of autumn slip behind our western woods, we spied squirrels enjoying our simple offering ...

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Goodbye until next year, dear Autumn ... and welcome back, Sun!

Now before I go I want to remind you all that there is just one more day left to enter my "Winter Comfort & Joy Box" Giveaway!

Thank you to all who have left comments and/or shared my posts here and elsewhere online. You may leave comments again here on this post if you'd like and tomorrow evening (Monday, December 23rd) I will go through all the names and then ...

I will be announcing a winner!

So please stay tuned and as always, I thank you for joining me for Tea! I hope you all enjoy your Sunday ...

I'll see  you here again late tomorrow!


Tea @ Dawn's ~ Advent Week 1 "Heaven & Earth"

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Hello my friends and Happy Sunday! I'm sorry I had to postpone our Tea for a few days ... Little Bear had a miserable chest cold this past week, which in addition to being awful for my little guy to endure, really put us off our usual routine. The things I usually post about here - nature play, baking, crafting, planning - just were not really happening at all! But by the end of the week we were feeling a bit more like ourselves, and we began getting back on track, starting with a little ...

 

NATURE PLAY ❄️

The other big story of the week was the arrival of our first really big snow! As you can imagine, Little Bear was simply champing at the bit to get outside and play, nevermind his coughing and sniffles. Happily, by Friday I was able to bring him outside for about 20 minutes  - for a short nature trek during which we watched birds, observed tracks in the snow, and just generally stomped about enjoying the pretty winter preview. (Technically it's still Autumn for 13 more days!)

At one point it started snowing again lightly and we just looked up and watched the tiny flakes swirling down ...

"Like angel kisses from Heaven," I told Little Bear who, admittedly, looked at me a bit askance at that out-of-the-blue metaphor. But I love looking to nature for connections with our faith and sharing them with my children. Our whole Advent celebration is intimately tied with the different realms of creation. So we also talked a bit about Heaven itself - which is a really big and somewhat scary concept for a small child to ponder, and one that I'll keep very simple and light for now. (Heaven is where God lives and it's also where people we love go when they die.)

I also explained to LB that often we refer to the sky and the universe itself as "the heavens" ... and this includes all the wonderful things that exist therein: the sun, the earth, the moon, the stars, and so forth.

Speaking of ...

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Here's my sun & moon wind-chimes bearing the brunt of the snowstorm! I have always loved sun and moon images, especially those that entwine the two icons together. 

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And here is my Little Bear ... so happy to be outside, even if it was only for a short while!

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These are some tracks we spotted in the driveway. Deer, perhaps? We haven't looked them up in our field guides yet.

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You know, if you have to be trapped inside on a cold snowy day, a wonderful way to pass the time is by watching the birds at your feeders. Here are a few of the photos we took this past week, beginning with this handsome Cardinal pair. Some folks believe that Cardinals are messengers from Heaven, a sign a departed loved one is thinking of us. True or not, I know I always think of my grandparents when I spy a Cardinal pair. They introduced me to birdwatching when I was just a little girl, and how I loved sitting at their kitchen table, drinking tea and watching the birds visit, becoming familiar with all the different varieties. My grandparents lived not too far from the city of Boston but because they reliably filled their feeders, they attracted a wide assortment of species. Northern Cardinals and Purple Finches were particular favorites of my grandmother, as I recall.

Here are a few more ... I really couldn't help myself!

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White-throated Sparrow (with Chickadee in background).

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A female House Finch, eyeing me over her shoulder. I can just hear her saying, "Ahem, yes - may I help you?"

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The White-Breasted Nuthatch, a rather jaunty fellow related to woodpeckers.

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A Mourning Dove sitting high in a tree, but not so high she didn't notice me with my big camera in the kitchen window!

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The sweet little Black-Capped Chickadee - so energetic and friendly! He also happens to be the Massachusetts State Bird.
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A pair of Goldfinches, toughing it out at the height of the storm. It amazes me how resilient birds are - in the depths of a snowstorm, they're flocking to the feeders because literally every minute of every day counts when it comes to survival!
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Peek-a-Boo little Tufted Titmouse! These birds are pretty bold. The only ones aside from Chickadees who don't fly away when I'm right in the window snapping shots.
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And finally, two birds who are rather dear to me: the Dark-Eyed Junco and the Carolina Wren. The Junco is a true harbinger of seasons changing - and you all know how I feel about the seasons! Juncos leave New England right around Easter (journeying north) and return just after Halloween.

I had thought the Carolina Wren was also a migrant (to the south, though) but we have a pair of them who seem to be staying put. Wrens are so loud and cheerful and this one's song is especially vibrant, quite recognizable once you're aware of it. If I do this right, you should be able to hear it here. (I'm referring to Song #1.)

Anyhoo, back to our Tea now, and the theme of our week which, as my post title informs, is "Heaven & Earth." Our Advent is really getting off to  a slow start - we have all our Christmas decorations down from the attic but they're just sitting in my bedroom at the moment. (And what a mess, THAT is!)

We do have our tree up but it's still standing bare in a corner of the family room. I am not at all - well, not very - anxious about being so "behind" in our decorating, though. This "soft start" actually works pretty nicely with my intention of keeping things slow and simple in the weeks leading up to Christmas. We did set up the children's nativity corner and our earthy little Advent garden. More on those topics below, but first let me tell you a little about my tea shown in the top pic ...

But for Heaven's sake - where are my manners? I have yet to offer you all, my dear readers and friends, a cup of your own! Please do sit down and be welcome ... take a cup and a tart and let's get comfortable. I'm apt to chat on for a bit, as you know ...

 

BAKING 🧁

Today's tea is a truly delicious blend, a new twist on an old favorite: Earl Grey with Lavender. I am drinking it with a little honey and perhaps some steamed vanilla milk if my husband has a chance to make some before be runs out for an errand. This would be much like a "London Fog Latte" which some of you might remember (because I mention it all the time) is my favorite after-dinner drink.

Beside my tea (again, referring to the top photo) is one of the star tarts I made with Little Bear just this morning. So VERY yummy and quite easy-peasy, anyone can make them in no time!

Here's what we did:

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I used pre-made dough I happened to have in the fridge (courtesy of Thanksgiving pies that never came to be) and we simply rolled out the dough and used cookie cutters (approximately 3" size) to create little shapes. We placed a dollop of apple pie filling in the round shapes (having chopped up the apples a bit) and orange marmalade in the stars. 

Next we crimped the edges with the tines of a fork, brushed the tops with a mixture of lightly beaten egg and whole milk and then finally sprinkled the tarts with raw sugar.

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Into a 400° oven they went and they baked for about 17 minutes.

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Aren't they cute? Like little homemade pop-tarts. :-)

(Full disclosure, I found the general idea for these goodies on Pinterest. I just kind of went with what I had on hand and the "star" theme we were working on this week.)

And OH! Speaking of baking ... did you all know that this coming Thursday (12/12), on ABC, a new season of The Great American Baking Show: Holday Edition will be airing? The show runs at 9 p.m. - and for those with young ones (or young hearts), just before the show  beginning at 8 p.m. are two children's specials: Olaf's Frozen Adventure (8) and Toy Story That Time Forgot (8:30).)

I make note of these kinds of things in my planner(s) because if I didn't ... I'd kick myself for missing out! Thank goodness for DVRs though - with my early bedtime, I'll be viewing these shows during daylight hours!

So let's talk a little then about ...

 

PLANNING ✍🏻

Here's a little more about our Advent themes, beginning with a page in my bullet journal showing my four-week outline:

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So you don't have to squint, here is a breakdown of our weekly themes:

Week 1: (Hope) Earth & Sky (stars, stones, shells, soil, sun/son)

Week 2: (Peace) Peaceful Plants (evergreens, holly, herbs & spices, poinsettias, etc.)

Week 3: (Joy) Animals at Advent (solstice tree, animal gifts, manger animals, caring for creation)

Week 4: (Love) Loving Hearts & Helping Hands (home, doing for others, the holy family)

Pictured below, a little scribble from my weekly spread ...

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... a quote that works very well for this first week's theme!

And here's a look at my December calendar which I must confess was completely BLANK until yesterday. 

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This is my seasonal bullet journal (Late Autumn: November-December 2019). I juggle it with a few other planners, as most of you know. Is it the simplest of systems? No. But each platform is satisfying to me - though, the "juggling" isn't ideal. I'm hoping to streamline things in the new year ... as if you all haven't heard THAT line before!

Now, before I go I'd like to talk a little about our crafting this week, since we did actually manage to squeeze a bit in, and it very nicely tied into our theme ...

 

CRAFTING 🤲🏻

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Oh yes, first. This - the before pic. The craft cupboard exploded all over my kitchen table. 🤦🏻‍♀️

Do you ever go to start some little project, something that shouldn't really take you too long, and then get completely sidetracked by a whole 'nother thing? Well, this is what happened to me the other morning. I wanted to find one particular crafting item - contact paper I believe it was - and when I pulled open the "Craft & Candle" cupboard in my kitchen I was alarmingly reminded of the holy mess that it had become. Stuff started dropping to the floor - including glass things and fragile things, and broken things in need of repair - and a tangled mass of twine, garland and ribbon landed right on my head. So that was it, enough was enough!

So I took a little time - say four hours or so - and straightened the whole thing out! And while I was at it, I grabbed a couple of "craft-ish" bins I had stashed - ahem - under my bed, too.

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But here's the after pic! Much better, yes? (And oh my goodness, who let the cat up on the table?)

Here's a closer peek ...

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Aaahhh ...

The remaining (and bulkier) craft items were stashed in a bin and bag ...

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.... and a pretty "vintage" decoupaged suitcase:

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And guess what I found? Not just one but SIX rolls of contact paper! Now we were able to get ourselves crafting ...

It's one of my favorite aspects of Advent - working with our hands, thinking with our hearts, to create meaningful decorations and gifts. Whenever possible I try to implement materials found in nature, such as these lichen-covered branches ...

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To make a little twig star!

And then with that contact paper, we made some sparkling suncatchers ...

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I find these kinds of craft projects go more smoothly if I have things prepared a bit in advance.

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Paper shapes cut out, tissue paper bits ripped ... this way it's a more enjoyable activity for both of us and we can reap the results more quickly!

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I talked with Little Bear about stars in the sky, including the Sun, our biggest and most special star. It's been fading for months now and on these dark December days, "catching" the sun where we can seems all the more important. 

I love how these little gem-filled star-shapes make the most of that gorgeous, sleepy sun ...

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Light is so precious these days! We try to notice the sunset every evening we can, especially during the seasons of Advent and Lent.

And here are the stars the next morning!

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Another craft we worked on just this very morning was a shell candle ...

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We've made beeswax candles many times over the years, and it's just such a magical process!

First I melted two small bars of solid beeswax in a makeshift double boiler. (A clean empty can sitting in a pot of simmering water.) Once the solid wax was entirely liquid, I carefully poured it into the shell while Little Bear held the candle wick straight. (I made sure he knew not to put his hands anywhere near the hot wax.)

I took over once I disposed of the can and after a few minutes the wax had set enough that the wick stayed straight.

Then we added the candle to our children's creche corner:

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Just behind the shell candle is one of our favorite storybooks for this week, The Star Child, illustrated by Bernadette Watts - who, by the way, is one of my absolute favorite children's book illustrators, particularly of folk and fairy tales.

I will show you more of our children's creche in my next post - we just moved it to this spot this weekend and we're still getting it all set up! Suffice it to say though, each week we add a little more to the creche - in layers, according to each week's theme - leading up to Christmas and ending with the Christ Child. (Actually, ending with the wise men who will soon begin their journey in the far east corner of our home.)

This all ties in with our over-arcing theme of "all creation waits." In a similar way, our nature-based Advent Garden gets brought to life, a little more each week of the season ...

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This is a simple, shallow glass bowl sitting nestled in a grapevine wreath. This week we added the "earth" layer - stones and shells. Next week we will add "plants" in the form of moss or perhaps lichen. After that, some tiny creatures will appear and then finally of course there will appear a little village ...

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It's such a small thing but I love how it connects nature and faith in a simple yet meaningful way. I find children often respond really well to symbols that represent an idea ... something they can take in and turn over ... come to understand in their own way. Our Advent Garden will take some time to fill in - we'll have to be patient - but isn't that one of the greatest lessons of this season of anticipation? Good things come to those who wait?

Before I go (and I will be going soon, I promise), here is a craft we made a few years ago for this week of Advent ... it's become one of my most treasured decorations.

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All the details can be found in this post from 2015.

Now, before I go - for real this time! - I wanted to remind you that I am running a little giveaway here at my blog through the 22nd of December. I will be sending someone a box of "Winter Comfort & Joy" along with one of my homemade planners. I will be announcing a winner on Monday, December 23rd ... if you are interested, please check out this post

Here is my humble little Tea logo if you would like to share my news. (You get entered each time you comment and share!) Just please tag me wherever you post so I can keep track of who's sharing where. :-)

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Email is welcome too! You can reach me at drhanigan AT gmail DOT com. 

I look forward to hearing from you - even if you just want to say hi, or ask a question, or whatever! And I do hope you enjoyed our Tea this week. I will be back on the 20th with my next Teatime, though I may be back before then - we'll see how this week goes!

So ta for now my friends ... I will see you here again very soon!


Tea @ Dawn's ~ Fading Light, Cranberries & Frost ❤

Hello my friends, and Happy Friday! Thank you so much for joining me ... I am so pleased to welcome you to "my place" for Tea. IMG_9532 (1)

As I announced last week, I am bringing back my blog "Teatimes," in a celebration of Late Autumn,Winter Holidays ... and the very comfort and joy that is Tea!

By necessity of course, my Teatimes are virtual -  but my hope is that my words and pictures will make you feel like you have truly popped in for a cozy visit. And I like to imagine you're savoring something you love while you read my post - perhaps a cup of freshly brewed coffee, mulled cider or hot chocolate if you're not one for tea. :-)

Here at my home I'll always have a pretty mug of tea in hand, and a sweet or savory seasonal snack to share ... as well as many seasonal snippets revolving around: current projects, nature news, corners of my home, kitchen notes, holiday preparations, my kids, my journals and my seasonal planners, etc.!

I am also hoping some of you will join me this season in sharing your tea virtually - whether in pics, thoughts, recipes, etc.! I am happy to include your submissions here in my post and/or link to your own post elsewhere. And please feel free to share my Teas wherever you'd like! I am grateful to my dear friend Kim of Ordinary Days of Small Things for her lovely post - I knew I could count on Kim for her enthusiasm and support! And MY goodness, just take a peek at her beautiful Teatime banner! I am quite honored by her kind words and creative design.

* And this just in! Please stop by Kim's for her Teatime post today! It is chock-FULL of wonderful seasonal ideas! (Thanks so much, Kim!) *

Now, for today, I would like to offer you a comfy cup of my favorite autumn brew ... the very gently spiced and soothingly citrus, Constant Comment. Today I am serving it in a sweet little pumpkin mug (a Stop 'n Shop find!) because ... 'tis the season for pumpkins!

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Did you happen to pass these pretties on your way up my drive? It's such a lovely New England tradition - pumpkins lined up on a stone wall in the fall!

And speaking of pumpkins, the treat I'm serving at Tea today is not a slice of pumpkin bread as you might suspect ... but rather, an apple-squash variation! I followed my favorite quick bread recipe using up some leftover butternut squash and spiced applesauce from our Halloween party. The two flavors combined beautifully and the bread turned out tender and moist. This easy recipe is always a hit in our family, especially because it makes not one but TWO loaves!

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On Sunday I am planning to bake up an old family recipe called, Poor Man's Cake. It's something my grandmother made quite often and was a favorite of my grandfather's. I like to bake this for Martinmas (the Feast of St. Martin) which is this coming Monday. It's actually quite delicious and especially nice with a cup of strong Irish tea! (Grampa's beverage of choice.)

 

Fading Light

Now, if you've followed my blog for some time then you know we like to live and learn around a rhythm of weekly seasonal themes. When my boys were little this made up the bulk of our homeschooling "curriculum,"  but as they grow, I continue to keep the seasons by fostering awareness and appreciation in our home while tweaking activities to fit our family members' interests more authentically.

So this week our seasonal theme is "Fading Light," in honor of the darkening days at this time of year. I always schedule this theme for right before or just after Daylight Savings Time ends. (We pushed the clocks back last Sunday.)

Here are some of my ideas for this week's activities as noted in my Late Autumn bullet journal:

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This page shown here is my seasons keeping page, found smack dab in between the two-page weekly planning spread! (Please see last week's post for a more thorough explanation of how I set up my journals.)

Happily, Fading Light  is a theme that is very easy to explore, because there are so many nuances to the concept!

In Late Autumn, the earth is slowing down and nature needs her rest - the shorter and darker days means better sleep! (This is a wonderful theme to weave into storytelling with the children, especially those that are sad to see their gardens wither.)

And just like the natural world around us, we have our OWN need for rest in what is usually a very busy time of year! It can be hard to resist the pull of the "hustle and bustle," but quieter evenings and solid sleep are often just the fuel we need to keep our own inner lights burning.

Around our homes we find special ways to bring extra light into our life ... making colorful homemade lanterns, twining strings of lights through leafy garlands, setting tea lights in dark windows, taking the time to notice and honor the sunset - perhaps with a special prayer of thanks for another day together here on earth ...

Stopping the car just to marvel over a soft, milky sky...

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November's sun may be weaker than June's - but it's certainly no less lovely!

One of our favorite November pastimes is to make lanterns for Marintmas. Yesterday Little Bear and I sat down in the (sunny!) kitchen to do just that ...

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I like to try a new lantern craft every year, but this time we kept it super simple. We took a piece of watercolor paper and attached some leaf shapes with a dab of glue stick. Then Little Bear started painting (with watercolors) ...

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This boy could paint for hours - he's a big fan of Bob Ross, fyi! I love the playful shades he chose ...

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After the picture was dry we carefully peeled off the leaves ...

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And then we stapled the ends of the paper together to form a lantern shape.

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It was fun to line up lanterns from festivals past as we watched the sun go down ...

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At 4:30 p.m.!

It's a lovely, peaceful thing to sit quietly in a darkening room, appreciating the lights - and the darkness!

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(Here are two older posts  - Martinmas Day with My Boys and Lovely Lanterns for Martinmas - which show a few different lantern options. It's a very simple yet satisfying craft! One of my favorite Martinmas traditions is the lantern walk we take at dusk on November 11th. It's just us - with our lanterns - traipsing about our yard as the sun goes down, but it's yet another sweet, seasonal memory I hope my children carry with them as they go about making their own lives.)

We can bring light inside our hearts too ... by doing things that fire us up!

❤ favorite hobbies and pastimes

❤ spending time with people we love

❤ doing things together that makes us happy

❤ remembering to be grateful for the many blessings in our life

❤ finding ways to give to others in need ... 

Kicking off the month of November with this theme of light and darkness, I thought it would be nice to weave light into our annual gratitude project! So here's what I put together ...

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Burlap ribbon runner in the front window √

LED votive candles, one for each day leading up to Thanksgiving (28) √

Kraft paper leaf cut-outs (lots) √

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Every day we write on a leaf (or leaves) something we were grateful for and/or something we did to help someone else. We place those leaves beside a candle and light it once the day grows dark.

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(The silver votives represent Sundays - when we reflect a little more deeply on the blessings we have received, and hopefully bestowed.)

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Adding one light each night, our window will be brilliant come Thanksgiving eve! Oliver apparently approves. :-)

Now speaking of Thanksgiving ...

 

Cranberries

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Next week our seasonal theme will be At the Autumn Bog  - aka Cranberry week! I'll be sharing more ideas over at Instagram in the days to come, but to begin with, here's an old post from 2011 with some ideas for exploring this tiny tart berry.

And what you see above is our attempt to create a signature "mocktail" for Thanksgiving! We'll have a lot of young kids this year at our holiday table so I wanted to have something special for them to drink. (Aside from the usual apple juice and milk!) 

We're calling this fun, festive drink a "Frosty Cranberry," and we're still tinkering with the final recipe! For one thing, I'm planning to use citrus zest-infused white sugar not this decorative red but you get the idea. (P.S. I use India Tree (plant-dye-based) Sparkling Sugars in my holiday baking.) 

Now, full disclosure: I loosely based this mocktail on a ginger-beer-based drink I saw on Pinterest, but I wanted to make it a little more child-friendly. We took a glass and wet the rim with a cut orange. We then dipped the rim in the sugar and filled the glass with ice. Next, we poured in cranberry juice, about halfway up the glass. Lastly we added crisp, apple-flavored sparkling water and it foamed and fizzed quite prettily!

The initial taste test went ... ok ... but Little Bear felt it was a tad too tart, so after I took pictures we added some orange juice which not only made it sweeter, it changed the shade of the beverage to a gorgeous "autumn sunset" red-orange. I think the kids will like it  and I am going to find some cute acrylic "glasses" for them to use - for safety reasons, natch!

In the meantime, next Tuesday night I'll mull a pot of cranberry-apple cider on the stove in celebration of The Full Beaver Moon. And you're probably thinking: what might beavers have to do with cranberries? But see I'm going with the whole "bog" theme next week ... cranberries grow there, and beavers live there!

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(Spotted at our Audubon Nature Class this week!)

Despite the fact that we live in a state rich with cranberry bogs, I'm not planning to trek my kids down to Cape Cod next week. Instead we will visit a local "quaking bog" which if nothing else features a really lovely, late autumn landscape. We do happen to have plenty of ponds and creeks in our town and if we wish, we can easily observe a beaver's lodge from a safe distance.

But, moving on ... because November's full moon is ALSO known as the Full FROST moon ... the next theme we'll be exploring is:

 

Frost

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I cannot tell you how happy we were to see that first frost this year! I think I mentioned in an earlier post how challenging outdoor activities had become here in Massachusetts (and many surrounding communities) with an escalating and extreme threat of mosquito-borne viruses. Now that we've finally had a hard frost, we can relax for a while.

Frost may kill off mosquitos (and flowers and other tender plants) but it also brings back our dear little snowbirds, the Juncos - a species we look for every year in late October. Dark-eyed Juncos are lovely little birds that fly north for the summer (leaving around Easter) and return to New England just as the cold weather returns.

I spotted my first Junco around Halloween, but have yet to get a decent picture. Here's one little fella perched in a pear tree yesterday morning!

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So this week we'll talk a little about ol' Jack Frost - I have some sweet verses to read, and a peg doll story to tell - and weather folklore in general. Isn't that vintage illustration above sweet? I plan to show it to Little Bear and weave a little story about the Chipmunk who wasn't quite ready to hibernate ... he was too busy helping his jolly friend Jack paint those leaves!

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And now for a few random things I'd just like to share ...

(By now I'm sure you all need a fresh cuppa ... and please help yourself to another slice of apple-squash cake!)

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Digging into my reading basket! It's my favorite month of the year for magazines! What magazines do you like to read?

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And here's a sunny window set up for seasonal exploration ...

We read In November every year during the first week of the month and it's just such a lovely book - that happens to feature an illustration of Juncos(!) which of course ties in nicely with our nature study. Windows is another perennial favorite - a sweet and simple tale following a young boy on an evening walk through his neighborhood, finding comfort and joy in all those glowing, interesting windows. I like to pair this book with a "windows walk" of our own one night! Our Little Bear is a wee bit afraid of the dark, so we're always looking for ways to soothe his anxiety and reassure him there is nothing to be afraid of, if we can look for the lights - while understanding the dark a little better.

And in the foreground is our gorgeous nature poetry book (a daily staple in our homeschool!) open to this week's poems. Timely too, since we had a merry bonfire just last weekend, another annual tradition around the first of November. Last week's theme was "goodnight, garden" so we were burning branches from a Halloween windstorm as well as plenty of withered garden debris.

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I was simply enchanted by this beautiful artwork, found online - and it's now my phone wallpaper! I suppose one might look at this painting and find it a little eerie, but honestly, I see it as rather comforting. In the midst of all that dark and fog, the house with its beaming window, a loved one looking out from within, represents a safe, solid harbor. Dotted in the landscape are more bright beacons, welcoming other weary travelers home. 

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And speaking of welcome ... it's such a universal, human thing, to breathe a sigh of relief when we finally turn that last bend and our favorite place in this world comes into view ...

I was just pulling up our drive after dropping Earlybird at school, but I had to stop and relish that gorgeous foliage-enhanced light. I was tired (EB had me up super early and I had a whole host of things I wanted to attend to once I got home) and yet, how could I not pause and absorb all this lovely, autumnal light? How could I not take a moment to feel thankful for my blessings - for my very breath - and yes, even for the busy-ness of my day ahead. All the little things that would need my attention after one more deep and gratifying inhale/exhale ...

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And finally, here is my Little Bear at his Audubon Nature Class this week - simply thrilled to hold a garter snake! Our autumn classes have now come to an end, but we'll return to the sanctuary in January, eager to explore the wonders of the winter woods with our amazing Audubon teachers and homeschool families! 

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Well my friends, I am so very thankful to you all for joining me for tea today. I know this was a very LONG post, but I do hope you enjoyed it! I truly enjoyed sharing all these thoughts and pictures with you all ... and of course, the pumpkin-squash-apple-orange-spice ALL KINDS OF AUTUMN GOODNESS Tea!

Remember, if you'd like to join me in my Late Autumn & Winter Teatimes - I'll be posting here every other week through the season - just zip me an email with your submission (or link).

drhanigan AT gmail DOT com

And of course, I'd love to hear from you in a comment below!

Enjoy the weekend ahead my friends ... I'll see you here again very soon!


Holiday Tea at Dawn's ~ Cozy Nests (Pt.2)

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Hello my friends, and Happy Monday! Welcome to part two of last week's Tea post! (Yes, I am a  bit "off-schedule" here - but that's the way of things lately! Please see my updated Tea schedule at the bottom of this post.)

Now, to continue with our conversation on "cozy winter nests," I thought I'd share some pictures of my own special spot as well as some thoughts on how to go about creating your own! I'll get to the nest photos in a moment, but to begin with, a quick word about the tea set shown above ...

Some of you might remember this pinecone tea set from the days when my older boys were little. I came across these darling dishes at the Christmas Tree Shoppe for a song and just knew immediately they were perfect for our nature-loving, woodland-based homeschool! My boys and I had "seasonal tea" regularly throughout their childhood and this basically involved milky tea or cocoa (or maybe hot cider) and something yummy (and hopefully homebaked) as well as read-aloud or puppet story. This sweet set began with bowls and plates, but those are long gone! I still have a small set of mugs, the charming tea pot and one little bowl which I use to hold tea bags. Happily nowadays both my younger boys love tea, too - and so the homeschooling tradition continues!

In the above photo we were enjoying a special "candy cane" cocoa for St. Nicholas's Day, our traditional treat on this feast day. I usually hook candy canes on the mugs of hot chocolate (aka bishop staffs), but had forgotten to pick up some natural ones at Whole Foods. (You may recall we have EB on a special diet free of artificial colors and flavors.) So instead, I just added some organic/natural peppermint extract to the simmering milk and mixed it with our homemade hot cocoa blend.

I've been keeping this pretty tea set on a high shelf in my kitchen but have decided to bring it down and keep it handy - it won't get used otherwise! And so our pinecone set has found a home in my "cozy winter nest ... I'm keeping it on a tray so it can be moved about as needed. 

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(Notice the little Lego on the corner of that table? That would be a Minecraft pick-ax, in case you didn't know.)

Ok, now back to our NEST discussion!

I'd like to first talk about a list I made for myself when I began setting up my nest. I first asked myself some questions about the concept of "keeping cozy" and then brainstormed some general ideas. My first list just appeared rather randomly in my doodle notebook ...

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This is my brain dump, and as you can see it's a bit of a mess! I use it for writing out weekend plans and shopping lists ... and lots of odd bits and bobs, too!

I then refined my list to be clearer and more "presentable," lol ...

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I'll keep this list in my December planning pages. :)

Here's my own Cozy Winter Nest breakdown. I would encourage you to ask yourself the same questions!

Why? Because there's a long cold winter ahead and instead of dreading it, let's make the best of it. Why not feather a cozy little "nest" for ourselves - a spot exclusively for comfort and joy - where we can hunker and hibernate till spring?

Where? This will be a space where we can rest and replenish our winter "stores" - ideally out of the way of the general household hubbub.

What? What will make this spot comforting? What items will bring joy? This list will be different for everyone!

When? How often can we actually BE in our nest? Will we roost here daily or will it serve as an occasional retreat?

Now, I think I've probably addressed the "Why" question pretty thoroughly by now so let's skip to the "Where." It is my firm belief that your nest can be ANYWHERE ... from a whole separate room to the end of a couch and/or bookcase ... even a dedicated window space can serve to enhance your level of winter coziness.

(I think it's helpful to start by brainstorming WHAT your ideal nest looks like and then look around your home for a fitting spot.)

Personally, my nest needs to be somewhere a little apart from family "traffic," but still close enough that I feel I'm handy to my kids if they need me. So I've claimed a portion of our living room for my nest, and here are some pictures I took the other day ...

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This is the epi-center of my nest - Mama's Reading Chair!

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It's a bit old, it's a bit squishy - but I love it! I keep a small table next to it for my tea mug (etc.) and I use an ottoman on the other side for planners. There are also plenty of baskets about for books!

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(The basket beneath the ottoman holds catalogs and coupons.)

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Cats are a nest must-have - even when they're being naughty!

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A birdfeeder outside the window is another must ...

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And plenty of natural light plus cozy lighting!

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Library loans are kept nearby - it's handy to keep them all together.

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I like to fill the coffee table with seasonal reading materials ...

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And there needs to be special spots for the cats to snuggle in, natch.

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Cats are natural-born nesters ... :-)

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And blankets are always a draw!

Nesting kitties

And they too love sunny spots ... in the winter, a south-facing window provides soul-soothing warmth and light.

Other essential nest items not shown include:

journal-keeping supplies: notebooks/binders, pens, scissors, tape, clippings to add

children's storybooks: my nest is a GREAT spot for read-alouds!

music: I like the Pandora app; currently I'm listening to old English Christmas carols.

video: I use my computer for watching DVDs - now showing, "Take Peace: A Corgi Cottage Christmas."

correspondence: notecards, stamps, address book, etc. I'm working on Christmas cards at the moment!

candles: I have scented candles here and there but I like battery-lit ones for every day use.

hand lotion: I keep Curel at my kitchen and bathroom sinks but a tube of lovely rose-scented cream in my nest!

What would you add to my list? :)

As for the "When" question ... well, for myself, I enjoy "nesting" every day. Because I'm up so early, I start my day here (I'm talking 4 a.m.), and I also sit here at least once a day to read with Little Bear and/or Earlybird. On the weekends I try to have a block of time devoted to keeping "office hours," and here is where I like to work. If you're used to being in your nesting space you will naturally gravitate there, but if it's a new idea to you, you may have to create an actual nesting schedule! At least to begin with. Begin by feathering this space as you like, and then consider how often you can indulge in a little nesting behavior. Let your loved ones know this is important to you, and if you have to write it on the family calendar then do just that!

Because a nest of our own is a help as much as it is a haven. It's a place where we might battle winter's darkness and soothe our world-weary spirits. It's a place to cultivate creativity and bask in the comforts of home. Even if all the space you have is a kitchen window-sill, arrange a few special things there (a pot of herbs, a picture frame, a nourishing lotion, a scented candle) and let that be a place you go for a moment of mindfulness each day.

There's so much more to say about the benefits of "nesting" but I will wrap up for now. That said, I would love to revisit this theme after the holidays - say mid-January. The next month is busy for most of us, with Christmas coming and all, but once Epiphany's come and gone, I will take a fresh look at my nest and see how I can spruce it up for the "deep winter" months. I think for many of us there is a sense of melancholy when the festive season has passed and the pretty decor of the holidays has been packed away. But let's not let that happen! We'll come up with a wonderful winter plan and see ourselves through the long cold weeks ahead ... 

Now, about my Tea schedule going forward! I have to be honest with you all and myself - I had hoped to sneak in another Tea post mid-week, but instead I will stick to my original schedule and be back on Monday with our next Holiday Tea. Our theme will be "O Christmas Tree" and I will share pictures of our home's holiday decorations, plus we'll talk about the upcoming Winter Solstice.

For now I will say goodbye and thank you all for joining me ... I'd love to hear your thoughts on Cozy Winter Nests so please drop a comment if you have the time! I'd also love to see YOUR Christmas trees, so please consider sending me a picture if you are able: drhanigan AT gmail DOT com.

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


Advent Countdown: Stories & Simple Activities

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Hello my friends and Happy Thursday! I know we're but a few days away from the 1st of December, so you probably have your Advent plans already in place, but here I am anyways, to share what my Advent project looks like this year ... :)

In addition to a few treasured traditions, I really enjoy coming up with something new for my boys every year! (Check out my Advent Plans & Crafts archives if you'd like to see past projects.)

So this year I decided to revolve our Advent countdown around picture books - meaningful and beautiful stories we've enjoyed as a family for years. As I've blogged about before, we have an awful lot of books - longtime homeschooling family that we are! - and though they are indeed spread out all over the house, I do like to organize them by subject and season.

Case in point - here's our Christmas book bin:

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True confession: there are more books now than can fit in this pretty rolling bin ... and yes, those are my slippered feet in the bottom of the pic!

So, as you can see, we have many, many Christmas books  ... so what I did first was to go through the WHOLE stash and pull out the ones we (ahem, I) love best. Then I looked over our December calendar, considered our weekly seasonal themes and then organized the books into separate piles ...

1st pile: WEEK ONE "cozy nests, stars/sticks/stones" (St. Barbara, St. Nicholas)

2nd pile: WEEK TWO "seasonal spices and Christmas trees" (OL Guadalupe, St. Lucia, EB & Papa's B.day)

3rd pile: WEEK THREE "welcome winter & advent animals" (Winter Solstice, Full Yule Moon)

4th pile - WEEK FOUR (which is just 12/24) "O Holy Night" (Christmas Eve)

I realize this all sounds rather complicated, but there is a method to my madness, I promise! Here is the low-tech spreadsheet I made up for myself as I worked it all out ...

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And here's a corner of my December month-at-a-glance calendar, showing how I note our weekly themes ...

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Next, once I had my 24 books all assigned to their dates, I placed them in a basket so I could get down to work ...

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Naturally, Archibald offered to help ...

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I went through each book and chose an illustration to photocopy, something that would hopefully be rather easy to identify ...

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Then I gathered the rest of my materials: poster board, washi tape, stickers, post-it notes, glue stick, pen. All items I already had on hand!

I figured a post-it was a good size for a small illustration, so I first made sure I could fit 24 on the board and then I started cutting out my illustrations! 

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(Remember - these are photocopies!)

Once I had all my picture squares, I placed them in order and then decorated the edges of the poster board.

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I used an Elmer's glue stick for this and it worked just fine adhering the copy paper to the poster board ...

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I used Christmas-y washi tape to jazz up the poster board a bit. I also used up some old stickers I had on hand as you can see below ..

Next I placed a plain white post-it note over each illustration ...

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And then ... I placed a log slice sticker on the bottom edge of each post-it. The post-it notes hide the illustration and the stickers keep that post-it note from flipping up and revealing any hints!

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Close ups of the poster/post-it/sticker situation ...

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Festive, yes? :)

Lastly, I used a red pen to number each sticker ...

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And secured Archie's approval, natch ...

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And that's it!

Well, actually ... there is much more to it and I will now get to all that. :)

Honestly though, this was a super easy project to pull together this morning. The photocopying took the longest time I think.

Here's how (I hope) my plan will unfold ...

Each day the boys will pull the day's post-it off and, using the revealed illustration, will head to the Christmas Library to try to find the book of the day. (I may also stick a number on the day's book to make it easier for my boys who are pretty young and might need help with this. Little Bear is not yet so familiar with the Christmas book collection and Earlybird may not recognize the illustrations.)

We will then all read the book together! (Please see my book list below.)

I am taking it a little further by planning a simple activity to go along with our Advent reading each day. I am not sharing this "Advent Agenda" with the boys beforehand however, because, as I've learned in the past, it's best to determine first if an activity will work - given the time/energy/weather/mood of the boys - and their mama! I have included my ideas below, next to the book titles.

I hope you enjoy the list and maybe can use an idea or two!

The PDF: Advent Countdown: Stories & Simple Activities

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December 1st

Celebrate Christmas: With Carols, Presents and Peace by Deborah Heiligman

*Set up our Advent Garden.*

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December 2nd

The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg

*Watch The Polar Express and drink hot chocolate!*

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December 3rd

The Light of Christmas by Richard Paul Evans

*Make beeswax candles for Advent Garden.*

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December 4th

An Early American Christmas by Tomie dePaola

*Nature walk: gather twigs and other natural craft materials.*

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December 5th

Angelina’s Christmas  by Katharine Holabird

*Take an evening stroll around neighborhood  - deliver holiday cards.”

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December 6th

Santa’s Favorite Story by Hisako Aoki

*Saint Nicholas Teatime: mulled cider and speculaas cookies.*

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December 7th

Song of the Stars by Sally Lloyd-Jones

*Make twig stars and other natural-material ornaments.*

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December 8th

Night Tree by Eve Bunting

*Go to The Farm and get our Christmas Tree!*

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December 9th

Country Angel Christmas by Tomie dePaola

*Cookie Baking Day with Nana!*

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December 10th

The Animals’ Santa by Jan Brett

*Decorate a Solstice Tree for the backyard Animals.*

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December 11th

The Golden Christmas Tree by Jan Wahl

*Make golden glitter tree ornaments.*

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December 12th

The Legend of the Poinsettia by Tomie dePaola

*Visit the Nursery to see poinsettias. Make cinnamon-sugar tortilla stars with fresh pineapple-mint salsa. Tacos for supper!*

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December 13th

Gingerbread Friends by Jan Brett

*Bake and decorate gingerbread folk.*

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December 14th

My Wonderful Christmas Tree by Dahlov Ipcar

*Write and perform  a Woodland Christmas puppet show.”

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December 15th

Christmas Farm by Mary Lyn Ray

*Take a nighttime Christmas lights drive.*

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December 16th

A Wish to Be a Christmas Tree by Colleen Monroe

*Watch the bird garden at sunrise while sipping hot cocoa.*

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December 17th

The Christmas Bird by  Bernadette Watts

*Set up our children’s creche.”

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December 18th

The Christmas Cat by Efner Tudor Holmes

*Make moon ornaments for Solstice Tree; watch moonrise tonight.”

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December 19th

Corgiville Christmas by Tasha Tudor

*Bonfire night! Make magic pinecones to burn in fire.*

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December 20th

Pussycat’s Christmas by Margaret Wise Brown

*Make homemade gift wrap.*

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December 21st

Bear Noel by Olivier Dunrea

*Family Solstice Supper with hot wassail, cottage pie and sun cake.”

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December 22nd

The Friendly Beasts: An Old English Christmas Carol by Tomie dePaola

*Go caroling!*

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December 23rd

Christmas in the Stable by Astrid Lindgren

*Visit an outdoor nativity scene at night.”

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December 24th

The Night Before Christmas illustrated by Douglas Gorsline

There will be new pajamas and slippers and steamed almond milk before bed!

*

I hope you enjoyed my Advent ideas! Please remember - my goal is not to do every single thing on my list, but rather, to use the "plan" to create an atmosphere ... a slower, peaceful and happy time of anticipation. The 24 days of Advent pass very quickly and I sincerely hope every one of them brings you much comfort and joy!

Well my friends, as always, I thank you for stopping by and wish you all a pleasant day ... see you here again very soon!


❤️Looking Ahead: Tea & Christmas Planning!

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Hello again, my friends!

Well, it's a rather dreary November afternoon here - sleety, cold, and DARK - so I'm taking a break from our Thanksgiving prep to sit down for a cup of tea and to share a couple of quick things with you all. The first thing is what you see above ... this year's Christmas Planner is ready to go!

🎄 Dawn's Christmas Planner for 2018 🎄

Now, I'm really excited to dive into holiday planning - but I do like to live in season, and be mindful of our present blessings - so this week is all about thankfulness - and preparing turkey for 25! I also, however, like to get my ducks in a row asap, so I printed out a fresh copy - updated for the new year with a new, pretty cover (and back) page - and added it to my planning binder. There it will wait for me until Friday morning when I'll be raring to go! (Over a cup of mulled cider and leftovers!)

Okhere is a little sneak peek at the inside pages ...

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I hope this 16-page booklet will be helpful to you as you plan out your holiday season, but more than that - I hope it helps you think about HOW you want the season to feel. Christmas is about so much more than just the nitty gritty details - not that there's not a lot of things to do and keep on top of in order to make everyone's holiday  happy - but it's really about creating an atmosphere, crafting a vision, cultivating and carrying on with traditions that make the season so special for everyone. It is also, if I may be so bold as to suggest, a time for making time for ourselves. A time to connect with the true spirit of the season - whatever that may mean for YOU - touching base with the memories and values you hold dear. These weeks go by so fast, let's give this special time some real forethought and plan a Christmastide that will bring not only happiness, but harmony - inside and out.

Well ... more on all that in posts to come, but on that note ... the other thing I wanted to tell you all today is that I've decided to bring back my WEEKLY WINTER TEAS!

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And so ...

Tea at Dawn's will commence next Monday, November 26th and continue (fingers crossed) every week throughout what I like to call, "nesting" season.

I am still hammering out my thoughts on this special project, as well as my weekly Tea themes, but come next Monday we can start by sharing a little of our Thanksgivings as well as our hopes for the season ahead - not to mention, of course, a lovely cup of late autumn tea!

Guests are always welcome at Teatime - to simply read, or share thoughts, or to participate with pictures - so I hope you'll consider joining me! Grab that Teacup image above if you'd care to spread the word, and if you'd like to send me a picture, please email me:

drhanigan AT gmail DOT com

Our 1st post:

November 26th: "Thanksgiving Memories and Holiday Hopes."

Well friends, I will be off now as dinnertime has approached and I am actually now typing these last words with a five year old in my arms who is complaining of a bellyache! So for now ...

Thanks so much for stopping by, have a nice evening, and I'll hope to see you here again very soon!


August Plans & News!

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Hello my friends, and Happy Monday! I hope all is well with you all!:)

I'm popping in today to share my August 2018 planning sheets ... and to say I'm very sorry it's taken me so long to post them! The good news is - it's not QUITE August yet, lol! The better news is - I'll have September through December sheets to share with you within a week or so. :)

But more on my planner situation a little further below, first I thought I'd share a little about our seasonal themes for next month ...

Our August Seasonal Themes

7/30-8/5: bats at dusk

8/6-8/12: shooting stars

8/13-8/19: blueberries

8/20-8/26: seashells by the seashore

8/27-9/2: sunflowers

Here is a look at the "spreadsheet" I designed for planning out our weeks:

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It probably seems like a lot of information overload, but I find it very helpful to see all these variables in one place - though I feel compelled to add, we won't get ALL these ideas done! These are all possibilities ... :)

I get asked about my seasonal homeschooling quite often, and so here's a peek at my list of weekly themes:

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I'm also frequently asked about the themes themselves - do I repeat them from year to year?

Well the answer to that question is yes - mostly. Because for one thing, we almost never explore a theme to the depth it might be explored (and some particularly busy weeks we miss out entirely) but also, the point of this rhythm is to nurture a fond familiarity with the nuances of each season, as well as a sense of happy anticipation throughout the year.

I do change things up sometimes though - for instance, this week we are doing "bats at dusk" but it could have been "first grains" to go along with Lammas Day. Though they won't be our focus, we will be exploring grains a bit - reading The Little Red Hen, baking corn muffins and observing this lovely poster, a gift from a friend:

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Meanwhile, just across the learning room, on display are the books we're using this week:

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Now, why bats you might ask? Well, at this time of year we spend most evenings watching tiny bats swoop over our yard! (And I know that because of the nature notes I keep from year to year, reminding me what to look for when.) Bat-watching has become something of a sweet, simple ritual - sitting on the front steps after supper, watching those tiny dark forms flit about the lavender sky, noticing the warm air and the lingering light ...

It's a fun and interesting activity to be certain, but more than that, this happy pastime reminds the whole family to slow down, pay attention, share in the blessings of each season, and TAKE JOY in the time we've been granted!

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OK, at long last, here in the nick of time are my:

August 2018 Planner Pages !!!

Yep, that's just ONE PDF for the whole month! I finally figured out how to create multi-page PDFs and that makes it so much easier to print out the planning sheets! Please let me know if you have any trouble opening this file - and I hope you enjoy! (I've changed this just a bit ...)

As I said above, I will have the rest of my 2018 planning sheets available to print with the next week. As for my 2019 planner ...

Well, I am trying my best to get that organized, too - and to figure out if this is something I might sell (!) or continue to share here as I've done the past couple of years. The good news is, I have about half the year done already ... so it shouldn't be too long before I have something to share with you.

Ok, and finally - here's some really fun news! On August 17th I will be taking part in a "Homeschool Connections" webinar hosted by Mary Ellen Barrett! I'll share more details in the next couple of weeks, but wanted to let you all know that I'll be talking about my homemade planner, my seasonal themes and kindergarten plans for the year ahead ... plus a few other things, depending upon what questions are asked!

So please stay tuned and thanks so much for your patience ... and as always, for stopping by! I hope you all enjoy these last few days of July ... :)

I will see you here again very soon!


Advent Arrives in the Learning Room! ❤

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Hello my friends, and Happy Monday! And Happy first week of Advent, as well. I'm feeling a little better this week and I thank you all for your kind words and prayers. I will be slowly catching up with things around here and hope to be back on track soon. I hope you are all doing well, too!

Today I'd like to share some of the ways we're bringing Advent to our learning room this year. I am especially excited about the beautiful wooden tree Bill made for us - modeled after one I spied at HomeGoods recently. When I first saw that tree at HGs I thought two things ... ONE, that it would be perfect for the learning room, and TWO, that Bill could easily make it! (Which he did, God bless him.)

At the time I wasn't sure what exactly I'd do with it, but then things started clicking into place and I came up with a plan ...

And not surprisingly it involves nature!

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I think you all know how much we love nature in my family and that we love infusing our faith traditions with simple nature-connections. This Advent season I decided to work with a theme of "All Creation Waits" and since we have many lovely wooden animals in the learning room I thought I might start there ...

But as with any plan, I had to flesh it all out on paper - and post-its!

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I decided to tell short simple stories using these toys, reflecting the traditional weekly Advent themes of hope, peace, joy and love ... with the overarching theme of seeking or waiting for something (someone). I sorted through all our wooden animals and decided how each one would fit into the story schedule, and then I made up a sort-of storyboard, shown above.

I placed little stickers on the figures and then put them all in a basket ...

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... covered them up with a pretty starry-night playsilk and set that basket aside.

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Each day Little Bear looks in his basket to find the day's creature(s) and sets them on the Advent Tree. And as he places them on that little ledge, I tell a very brief, simple story. I have these stories mostly written out, and they meander from farmyard to woodland to wider global habitats. I even splurged a little and bought a few new figures that will show up throughout the season - I think Little Bear will be very pleased!

(By the way, we bought most of our wooden toys at Nova Natural many years ago, and last week I ordered new figures from Bella Luna Toys. Both New England-based companies are wonderful.)

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I'm happy to report that four days in - it's been well received! I love how these figures look on the natural wood of the tree, with that cute colorful rug just beneath!

Now, because Earlybird cannot handle storytelling for sensory reasons, I decided to come up with a different Advent plan for him, and the family as a whole. I brainstormed 24 very simple activities (again reflecting nature and faith themes) and then set up a daily "reveal" system I thought EB would enjoy.

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I used the learning line for these small cards and some very cute snowflake clothespins I found at Target ($5 for a package of 12).

(If you are interested, here is a PDF I made up with my notes for our Advent activities: All Creation Waits)

Here is the results of today's Advent tag - gathered branches for St. Barbara's Day!

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(Come Christmas, these branches *should* be blooming. It's worked every year!)

Here's a better look at our Advent Tree ...

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I will rotate the Christmas books displayed here each week ...

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I have a cheery red rolling-bin for the bulk of our books!

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Here's a sweet little board book called, The Animals' Advent ...

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We're using this countdown, too! 

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My sidebars are woefully out of date, but I'll try to share our Advent & Christmas book collection with you all soon!

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I just love this tree, and can see that there would be many different ways to use it. (Bill made the ledges easily moveable.)

Here is Little Bear holding up today's Advent animal .. the goat!

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Goat and his "kid" had a nice little story to tell ... new at the farm, Kid was hoping for a special friend to play with (as was Calf in the previous story). He was also hoping for a chance to run about and jump ... and so didn't my boys find some branches and stumps set up in the backyard for doing just that? (Our neighbors have the loveliest trio of goats and we're quite fond of them. I based this story on some of their clever antics!)

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Here's how the first figures are lining up on the bottom shelf of the Advent Tree ...

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The lights are so pretty, aren't they? Another Target find - $9.99 a box for a 9-foot line of lights. I used two to outline the tree.

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December days are surely dark, but oh - those lights! They lend an air of magic and joy to each and every day of Advent. 

More Advent lights and sights around our home to come soon. And fingers-crossed, I'll be hosting our first Advent Tea this Sunday! For now though, I wish you all well - and a very Happy Advent! - and will hope to see you all here again soon. :)


Tea & Mitten Strings: Ch. 8, "Secret Places"

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Hello my friends, and Happy Sunday! I hope you all are having a nice weekend, and I hope my fellow Americans enjoyed a very happy Thanksgiving! Ours was quite nice - and I do have some pictures to share - but for now, I'd like to serve one last cup of Autumn Tea and talk about our next chapter in Mitten Strings for God, chapter eight, "Secret Places." 

Now, despite the "Christmassy" look of my tea pic above, it actually is still Autumn! But I think most of us are switching gears at the moment ... tucking away Thanksgiving (and maybe Halloween) decor, and working on our December calendars and this year's holiday plans ...

But outside my window the world still looks very autumnal! There are crunchy leaves underfoot, and some still clinging to the mostly bare trees ... and oh, those late, glowing sunsets! But the chipmunks have gone underground now - we realized that the other day, shortly after we spotted our first dark-eyed junco on the front lawn. These two species disappear (the former) and reappear (the latter) around the same time each year and it's always a highlight in our household - right along with that first hard morning frost!

Who saw the first junco? Has anyone seen a chipmunk lately? Wow the grass is crunchy this morning!

Autumn's ending ... winter's nearing ... it's time to turn inward and "switch on the lights." 

Here's a peek at our Saturday afternoon, roundabouts 3:00 ... 

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See how dark it gets around here?! And though my Little Bear is wearing a winter jacket in this picture, the temperature was strangely mild today - very near 60°! And, according to our local forecast, all next week is looking unseasonably mild as well - which doesn't bode well for our pre-assigned seasonal theme of "Welcome, Jack Frost!" Lol, we may be hard pressed to celebrate "frosty weather" next week, with highs near 50° ... though the nights will dip down to the 20s, so there is hope! (I contemplated switching themes, but I think we'll stick with it ... and if it stays mild we'll talk about how elusive that ol' winter sprite can be at this time of year!❄️ )

(p.s. The wooden structure is an Advent project in the works - more to come next week on that!)

Ok, enough with the weather talk now, let's talk about tea! This week I'm drinking my favorite decaffeinated black tea in a sweet mug I bought at Home Goods a year or so ago. It's a good sturdy mug that holds a nice amount of tea - and I love the bright red letters spelling out HOME - and the four birds heading straight for it!

(Note - I find the cutest mugs at HomeGoods for very little money. Well, they're not free or anything - as Bill would remind me - but they're a nice enough price I don't mind splurging once in a while! 😉 )

So I took my tea yesterday in our sunny kitchen nook while filling out my December calendar -  because GOODNESS the new month arrives Friday! (Calendar post to come soon!) And though most Advent calendars begin on December 1st, technically, according to the liturgical calendar, Advent begins on the first Sunday of Advent, which in 2017 is December 3rd. And that's a week from today!

Either way you look at it though - whichever calendar you follow - Advent is coming - and SOON!

Before we get on with our chapter talk though, and speaking of tea and Advent, I have to share this with you all ...

Advent teas

This is MY Advent calendar this year, an extremely generous and incredibly thoughtful gift from a dear friend! It arrived in a wonderful surprise package last week, a lovely and festive box filled with special teas for each and every day of Advent ... 24 in all! I am so excited to try them all, and I love the inspiration they represent - a perfect reason to sit down and savor a few quiet moments each day throughout the season ... to soak it all in and think it all through. Advent goes so fast and we can easily get caught up in the hustle and bustle ... but as we tea lovers know, a hot cuppa something special is all the invitation we need to slow down and press pause. I am planning my teatimes already and making room for these special moments in each day. I hope to share most, if not all, of these teas with you all on social media this Advent season!

Ok, let's now move on to our next Mitten Strings chapter ... and today we are discussing the concept of "Secret Places." Here is a link to my post from 2008 and once again I had a chuckle reading back through my thoughts back then. Different house, different (aged) kids (plus one more kid now) ... unsurprisingly things were so ... different back then! Our house has more floors and our yard now has more acreage - so there are more nooks and crannies to explore - but my primary "secret place finder" is only four years old! So I'll have to adapt the concept of a "hideaway" this time around ...

"Every child needs such a place, a place that invokes the processes of the imagination and the possibility of transformation. A place that is at once a haven from the adult world and a source of mystery and wonder, a place that a child can discover and shape and lay claim by virtue of his or her own quiet presence there, and deep observation." (p. 62)

Little Bear is just at the right age for seeking out such special, secret places - though again, he's too young to be left to his own devices just yet. I hope next spring to help him explore a little more around our property, to find some little nooks in which he might find "a sense of ownership and mystery," (p. 58).

Here is one such place he has taken a liking to recently ...

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As you can tell from my posts, we are surrounded by woods here - even our front yard has "a small wood" of its own! Well, Friday afternoon, as I walked down to get the mail (taking a break from Thanksgiving cleanup!), I heard Little Bear calling ...

"Mama, come see what I found! Come see, come see! Me and Daddy are here now!"

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A little nook right inside this cozy wood, just a slight dip down below our driveway ... with big, moss-covered rocks to climb and (unbeknownst to Little Bear) a vernal pond to explore come spring. (No actual peepers, though. Just lots of muck and murk.) I was so pleased he stumbled upon this spot which is clearly visible from the house but feels "secretive" to him. Four is such a great age, and LB has such an adventurous spirit ...

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This will make a fun, out-of-the-way place for him to explore ... and "claim."

"The best ones are the ones that children discover on their own, the ones that are imbued, from the very first, with a sense of ownership and mystery; places that no adult would ever think to go, that are hollowed by the shapes of small bodies and furnished by wild nature and rampant imagination." (pg. 58)

Kids are magnets for these kinds of interesting outdoor spots, especially when and if allowed to roam (and lead). Their sharp eyes see such possibilities! But winter is coming and the weather will soon be turning inhospitable; outdoor explorations will be put on the back burner for awhile ...

So as we spend more time indoors, I thought I'd take a look around the house and see where else LB might find his own special nooks ...

Here's a great place for a little "fort" ...

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In the library, where Mama reads (and drinks tea) ... in between the chair and the loveseat, just beneath the (rickety) end table. :)

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He'd be snuggled up right next to the heating register, too! And just under the tablecloth there, you see a glimpse of the cats' soft pet-bed. This is used mostly (always) by Oliver, who is our quieter of the two cats. (There's a reason you see Archie in most of my photos - he's my constant sidekick!) Oliver though, likes being out of sight and prefers being somewhere dark and warm. I'm thinking Little Bear could make good use of this space, too!

And here's another possible secret (ish) place ...

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Well, there's really nothing too secret about the loft bed in Little Bear's bedroom, but I think it has "secret place" potential ... maybe with a curtain of some kind providing some privacy ...

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He's too young to sleep up here just yet (and he has a separate single bed in this room as well) but I think this will be great fun for him as he gets a little older and more adventurous! And there's that neat little cubby just beneath the bed as well ... currently it holds out-of-season clothing but that too could make a wonderful "fort" or hidey-hole someday!

You know, "Secret Places" was another wonderful chapter, with some lovely inspiration for those of us with young children ... but I think the whole idea of a "secret place" is of value to all of us. Our imaginations might not be quite so active as we age, but the need to feel out of the limelight and "off on our own" on occasion ... really never goes away.

"Children need their privacy just as we adults do. In the secret places of childhood, the soul drinks deeply, is refreshed, and flourishes." (p. 63)

Do you have a secret place you retreat to? Do your children have such places they call all their own? I'd love to hear about them and your thoughts on this chapter, if you have time! Or how about the weather where you are, or the tea you are drinking these days? Do you, like me, feel called to pour a cup of tea and "hide away" as the days grow dark and cold?

I'd love to read your comments if you have time to leave them, or send me a link, your thoughts and/or pics if you have a moment!

---> drhanigan AT gmail DOT com

I hope to hear from you and I thank all of you who have been reading along and sharing your thoughts as you can! Sorry I am a bit late in my replies - last week was a busy one! I will be catching up with you all again soon (and sharing some pics from our family's holiday too). Next week's Sunday post will be our first Advent Tea and very fittingly our chapter is all about "Wants and Needs." Something to ponder as we head into the busiest shopping time of the year, and choose gifts for our loved ones ...

So until then (or next time, whenever that may be) I wish you all well and a very lovely last week of November! Take care of yourselves and your loved ones, my friends ... 

See you here again very soon!


Planning for Seasonal Joy!

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Hello my friends, and Happy Friday! Our weekly Tea, as I mentioned yesterday, will be a day (or so) late, but I just shared this rather lengthy post on Facebook and thought - why not share it here, too?!
 
Anyhoo, I wanted to show you all a corner of my Day Designer page today, because I think it's a good example of how I work "seasonal planning" into our everyday life. (And how my daily planner helps me out with that!)
 
So, up here in the "Top Three" section of my daily page I list any holidays or events of note (such as a full moon or birthday) and then I write where we are in our weekly rhythm:
 
---> rhythm: hearth & home: "fading light"
 
In our weekly homeschooling rhythm, today (Friday) is for focusing on "hearth and home," and this week's seasonal theme is "fading light." (I tied that in with pushing the clocks back on Sunday, and the dwindling afternoon light.)
 
On the last line I wrote down a household activity that will help us embrace our seasonal theme in a simple, but meaningful, way:
 
---> organize string lights, candles and lanterns 🌟
 
Because my thinking at this time of year is this - why be sad about November's dark days when we might feel uplifted by a warmly lit home?
 
And don't those soft lights placed around the home make things oh-so-cozy? Perhaps a string of fairy lights twirled in a garland along the mantlepiece? Maybe a special candle to dress up the family table? And how about a homemade lantern placed in a window, a beacon of welcome on a dark afternoon?
 
Sure, we'd probably be bringing these lights out at some point this fall, maybe in bits and pieces - but I think it's nice to have a little ceremony to it, make it something to plan and look forward to:
 
Turn back the clocks ---> turn on the lights! 💡
 
(Have a nice weekend, my friends - don't forget to turn back your clocks!)

November brings: books, branches & blessings!

November books

Hello my friends, and Happy November! I'm popping in very quickly today to A. wish you all a happy new month! And, B. share a bit about our 2017 gratitude project. It was a bit last minute, but in the spirit of my Mitten Strings re-read - in particular, the current chapter - I'm trying to keep things as simple as possible! (And speaking of MSfG, our weekly tea and conversation will be delayed just a day ... maybe two ... because I'm having a week that's anything but simple!!)

Now, I usually try to share my ideas and book lists before a holiday or season begins, but sometimes (ahem, a lot of times) I just can't pull it all together in time! Such is the case with November, I'm afraid, but above you see the books in our blessed basket ...

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(Basket from Michaels - an absolute steal on sale week/coupon day!)

I chose 22 books, one for each day of the month leading up to Thanksgiving Day. I have a very simple activity planned for each day - I'm talking super simple here - like, on the 1st we gathered branches for our project, and the next day (today) we set up our remembrance altar.

So once we had those branches, I set them in a "vase" (aka an old Martinmas lantern, née Ball jar) and placed that vase on our learning room work table. (Little Bear had the idea to surround it with pumpkins - and I like it!) 

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Next I cut myself some slack and instead of cutting out 23 paper leaves, I ordered some pre-cut party favors from Amazon ...

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These leaves are actually made from seed paper - which goes SO very nicely with our nature-based learning! Every day we'll write a blessing on a leaf and then attach it to the branches - I used a hot glue gun for this, fyi - and in the springtime we'll plant all our blessings! 

(I so love this idea, I'm going to order another batch as favors for our Thanksgiving guests!)

Ok, in the spirit of (over)sharing, here's the notebook in which I've been brainstorming Thanksgiving and Advent plans ... as you can see I still have some work to do!

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But speaking of the late autumn holidays, here are links to my PDF planners:

Thanksgiving Planner

Advent & Christmas Planner

(These can take some time to upload, fyi! I have them in my spiral-bound homemade planner, but I've also used them on clipboards and in binders before.)

If there is interest (and/or if I have time) I would love to share a list of our November books and activities. I hope to do that for you in an upcoming post - but next time I'm here I'll be handing you a cup of hot autumn tea and sharing my thoughts on Simplicity (Mitten Strings, chapter 5)! I'm earnestly shooting for Saturday but Sunday could very well be a possibility!

And as always, I'd love to hear from YOU about your thoughts on our Mitten Strings re-read. You can email me your links/notes/photos at -->

drhanigan AT gmail DOT com

I'd love to share your input in a post, but you are also always welcome to leave comments here at the blog. :)

Now, one more thing, while I have you!

As I mentioned in my last post and over on FB and IG, I was supposed to do a Facebook Live Chat with Pam at Homeschool Solutions today in which I would be talking about Mitten Strings for God and how it's shaped my homeschooling journey. Well unfortunately we couldn't get the feed to work so we're going to reschedule in the near future! I will of course, keep you all posted. :)

Hope you all had a wonderful All Hallow's Eve ... and thanks so much for stopping by! Take care of yourselves and your loved ones, my friends ...

See you here again very soon!


Seasonal Homeschooling: Pumpkin Week Recap!

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Hello my friends, and Happy Tuesday! 

I'm back again because I have SO many pictures of our pumpkin week, and I just have to share! If you're new to my blog you might be wondering what in the heck a "pumpkin week" is, so - just to explain briefly - every week of the year we explore an assigned seasonal theme as part of our homeschooling. These themes are a big influence on our younger boys' learning experience, but they also infuse our family's home life as well.

I won't go into the whole "why and how" of our seasonal homeschooling, but the important thing to remember about it is - it's more a guideline than a rule! :)

Sure, some weeks we do it up big (case in point, pumpkins!), but other weeks just fly by and we only casually observe our theme. We may be very busy that week, or it might be the theme is not quite as appealing as another might be. Well, pumpkins in October (as you can imagine) are a big hit with most children! And pumpkins lend themselves to all kinds of great learning experiences - whether they be in the disciplines of science, social studies, language arts, cooking, storytelling, etc.! It's very easy to plan for pumpkins - just type "pumpkin activities" into the Pinterest search bar and you'll hardly know where to start!

Well, personally, I start with our own book baskets and family calendar - then start plugging things into our weekly rhythm! Here's a glimpse at last week's planner page as I was just getting started ...

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It's important to my planning "psyche" that I incorporate seasonal awareness wherever I can! So divider pages are vintage reflections of seasons and holidays past, ribbons and washi (when I use them) are also seasonally inspired ... as are the font colors I use in each monthly section. I just loved how the light hit this bit of planning paraphernalia on my kitchen table ... :)

Books are pretty much the backbone of our homeschool, so one of the first things I did, as I planned out our week, was to comb through our autumn book bins and pull out any that had to do with pumpkins ...

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Not surprisingly there were a lot!

Then I got busy planning out activities that would potentially A. appeal to my kids and, B. fit well into our week. Post-it notes are helpful for me here - because due to the special nature of our very hands-on homeschooling (one preschooler and a special needs teen) - I need things to be, above all, flexible. It's impractical for me to plan out each day's to-dos a week in advance, though I do set a rhythm to our week. (Mondays are nature days, Tuesdays are crafting, Wednesdays are for storytelling ... etc.)

So on a drizzly Monday we kicked things off with a little pumpkin investigation!

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I had a sugar pumpkin "specimen" all ready and I found a neat worksheet for them to use (on Pinterest). I don't use worksheets with my preschooler very often but Little Bear does get a kick out of them! First thing he said when he saw this one was, "Mama, I need TWO crayons! Orange and green, please!" Then he got right down to coloring those pumpkins!

Once the REAL pumpkin was open though, he was all about the seed scooping ...

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My mum had come over that morning and with her help, and Earlybird's therapist's support, this science activity was a real hit with both my younger boys!

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Soon the sugar pumpkin was all scooped out and carved to the boys' specifications!

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While Little Bear scooped and colored, Earlybird answered the worksheet's questions:

Was the pumpkin big, small or medium?

Was it orange, yellow or white?

Was the outside smooth or rough?

How many lines were around it?

How many seeds did he think would be inside?

How many seeds WERE inside?

Did he think the pumpkin would sink of float in water?

(Spoiler alert: It floated!)

The next day was better for outside investigating so we headed into the backyard with magnifying glasses in hand. Recently - and curiously - we have one tiny pumpkin plant growing alongside the back of the house - and we didn't put it there! So I wanted the boys to look it all over and think a little - theorize - about how it might have sprouted up here if we didn't actually plant it.

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What was SUPER cool about this observation though, was nestled in the center of the plant itself, alongside the one tiny yellow pumpkin bump we found forming, was a milkweed seed! Just one fluffy little seed, and there it was all snuggled up next that budding pumpkin! We do have milkweed growing across the street, but we mused it would take quite an adventure for a seed so small and delicate to find its way all the way here to our tiny plant. (And we were just discovering milkweed last week!)

This "mystery" seemed to me the beginnings of a really neat nature story ... the tale of two wayward seeds. (More on that in a moment.)

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For a craft I had in mind for later, I set the boys to gathering the driest, crispiest, most colorful leaves they could find ...

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Well, you can imagine how Little Bear took this assignment to heart!

The next day we were back on the deck with a little "leaf glitter" craft in the works ...

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Here's Earlybird with his therapist, working on those fine motor skills ... and sensory issues ... and patience!

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I just drew simple pumpkin outlines on orange paper and then the boys traced those lines with glue. Final step - crumbling all those dried leaves to make "glitter" and sprinkling it all over their gluey pumpkins!

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(A craft for the outdoors, for sure!)

Back inside the learning room, here are the boys' pumpkins on display! :)

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Another neat pumpkin activity this week ...

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Pumpkin tic-tac-toe! I saw this idea on Pinterest and knew it would be a lot of fun - especially for our Halloween party coming up this weekend. Fingers crossed the day will be a nice one and I think folks will have fun trying their hand at this tabletop game! 

Back inside, at my kitchen table later in the day: a fortifying cup of tea and a little read-aloud ...

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How I love Tasha Tudor books, and this one especially. I decided to "splurge" and buy a new board book version for Little Bear. He 

And speaking of my LB, I just had to include this pic of him hugging our giant blow up jack-o-lanterns on the front lawn. Pretty much every day this fall, on our way in or out of the house, he just needs to hug his pumpkin friends!

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Now, as I've mentioned before, our weekly rhythm includes a day for storytelling. These little stories are usually simple tales I make up myself, using our own yard, critters, weather, the season itself, etc. as a prompt. I like to place items in the learning room mailbox that will introduce the story theme and offer a few items Little Bear can use to play with as I narrate the plot. Well, here's what he found in the mailbox last week!

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This is a soft pumpkin doll rattle - something we've had for nearly 20 years! It's kind of amazing it's stayed in relatively good condition. The boys used this when they were babies and then it joined our finger puppet stash. (We also have a carrot!) So today this sweet little fella was an adventurous pumpkin seed fairy and as you can see he was surrounded by airborne milkweed seeds! (Remember, my story was reflecting our recent backyard garden adventures!)

I also created a watercolor verse card for us to read aloud. I used a pretty poem I found online ...

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I'm creating a collection of these seasonal cards for our homeschool!

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Now, when I plan out our seasonal themes, I'm mostly following the natural cycle of the year, though I often tap into the liturgical or secular calendar as well. I assigned this week in mid-October as "pumpkin week" for obvious reasons - they're everywhere and on everyone's minds right now! - but it also tied in nicely with the annual showing of this family favorite ...

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Last Thursday night all my boys, save Earlybird who does not like Charlie Brown specials, gathered on our couch to watch that timeless classic, It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. Yes, we could watch it on DVD (or streaming?) anytime we'd like, but there's something really fun and special about watching "specials" when they're actually being shown!

(The boys were kind of blown away by the fact that *ahem* ... back in our day ... if you missed a special on the night it was shown, well you were just plum out of luck until next year! And there was no pausing or rewinding, either!)

Friday morning - quite serendipitously and generously - my brother stopped by the house with a WHOLE BUNCH of pumpkin goodness for the boys!

Pumpkin goodies

My favorite item so far? The Apple Cider Jam! It's like Thanksgiving in a jar ... 

Now, we didn't get to all the activities I'd planned for the week, but that's perfectly ok. We did what worked and clicked this year - there's always next year for other experiences! On our "marketing" day we tried to find as many pumpkin products as possible at the grocer's and on "hearth and home" day we baked pumpkin donuts for tea. Over the weekend we were going to visit a local pumpkin patch - but unfortunately it was just WAY too busy for my younger guys. (Like, crawling with customers crazy!) I had in mind a far calmer, less commercial experience - so I'm hoping to arrange a quieter visit for my fellas sometime next week. Next year we hope to have a little patch of our own so this past weekend we decided where we'd like to plant it and got the soil prepared. There was also pumpkin French toast for breakfast Sunday morning!

So there's a little glimpse of our pumpkin week and all we got up to! Here's a peek at our learning line and seasonal bookshelves as I tidied them Sunday afternoon ...

Learning room

And here's a peek at THIS week's seasonal planner spread ...

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One thing I like to do - because it is of course what happens in nature - is have certain themes trickle into other weeks. So for instance, we did "autumn seeds" weeks ago, but as the fall unfolds there are plenty of opportunities to learn about and live out this theme more. Case in point - those milkweed (and pumpkin) seeds last week! 

This current week's theme is "goodnight, garden" and I like to tie that in with Halloween. To our ancestors, Halloween literally meant the very end of summer - the time to secure the harvest final crops and prepare the land for the cold, hard winter ahead. We clearly don't live quite that close to the land anymore, but I think activities that echo those ancient seasonal traditions often resonate with us instinctually. So this week we are (as you can see from my planner above!) walking the bounds of our property, harvesting the last of our herbs, clearing our garden beds, raking up leaves, tucking spring bulbs in the ground, gathering natural materials for a bonfire, and seeking God's blessings for our "little farm" as winter approaches ...

Come All Hallow's Eve next week we'll be a little more prepared for a season of deep cold and darkness - both practically and spiritually speaking!

✨ ❄️ 🍂 🎃 🍃 🔥 ✨

Well my friends, I guess I'd better wrap up now because once again I fear I've kept you here too long! But I hope you enjoyed this little peek at our pumpkin week. Remember this was an exceptional week - I had lots of plans, and happily the weather, our time, my energy and their interest levels all cooperated! Not every week is quite so "seasonal" but pumpkins were especially motivating - for my homeschooling kids AND their mama!

I will be back later this week with my weekly Autumn Tea - and as I announced here and on social media, we will be continuing on with our Mitten Strings for God book study at a slower pace than originally announced. This Friday we will be talking about chapter four, "Quiet," and I'll be serving up a spot of Halloween Tea ... AND I have a fun little announcement to make in regards to our MSfG re-read, so stay tuned - and please take care!

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


Woodland Wonders & a Peek at our Week!

Hello my friends and Happy Weekend! In my last post I promised a closer peek at my weekly planner spread so I'm here to share just that! I'm also going to share some pics and collages from "the week that was" in our homeschool ... :)

This weeks spread woodland

First, as I think some or perhaps most of you know, this is a weekly spread in my homemade seasonal planner (the one I talk about A LOT). And as with the rest of this planner I created these pages in what I feel are this month's colors: orange, purple, brown and green. :)

I like a two-page weekly spread so I can really spread out all my writing ... so I placed a general overview on the left, and an agenda with notespace on the right. On the left page I have at the very top the dates of the week: October 9th through October 15th, 2017. I like to begin my weeks with Monday - it's just the way I "see" the week! Beneath that I have two boxes - one for listing the days and events Of Note this week, and one for noting the week's seasonal Theme (woodland).

Moving down the page we have Meal Planning (which I just lifted from October's menu calendar), and beside that are my House & Garden notes for the week. In this box I write any current tasks we're tackling as well as any seasonal chores. Next I have a To-Do This Week box which is obviously pretty self explanatory! I start this list by using last week's list then add to it through the week as things come up ...

On the bottom left hand corner of the page I have a box called, Crafts & Comforts and this is where I plan out my seasonal "living and learning" ideas. Some of these pertain to our homeschooling, some of them are "personal nourishment" activities, and some are home-centered. It was my desire for this kind of planning space - specifically devoted to seasonal activities - that prompted me to make my own planner! I kept looking for a planner design that included such things in its layout and/or had space I could easily convert for this purpose, but I could never find a planner to satisfy me! So ... I just up and designed something for myself! It's certainly not perfect but it works - and it makes me happy. :)

Anyhoo ... this week's "craft and comfort" ideas are "woodland" related and as you can see I check things off as we do them. It is a rare week we do ALL the things - I'm not sure we ever have, lol! - but I love to brainstorm these kinds of activities! (See pictures below for more info on that!)

Moving over to the next page of the spread now ... and here I'm planning out our Weekly Rhythm and Student Goals. I basically use the left-hand column for listing out the agenda, or schedule, for the week - where we are going, what's going on - and the right-hand column for notes re ~ homeschooling my younger boys. (Actually mostly the preschooler because - as I think I've blogged about before, I'll have to check - I have a whole different system for planning out Earlybird's special needs homeschooling and daily therapies. You know, I think I am due for another "special needs homeschooling" post ... it's been a while!)

And as you can perhaps see, I had a little water spill this past week on this planner page - ACK! - and the remaining October sheets got wet ... and wrinkled ... and well, all ugly, lol. You all know how much I love a smooth planner page! In light of all the troubles in the world right now this is very much small potatoes but it does bug me when my planner (any of my planners) gets wrecked in any way. So I added a little woodland washi tape to cover up some of the damage and resisted the rather STRONG urge to make the whole planner over again!

Now you might notice I like to use post-its for my pre-k planning and I really don't have a sufficient explanation for why - I just do. They help me think and move information around and maybe just relieve me from writing something down next to a day permanently that might not fit well. Plus, I just love post-its. I use them ALL the time, all over the place ... really, my post-it note obesssion might warrant its own post!

Ok, getting back to my planner spread - between today and tomorrow I will review these pages to see what can be moved forward and then work on next week's spread (seasonal theme: pumpkins!). I actually gave a little sneak peek of that spread at FB and IG today!

So that's a rather thorough overview of last week's planner spread! Now, how about some pictures of the week itself? :)

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As longtime readers probably know, our seasonal homeschooling in the younger years involves storytelling in a very big way. We mostly make things up, taking our cues from our own seasonal changes and weather events (an owl visit, a hurricane, a snowstorm or a meteor shower, for example), but sometimes favorite storybooks inspire tales and adventures amongst our rather large collection of wooden figures and finger puppets!

So here we have last week's "storytelling" day, when Little Bear found a cast of woodland characters and some leaf-print fabric in his learning room mailbox. I'd been telling LB an evolving story about a silly old bear who - confused by recent summer-like weather - started emptying his cave of all its warm, snuggly leaves, all while his woodland friends tried to persuade him to stop! "Silly old bear, Winter is coming! You'll need all those leaves to stay warm in the months ahead!" Finally, as night (and the temperature) fell, Bear realized his mistake, and sat down to cry beneath the bright crescent moon. But not to worry (and believe me, my Little Bear was worried!), the bear's friends all pitched in to help and filled his cave with plenty of leaves until his den was perfectly cozy once again. :)

(Next week's story takes place in a pumpkin patch, natch!)

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And here we have a little bit of what I like to call, "parkinglotschooling!" Lol, you've heard of carschooling, right? Well, while we were waiting to pick Crackerjack up from class one day last week, we decided to explore the woodsy lot around us. Little Bear found an old rotting stump and we watched all kinds of bugs crawl over and through it (ants, beetle, earwig) ... and investigated a rather yucky looking fungus that seemed to be spilling out of it. (Ew.) Little Bear enjoyed all of this very much - as did I  - and note the Lego contraption clutched firmly in his hand all the while!

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At home later in the week we spent a bit of our morning watching a grasshopper close-up. We have lots of these insects around here - from the teeny tiny springing juveniles of spring to the quick-jumping, wing-whirring adults of summer. But in autumn grasshoppers begin to slow down, especially as the days cool. This fella was on our patio doors, and the sun had not warmed him up yet much ... so we took advantage of the situation and spent a little time observing. One point up for debate - was it a grasshopper or a cricket? We had our suspicions, but needed to do a little research to be sure!

(I wish I had recorded Little Bear and Earlybird having this very debate - it got quite heated!)

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More "woodland" exploring ... our yard is full of trees of course, but the log pile is especially interesting! (Earlybird was doing this with us but wasn't captured in any photos. He actually got a little freaked out by a spiderweb and quickly moved on!)

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And one day we made nature windchimes - a fairly easy and quick craft made with mason jar lid rings, contact paper, twine and things we found around our yard. Truth be told I did most of it myself - the boys liked sticking things on the contact paper and carrying the branch around, but that was about it. (Branches are always a hit.) I found this idea on Pinterest, and this post has great instructions!

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Here's a quick peek in the learning room where our woodland books are assembled along the windowsills, beneath the weekly learning line ...

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And here we have Archie exploring the "bear cave" (an Amazon box turned on its side and draped with soft blankets). And that's Archie for you - never one to pass up a new nook or cranny to explore!

(And to answer a question that might have popped into your mind - no, our learning room is not always this neat! I find though, that having lots of designated storage space, has really allowed for relatively quick cleanups! Each basket seen in these pictures has a particular type of toy assigned to it - and you can read more about that in this post!)

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A closer look at the "woodland" books for last week ... tomorrow I will be re-organizing this display with our books about pumpkins! (More pumpkin week details at my Autumn Tea next week!)

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More woodland fun - including a few things for Mama. ;-) Pretty journals and a calendar booklet as well as the sweetest woodland washi tape I ever did see! (I bought the journals at Paper Source but I haven't decided yet how to use them. The cute little "Woodland Tales" planner I bought at Whole Foods - it's a 17-month calendar, a perfect size to tuck in my purse/tote when I don't want to lug around my heavier (more precious) planners. The washi tape was found at Joann Fabrics but unfortunately I can't seem to find it on their website. And finally, the felt animal masks were SUCH a hit with my Little Bear! He has been having so much fun wearing the masks around the house and pretending to be each of these woodland creatures ... he's especially fond of the beaver mask. :)

(The photo of the scenic view was taken down the street. There is something so lovely about stone walls in autumn ...)

O with milkweed

And finally ... this collage was from last night, and you might have seen it if you follow me on Facebook or Instagram. I titled this: "Milkweed Magic on a Cool Autumn Evening." My apologies if you've already read this - it's a bit wordy, but it really captures how I felt last evening and I want to remember it! :)

We just had another one of those "daily" moments that really felt special - so special in fact, I took pics and made a collage to remember it by! 💛

We've had a milkweed pod sitting on our nature table since early last month, and today - it burst! Much to Little Bear's delight we had little white seed fairies flying all over the learning room!

So LB (and his Daddy and I) scooped up that pod - and as many of the seeds we could round up - and walked the whole kit and kaboodle across the street where the milkweed patch grows ...

Well, I wish I could tell you how positively gleeful Little Bear was during this whole adventure (though maybe you can tell from the photos!) ... you would have thought we were going to Disneyland! LB cradled that little seedpod so carefully - HE had to carry it! - and then heartily blew its fluffy innards all over the roadside ...

And it was such a beautiful evening, too - that autumn light is so lovely, and the leaves are all changing and the air is still just warm enough to walk outside without jackets ...

Inside we went again - time to make supper - the house all warm and lit and full of big brothers' sounds ...

Feeling grateful tonight for this little afternoon adventure ... and for a child who has such a soft heart for nature's wonders! 

✨ 🍁 🌞 🌲🌛 🍁 ✨ 🍁 🌞 🌲🌛 🍁 ✨ 🍁 🌞 🌲🌛 🍁 ✨ 🍁 🌞 🌲🌛 🍁 ✨ 

 My friends, I have kept you here so very long, and if you are still here, I thank you! (And if you bailed earlier, I still thank you!) I do hope you enjoyed a peek into our week and hearing about my planning process. Please let me know if you have any questions! I will be back again late next week with an Autumn Tea to share with you all ... and our first official Mitten Strings Book Study discussion!

(And of course, lots of pictures. When you come to my blog you KNOW there will be pictures ... and I'll have a lot to say about them!)

Hope you all enjoy the rest of your weekend ... see you here again very soon!


Autumn Tea and Tidbits!

Tea with lesson planning 2

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) ...

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And here is my planner stack on my kitchen counter - aka "mama's command center!"

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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 ...

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I added the stickers and a few quotations written with black ink and soft colored pencils ...

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I love peppering my planners with seasonal poems and quotes!

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Next page has my October menu calendar ...

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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 ...

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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 ...

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And here is last week's spread!

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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!

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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 ...

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Here's how it looked one day last week (when I first started working on this post!) ...

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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." 😉

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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 ...

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  • 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)

I also have two sweet board books for my younger boys for learning the Hail Mary and Our Father prayers, as part of Holy Rosary month. :)

Speaking of books though, look at these lovely new titles that arrived in my mail last week!

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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 ... 

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Did you happen to catch it last Thursday night?

Harvest moon rising

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 ...

LB and the full moon

Now, back to books for a moment ... just look and see what arrived in my mailbox early last week!

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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?

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 ...

Archie and sandals

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 ...

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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 ...

Barred owl on feeders

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 ...

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Finally he'd had enough of me, my snapping camera and restless Little Bear and took off ...

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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 ...

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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!

Autumn star fairy

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 ...

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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 ...

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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 ...

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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 ...

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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. :)

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And the day after that we joined our homeschool group on a field trip to a local corn maze!

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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! 

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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!


A Bunch of Autumn Bits & Bobs!

Autumn equinox cookies

Hello, my friends and Happy Friday! And Blessed Equinox, too! ✨ 🍂 🌞 🌻 🍁 🍎 🐿 🍄🌛🍂✨

I'm popping in today to share some autumnal thoughts and photos with you all ... but first, thank you so much for all the incredibly kind comments left at my learning room post. I had such fun putting that post together and I'm so glad you all enjoyed it! There will, of course, be plenty more pics and posts to come as we wind our way through the new year ... but for today, let's talk a bit about AUTUMN, which just began here about 20 minutes ago! To celebrate I made up the plate of "equinox cookies" seen above ...

Now, this was not my idea mind you - I saw a few variations of these cookies on Pinterest. I just took some vanilla cookies we had in the pantry and dipped them in some melted chocolate chips (also from the pantry) and gave them a good sprinkling of autumnal jimmies. (A mom can never have too many jars of colored sprinkles on hand!) One pretty china plate and a bunch of silk leaves later and I had a festive treat for our Friday teatime! :)

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Oh, children's books ... how I love organizing children's books! Last weekend I had Bill bring up the Autumn book basket (actually, a rather heavy wooden crate!) and I spent some time reacquainting myself with old favorites. I have a post to come (hopefully this weekend) with a look at our September book lists and plans ... I've had some requests since I've been sharing lots of book shots here and on social media lately! 

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I ask you - what is sweeter than chubby toddler hands?? Especially when they're trying to grab more than they can hold? This is actually an older photo but it popped up in my Facebook "memories" today and I had to include it ... it's always been a favorite of mine. :) 

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And look how those little hands have grown! Here we are on the couch the other day enjoying one of Little Bear's new board books. The sweetest little forest-themed board book I ever did see!

Kitchen autumn blessing

Now, if you follow me on Facebook and/or Instagram you've probably seen some of the photos in this post, and you might have heard me talk about my "Autumn Blessing" week. Well, I decided since the first day of Fall fell on a Friday, I would use the week leading up to that special day to prepare my home with a little cleaning and "cozifying." Basically, I just cleared each room of any extraneous stuff (aka clutter) and then swept corners and wiped surfaces as best I could. (It wasn't a super deep cleaning, more of a freshening up.) Finally, I added some warm autumn touches here and there ... :)

Above you see the kitchen on Monday evening ... and let me tell you ... it took me ALL day to get it that neat! (Because no, my house is not normally super tidy ... we really LIVE here ALL WEEK, if you know what I mean!)

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On Tuesday I worked on the front rooms: foyer, library and ...

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... dining room! :)

Autumn blessing family room

On Wednesday and Thursday, I worked in the family room ... and as you can see, Archie approves of the "autumnal" changes!

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Heading back outside, here's a shot of Little Bear at a local farm we visited recently ... it was a beautiful crisp day here in New England!

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We also swung by a gorgeous sunflower field ... aren't they breathtaking? And can the sky really possibly be that blue? Nothing like an Autumn blue sky ... though this technically was taken in Summer. ;-)

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Here's a picture collage from our first day of home learning this year ... and that's alphabet pasta up top in case you're wondering, lol! I made Crockpot Alphabet Soup for supper that night. :)

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And here are some pics from Little Bear's first "official" nature walk of the new year. Honestly, I can't think of anything I like better than spending a "school day" roaming our yard looking for curiosities and wonders!

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And finally, here's a book I borrowed from the library recently. Making Peg Dolls is a craft I've wanted to try for a long time now and as you can see, I've got the supplies well in hand! At least the wooden peg part ... I need to see about getting some more felt and thread - perhaps a few more bottles of paint - and then I'll be good to go.

Something else I like to do in early Autumn is to come up with a few hobbies to carry me through the winter ... and brainstorm homemade Christmas gift ideas ... because as we all know, the Autumn will absolutely FLY by and suddenly we'll find ourselves knee-deep in Advent. Plus, it will get dark and cold fast (at least here in New England it will) and it's nice to have some cozy handcrafts to work on during those short afternoons in between busy and bed. ✨🌝✨

Oh, and before I go!

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This is my lovely new Autumn "go-bag!" I bought this - a bit of splurge - at Barnes and Noble a couple of weeks ago. I just fell in love with the look and size of this tote! (And if you read my #fridayintroductions post at Instagram this morning, you know how I feel about tote bags!) It fits my handbag and a few notebooks and planners and I just find that sharp navy blue paired with the "Autumn Rose" print so striking. When I considered the price (not too bad as large bags go) and the fact that it not only fit all my stuff but it also matched my minivan ... AND my kitchen ... well, there was just no way I could pass it up! :)

Ok, I will be off now my friends as I've kept you here long enough! As always though, I thank you for stopping by and I wish you all a good evening (or day as the case may be). Take care of yourselves and your loved ones ...

I will see you here again very soon!

Summer sunset

The last sunset of Summer, 2017 ...

✨ 🍂 🌞 🌻 🍁 🍎 🐿 🍄🌛🍂✨