Tea Journal Feed

Holiday Tea at Dawn's: Merry Christmas!

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Hello my friends and Happy Christmas Eve! I'm taking a little break from all the wrapping and baking to share a spot of tea with you all and to wish you the happiest of holidays! Blessings to all of you and your loved ones ... I hope you are all enjoying this beautiful day. You probably can't tell from the picture above, but it's snowing so very lightly here ... just a little Christmas snow to set the stage! Tomorrow's forecast is for sunshine and 30 degrees. 🌞

My tea today is an old favorite - Bigelow's "Constant Comment," a spiced orange tea that tastes just like Christmas, to my mind. It's still steeping in this pic, but I am now sipping it in my grandmother's lovely Royal Albert "Yuletide" teacup. It's an annual ritual for me, to savor a cup of Christmas tea in this teacup ... and to think of Gram and how special she made our holidays every year. ❀️

Now, before I go - because I have a cheesecake to bake with my oldest son in a few! - I wanted to share my family's holiday card with you all:

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Can you believe how big our big boys are getting?? This picture was taken on the 4th of July at my cousin's annual party. Such a fun day and a very special memory. Here's a peek at the back of the card, too:

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Our littlest man ... already five and a half years old! How time flies when you're having fun ... and goodness are these boys a lot of fun!

Well I'm off now, but I will see you all back here for Tea again "next year!" The winter season stretches ahead of us and we'll have much to talk about and lots of tea to explore and enjoy together! 

Take care of yourselves and your loved ones, my friends ...

MERRY CHRISTMAS and see you again soon!


Holiday Tea at Dawn's: O Christmas Tree!

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Hello my friends, and Happy Monday! Welcome to our third week of Holiday Tea - and today I'd like to talk about Christmas trees! First though, a quick word about my beverage-of-choice this week ...

As you can see, my mug is pretty big - and also, very pretty! I bought this last year at HomeGoods (for all of $5!) and loved it immediately for its generous size as well as the lovely seasonal images. It has a big sturdy handle, too!

Inside my mug today is a wonderful hot tea I "discovered" this year, made by Twinings:

 

 

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This delicious Christmas Tea has a smooth and lightly spiced flavor - and for me, "lightly" is a very good thing, when it comes to spices - because I get heartburn very easily! And sometimes, as much as I like the idea of a spiced tea, the flavor can be too reminiscent of cinnamon gum. Like I've steeped my tea with a stick of gum, lol! Weird, I know ... but once I had that impression from a previous tea, it just stuck with me! So clearly I'm a bit persnickety when it comes to flavored teas, but happily this one is smooth and subtle. :)

Now, I'm afraid I don't have any goodies to share today - the past few day have been busy and I just didn't have time - though honestly, if you were coming to visit, I'd be sure to have a few tempting things to offer! In case you were wondering, here's what's on my baking to-do list this week ...

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Do you have any special baking planned this week?

Well, how we talk about Christmas trees now? Here is ours ...

Our christmas tree 2018

This is the first year we've had a tree in our family room and I must say I love it here! This is an 8-foot Frasier Fir and I think it fits the room nicely. Would you care for a quick tour?

We use all white lights, two different garlands - one made of red wooden beads and another made from a golden ribbon festooned with festive red squirrels - and a red punched tin star as a topper. Many of our ornaments are "woodland inspired" and lots of them were made by my kids through the years.

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The glittery pinecone was made by one of the boys - the softly shaded maple leaf was hand-painted by my mum. She gave us a collection of them last year, and I just love them! They remind me of my favorite season (fall), my favorite state (Vermont), my favorite colors (soft orange and gold) AND of course, my love for nature.

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I'd wager many of us have popsicle stick crafts on our Christmas trees!

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Another leaf and a cute little pinecone-y hedgehog.

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The star was made for me by a sweet girl in our homeschool co-op years ago, while the moon was something I made myself. There's a little verse on the back, and a matching (or contrasting, I should say) ornament just around the corner ...

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I don't do handcrafts nearly as often as I'd like to, but I'm thinking of making that a goal for the New Year - to indulge more of my favorite hobbies.

We have LOTS Of cardinals all over our tree, one of our favorite winter songbirds.

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Birds in general enjoy a strong presence on our tree!

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This is one of the few "fragile" ornaments we have on the tree - made of porcelain, it's a bit "clinky" (as Little Bear calls it). 

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This is a very special ornament - a gift from Crackerjack's girlfriend, Jen, to our Little Bear who just this year discovered the excitement of "Minecraft."

Last year it was this guy ...

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Little Bear's never even seen Star Wars, but somehow - youngest of four boys that he is - he just "gets" it! "That's BB8 Mama! He's a good guy robot!"

We have name ornaments here and there and as uncommon as my name is, my mother-in-law found this one for me last year:

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And one last ornament which I just treasure, a gift from my boys:

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I'm sure many of you mamas can relate! (p.s. That's a hand-painted sand dollar in the back ground. Well, painted with glue and then sprinkled with glitter! I made that one several years ago when we were celebrating National Poinsettia Day.)

And here's the cozy corner where I'm enjoying my tea today ...

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We have no snow to speak of here in New England, but the skies seem to hold promise - thick gray clouds, a chill in the air. That said however, the forecast is not looking promising for a white Christmas! (It always pains me when we miss snow at Christmas ... and then spend the next three winter months absolutely inundated!) But boy do the days get so dark now, and so early!

And yet - we must take heart, my light-loving friends - the sun makes its triumphant return this Friday! In teeny-tiny increments perhaps, but each day going forward we'll have  just a little more light than dark each day. So, Happy Winter Solstice, everyone!🌞

Right now I'm all curled up on the family room couch, admiring the tree lights, enjoying a moment of quiet (while the boys are all occupied elsewhere in the house) and on my tv screen ...

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Show of hands now - who loves The Great British Baking Show??

Our local PBS station ran a marathon this weekend of TGBBS's Holiday Masterclass series. This is not the same as the ABC special airing each Thursday night this month - this is not a contest, but rather a cheerful and cozy hour's worth of holiday home baking with show hosts, Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood. It is so much fun to watch Mary and Paul recreate their own family favorites! If you're looking to get in the "holiday baking mood," look no further than this program ... I especially recommended it for Anglophiles like me. :)

You know what else I'm doing right now as I enjoy my tea? I am looking through old December journals, remembering past Christmases and holiday ideas I've gathered over the years. Journal-keeping is another hobby I'd like to make time for in the new year ... it's something I've done since I was a young girl, but have seemed to let drop recently. 

Here's a peek at a few page spreads ...

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As you can see, I fill my journals with clippings from magazines and random notes about our home, our family, craft ideas, recipes and just about anything that comes to mind! It's such a pleasure to look back over these journals - the plainest little spiral-bound notebooks but they serve their purpose! - and reconnect with my self and my thoughts on various things. I especially love seeing things like this ...

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This journal was from December, 2012 - the year I was pregnant with Little Bear. I remember that ultrasound on New Year's Eve, vividly. A particular blood test had come back elevated and we were having a level two ultrasound to check on our little guy's development. They were going to do it after the holidays but we insisted on being seen as early as possible. We had to drive into the city mid-afternoon on New Year's Eve ... and oh, the nerves! Thankfully, everything was just fine with our wee one and we found out that night that our fourth born would be a fourth BOY! We gave him his name that night and celebrated the new year feeling immense gratitude for our blessings, most especially the health and well-being of all our children.

(And all that came rushing back from those brief cryptic notes!)

Well, my friends - that is all I have for today but as always, I thank you for joining me and wish you all the very best! I hope this next week is one of peace and joy for you and your loved ones ... I will see you again NEXT Monday, December 24th, for a cup of Christmas Eve cheer!


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!

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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!


Holiday Tea at Dawn's ~ Cozy Winter Nests (Pt. 1)

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Hello my friends, and Happy Monday! I hope you all had a nice weekend and that your December is off to a great start! β€οΈ

Well, I just had so much to share with you today, I decided to split this post in two! More on that in a bit, but first of all, WELCOME! Thank you so much for joining me for another weekly tea. Today we'll chat about crafting a little "cozy" for ourselves before winter sets in. We'll also talk about my favorite tea, my homemade planner and few of our Advent plans for the week!

But let's begin by talking about tea - which for me, is pretty much synonymous with "cozy" - so let me ask you this if I may:

If you could conjure up the perfect, most comforting and appealing "tea" you could imagine (with or without goodies), what would that tea look (and taste) like?

Well for me it would be a big mug of a preferred and special hot beverage, accompanied by just a little something sweet and homemade, such as a plain cookie or biscuit. I usually just drink black decaf (tea) through the day, but lately I've been indulging in an extra special evening tea that - though it requires a little more prep - is entirely worth the extra effort!

So, have you ever heard of a London Fog Latte?

< Now, here is where I would have posted a picture of this very special and preferred tea beverage of mine, only - real life got in the darn way! So today's afternoon tea became a less "special" affair, though certainly no less satisfying. Earlybird had a physical this afternoon at 1:30 and, as many of you know, our autistic son has some BIG anxiety when it comes to doctor's appointments. Happily, the appointment itself went really well ... but unfortunately, Bill got called into work, so he had to miss the doctor's visit (we usually go together to the kids checkups) AND so, he was not on hand this afternoon to make me my very special beverage!! (He's quite involved in the prep work, and it's just not the same without him!) Anyhoo, the appointment (though great) went long, we had some food shopping to do (natch), and we just got home now (at 4:13 p.m.), so I've made myself a very "regular" cup of tea - my old standby - and this is what I'm having right now as I type ...

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It's so dark at this time of day!! I know that bothers a lot of people, but I don't mind so much. The sun was going down as we finished up our errands, and it just felt SO GOOD to get home ...

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... I might have had to slow down and take a dashboard pic of this sunset! For me, whatever the season, watching the sun set is always a cozy moment - but perhaps all the more so in late autumn.>

Ok, let's get back to our tea discussion now! In my NEXT post I will show you what my favorite drink looks like, but for now you will have to just take my word for it: it's a very pretty drink!

I stumbled across a London Fog Latte - on Pinterest maybe? - but the first time I ever had one was at Starbucks. They don't list the drink on their menu, but I heard it through the grapevine you could ask for such a thing, and so that's just what I did! Admittedly, I might have felt a little silly asking for something off-menu (much as I did the time I requested a "Franken Frappuccino" or some such nonsense one Halloween) but the barista barely blinked at my request and got right to work. It was a very good and memorable drink - but I like the ones we make at home even better!

Here is how I make this comforting and delicious hot beverage:

I first prep a cup of Earl Grey tea just as I usually do. I use Bigelow's decaf version with one sugar and a good splash of milk. As my tea steeps, Bill starts steaming some whole organic milk. He uses a Breville Milk Frother to steam and froth the milk (a gadget we've had for years but I've never used myself). You could just heat some milk in a saucepan but then you wouldn't get those lofty peaks of dairy delight!

Once the tea is prepared, I add a splash of vanilla, and then I top it off with the delicious and creamy frothed milk Bill has prepared ... and it is just so, so good! It would perhaps be really nice to make some lavender sugar to dust on top sometime ... but I am a little hesitant to mess with perfection!

Now, I don't drink this every night but maybe once or twice a week. I started drinking it a few months ago, when I found myself needing more of a "ritual" for unwinding in the evening. It's soothing and just a little sweet, and it just presses a button in me somewhere that says, "slow down and settle yourself." :)

Also, fyi, I recently found a loose tea blend from Harney & Sons called "Victorian London Fog."

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I have yet to try it but will let you know once I do!

Now, let's talk about the cookie portion of my "tea" and for me, I can think of no "cozier" cookie than shortbread. I made these little "bites" on Friday, in honor of  St. Andrew's Day. They are incredibly easy to make and keep really well!

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Shortbread cookies have long been my favorite - to me they are an absolutely perfect treat: small, simple and suffused with a soft buttery flavor. I use a recipe I found online and it is just so super easy! Just three ingredients: butter, flour and sugar. What's not to love??

I usually cut the baked dough into simple rectangles (with the iconic fork marks) but I decided to try star shapes in light of the first week of Advent. (As many of you know, we follow a nature-based Advent tradition, and this week our theme is "seeing the light of earth & sky." For more on our family traditions, please see my Advent Crafts and Plans archive and in particular, for this week, this post.)

Now at this time of year, it's all too easy to spend time inside, where it's warm and bright and ... yes, cozy! But there is something to be said for getting outside when we can ... and creating a little light of our own to hold fast against the gathering darkness. So the other night we took advantage of dry conditions and had ourselves a little "Welcome December" bonfire ...

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(Pop on over to this post to see a quick bonfire video!)

You all know I love to talk weather, so I must ask: how's the weather where you are? Is it chilly and gray, inspiring you to seek your comforts indoors? Or is it mild and bright, luring you outside? It's been up and down here in New England. As I began the draft of this post, it was a very dark and rainy Sunday ... but as I finish up at Monday teatime suppertime, the day has been sunny and unseasonably mild!

Speaking of weather, one thing that can be tricky when planning out an Advent Countdown is, in fact, the weather. Sometimes I have a particular activity in mind, but if the weather turns foul a change in plans becomes necessary. So one of the things I like to do when I sit down to plan out our week - any week of the year - is to consult the Weather Channel app on my phone. 

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Not that the weather can't change, but usually the weekly forecast gives me a pretty good idea how easy it will be to get the kids outside! (Happily the week looks great for finding nests, gathering branches, and taking an evening "lights" walk!)

On that note, since we're now talking about plans, here is a better look at this week's spread in my homemade seasonal planner ...

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This week's seasonal theme: "Cozy Nests." Our first week of Advent theme: "sticks, stones, stars."

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The left-hand page is an overview of the week ...

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While the right-hand side is set up for the week's agenda (schedule) and homeschooling notes ...

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It was important to me to include a section in my planner for seasonal crafts & comforts ... 

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(We don't do it all, but I do keep the plans from year to year!)

This corner shows where I write out all the "events of note" for the week, as well as our dinner menus plans.

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And finally, here is where I write in my little weather notes!

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All these pages shown here are in my spiral-bound planner, but I have been experimenting with keeping these pages in a three-ring binder instead. Each planning platform has its merits - I just need to figure out which works better for me!

Now before I go (for now) ... I feel I need to tell you about some really wonderful holiday programming on this Thursday night!

First, at 8 p.m. ...

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A Charlie Brown Christmas ... :)

It's family tradition to all sit together and watch this show WHEN it is airing on national TV. Sure we could watch it anytime on DVD, but that's just not the same.

Amiright?

And then, immediately following ...

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The Great American Baking Show: Holiday Edition!

I'm very much looking forward to watching both of these shows. The Baking Show is on after my bedtime, so thank goodness for that DVR!

Well my friends, I'll be off for now since I've kept you here for so long. We have more "cozy" concepts to discuss, so I hope you'll join me later this week in a follow up post. I will share thoughts on enhancing the comforts of home, as well as some pictures of my own "winter nesting spot." And if anyone would like to share their own nest, please feel free to email me your pics (with a brief description) and I will include them in my post!

drhanigan AT gmail DOT com

Thanks so much for stopping by everyone ... see you here again very soon!


Holiday Tea at Dawn's ~ Thanksgiving Memories

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Hello my friends and Happy Monday! Can you believe in a week's time we will be starting the very last month of the year??

Well, I hope you all had a nice weekend, and if you celebrate, a Happy Thanksgiving, too! Ours was lovely, but before I launch into holiday memories, I want to say I am so excited to return to my weekly tea series! My goal is to host afternoon tea here at my blog every Monday, beginning today and continuing throughout the holiday season ... I will include the usual disclaimer of course, that as life often gets busy around here, there may be a week or two when tea is a bit late!

Now, as before, each week's Tea will have a theme, corresponding (more or less) to my family's seasonal homeschooling themes. This week, for instance, our theme is "hibernation" and so for the next several days we will be immersing ourselves in Earth's natural rhythm. We'll spend time outside (weather permitting) and inside (through windows) observing changes in our local habitat, the decreasing light and increasing dark, as well as the local fauna preparing for the cold weather to come. We'll take notes in our nature journals and read books about how different species adapt to the change in seasons - humans included! Some of us hibernate and some don't ... but why?

As we head into next week, the theme will morph into "our own cozy nests," and we will undertake our own family hibernation - turning inwards as we prepare our home and hearts for the dark and dreary (but beautiful) days ahead. The weeks leading up to Christmas are well known for their "hustle and bustle," but in our family we try to keep a quieter and more peaceful Advent. Preparing for such a "hibernation" from the holiday "madness" takes a little forethought and some days, even fortitude!

Which brings us to this week, the last in November, which I feel is a kind of "break" between one holiday and the next. After a super busy November, I am currently catching my breath and preparing to take stock of what lies ahead. These are the days to create a plan that will allow us to feel cozy, comfortable, well prepared and ready to sink into the cold days ahead ...

When hibernating, I think it's as important to fill our emotional larders as well as the practical ones. The year's golden memories bring us such warmth and light no matter how dark the coming days may be. Such is the lesson in a lovely little picture book called, Three Pebbles and a Song. A mouse family bustles about gathering what they need for the winter - nourishment and nesting materials, for example - but little Moses brings something special to their family's hibernation. Memories and laughter are just as necessary for comfort and joy!

So in that spirit, what memories will you carry into the winter with you this year? How do you keep preserve those bright happy times for yourself and your family?

I'd love to hear about your Thanksgiving ...

What was your favorite part of the holiday this year?

What do you remember most fondly from your childhood holidays?

The best part of my own holiday was having so many dear ones here with us - many for the first time in years, and a few for the very first time! I also loved the feeling of having all four of my boys home together ... there's nothing like a "full nest" to ensure a mama bird's good night's sleep!

From my own childhood I would say I remember most fondly my grandparents' home - filled up with loved ones and such wonderful smells. I always loved watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade as well ... 

But one memory sticks out above all, when I was probably seven or eight years old ...

After dinner my dad and my uncle took a bunch of the kids on a walk, just a little ways down an old railroad bed. I am the older of two children in my immediate family (big sister to my little brother, Matt) so I was always thrilled when we were surrounded by cousins - some of them older than me! But what was particularly thrilling about this late afternoon "adventure" was when it started to SNOW. Just lightly, but still - it was like magic! (To this day, I always hope for a Thanksgiving snow!) We all headed back to the house which was all aglow and the desserts were set out and everything was just so wonderful and warm. The grownups might not have been too happy to see it, but we kids were CERTAIN the day's flurries meant we'd have a white Christmas for sure!

Fast forward 40 some-odd years and we had another lovely Thanksgiving Day, with many, many cousins catching up with each other. Here are a WHOLE bunch of photos from our day ...

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As you can see it was a bright and sunny day ... but so very cold. The coldest Thanksgiving on record, I believe! (22Β° was the day's high.)

Another record of sorts - we were a party of 25! Hosting a dinner for that many people can be tricky - mostly because you need to find places for people to sit! Also, timing a large number of dishes to complete cooking at the same time ... well, that's another real challenge! I am grateful for my family, especially my dear mum, who help me pull it all together ...

And speaking of my dear mum - today is her 75th birthday! Here's a photo of the two of us from earlier this month ... 

Mum and me

As I said on IG this morning, this beautiful lady is my best friend, my guiding light and I am so blessed to say, my own dear mother. We have such fun together and I look forward to planning many more parties in our future!

So that's a look back at our Thanksgiving, but here are a few more photos from the past few weeks ... 

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Tea with a warm slice of gingerbread, baked in celebration of the season's first snow!

Oh my goodness, and speaking of tea!! My top photo shows you how I'm taking my tea at this very moment ... it's English Teatime (black decaf), served in a big sturdy mug. I was tempted to drink full-test, because we had a bit of a rocky weekend - Little Bear has a rotten cold and has gotten very little sleep - but I kept it simple (and non-stimulating). As I type up this post, I'm sitting at my desk, the day is dark and wet, but my home office is bright and warm. Currently I'm gathering up all my holiday resources - books, magazines, cocoa, candles, planner - but we'll chat about all that next week!

And so, tea will be served here again on Monday, December 3rd, roundabouts 4 p.m. You are welcome to pop by - sip, read, comment if you wish, and/or send me your own pics for inclusion in my post! Just send me an email at drhanigan AT gmail DOT com.

Next week's theme is creating "Our Own Cozy Nests." We will also talk about managing our hopes for the holidays❀

Feel free to grab this button if you'd like to post about the Teas at your own site:

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For now though, thanks so much for stopping by ... I will see you here again very soon!


Advent Tea, Week 4: Happy Hearts at Home

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Hello my friends and Happy Friday ~ Merry Christmas Eve! As I feared might happen this week, things just got too busy, and I didn't have time to finalize my post yesterday. But I'm here today - on this rainy and mild Christmas eve - to share with you one last cup of Advent Tea. For tonight we begin a most beautiful and blessed new season ...

"Blessed is the season that engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love." ~ Hamilton Wright Mabie

❀

In our final week of Advent my family continued our celebration of God's amazing creation. We had previously explored the wonder of earth and sky, the peacefulness of plants, the joys of wild (and not so wild) creatures and now, we aim closer to home. This week it's all about God's greatest creation - humankind - and the love He has for us - that we have for each other! So this week we relished our family being together and rejoiced in our beloved home ... while remembering the holiest family, their humble first home, and the noble journey that started it all ...

Let's start with a look at our Advent Garden. This was a really fun project and I am sure we will do this again next year ... remember how it started?

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In week one (earth & sky) we added pebbles (and later soil) and surrounded our garden (a shallow glass terrarium) with beeswax tealights. Well here is how it looks now as Advent comes to a close ...

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Soil was topped with moss from which frosted tiny trees soon sprouted ... then a pretty spotted deer appeared. And this week, up rose a cozy little neighborhood. β€

(Note: I bought the trees, deer and houses at my local Michael's craft store. They were fairly inexpensive. The houses were plain but I spread the rooftops with a little white paint and added a few shakes of white glitter. The moss and pebbles came from our yard and the earth was found in a bag of potting soil parked in the garage. The candles I ordered through Amazon.)

Today I moved the Garden off the kitchen table (which will soon be set up for a Christmas buffet!) and into a small nearby alcove ...

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Above it I hung a pretty wooden ornament also embellished this week ...

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This was a very inexpensive wooden craft, one of several I've picked up this season ...

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I actually really love the look of unfinished wood, but the addition of a little white paint and glitter lends a soft and simple touch ...

A few more nativity scenes around the house ...

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This is a new lawn decoration this year! Bill and the boys "gave" me this as a gift last Christmas - but it took me till this fall to find one I really liked. We have this nestled beneath - appropriately enough - our family room windows. :)

Let's pop on out to the library and take a peek at the tree for a moment ... 

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Isn't this ornament gorgeous? You'll probably tire of hearing me say this but this is another treasure I found at Michael's. This was discovered in one of the boys' Advent pockets this past week.

And how about this one? :)

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I found this picture frame ornament up by the registers for a couple of dollars. So very pretty and perfect for a small family photo. I think I'd like to make this a tradition - add a new family picture ornament each year.

Speaking of ornaments, one of our crafts this past week celebrated our family members and what Mama loves most about each of them.  

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I started with a plain plastic ornament ball ... wrote our family names on small heart stickers and placed them all over the ball's surface ... and then filled the ball with colorful strips of construction paper. Each slip of paper was curled up tight, with a hidden message inside.

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I think this might also become a new family tradition ... :)

One more peek at the tree, a few new ornaments were added this week ...

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I found these pretty red glass initial ornaments at Target, and bought one for each of my boys. (The "H" is actually made out of cardboard or some such material.)

And since we're talking about my boys, here's a peek at our Christmas card this year!

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It's the first time we've done a collage and I rather like it! It was such fun to look back over all the photos from last year ... though it proved a shocking reminder just how quickly time has flown. We even added a couple of photos to the back - one of the chickens and one of the cats!

I absolutely adore Christmas cards, don't you? We display ours here on this door leading into the library ...

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Bill sets up the ribbons and then I attach the cards with tiny clothespins. I love to see this doorframe fill up! Visually, it's a wonderfully decorative spot - but also a lovely reminder of the friends and family we have been blessed with over the years.

And though we've been doing "photo cards" for years, I still love traditional Christmas cards. We always bought ours from a company called LANG, and when I spied some boxes of Lang cards at Joann's Arts & Crafts recently (marked down 60%!) I just could not help myself. I bought a few varieties for next year ...

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❀ 

Switching gears now - because we haven't even talked about tea yet! Now, if you scroll way back up to the top of this post I showed you my teatime spread this week ... or, here it is again ... :)

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As you can see, I was in my glories at Tea this week, surrounded by all my boys. They were supposed to be helping me with neatening the tree - I bribed them with cookies! - while I sat down to look over my holiday notes. In my "Blessed" mug (a new favorite) I had a large serving of my preferred black tea with a lot of milk and a bit of sugar. The cookies are store bought, but were still gobbled up quickly! I had hoped to make Bill's grandmother's much-loved gingerbread recipe this week but that just did not pan out. (I'm going to try again at Epiphany.) So a box of "Gingerbread Family" cookies had to do. Thank you, Pepperidge Farms!

Yes, it is wonderful having our Bookworm home! I never sleep as well as I do when all my sons are home. The older boys do love to sleep in though if they are allowed ... but this morning we needed to get an early start so I made up a platter of cinnamon-sugar toast in hopes that the fond and familiar aroma would get them out of bed!

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Cinnamon-sugar is without a doubt, one of the best things in my kitchen. (Along with my fresh coffee beans and a large bottle of vanilla.) I grew up eating cinnamon-sugar toast made by my mum or grandma and its scent still says "cozy, home, comfort" to me. :)

It's little things like this that make a home feel warm and welcoming. Because a home is so much more than just walls and windows and a (hopefully) sturdy roof. Home is where our loves live ... it's where we come together to share our journey, our thoughts and our memories. We are nurtured and encouraged and accepted here. We are allowed to crave comforts and seek solace ... it's the place we can relax and rejuvenate and gather our strength when we once again face the world outside that front door ...

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Jane Austen had it right. Home is where it's at ... and that's that. :)

❀

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Oh, and how could I forget? Here's another "Giveaway" sneak peek! January is a perfect month for letter writing - in fact, 1/23 is National Handwriting Day! So here are some pretty notecards to help you catch up on all those holiday thank-yous. :) And once the busy-ness of Christmas has past, time frees up again (in theory!) for leisurely pastimes like reading for pleasure ... how about a nice issue of Mary Jane's Farm? Both of these things will be tucked into that Winter Comforts Basket! :)

I am having such fun putting together this basket, and although only one reader will win it, I really wish I could send a little wintertime "comfort and joy" to each and every one of you. I am so grateful for you all - for all your support and kindness and encouragement over the years. I know most of us have never actually "met" in "real life" but I count each of you as my friends. I always look forward to hearing from you and I keep every one of you in my prayers. My wish for you on this beautiful Christmas eve morning is that your coming days are filled with the blessings of family and home, that you know friendship and love, good health and happiness, and that your new year will be an AMAZING one. I look forward to sharing 2017 with you all!

Now, before I go - I am still accepting teacup (mug) submissions! And I have several more friend posts stockpiled to share next week ... if you'd like to join the Giveaway contest, please send me a picture of your favorite mug - whatever you most enjoy drinking your tea (or coffee, cocoa, cider, etc.) from ... and you are entered. I will announce a winner on New Year's Eve - a week from today!

You can reach me at: drhanigan AT gmail DOT com.

Next Friday I'll have a Christmas Tea of my own, but in the meantime, I wish you all a wonderful weekend. Take care of yourselves and your loved ones and see you all here again very soon ...

MERRY CHRISTMAS!


Advent Tea with Friends ... December 22nd ❀

Advent tea with friendsHello my friends, and Happy Thursday! Thank you so much for joining me for another teatime. :)

All throughout Advent I am sharing readers' favorite cups and mugs, every weekday at 4 p.m. ... and returning on Fridays with my own special Tea post. Anyone who participates will be entered in my "Winter Comforts Basket" giveaway ... and on New Year's Eve I will announce the basket winner!

p.s. Each Friday I give a little peek at something that will be tucked inside that basket! So far there's been soap, body butter, a pocket calendar and a pretty mug as well as a tin of cocoa and a small blue notebook ... wonder what tomorrow's post will bring? :)

If you'd like to join us, please read more giveaway details in this post - but today we are popping in at Karen's and Adie's! Two friends who shared a few pictures each ... :)

Karen: My favorite mug? I have three! :)

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Blessings to you and your beautiful family!

*❀*

Adie: My daughter and I were way overdue for a tea party - so today was the day! We had a few hours without the boys.  =-) So that means we did not get interrupted! This is our tea party set - I know it is not very wintery - but we don't have a lot of room for extras here ... 

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So we had very hot, strong black tea, with foamed milk and lots of sugar ...  

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We were also hungry so we had a mini lunch to go with it! The teens made Christmas cookies - and we each had one of those too! I made gluten-free ones this year, and they were pretty good ...
 
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Now that we are done with our tea party - we are on to our hour of planning. My daughter and I do this together each week with our planners!
 
*❀*
 
Just lovely, ladies! Karen, I love all three of your mugs - they are each beautiful in their own way! (Introverts unite! No one ever believes me when I say I'm an introvert, but it's true!) And Adie, I just adore that pale yellow honeycomb china! And those cookies look scrumptious and festive. How special to enjoy a tea party with your daughter - followed by a weekly planning hour! Thanks so much to you both for sharing your favorite mugs ... I hope these final days of Advent are filled with much peace and contentment. :)
 
And thanks to all for stopping by today! I hope you enjoyed our teatime. I just love hearing from you all and seeing your mugs ... imagining we're truly sitting down together, chatting over a cup of something warm and comforting. And I'd love to have you join us! Please drop a note if you have a moment and send me your own favorite cup when you have a chance ...
 
(drhanigan AT gmail DOT com)
 
I'll look forward to hearing from you ... :)
 
There will be more "Tea with Friends" posts next week, each day at 4 p.m. - but tomorrow I will be back with my final Advent Tea Post ("Happy Hearts at Home"). I'll take a break over the weekend (natch) and then we'll continue our teas right up until the day before New Year's Eve ... just before I announce the winner of that basket!
 
Enjoy your evening, my friends, and I will see you all here again very soon!

Advent Tea with Friends ... December 21st

Advent tea with friendsHello my friends, I'm wishing you all a happy Wednesday ... AND a Happy Winter Solstice! Thank you so much for joining me for another teatime. :)

All throughout Advent I'll be sharing readers' favorite cups and mugs, every weekday at 4 p.m. ... and returning on Fridays with my own special Tea post. Anyone who participates will be entered in my "Winter Comforts Basket" giveaway ... and on New Year's Eve I will announce the basket winner!

p.s. Each Friday I give a little peek at something that will be tucked inside that basket! So far there's been soap, body butter, a pocket calendar and a pretty mug as well as a tin of cocoa and a small blue notebook ... wonder what this Friday's post will bring? :)

If you'd like to join us, please read more giveaway details in this post - but today we have the opportunity to join FOUR of my readers for tea. Let's pop in at Tammie's, Shelly's, Mary's and Andrea's, shall we? :)

 

Tammie: Here is a mug that is not particularly Christmas-y, but I wanted to share it with you anyway because of your affinity for all things British! My husband surprised me with this mug earlier this year and I just love everything about it! It is obviously a lovely mug to look at. The coat of arms is very formal and majestic. But the blue roses and sweeping ribbons gives it a friendly air. And the tiny little gold flowers are just so sweet!

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If you look closely, you will see that they are the flowers that represent the United Kingdom. But my favorite part of the mug are the words inscribed on the back.  These are from a speech that the Queen gave on her 21st birthday. They are particularly touching to read, now that she recently turned 90 years old and is still honorably serving the Commonwealth! And I find these words to be very inspirational ... although I'm not a queen (!), I am devoted to my family and want to serve them as best I can. As for the tea that is contained in the mug, it is Newman's Own Royal Tea, which is a nice strong black tea.
 
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Thanks again, Dawn, for inviting us to share tea with you! May God bless you and your family.
*❀*
Shelly: Here is a photo of my new favorite mug! I recently got it from a friend and I love it because it is much larger than a standard mug! More room for hot cocoa! I am not a coffee drinker, but I love cocoa and tea ... 
 
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Merry Christmas to you and your family!
*❀*
Mary: About my favorite mug: It is a Spode β€œChristmas Tree” design mug, made in England; one of a set of six given to my family and me by my parents. We get them out each year right after Thanksgiving, and they remain within easy reach on our kitchen island for a couple of months. So, they are very special mugs that we look forward to using seasonally. The children use them for hot cocoa or apple cider; mine is usually filled with blackberry cobbler flavored coffee or caramel cream flavored coffee.
 
Tea Mary V
Peace to you during this final week of Advent, and blessings to you and your family for a very merry Christmas! 
*❀*
Andrea: I wanted to pop in with our tea time. My 8 year old daughter has her snoopy mug with her "honey tea" which is just honey and water. I am taking my tea in my little honey bee cup given to me by my sweet sister-in-law. The candles are an early Christmas present from my 14 year old son. We love our tea time. It's daily for me and my daughter joins me often ...

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Merry Christmas to you all!
 *❀*
 
Oh ladies, thank you SO much for all your happy pictures and lovely thoughts! It was wonderful to visit with each of you and I hope the rest of your Advent unfolds with much peace and joy. :)
 
And thanks to all for stopping by today! I hope you enjoyed our teatime. I just love hearing from you all and seeing your mugs ... imagining we're truly sitting down together, chatting over a cup of something warm and comforting. And I'd love to have you join us! Please drop a note if you have a moment and send me your own favorite cup when you have a chance ...
 
(drhanigan AT gmail DOT com)
 
I'll look forward to hearing from you ... β€
 
There will be more "Tea with Friends" posts this week, each day at 4 p.m. And then on Friday I will be back with my final Advent Tea Post ("Happy Hearts at Home") ... only to pick right up again the following week for a series of Christmas teas! We'll continue right up until the day before New Year's Eve ... just before I announce the winner of that basket!
 
Enjoy your evening, my friends, and I will see you all here again very soon!

Advent Tea with Friends ... December 20th ❀

Advent tea with friendsHello my friends, and Happy Tuesday! Thank you so much for joining me for another 4:00 teatime. :)

All throughout Advent I'll be sharing readers' favorite cups and mugs, every weekday at 4 p.m. ... and returning on Fridays with my own special Tea post. Anyone who participates will be entered in my "Winter Comforts Basket" giveaway ... and on New Year's Eve I will announce the basket winner!

p.s. Each Friday I give a little peek at something that will be tucked inside that basket! So far there's been soap, body butter, a pocket calendar and a pretty mug as well as a tin of cocoa and a small blue notebook ... wonder what this Friday's post will bring? :)

If you'd like to join us, please read more giveaway details in this post - but for today, it's Charlotte's turn to host Tea! And happily, she's sharing not just one mug ... but four!

(A girl after my own heart! β€ )

 I am loving your daily Teatime Posts! I thought I would share my favorite mug(s) with you. :) I know it's a bit of an overload, but I truly love a fun mug to drink from!

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I use this through the year - it says it all!!

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My daughter bought this for me two years ago from NY...

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This is my winter mug - cold, snowy days will find this guy filled with yummy hot chocolate piled high with cream!!!

AND ...

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My Christmas mug!! I have had this for many years and I have so much fun using it during the Christmas Season.

Thank you for allowing me to share!

Blessings to you + 

 *❀*

Thank you so much for sharing your mugs, Charlotte! They are all lovely. :) One of the things I love about collecting mugs is that they don't have to be very expensive. They're a fun indulgence and what delight that small purchase brings over time! Because if you're like me (and I know many of us are on the same page here!) those mugs get used a lot! I start my day with my coffee mug then switch up for tea in the afternoon. It's a treat to have several (ok, dozens) to choose from. Just a tip - if you have a Home Goods store near you (I'm not sure if they're regional?) they sell wonderful mugs for generally under $5. There's a HG next to my Stop N Shop and I have a very hard time NOT popping in every week to see what's new!
 
Well, thank you all for stopping by today! I hope you enjoyed our teatime. I just love hearing from you all and seeing your mugs ... imagining we're truly sitting down together, chatting over a cup of something warm and comforting. I fear I fell a bit behind these last several (busy) days with my replies so if you've sent me a submission and haven't heard back, I apologize! I will be catching up this week ... :)
 
Dear friends, I'd love to have you join us ... please drop a note if you have a moment and send me your own favorite cup when you have a chance!
 
(drhanigan AT gmail DOT com)
 
I'll look forward to hearing from you ... β€
 
There will be more "Tea with Friends" posts this week, each day at 4 p.m. And then on Friday I will be back with my final Advent Tea Post ("Happy Hearts at Home") ... only to pick right up again the following week for a series of Christmas teas! We'll continue right up until the day before New Year's Eve ... just before I announce the winner of that basket!
 
Well, thanks so much for stopping by, everyone. Enjoy your evening and I will see you all here again very soon!

Advent Tea with Friends ... December 19th ❀

Advent tea with friendsHello my friends, and Happy Monday! Thank you so much for joining me for another 4:00 teatime. :)

All throughout Advent I'll be sharing readers' favorite cups and mugs, every weekday at 4 p.m. ... and returning on Fridays with my own special Tea post. Anyone who participates will be entered in my "Winter Comforts Basket" giveaway ... and on New Year's Eve I will announce the basket winner!

p.s. Each Friday I give a little peek at something that will be tucked inside that basket! So far there's been soap, body butter, a pocket calendar and a pretty mug as well as a tin of cocoa and a small blue notebook ... wonder what this Friday's post will bring? :)

If you'd like to join us, please read more giveaway details in this post - but for today, let's push the pause button on our day and enjoy a little refreshment together. Happily, today we have not just one friend to visit ... but three! Let's pop in at Melyssa's, Shaquanna's and Kelly's ... :)

Melyssa: I just wanted to thank you for inspiring me to dig out my old teapot and put it to use with a monthly tea subscription I signed up for recently ...

Tea melyssa

I am making a daily ritual of it and really enjoying it!

*❀*

Shaquanna: I have so many favorite mugs, many being pop culture. Here is my newest one, not necessarily pop culture, but if you look carefully there is an Easter egg in this photo. This is a smaller frame of my larger set up when I was watching the last episode in the new Gilmore Girls series. 

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I LOVE this polka dot mug. It's so heavy and thick and just makes me happy. I was drinking sparkling apple cider, which when I noticed it was almost empty in the photo poured some more.

Cheers!

*❀*

Kelly: I really wanted to pretty up my picture but it is more real to let it be plain and simple because that is just how things are right now. The Christmas mug is from my 11yo son who purchased it for me a few weeks ago at a white elephant sale - he said it was for our tea times! And the blue mug belonged to my grandma (who just passed away right before Thanksgiving) and I have been enjoying drinking from it ...
 
Tea kelly

I also inherited three lovely tea cups from her as well (maybe I can share those some other time). The good news is that after trying for a long time, I have finally learned to like tea! (As long as there is enough honey in it!). As someone who loves British literature and enjoyed Downton Abbey, I simply *had* to figure out a way! :) It has become a nightly ritual lately that I fix a cup for my husband and for myself.  

*❀* 

Thank you so much for sharing your tea (and cider!) with us ladies. Your cups are lovely as are your thoughts on the ritual of tea. I hope you each of you are enjoying your Advent. :)
 
And thanks to everyone for stopping by today! I hope you enjoyed our teatime. I just love hearing from you all and seeing your mugs ... imagining we're truly sitting down together, chatting over a cup of something warm and comforting. I fear I fell a bit behind these last several (busy) days with my replies so if you've sent me a submission and haven't heard back, I apologize! I will be catching up this week ... :)
 
Dear friends, I'd love to have you join us ... please drop a note if you have a moment and send me your own favorite cup when you have a chance!
 
(drhanigan AT gmail DOT com)
 
I'll look forward to hearing from you ... β€
 
There will be more "Tea with Friends" posts this week, each day at 4 p.m. And then on Friday I will be back with my final Advent Tea Post ("Happy Hearts at Home") ... only to pick right up again the following week for a series of Christmas teas! We'll continue right up until the day before New Year's Eve ... just before I announce the winner of that basket!
 
(Hard to believe we're now talking New Year's! But goodness, it's not far away ...)
 
Well, thanks so much for stopping by, everyone. Enjoy your evening and I will see you all here again very soon!
 

Advent Tea, Week 3 ~ Finding Joy in Creation ❀

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Hello and happy weekend, my friends! Welcome to another Advent Tea ... may I pour you a cup of something tasty and warm? :)

Well, our third week of Advent has arrived and the pink candle has been lit ... Oh Joy! And you know how they say "all good things come to those who wait?" Well, that old adage is perhaps never more true than during the season of Advent, because in these special weeks we are a people who wait and wonder ... enjoying the here and now, yet knowing there is a greater joy that lies ahead ... β€

Which is why this mug seemed perfect for today's Tea ...

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:)

Now, I am not a patient person by nature, but like most moms I've had plenty of opportunities to work on developing this particular habit. I've learned that life is easier when patience is a daily practice, not just an admirable (if abstract) idea or something left to people with loftier ambitions and/or holier lives than mine. Patience is perhaps the greatest of all virtues when one is a parent ... and if I may so, especially when one is a special needs parent. (Progress can be slow ... perfection is overrated ... patience is essential.)

But whether we're born with a patient nature or not, the world-at-large rushes us all right along, urging us onward with its message of now-now-nowInstant, immediate, super fast results ... no waiting necessary!

If we're aware of this influence we can recognize when it is affecting us falsely or adversely. It's good to pause and ask, whose time clock are we following anyway? Sometimes time is of the essence, but it's important, I think, to remind ourselves to appreciate the here and now ... to savor the wait if you will. Learning to be patient is an excellent exercise in humanity - and humility - and I think one of the greatest teachers of patience (aside from our children!) is nature. As you all know I love nature! I respect its cleverness and consistency. It doesn't rush ... it always has a plan. A plan that has worked for ... well, eons. It glories in every turn of every season, knowing everything happens in its own time ...

"Adopt the pace of nature. Her secret is patience." ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Case in point - yesterday was brutally cold with temps barely in the teens, and this morning it's snowing! It's the Saturday before Christmas ... and the weather is just not getting on board with my to-do list! But admittedly, it is doing my spirit a world of good. Because it's been a long - and, frankly tiring - week. We've all been running here, there and everywhere, getting our busy-ness accomplished. But now nature is advising me to sit back and take it slow. Leave the errands for later. Breathe in, breathe out ... maybe let Amazon Prime do the leg work today.

Even my page-a-day calendar is sending me a message ...

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So, ok. Balance is necessary. We can't always rush and we can't always lag ... managing my time and energy accounts is an-going #lifegoal for me! 

But ... that's a topic to explore further, in the new year perhaps. For now, let's get back to the here and now. We're deep in Advent, halfway through December, and it's snowing ... I'm happy in a well-insulated snow globe today. :)

Here's a look outside my window this morning ...

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So glad we made sure to fill our feeders yesterday!

As I've been describing, our family's Advent is a celebration of God's beautiful creation ... because the whole world waits together for the miracle of life (and light) to return! Just as the earth goes quiet and dark at this time of year, we too slow down and turn inward, looking for ways to light the path before us. So in our first week of Advent we explored the wonder of earth and sky, and in the second week it was the serenity of plants and trees ... and this week we are finding joy in the beautiful wildlife with which God has graced our earth ...

And as we've ambled along our journey, our Advent Garden has slowly been coming to life ...

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Stones and soil were topped with moss and trees ... and now we spy a pretty deer in this tiny forest. Meanwhile, outside there is much evidence of creation all around!

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We've been enjoying a snowy December here in New England and the boys have fun checking for tracks left behind by the creatures who call our habitat home. Mostly it's the usual suspects, but you never know ... sometimes there's something new to investigate!

Now from my pictures you can probably guess we live in a woodsy area, and that's true. We live next to a state forest and our town, while suburban, has old agricultural roots. Our own property is not quite a farm per se - though we are sort of heading that way! This past spring we began keeping hens and I must tell you - they just bring us such joy! The fresh eggs are wonderful, but our girls are such dears ...

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I do relish my "farm chores" such as they area ... walking out to the hen pen to bring them food and checking their water. 

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Good morning, pretty girls!

And how fun to gather eggs with my fellas ... we're still getting several eggs a day even though we were warned they would stop for the winter. Not sure what our girls' game plan is but we're thrilled with our daily harvest!

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I love to tour the corners of our yard and I especially love the mornings when the sun is just rising in the east ...

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Those are my neighbor's horses - aren't they lovely? They also own three goats, six dogs, a flock of ducks and lots of chickens! They are the very nicest people, too. I took this picture yesterday morning as I was visiting the hens. I was channeling a little bit of Tasha Tudor here, walking about my own homestead and tending to my critters, the domestic and the wild. (Only I was in a parka and pajama pants ... not quite Tasha's pretty red cloak!)

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We regularly set out several types of food - black oil seed, suet cakes and nyjer seed for the finches. We use a variety of feeder designs - both tubes and trays - and I throw out seed on the deck every day ...

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Yes, my beloved squirrels get fed right alongside their feathered friends - I don't play favorites! (Well, except when it comes to predators like hawks, owls and foxes. Those creatures I shoo off as best I can.)

But speaking of Tasha Tudor, this is a page from the beautiful book, Forever Christmas, the chapter called, "The Animals' Christmas" ...

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This is a wonderful book, full of old-fashioned goodness and gentle reminders to slow down and let nature be our guide. Tonight we're watching the video Take Peace, which is a tour of Tasha's Corgi Cottage at Christmas. And then perhaps we'll catch the latest episode of "The Great American Baking Show." (Anyone else watching that?) 
 
So yes, there is much joy in creation to be found, all around us and even right in our own backyards - but it's awfully bitter today so let's head back inside! I'm greeting you in the kitchen, wearing my favorite winter apron, a gift from my parents ...

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I find such joy in cooking for my family, especially in preparing seasonal foods! And though I love baking from scratch, sometimes you just have to cut a few corners, right? For example ...

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Last Tuesday was the feast of St. Lucia and once again I did not make the traditional saffron buns as I'd hoped to - BUT! I did throw some cinnamon rolls into a tube pan, baked them, glazed them, decorated them, and then set them aflame. Voila - feast day morning joy!

More joy in our week ... Earlybird celebrated his 15th birthday on Wednesday! Yes, this little boy is now FIFTEEN years old ...

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(That was a book about trains, his FAVORITE subject. He was very happy to receive a couple of books about the planets as well.) And I thought this birthday card was rather fitting - true in every word but also, such a lovely woodland design!

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Ok, since I'm keeping you so long, how about another cup of something hot?

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Snow days call for cocoa, don't you think? Tea soothes me, coffee revives me ... and cocoa brings me joy! And ding-ding-ding ... this is another one of those giveaway gifts! Yes, there will be a tin of this "Warm Me Up Chocolate & Cream Cocoa" in my Winter Comforts Basket! (More giveaway details at the bottom of this post.)

Oh, and that pretty blue notebook sitting beneath the tin?

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There will also be one of these in that giveaway basket! I have strong opinions on notebooks, and this is a notebook I just love! It's so nice to write in - smooth paper, soft lines - with a solid spiral-binding. I also have a pink one (that says, "Create a little magic everyday") that I'll use for a new diary project, but I use this particular blue notebook for my "to-dos, weekend plans and projects." I know I've been asked to post a little more about how I use this notebook and I will ... soon. :)

But since we're talking about notebooks and planners for a moment, let me give you a quick glimpse at a new planner I picked up recently ...

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(If you're thinking I might have a bit of a planner problem ... well, you might be right.)

I found this Woodland Tales planner at Barnes & Noble - it was the last one on the shelf, but I've also seen it online. I liked the layout and just could not resist the charming design! It's a smaller size - nice for the pocketbook - and it's specifically for week-at-a-glance planning. This will be used in addition to my Day Designer and my master planning binder ... and all that too, will be blogged about after the holidays!

Now, getting back to Advent, how about a look around our Christmas room (aka the library) where a woodland theme reigns ...

Starting with the children's nativity set where "all creation waits ... "

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You can just imagine the kinds of stories that get played out in this corner!

This display is set up on a table behind our loveseat and stretched out along the wall behind that is one of my favorite Christmas books, Woodland Christmas ...

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A lovely (and long) fold-out book that tells the tale of the animals preparing for Christmas. It is an Advent countdown too - with flaps on one side and labels for all the creatures on the other. I highly recommend this book if your children love animals! The drawings are soft and pretty but quite realistic.

Now our Christmas tree has a woodland theme going as well ...

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A ribbon of gold encircles the whole tree - featuring a holly-bedecked red squirrel! - as well as several strands of wooden cranberries. We've collected woodland ornaments since we were first married and some of these ornaments we've had for many years. (The birds above are from when I was little!) The reindeer lantern was new this year, though - the boys found it in one of their Advent pockets last week. :)

Even my daily Advent reading has a nature theme this year ...

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All Creation Waits - the very theme of our Advent! - has been a wonderful read so far. Every chapter (25 in all) presents a short meditation on one of God's creatures as it adapts for the long cold winter ahead - never fearing the darkness, knowing there is a new beginning ahead. Accompanied by gorgeous woodcut illustrations ... these reflections are certainly a new take on Advent, but they resonate deeply with me. 

And while we're speaking of books - I am so thrilled for this one! I stumbled across it at B&N yesterday ...

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Yes, a little early Christmas present to myself! Earth Psalms is a weekly devotional reflecting on how God speaks to us through nature. I am beyond excited to read it this year and I don't even feel badly I splurged on myself! (It was 50% off!) Now, I did offer to wrap it up and place it under the tree, but Bill let it slide ... ;)

Another early gift, this one from my husband who knows how much St. Francis means to me ... 

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Such a lovely wooden rosary bracelet. Something comfortable - and comforting - to wear every day. :)

Now, before I go (and yes I am planning to wrap this huge post up!) I'd like to share pictures of my very favorite animals of all - our cats, Archie and Oliver. It gives me such satisfaction and true joy to care for these two sweet boys ...

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Oliver by the heating element, tucked behind the loveseat in the library ...

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And Archie, snuggled up next to the chimney in the dining room. :)

*❀*

Well my friends, as always I thank you for stopping by and I leave you with my wish that each of you are filled with joy, wherever you might find it. I hope your weekend brings you the rest and relaxation you need ... snow or shine, whatever challenges you might face, whatever comforts you crave ... may your time be full of the things that mean most. :)

I'll be back again on Monday - we've a week more of Advent Teatimes to go! I may even double up some of our friends as more readers share their cups with me ...

But oh, yes! So about that giveaway ...

At the start of the year I will be sending out a "Winter Comforts Basket" to one lucky reader. This basket will be filled with little random seasonal comforts and joys. I've been giving you "sneak peeks" each week during my Friday tea posts, and there will be one or two other surprises, as well. To enter the giveaway, all you have to do is send me a picture of your favorite cup or mug - whatever you use to drink your beverage of choice in the cold winter months. Please email me your picture(s) with description here ...

drhanigan AT gmail DOT com

I will share your submission in one of my daily teatime posts and then on New Year's Eve I will announce a winner!

I hope to hear from you! In the meantime, take care of yourselves and your loved ones ...

I will see you all here again very soon!


Advent Tea with Friends ... December 15th

Advent tea with friendsHello my friends, and Happy Thursday! Thank you so much for joining me for 4:00 teatime. I can hardly believe we're nearing the end of another week! :)

All throughout Advent I'll be sharing readers' favorite cups and mugs, every weekday at 4 p.m. ... and returning on Fridays with my own special Tea post. Anyone who participates will be entered in my "Winter Comforts Basket" giveaway ... and on New Year's Eve I will announce the basket winner!

p.s. Each Friday I give a little peek at something that will be tucked inside that basket! So far there's been soap, body butter, a pocket calendar and a pretty mug ... wonder what tomorrow's post will bring? :)

If you'd like to join us, please read more giveaway details in this post - but for today, let's pop in at Elizabeth's and see what she has brewing on this blustery afternoon ... β˜•οΈ 

Here is my 13-year-old son's favorite tea mug! 99 cents from Goodwill ... :)

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And this mug, as you can see, holds a lot of tea! Trader Joe's Spiced Chai is Aaron's favorite. :)

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Oh, I love this mug! Earlier in Advent we talked about the simple pleasure of a glass mug - it's such a nice way to enjoy one's tea doubly! (Seeing and tasting all that goodness!) I like the measurements on the side, especially - that's a clever design. And that Trader Joe's tea sounds yummy! (I find TJ's has the best kinds of seasonal beverages - both hot and cold.) My own boys enjoy tea, too - especially my youngest who basically will drain my (decaffeinated) tea mug if I let him. I learned my love of tea alongside my grandparents - Grama took hers in a fine Irish teacup, while Grampa drank his in a tall sturdy mug. Irish Breakfast blend was their drink of choice!
 
Thank you so much for sharing tea with us Elizabeth - and Aaron! I hope you are enjoying your Advent. :) And friends, thanks to all for stopping by today! I hope you enjoyed our teatime. Please drop a note if you have a moment and remember to send me your own favorite cup when you have a chance! (drhanigan AT gmail DOT com) I'll look forward to hearing from you ... β€
 
See you all tomorrow at teatime! Our theme this week is "Joy in the Woodland: Animals at Advent."

Advent Tea with Friends ... December 14th ❀

Advent tea with friendsHello my friends, and Happy Wednesday! Thank you so much for joining me for another teatime. :)

All throughout Advent I'll be sharing readers' favorite cups and mugs, every weekday at 4 p.m. ... and returning on Fridays with my own special Tea post. Anyone who participates will be entered in my "Winter Comforts Basket" giveaway ... and on New Year's Eve I will announce the basket winner!

(p.s. Each Friday I give a little peek at something that will be tucked inside that basket!)

If you'd like to join us, please read more giveaway details in this post - but for today it's time to make ourselves comfortable at Kimberly's ... β˜•οΈ

It is a cool, rainy Saturday afternoon here in Texas, perfect for enjoying a few reflective moments over the Country Living Christmas Edition (UK) with a cup of my favorite Harney & Sons Holiday Spice tea and some yummy cookies ...

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I love taking moments like these during the holidays to unwind from all the going and making and planning. The coffee cup is one of a set of four with matching dessert plates, a Christmas present from my step-daughter a few years back. I save this set specifically for this time of year and special moments like these. It's always nice to have these simple personal traditions to look forward to this time of year! 

*❀*

I agree completely, Kimberly! This picture is just everything I love about this special season ... December days can be so dark, but our inner lights keep things bright and cozy. There might be something warm to drink, something special to eat, something to inspire and refresh our tired minds ... "simple personal traditions," as you say, Kimberly, that bring such comfort and joy. I love your china and that particular tea is a favorite of mine, too! And I think everyone who reads here regularly knows my feelings on British Country Living! :)

Now because I know Kimberly and I share a love of "vintage" things, and because I'm a little bit nosy, I poked around a bit and came upon this lovely display ...

Kimberly's victorian cards

Isn't that gorgeous? I absolutely love to collect greeting cards (especially vintage and seasonal ones) and this would be a great way to enjoy them! I'd love to know where you find yours, Kimberly - I know of one nice resource, the Victorian Trading Company. Readers, do you have any other "vintage" paper suggestions?

Thanks so much for sharing a bit of your Advent with us, Kimberly! And friends, thanks to all of you for joining us here at teatime ... I hope these posts are a little bright spot in your day. β€ 

I'll be back tomorrow to share another friend's Tea and then on Friday, it will be time for my own weekly post, the "Animals' Advent" Tea ... :)
 
Have yourselves a wonderful Wednesday and ... see you here again very soon!

Advent Tea with Friends ... December 13th ❀

Advent tea with friendsHello my friends, and Happy Tuesday! Thank you so much for joining me for another teatime. :)

All throughout Advent I'll be sharing readers' favorite cups and mugs, every weekday at 4 p.m. ... and returning on Fridays with my own special Tea post. Anyone who participates will be entered in my "Winter Comforts Basket" giveaway ... and on New Year's Eve I will announce the basket winner!

If you'd like to join us, please read more giveaway details in this post - but for today, let's stop in at Mic's and see how she's enjoying her Advent ... β˜•οΈ

Here's a photo of one of my favorite holiday mugs. It's part of a "12 days of Christmas" pattern. How can it be December 8 already? I'm enjoying tillelul and mint tea since it's the evening here in Moscow ...
 
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In the background you can see my advent spiral, with Mary and Joseph and the donkey making their way to Bethlehem. We light a new candle each night in December and read from our advent story book. It's so nice to curl up on the couch after the dishes are washed and the kids have gone to bed and enjoy a few quiet moments ...
 
Wishing you and all your blog readers peace and joy this Advent and Christmas season!
 
*❀*
 
Mic, this is such a warm and cozy picture! I just want to jump in and curl up on that couch, too! I love the Advent spiral ... I've had my eye on those for years. I think it's a lovely tradition. And is that a Christmas candle carousel I spy on the silver tray? Those too have always fascinated me! But your mug ... oh, to have one for each day of the season! I love the pattern ... and that shape and size is just perfect for a nice warm cup of ... well, anything! Your tea sounds interesting too ... :)
 
Thanks so much for sharing a bit of your Advent with us, Mic! And friends, thanks to all of you for joining us here at teatime ... I hope these posts are a little bright spot in your day. β€
 
Have yourselves a wonderful Tuesday and ... see you here again very soon!

Advent Tea with Friends ... December 12th ❀

Advent tea with friendsHello and Happy Monday, my friends! Thank you so much for joining me for another 4:00 teatime. :)

All throughout Advent I'll be sharing readers' favorite cups and mugs, every weekday at 4 p.m. ... and returning on Fridays with my own special Tea post. Anyone who participates will be entered in my "Winter Comforts Basket" giveaway ... and on New Year's Eve I will announce the basket winner!

If you'd like to join us, please read more giveaway details in this post - but for today, let's pop in at Leslie's and see what she has brewing by the fire ... β˜•οΈ

Hello Dawn! Last night I texted some neighborhood friends and said "tomorrow morning I will put on a large pot of coffee and place a log in the fireplace. Will you join me after you drop the children off from school?" I took out our fanciest cups and saucers (including the cream and sugar bowl passed down from my grandmother) but everything else was quiet and casual ...

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A great way to start the day!

*❀*

Oh my goodness, what a lovely setting, Leslie - and such a gracious gesture, to invite friends in for morning coffee and conversation by the fire. Thank you for taking the time to share a little of your Advent with all of us ...

Dear readers, isn't this a nice idea - to begin a cold December day with the warmth of fresh coffee and friendship? What a wonderful example of sweet and sincere hospitality. I must say I was especially pleased to stop in at Leslie's today - not just because it's all so inviting! - but also because ... Leslie is family! She is my husband's cousin and we met for the first time at a family reunion a couple of years ago ... in the backyard under the "train table tent" with our little ones all around. :)

It was so nice to hear from you Leslie, and I'm wishing you and your beautiful family a very happy holiday season! β€

And friends, thanks to all of you for joining us at teatime ... I hope these posts are a little bright spot in your day. Have yourselves a wonderful Monday and ... see you here again very soon!


Advent Tea, Week 2: Plants & Peace

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Hello my friends, and Happy Friday!

And what a fine Friday this is - beautifully bright if perhaps a little colder than is seasonably acceptable in these parts. ***brrrrr*** Still, it's one of those days that make being cozy at home seem all the more wonderful. Well, whatever the weather, I'm so glad to be here and share a cup of something hot and happy with you all ... to slow down for just a moment and catch up. ❀ It's hard to believe, but we're making our way through our second week of Advent now, and I hope the season is unfolding in a way that feels right and good for you and your family. I also hope you've all been enjoying our daily "tea with friends" posts! I am very grateful to all who have shared their cups (and thoughts) with us so far this month ... and so pleased there are many more to come!

So this week in my own family's Advent journey we are finding peace in the natural world around us - in trees, plants, and the spices and herbs that are special to this sacred season. We began on Sunday, St. Barbara's Day, with an easy little craft, preparing a small vase to hold our feast day branches. (Legend says that branches snipped on December 4th will bloom come Christmas morning ... this has never failed us before!)

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The vase is an inexpensive terra cotta pot I purchased at the craft store. I spread glue on the sides and wrapped the bottom section with twine and then, using a hot glue gun, covered the upper rim with cloth floral stickers. (Bill sealed the little hole in the bottom of the pot with hot glue so it would hold water.) Next we added forsythia branches from the yard and a few pretty (craft) pine cones just to anchor those branches (and add visual interest). I think it came out very pretty! We'll be making a few more of these for teacher gifts this year ...

But now, about today's Tea ... :)

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Actually, today we're enjoying a hot winter wassail instead of my usual tea. It's easy enough to make your own, but this bottled blend from Trader Joe's is very yummy and quick to prepare. Just heat it up and - voila! - a hot cup of Christmas cheer at the ready! I floated an apple slice on top for an extra bit of fun ...

Would you care to join me in a cup? A little something sweet and spicy to warm us as we walk through my frosty gardens?

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The above photos were taken after an overnight snow, when everything was crunchy icy. Yes, I think we might be in for a white Christmas if this cold and active weather pattern holds over the next couple of weeks! We still have our "mild" days though, and so after yesterday's thaw, we harvested some moss from the stone wall ...

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... to add to our indoor Advent Garden. :)

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As I described in this post, we are rejoicing in God's glorious earth throughout Advent. One of our rituals is the tending of an indoor Advent Garden and we're reveling in the anticipation, slowly building up our tabletop terrarium with a new layer of life each week. Last week we added stones and soil, while this week we added some plants (the aforementioned moss) ...

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Oliver thought this was a GREAT idea.

And the boys found things in their Advent pockets this week that also reflected our theme ... a poinsettia, peppermint candy, fresh mint and evergreen sprigs. Each item symbolized a simple activity or treat or outing ... something to channel some of that wonderful Advent energy!

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Oh, also here in the kitchen - a new bottle of hand soap on the counter. This is such a little thing but I just love changing up the sink soap with the season. :)

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In New England, a touch of frost, a sprinkling of snow and the hint of spices in the air ... these are all hallmarks of the Advent season! Clove, allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg, mint, citrus, apple and cranberry ... these are the "inside plants" we're exploring this week. As you see below, I brought out the mortar and pestle so the kids could try grinding some whole spices ...

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I'll be perfectly honest, this activity lasted all of two minutes. Not that it didn't appeal wildly to the younger boys, but the whole "hitting things with a marble wand" was getting a little out of hand. (Straying from the bowl to the table, fingers, etc.) Still, it was a fun activity and the kitchen smelled really good. :)

Soon I'll be starting fruitcakes ...

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... and we'll be filling small muslin bags with a mulling spice blend I purchased. These will be given as gifts along with fresh apples and pretty mugs. And speaking of pretty mugs ...

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Isn't this cup lovely? It is a very generous size and the golden letters spell out PEACE ... with snowdrops and winter greenery all around. I can see myself using this all season ...

AND .... if you enter my Winter Comforts Basket giveaway ... you might be enjoying it too! This mug will be one of the goodies tucked inside that basket. :)

Before we go, let's talk books and planners for a moment ... two favorite subjects of mine! Here are some of the reads we're enjoying this week ... 

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The bottom two are for the boys (still waiting on a few library requests to come in) and the rest are for me! :)

I'm taking some time this week to revisit one of my favorite author/illustrators, Tasha Tudor. I find such comfort and inspiration in her work - her children's books are family favorites - but I especially admire the way she lived her life. Not that we could all live quite as "off grid" as she did, but there is a lot to be said for "unplugging and slowing down" ... not just at Advent, but in any season. Forever Christmas was a gift from my dad many years ago, who bought this book in Tasha's home state of Vermont. I also absolutely love losing myself in the video, Take Peace: A Corgi Cottage Christmas. In this pile there is also a book of Christmas poems (a wonderful rec from my friend, Gill), my daily Advent read, and a fascinating little book about the folklore and tradition of Christmas plants.

I keep this pile of books stacked in a hopeful fashion beside my favorite reading chair ... I've been determined to find a little reading (and resting) time every day. :)

Late in the afternoon, with the sun heading for bed quite early, I took my cup of wassail to the library, so I might sit at my writing desk and get to work on our Christmas cards ...

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Yes, I am just that selfish enough that I need not one, but two desks, lol! The one in the family room (where I am sitting at this very moment) is for my computer and file crate and bill basket, etc. The white window writing desk you see above I keep for ... well, writing! It feels just a little bit "Jane Austen" to sit down at this desk and pen a chatty bit of correspondence to a friend. In January I will share a more thorough post on this happy writing corner ... as I get my holiday thank-you notes in order!

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Now in this "aerial" photo I spy two more small items that will pop up in that Winter Comforts Basket! A small tin of Trader Joe's body butter - just lovely for dry winter skin - and a small monthly purse planner (though in a different print than the one shown here). Fun little things to bring a smile to your winter days ...

Speaking of planners - parked here is my Day Designer and as I mentioned on Instagram last night, I don't usually do much with stickers and whatnot, but I found some very pretty ones at Paper Source this past week and I had to indulge. That washi tape especially is just SO so pretty. 

*❀*

Well my friends, I will wrap up for now, but I hope you enjoyed our time together, sharing another cup of Advent Tea! I have several friends lined up to share tea with you all again next week (every day at 4:00!) and then I will return again on Friday with another longer post. Next week our family's Advent theme is "Joy in the Woodland."

Remember, if you'd like to join us for Advent Tea please send me a picture (or pictures) of your favorite cup by email: drhanigan AT gmail DOT com. I'd love to hear about your cup and any other Advent thoughts you'd like to share! Your pictures will be featured in a daily teatime post and you will be entered in my Winter Comforts Basket giveaway. I'll announce a winner on New Year's Eve and send the basket out shortly after the new year begins. :)

For now though, I will wish you all a wonderful weekend and as always, I thank you sincerely for stopping by. Take care of yourselves and your loved ones ...

See you here again very soon!


Advent Tea with Friends ... December 7th ❀

Advent tea with friendsHello and Happy Wednesday, my friends! Thank you so much for joining us for 4:00 teatime. :)

As discussed in Monday's post, I'll be sharing readers' favorite cups and mugs here every day (or so) throughout Advent, and returning on Fridays with my own Advent Tea post. Everyone who participates is entered in my "Winter Comforts Basket" giveaway (a random collection of little wintertime comforts & joys to be mailed out after the new year) ...

On New Year's Eve I will announce the basket winner!

If you'd like to join us, please read more giveaway details in this post - but for today, let's stop to take tea and smell the roses at Cathy's ... β˜•οΈ

"Yes, I too cannot believe the first week of Advent is gone! Today I spent the morning cutting out holly, berries, candles, and flames for tomorrow's 1st grade ccd students - to construct an Advent wreath for their refrigerators ... along with a manger which they are to fill in with straw symbolizing their good deeds ...

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I chose the cup with the lid to keep my tea hot and it still got cold! Busy hands, I forgot to drink. The rubber parts can not be microwaved so I think I'll just grab a favorite mug, heat up my tea and return ...

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There, much better. I choose COURAGE today because there is not a one room that is in order! I have been making changes in every room! KM'ed all hubby's clothes and redid his closet ... now daughter's room holds all the extras overflowing into the hallway, book cases being moved, extra blankets to be washed and given away, much of his clothing should be sold! Like new! There are boxes need going through .... Yes, more like major overhauls taking place in order to declutter - in the mist Christmas season has arrived - what a mess! I do have a few things up in my kitchen, but again, as usual, it's not the Advent journey I envisioned (is it ever?) and it's going to take lots courage to continue!

 On the Feast of St. Nicholas...

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... drinking tea, making lists ...

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... eating cookies and enjoying roses ...

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... doesn't get much better than this. πŸŽ„
     
It will be fun to continue this journey with you all and see how we progress with our planning. Yes, that is a leather Travelers Note book system that is to help me plan life and life I want to live. No looking back with any regrets! Doing so does mark my days and allow me to see that I do make progress and I do have goals that I am accomplishing! It's a good thing ... I've even baked cookies twice this year and have plans for a few more kinds. I have created a family exchange of handmade Christmas ornaments, and I will be spending a few nights with Hallmark Christmas movies, candles, popcorn, and Christmas cards and letters...

So may all your Christmas desires and wishes happen! Let us begin! (Yes, that white haze was steam coming off the reheated cup. LOL, it's still too hot!)

May God bless your day 🌹

 *❀*

This was just lovely, Cathy. Thank you so much for sharing a bit of your home and your Advent thoughts with us! I think many of us are right where you are ... there's so much going on around us, so many things we want (and need) to get done ... yet we crave the sweet comfort and joy that comes with taking a moment to sit down and truly savor this beautiful season. I'm so glad you did just that ... and shared it with us!

Well friends, thanks once again for joining us at teatime! I'll be back tomorrow with another reader's lovely cup and thoughts to share ... hope you all have a wonderful Wednesday evening!

See you here again very soon ...


Advent Tea with Friends ... December 6th ❀

Advent tea with friendsHello and Happy Tuesday, my friends! Thank you so much for joining us for 4:00 teatime. :)

As discussed in yesterday's post, I'll be sharing readers' favorite cups and mugs here every day (or so) throughout Advent, and returning on Fridays with my own Advent Tea post. Everyone who participates is entered in my "Winter Comforts Basket" giveaway (a random collection of little wintertime comforts & joys to be mailed out after the new year.) On New Year's Eve I will announce the basket winner!

If you'd like to join us, please read more at this post - but for now, let's stop by Angie's for a wee hot cuppa! β˜•οΈ

"Here is my favorite kind of cup - so simple, just a glass mug, because I like to see what I'm drinking. I'm from the Pacific Northwest and a coffee girl at heart, so that's what you'll find in my cup most of the time. I do like a cup of peppermint tea occasionally, especially if I'm under the weather. I think hot drinks are one of my favorite parts of the winter season - so yummy and comforting."
 

Plants tea angie

What a lovely tea spot, Angie! I love glass cups and mugs - I had a favorite glass mug for many years (technically it was Crackerjack's, a monogrammed gift he received when he served as ring bearer in my cousin's wedding) and it was such a nice size and weight. Plus I really loved seeing the contents! I must say, that's a nice head of foam on your coffee, Angie! How do you do that? And what kind of coffee do you like? We use a combination of Peet's and Dunkin Donuts in our morning coffee ... :)
 
Well my friends, thanks so much for stopping by today! I hope you enjoyed our teatime with Angie! Please drop a note if you have a moment and remember to send me your own favorite cup when you have a chance! (drhanigan AT gmail DOT com) I'll look forward to hearing from you ... β€
 
See you all tomorrow at teatime!

Advent Tea with Friends ... December 5th ❀

Advent tea with friendsHello and Happy Monday, my friends!

Today I am kicking off a little something new - well not really new for my blog, but new for this year! As you all know, I am running a "Winter Comforts Basket" giveaway this month, and all you have to do to enter is share with me a picture of your favorite hot beverage cup (or mug). The winner of the basket - a random collection of little wintertime comforts & joys - will be announced here on New Year's Eve!

I shared the first few pictures I received last week in my Friday Advent Tea post, but I thought - how about I post all these lovely pictures in their own separate posts? So I'm reviving "Advent Tea with Friends" and will be sharing YOUR pictures here every day at the blog - roundabouts teatime (aka 4 p.m.) More details at the end of this post ... :)

But for now, let's drop in at Denise's for a hot cup of cocoa ...β˜•οΈ

 

Plant tea 2

"Sitting down to a planning time afternoon
tea, or as is the case today, hot cocoa, when I saw that you had an
afternoon post up ... :)

I can not have a favorite!  I don't have a Christmas/wintry tea cup. I am
still looking for just the right one, as I take Mom flea marketing (those
trips are getting fewer, sadly). But this is the one I used today. It is
actually the cup I use most during the autumn season. :) And I actually
think it 'belongs' to my grand-twin boy. They each have a favorite they
have claimed.

The lighting is terrible, but if I hadn't taken a photo then, I would not
remember to do it! Where I sit in the afternoons, here in front of the
south-facing windows, is so warm! Geese had flown overhead, leaving our
pond & heading to feed & slumber maybe, at the empty soybean field just
west of us, I would imagine. I have these swivel 'talking chairs' as my
husband dubbed them. So, I can swivel to look outside, or look at the
Christmas tree, or the fireplace, or turn all the way around and look at
the grands at the table.

Thanks for asking to see our cups!  This is going to be fun!

Have a blessed season!"

*❀*

Thank you so much for sharing, Denise! Your teatime - or cocoa time as the case was here - sounds so nice!  Planning time teas are so wonderful - "working teas" I call them! :)

So remember dear readers, to join in our Advent Tea fun, please send me a picture (as many as you wish) along with a description and your thoughts on tea (coffee, cocoa or whatever you prefer) by emailing me at drhanigan AT gmail DOT com. Throughout Advent I will share "tea with friends" here at the blog every day (or so) roundabouts 4:00 p.m. Then on each Friday I will put up my usual weekly tea post - this coming week my theme is "Peace and Plants."

Enjoy the rest of your Monday, my friends! See you here again very soon ...


Advent Tea, Week 1: Stones, Stars & Shortbread

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Hello my friends and Happy Friday! Did this week go by REALLY fast or is it just me? Seriously - it feels like we were just finishing up Thanksgiving dinner and now here we are nearing the end of the first week of Advent! 

Well, at any rate - welcome! Thank you so much for stopping by and, goodness - please come on in out of the cold and let me offer you something warm to drink. Or maybe it's raining where you are ... or perhaps it's perfectly sunny and warm? But whatever the weather, please do come in! Let's pause together for some rest and refreshment ... time passes too quickly nowadays. We should sit down and savor the season while we can!

Now, my Tea theme this week, as you've probably gathered from the post title, is reflective of where we are in Advent this week. As described in yesterday's post, our family's Advent is a celebration of God's beautiful creation, because the whole world waits together for the miracle of life (and light) to return! Just as the earth goes quiet and dark at this time of year, we too slow down and turn inward, looking for ways to light the path before us ...

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2:43 p.m. and yes, the sun is going down ...

So this week we are focusing on the beauty of "earth and sky" - stars, stones, shells, sun and soil. We'll be making crafts that utilize and rejoice in these blessings of creation. Because when you take the time to really observe and think about these things - particularly if you look through the eyes of a child - you get such a sense for how wondrous our world truly is.

And for me personally, I really do relish crafting with natural materials ... these kinds of projects, most of which become gifts or tree ornaments, just seem especially meaningful to me. :)

Ok, so I have several things to tell you about, but let's start with my tea mug this week ...

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This mug is an oldie but goodie and some readers might recognize it since I've shared it a few times before! But it's my favorite and most comfortable mug. And though it feels wintry to me, I use it all year round. And today in this mug I'm enjoying another old Advent favorite - Harney & Sons' Holiday Tea. This is a black tea blended with subtle spices with a lovely vanilla-type of taste. (I don't believe there's any vanilla in the tea itself, but it just seems creamy and comforting to me.) It's GREAT with a wee bit of sugar and a healthy dose of whole milk. :)

The shortbread you see on the plate - one piece for me, one for Little Bear - was baked Wednesday in honor of St. Andrew (of Scotland). Maybe it's because I'm part Scottish (my maternal grandmother was born in Edinburgh), but shortbread is my hands-down favorite type of cookie! I just love the simplicity of shortbread - the flavor and texture is perfect to my mind (or I should say, palate). I'm always tempted to dip the ends of the bars in melted dark chocolate or thick caramel but then never do. Maybe I'll try that for Christmas this year.

In these pictures you can see I was sitting in a rather sunny spot ...

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The kitchen table gets such wonderful light all day. Usually I "take tea" in the library, but this is where I spread out yesterday - it was bit of a "working" tea. ;)

Here is a closer picture of our Advent Garden-in-progress ...

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Last year we set up an Advent Garden on the patio and while I enjoyed having it there very much, I decided to do something different this year. (Ok, truth be told I had a much larger scale project in mind originally - turning a small section of the yard into a grotto of sorts - but that was deemed a project better suited to spring!)

So instead, we're bringing our garden indoors. Throughout Advent, each week we will add a new layer of creation to this terrarium bowl. This week we've added stones (and soon to come soil), then next week will be plants (aka moss from the garden). In the third week of Advent, we'll add some small animal figures, and then finally, in the last week before Christmas, we will celebrate our own kingdom of creation, humankind - with tiny peg people and little wooden houses.

I'm really excited for this project and I love how it's being done in stages ... really highlighting the "waiting" aspect of Advent. It's certainly piqued the curiosity of my cats and kids ... and even guests to our home!

Now the candles around the bowl technically number 23 instead of 24 - but you didn't hear that from me. *wink* It's all I could scrape up! I had purchased glittery battery-lit tealights for this project but then they didn't really all fit ... size-wise nor sense-wise. (Glitter is lovely but not necessarily, natural.) Then I remembered my collection of beeswax tealights and thought how much more fitting they would be. Some have already been burned a little but that's ok. We'll light a candle each night throughout Advent (one will be lit twice) and that will be another nice way for us to pace ourselves a bit. To gather around the supper table and talk about the good things that happened that day ...

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Here are a couple of stories we're reading during this week of "stones and stars." Three Pebbles and a Song is actually one of our November books but I kept it aside just for this week. It is such a sweet little tale, perfect for this time of year - all about preparing for the long winter and appreciating that we all have gifts to offer. The illustrations - in grays, blues, browns and beige - perfectly suit these bleak days of early December. And another favorite book is this retelling of the fairy tale The Star Child - with its gorgeous illustrations and heartwarming tale of generosity and selflessness. I love how the little girl in the story is so selfless and never once hesitates to hand over something of her own to help another in need. Little ones might fret a bit over the girl's condition (as she slowly sheds her belongings) but her reward at the end of the story is simple and satisfying. β€

Speaking of stories ....

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Another thing I'm doing this year is creating an Advent nature story to share with my younger boys - in particular my Little Bear who loves to snuggle and "hear stories." β€ I bought a couple of bags of "river" stones at the craft store (they're cleaner and more uniformly shaped than our yard stones!) and each stone is painted with a symbol from nature. The story is very simple (just a few lines a day) but it leads us towards Christmas in a way that meanders through creation ...

So ... we begin with a sleepy sun, a friendly starfish, a lonely rock, and a generous star ... and then next week we'll meet proud trees and humble plants ... later on there will be hungry birds, silly crows, clever bees ... and at last ... a humble home, a friendly barn and a very loving family. :)

I'm storing the stones in the 24 little drawers of that wooden Advent tree seen below, and each day we'll pull out a stone, tell its tale (Earlybird can read the card) and then nestle it in amongst the green branches.

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I'm having a lot of fun with it so far! And the boys seem intrigued. :) And since my artistic talents are somewhat limited, I have enlisted our resident 17 year-old artist, Crackerjack, to help me out with painting the stones ... β€

Now I have one more thing to show you ... something that will be part of my "Winter Comforts Basket" giveaway!

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These pretty soaps are made by a company called Hand in Hand, and whether you buy them for yourself or a friend (online or at Target), they are a gift that truly gives back. Because for every purchase, HiH gives a month's worth of soap and clean water to a needy child. β€ These soaps are so well-crafted, softly-scented, earth-friendly AND gorgeously-wrapped. (I love the subtle colors and natural themes!) I'm giving several people on my gift list a bar of this beautiful soap, and ...

... whoever wins my "Winter Comforts Basket" will receive one as well!

(Remember - to enter my Winter Comforts Basket giveaway, all you have to do is send me a picture of your favorite mug or cup. It can be a special one you use at the holidays, throughout the winter, or any old day. You can send me your picture by attaching it to an email (send to drhanigan AT gmail DOT com). Feel free to tell me as much as you'd like about your mug - we love to talk tea here! (And cocoa, coffee, mulled cider, etc.!) I will share these pictures in my weekly Tea posts and then, on New Year's Eve, I will randomly pick a winner! 

So without further ado, here are this week's Tea Friends ... :)

From Elizabeth: "I'm sending you a picture of my favorite mug that I use all the time. I love to enjoy hot chocolate, herbal tea and spiced apple cider in the evenings. Especially with a good book or favorite episode of a beloved TV show or movie."

Friends Tea 1

❀ 

From Lauren: "For your tea post, I wanted to share my favorite tea cup that I use during the winter season."

Friends Tea 2

 β€

From Heather: "I have to share more than one ... They are all perfect for the season! Happy Advent!"

Friends Tea 3

"My Pioneer Woman Christmas Tree Mug."

Friends Tea 4

"My 'Home is the Nicest Word There is' Mug."

Friends Tea 5

"My Mary and Martha "Lovely" Mugs."

Friends Tea 6

"And these little glass mugs in our hot chocolate bar!"

 β€

And from Gill:

Friends Tea 7

"This is a photo of the corner of my kitchen, where I stand to make tea or coffee, cook and bake, or turn 90' to wash up! I spend many contented hours exactly here working or dreaming or gazing out of my window to the front yard, where the dog, cats, hens and wild birds all interact!

In the summer the troughs against the yard wall are overflowing with flowers, now they are stuffed full of daffodil, crocus and narcissus bulbs, covered over with pine branches. The tree is the one we went into the forest to cut down last weekend. The bird feeders are usually busy. It is the funniest thing that the wild birds throw down seed to the hens beneath, and the hens keep the cats away!

You can just see that I have hung my Christmas curtains and that they are swathed with fairy lights. I have my breakfast ready: Norwegian brown goats cheese on bread and a cafe latte in my favorite Emma Bridgewater JOY mug. The board I have my bread on says " A friendly word can work wonders" which is so very true. I had just poured my coffee when your post pinged in, so I snapped the photo and hope you won't mind an Advent breakfast instead of tea!

Wishing you a very peaceful Advent ..."

***

Oh my goodness, wasn't that fun? I just love talking "tea" (etc.) with friends. I do so wish we could all sit down in person and chat, but I guess for now this is the next best thing. (Maybe someday I'll figure out that periscope trend, lol ... or maybe host a "seasonal tea" webinar??)

My sincere thanks to Elizabeth Mary, Lauren, Heather and Gill for sharing their beautiful cups! I loved seeing them and hearing their thoughts on this cozy, happy topic!

And thank you all for joining me today ... I hope you enjoyed our teatime and hearing a little more about my family's Advent rituals. I will share Tea again here next Friday, and all are welcome to partake. If you'd like to send me a picture for the post (and giveaway!) please do so at your earliest convenience, by attaching a photo to an email addressed to ...

drhanigan AT gmail DOT com

I hope to hear from you! Until then, have a happy and restful weekend and I will see you all here again very soon!