Tea and Crafts Feed

Advent Tea Week 3: Holiday Cleaning and Crafting!

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Hello my friends, and welcome! I'm so happy you could join me for another cup of holiday tea in this third week of Advent. :-)

But before I get to this week's tea, I must apologize to you all for missing last week's tea entirely. We've had some family challenges lately, and I won't bore you with the all the details, but let's just say the past week involved a nasty cold virus, a broken tooth, a broken computer AND a broken teakettle. And then Earlybird's ABA therapist (who provides daily support) quit unexpectedly.

*ack*

Thankfully though, things are getting back on track. And so what we have here is two-fer-one kind of post, fairly jam-packed with pictures and notes on what we've been up to lately, despite all the setbacks! I hope you enjoy ...❤️

So my friends, may I offer you a cup of "spiced orange mulled tea?"

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I found this recipe on Pinterest as I searched for a signature Christmas cocktail. Every holiday we host features a signature drink (so fun!) but I like to offer something special that's non-alcoholic too. And this tea just looks so pretty in my little red cups, a set of 12 (with a matching punch bowl), that once belonged to my grandmother. With cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, fresh oranges and black tea this made my kitchen smell like the Christmas season itself as it brewed!

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Now as I've mentioned many times before, our annual Advent journey is heavily influenced by Waldorf tradition as well as the natural world. In the first week of Advent (as detailed in my prior post) we explore the concept of "heaven and earth" - crafting with and celebrating this first layer of creation: minerals, stones, stars, shells and earthly foundations like soil and sand. The second week has us embracing the blessings of the plant kingdom, most especially the Christmas tree itself! We also learn about Christmas plants and one of the things I like to do at this time of year, in this specific week, is to clean out and organize my baking pantry. This is a great way to become familiar with the herbs and spices of the season!

Ok, so this is the before pic ... yeah it was bad.

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And here are the in-betweens and afters!

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Gosh, was it a mess in there! And so many expired things ... I'm kind of ashamed. Well, we hauled everything out and wiped down the shelves, which were sticky with who-knows-what and dusty with random seasonings, etc. Then we went through all the stuff - smelling as we went - and consolidated, organized and then - rearranged!

The bottom shelves still need some work - boxes of oatmeal and tea and cocoa are in need of better storage. And I've started a pantry list in my planner in hopes of keeping better track of what I have on hand and what needs replacing. (Somehow I had four jars - all opened - of molasses, and three separate, half-empty containers of cornstarch. Of course, this is not all that surprising considering the state of affairs in that first pantry picture!)

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Now how about a tour of the rest of my kitchen? That too was a bit of a mess, so on one of the days we were staying home with kids feeling under the weather, I devoted myself to a thorough late autumn cleaning. It's nice to have the kitchen clean before I really get into the holiday baking!

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(Store-bought star cookies - so good with a cup of decaffeinated tea!)

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(I just love how the window stars form pretty shadows on this wall of cabinetry.)

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(Couldn't resist a picture of Fenway - one year old now! - basking in the afternoon sun. He loves to be underfoot in the kitchen, or anywhere really!)

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Here are a few pictures from plants week, which had us exploring not just the pantry, but the yard as well. We found hardy rosemary, crawling mint, plenty of evergreens ... 

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And frosty rose hips in the front hedgerow!

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And this little guy will be our solstice tree, as yet undecorated. We'll hang lights and edible treats for the wildlife here next week.

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Last month we busied ourselves gathering pine cones for holiday crafting. The Eastern White Pines in our yard are extremely tall and drop humungous cones! For this craft we first arranged the cones on a cookie sheet and baked them at 200 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes (to kill any bugs). Then we coated the tips of each petal with a mixture of white acrylic paint and school glue ...

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A sprinkle of glitter made them really festive, and especially lovely hanging in a sunny window ...


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A few cones were further decorated with tiny felt balls. I just love how these came out!

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Another craft that was simple to make and sweet with the fragrance (and taste!) of fresh peppermint:

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Instructions found on Pinterest: Place greased metal cookie cutters on a parchment-lined cookie sheet and fill them loosely with starlight candies. Then bake for 5-6 minutes at 350 degrees F. You really have to keep an eye on them because some will melt faster than others depending on the size of the cutter and the amount of candies in each.

Ready for the oven!
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And here's how they turned out! :-)
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And, as promised, here's our Christmas tree for 2023 ...

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Note the playdate around the bottom of the tree! This would be to keep the puppy and the cats out of the tree water!

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A closer peek at the Advent "wreath" on our kitchen table:

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Four little red lanterns, one for each week of Advent, each holding an LED tea light. The lanterns stand around a Christmas tree candleholder and the whole set up is surrounded by a tangle of tiny golden bells, (fake) red berries and fairy lights.

It's so beautiful at night, especially!


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Ok, two more simple "makes" starting with these sweet wooden bead snowmen:

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I saw this on Pinterest and knew I had to try it! You basically just thread twine through three plain wooden beads, knotting it at both ends, leaving a loop at the top. Then use sharpie markers to make a snowman face and tie a little baker's twine around the "neck" for a bit of extra color.

Thank you to "Creating Me" for the idea! You can find the full instructions at her post.

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Final craft: a little pumpkin leftover from Halloween, transformed into a pretty woodland friend ... 0-38

Again, something I found on Pinterest! The book shown in this picture is one of our favorites to read in the week leading up to the winter solstice: Goodbye Autumn, Hello Winter by Kenard Pak.

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And last pics I'd like to share are from yesterday, which was Earlybird's 21st birthday. (I KNOW - how did EB get to be 21?!?!)


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My folks and I took EB to a local toy museum and then to lunch at Wendy's.

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It was a really nice day!

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Well my friends, I hope you are all doing well and enjoying these last weeks of the year. I hope you are staying healthy, too! Thanks so much for joining me for tea and I will keep my fingers crossed I'm able to be with you here again next week!

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


Yuletide Tea at Dawn's ❤

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Trader Joe's Winter Wake Up Tea!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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And then I topped each tart with a star!

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

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About 15 minutes later:

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

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

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

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

From Jennifer:

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

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From Shelly:

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

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From Mary:

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

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


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From Stacey:

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

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

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And last but certainly not least, from Holly:

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

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

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

MARY MASON LESKOWITZ!!! 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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For the reindeer ...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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There was a little bit of glitter involved, too!

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

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There was cookie-making one chilly morning ...

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

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

Here you see our tree:

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(Plus my goofy husband, lol.)

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

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Can you believe how big these kids are getting?!

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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I love making crafts that bring natural materials together!

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

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

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

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... twig star ornaments!

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

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

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

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

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

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And this was my tray ...

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

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

From the inside flap:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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"Winter is dark,

Yet each little spark

Brightens the way

To Christmas Day.

Shine little light

And show us the way

To the bright light

Of Christmas Day"

~ H. St. John

🌟

Ok, NOW - about that GIVEAWAY!

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

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

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

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

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

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

🌟

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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(front)

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(back)

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

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

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

Here's my little kitchen helper ...

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So earnest ...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HOLIDAY SPICE SACHETS 

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

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

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

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

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... and then hung it in the tree!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Meanwhile, Oliver stood guard ...

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

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

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

MITTEN ORNAMENT

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

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

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

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

Although ...

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

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

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

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

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

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The Mitten by Jan Brett.

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

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

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

COZY CREATION CRECHE

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

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... and brought the lot of it inside.

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

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

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

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A very simple but very satisfying craft!

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

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

SOLSTICE "TREE" TREATS 

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

Little Bear meanwhile, set to work ...

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

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All ready to go!

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

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

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

But we were not yet done with our Solstice gifts!

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

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

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

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

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

I will be announcing a winner!

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

I'll see  you here again late tomorrow!


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

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

 

NATURE PLAY ❄️

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

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

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

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

Speaking of ...

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

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

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

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

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

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White-throated Sparrow (with Chickadee in background).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

BAKING 🧁

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

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

Here's what we did:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

PLANNING ✍🏻

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

CRAFTING 🤲🏻

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

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

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

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

Here's a closer peek ...

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Aaahhh ...

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

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

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

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

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To make a little twig star!

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

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

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

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

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

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

And here are the stars the next morning!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


St. Patrick's Day at Our House ...❤

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Happy Friday, my friends! And blessings on this bright and bonny St. Patrick's Day! I have some pictures to share today - I've been busy with my boys and baking and books and blizzards and ... well, the usual. :) I know I've promised lots of planning-type posts and I do have some coming up - but how about a look at our past couple of days? This is one of our favorite feasts and it's always such fun to celebrate with the kids, especially when they're little. :)

First though, here's what my backyard looks like today - just three days shy of the Vernal Equinox! 

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Yep, lots of snow out there! But if you look closely you can see the branches are filled with buds. I think last month's unseasonably warm weather pushed things a bit ahead of schedule ... before Winter stepped in and said: "Not so fast!"

I passed this sad little sight on my way in from getting the mail today ...

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Pretty much sums up the weather right now - a fit-to-bursting bud, thrown to the ground (by those gale force winds we had no doubt) and now encased in a patch of driveway ice. sigh

Anyhoo ...

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The sun has been out and that has been glorious ... I love working in sunny windows when we can! Our seasonal homeschooling theme this week was "returning light" and "rainbows." (Tying in with Daylight Savings Time and St. Patty's Day.) We explored colors and light and the return of the sun. Here is Little Bear working on a simple rainbow craft yesterday ...

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His cotton balls, my rainbow strips which had to be taped - he has no patience for tape. For Little Bear crafting is pretty much all about the glue. He could spend all day (and all bottle) gluing whatever he can get his hands on. Sometimes I just let him "paint" with a little thinned out glue!

And happily, as we worked, Earlybird joined us ... another glue fan. :)

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This is how projects usually go around here. I come up with an idea (or ideas) and gather materials. I set things up and stand back - or maybe I get things going. And then curious kids start to ask questions, poke around and maybe pitch in. If I really want them to participate I make sure some part of the project has something to do with glue.

We'd been rather sluggish this week so we were all ready for something hands-on. The boys have had a wicked cold this week - me too - and we're still not 100% better. It was one of those weeks where plans kept getting cancelled and we spent a LOT of time together, at home, watching too much tv and not feeling our best. We're on the mend now though and it feels good to get back to some semblance of normal!

Reading some books ...

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Tending our "classroom" garden ...

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Do you see the teeny bit of green there in the front? :)

I've been doing a lot of organizing in the learning room ...

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... and I'll have a "tour" post coming up soon!

Now this morning I started up the crockpot, eager to try out a new recipe ...

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This is the beginning of corned beef and cabbage ... before the beef - and before I took the cabbage out realizing that cooks near the end! But oh boy, is it smelling good in here!

Roundabouts mid-morning, while Earlybird worked with his therapist and Crackerjack banged out his math in the library, Little Bear and I set in on a really fun project involving all kinds of fruit!

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I had Bill (who is still healthy, knock-on-wood) stop by the grocery store on his way home from work last night and buy gobs and gobs of fresh fruit. For one thing, we can all use the vitamin C, but for another, I thought it would be fun to try making a fruit rainbow for the feast day - something I saw on Pinterest, of course.

So while LB chopped up bits of fruit with his dip spreader (another favorite activity) I started assembling the rainbow ...

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When the fruit was all arranged, I added a small "pot of gold" (foil-wrapped chocolate coins in a glass bowl) ...

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And then for a final touch, whipped cream clouds!

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Cute, right? :)

There was a lot of leftover fruit so I let Little Bear have at it ...

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We decided to make "leprechaun water" which is basically a lot rainbow-colored fruit steeping in a pitcher of water ...

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True confession - I realized as LB filled the pitcher (so industriously) that he was including the melon rinds which is a no-no. I had to fish them back out, then drain the water and try again! Lol.

Here's a little bit of St. Patty's decor on our kitchen door ...

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And here is a festive tableau I set up just after lunchtime - showcasing my Gram's Irish china and a poem I wanted to read aloud to the boys.

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Do they use the china? No. But I do and I always make a point to talk about why this china is so special - to whom it belonged and how I grew up enjoying tea. I did however use some of this china to serve some freshly baked cookies!

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These are called "Irish Lace Oatmeal Cookies" and oh my gosh, are they good! They're very easy to make and if you overcook them, you can just crumble them and serve them over ice cream. 

Now, lest you think we had a nice, quiet read-aloud with the above book and tea goodies ...

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Well, THIS is how we read that book of fun faerie poems!

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With the book perched in my lap and Little Bear hanging on my back! Which is about par for the course around here!

***

Well my friends, I hope you all had a nice week and that the weekend ahead is a restful one for you. Thanks so much for stopping by and taking a moment to read. I'd love to hear about your St. Patrick's Day traditions if you have the time to share! But for now I will say goodbye and ask that you take care of yourselves and your loved ones ...

I'll 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. 

(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, 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. 

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."  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 ... 

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.  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."

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

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 ❤

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

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"My Pioneer Woman Christmas Tree Mug."

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

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"My Mary and Martha "Lovely" Mugs."

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

 ❤

And from Gill:

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"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!


Tea with Friends ... ❤

Good Sunday morning, my friends! And a Happy Advent to you!

Today I have a few "tea and nest" notes to share, beginning with a link to a post written by my dear friend Martha, about her lovingly restored "thinking chair":

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Wouldn't this be a nice spot in which to curl up and dream? :)

By the way, Martha and I worked together eons ago at my very first post-college job, on the "features desk" at a Boston-area newspaper. Martha was, in fact, my editor! And oh my gosh, did we have fun ... "The TAB" is where I first tested my fledgling writing skills on the subjects of food, holidays, home, gardens and kids - before I even had kids! Martha, and our first editor, Celia, were so good to me, allowing a very "green" journalist to try her hand at a new passion. But those were good times - I learned a lot! - and I remember them fondly. Today Martha owns PulpArt, a fantastic Etsy shop where she sells plantable paper crafts - gift tags, ornaments, party favors, and cards, etc. All handmade by Martha, using ancient paper-making techniques - pop on over and take a peek!

***

Now here is a wonderful Thanksgiving Tea shared by Denise ...

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Dawn,


Thank you for inviting us all to Tea Time! I don't have the opportunity to have daily tea with my grands any longer. So, tea time is a bit different now-a-days. I don't have tea every day either (well, in autumn/winter/spring I normally have something hot to start the day!) During this time of starting the Holy Day season, I love that we start with giving of thanks! Thanks to the One who is Creator & Sustainer of all! And oh, the naming! So many things to be named, so many things/people to be grateful for, just leads me into worship of the One who provides the good gifts! Which helps prepare my heart for the Holy Day of Christ-mass!

It is an overcast, windy day. I heard it will be snowing in a couple of days. Much to be done! Moving hay, fixing the well-house (heat lamp or heater?), stacking wood by the woodstove. All of that will have to wait until this afternoon, as I am finishing up in the home office this morning. I had a few tasks for a client and our own to tend to. After I finish this post, I will be heading out of doors!

Refreshments:
I normally have several tea varieties. Today I had a cup of orange-spice. I haven't had time to bake, although if I wanted, I have some oatmeal cookie dough ready to pop in the oven. It is time to replenish my dough stash! I like to have several on hand for when I have the pleasure of having the Grands or company!

Reading:
I just finished reading a novel, light reading. I will be doing reading for Advent & Christmas next. Ann Voskamp's The Greatest Gift AND Unwrapping the Greatest Gift. I am looking forward to receiving a blessing through them!!

Listening to:
During this season, I tend to revisit some old hymns Come Thou Fount, Come Ye Sinners, Be Thou My Vision. I've been enjoying these as recorded by Fernando Ortega. So rich.

Working on:
We are in the "work the plan" phase of Thanksgiving! We started by enjoying our daughter's family last night. Family supper & card games. Oh, and a new made-up game by my grandtwin girl (10yo)! Such fun! I popped back and forth through the grands! Granddaughter/13 was busy making accessories for a Christmas present for her younger sister. 
Grandtwin girl/10 dictated a Thanksgiving letter to me for her dearest friend and cousin. Oh how I miss those days! I was "employed" by her quite often! When she was about 6 she said "When we are working on my books, can you just call me Boss?" (LOL!) Grandtwin boy/10 read a couple of passages from a new book he is reading for school. He also typed me out a paragraph in which I was supposed to correct the misspellings! And Grandson/15 & I walked out towards the pond to see if we could see any geese. He is really wanting to get one this year! I will begin preparing more for Advent & Christmas during the Thanksgiving break. Plus, I will be starting to work on setting up my 2016 planner which I lamented about on one of your Planner Party posts! Something I normally take great pleasure in & I do again thisyear, I'm just not real sure how this is going to go & I am having a hard time getting started. Silly me.

Happening in nature:
As I stated: Windy, overcast today. Blowing in some possible snow or ice. We were trying to identify some new sweet, small birds yesterday. We didn't come to a conclusion.

With the (grand) kids:
I've attached a picture of our "Thanksgiving Table." This is a table in a sitting area, looking out our south-facing windows. We all add to the Thanksgiving tree, you will see in the picture. We will be finishing up the Thanks Living Box. They enjoy that year after year!

Quotations:
Here are my sentiments I sent out in my Thanksgiving greetings, to family & close friends.

"To the end that my glory may sing praise to Thee, and not be silent, O LORD my God, I will give thanks unto You forever." Ps 30:12 Oh! Let me not be silent! The end of all we experience in this life:  To sing praise to Him and give thanks, FOREVER!! Praise His holy name!

Keeping it Simple:
For us this year, we are again in mourning. So, we will definitely be keeping things low-key and home-centered. We will have the obligatory functions to attend, and we will do so with a grateful heart, just not as many scheduled as what we might do. We will focus on just the immediate family, for the most part; with the exception of looking to see who we can offer some blessings. A favorite thing for us to do.

Thank you for letting me share tea with you & your readers today!!  I've been working on this email for a while. I was thankful you hadn't set a deadline!

~~Denise

***

Thank you, Denise! I love hearing about your family and how you take tea and where you find inspiration! I appreciate your participation, and I love your enthusiasm! Your family is blessed to have you! :)

And here, my friends, are some Tea Notes from Helena ...

What refreshments are you enjoying this week?
My morning cup of Tasha Tudor's Welsh Breakfast tea, and the odd cup of apple cider with the kids. It's been a bit hectic around here, so I'm happy just to have that!

What are you reading this week?
Just finished the latest in a cozy mystery series I enjoy (The Stitching Hour) and also Teaching from Rest.

What are you listening to this week?
I may have broken my own rule about no Christmas music before Thanksgiving to sneak in a little bit of Josh Groban's Noel in the car. :)

What are you working on this week?
Getting ready for the holiday and also working on a proofreading assignment.

What's happening in nature this week?
I'm down in FL, so a bit different from you guys right now. It actually was chilly the other day (overnight low of 48, that's cold for us). The first strawberries of the season are coming in from the fields, our garden is actually doing well so far, and our neighbor's tomatoes and peppers look great. We're starting to see some of our winter visitors at the bird feeder (our female painted bunting appeared the other day, though no sign of her handsome husband yet) and the Canada geese are appearing on the farm ponds across the road.

Any projects with the children this week?
My husband helped my daughter rearrange and clean out her room, does that count? :) Hoping to get some Indian corn in to soak so the kids can string it for necklaces or garlands, but have to figure out how to get it off the cob first!

Any quotations to share, some words to inspire?
"The true way to live is to enjoy every moment as it passes, and surely it is in the everyday things around us that the beauty of life lies."  ~ Laura Ingalls Wilder

***

Thank you for sharing your thoughts, Helena! I'd love to hear how that Indian corn activity turns out!
 
 
And now let's hear from Amy's Tea Journal ... :)

Hi Dawn,

What refreshments are you enjoying this week?
For tea I'm drinking Republic of Tea's Cranberry Ginger tea - tangy and delicious!

What are you reading this week?

I'm reading a seasonal mystery: November Hunt by Jess Lourey. Her seasonal series is hilarious! Also, my stash of old November "Victoria's"

What are you listening to this week?

Thanksgiving channel on Pandora!

What are you working on this week?

I'm a full-time librarian so am prepping Thanksgiving a little bit at a time during the week (tonight: defrosting the turkey breast, defrosting the cranberries, and hard boiling eggs). Went to Trader Joe's yesterday for cranberry chevre and four other types of cheese for Thanksgiving. I'm a DAR member, so sent off a box of necessities for a VA hospital my DAR chapter is sponsoring.

What's happening in nature this week?

I work on a leafy college campus and when I leave work at night the air is so deliciously cold and smells like autumn. The drive into work is lovely too - often very foggy and cool.

***

Thank you for sharing, Amy! You've inspired me to dig out some of my own Victoria collection - they're pretty much perfect "nest" reading in my mind. :)

Friends, I hope you enjoyed this collection of "tea & nest" notes! I love sharing our thoughts on the season and how we find time to nourish ourselves - in simple, meaningful ways. I look forward to talking more tomorrow as we begin our Advent Tea Journal ... I will be "here" around 4:00, but you are welcome to join me whenever! I'd love to hear about your nest ... I hope it's a cozy spot where we can ponder Advent, and take a break from the world! I'll share my own tea and notes, and pics of course! Our discussion theme will be giving "gifts from the heart" and I look forward to brainstorming with you on that! (And I might have another nest "assignment" for you, too!)

I hope you'll join me this week ...

Tea Journal details can be found here, and please send me your thoughts/pics/links here:

bysunandcandle AT gmail DOT com

I look forward to hearing from you!

Enjoy the rest of your Sunday, my friends ... see you here again very soon!


❄ Snowflakes for St. Agnes ❄

Tuesday was the Feast of St. Agnes, a day that is special to my family, so on a frigid "snow day" at home, we took some time for a craft and some cake. May I share a few pictures from our day?

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This is my Crackerjack (who is just getting over a wicked cold), sketching an image of St. Agnes for the craft. We usually honor this feast day with some kind of snowflake-themed craft and/or treat, because snowflakes are known as "St. Agnes' Flowers."

After CJ finished his sketch, we cut it to fit the inside of a wooden snowflake ornament (leftover from Christmas). I added some sparkly "snow" (mod-podge + kosher salt) to the plain wood. (Still haven't found my acrylic paints and glitter!)

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  I think it came out quite nice just the same ... :)

And since cake is always a treat on a feast day, I set to work in the kitchen. It had been a while since we'd had cake ... I never did get around to making those Patriots cupcakes on Sunday ... for obvious reasons, lol.

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I chose to make an orange cake - honoring Our Lady of Altagracia who shares this feast day with St. Agnes and using up an old mix I had on the pantry shelf. For Saint Agnes, it's topped with a thick snow-cover: homemade buttercream frosting and natural snowflake sprinkles.

While we enjoyed some cake, I pulled this beautiful old Catholic dictionary from the liturgical shelf to show the boys ...

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It belonged to my dad growing up! Though I fear it's not in the best shape - the binding is loose and frayed - so we have to be quite careful with it. I plan to use this dictionary with Earlybird as part of his faith-at-home program. He was thrilled to learn it was once his Papa's.

:)

In the late afternoon, while Little Bear "chilled" in his happy little playspace ...

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I kicked back with a cup of (decaffeinated) tea ...

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Midwinter is a harsh time of year in some parts of the world ... it's cold (often very cold) and snowy/sleety/slippery or just generally hard to get out. Cabin fever is just around the corner it seems. So it's nice to indulge in some pastimes that make Winter more of a friend than a foe. Crafting, baking, enjoying books & tea ... looking a bit of joy in the every day, whatever that day might look like outside!

You know, I went back through my archives to refresh my memory on how we've celebrated St. Agnes Day before, and it was a little bittersweet. Simple crafts and seasonal "teatimes" were once a big part of our weekly routine, but with Bookworm off to college and Crackerjack in (homeschool) high school, our routine is quite different these days. I'm glad those times were a part of my boys' childhood, but I miss those days dearly ...

Happily I find I am still able to weave many simple seasonal activities into our family calendar ... and of course with our Little Bear, I will have plenty of chances to revisit those "younger" crafts and activities in the years coming up. In fact, I'm currently re-organizing my planner for these types of seasonal/liturgical things. I've been a little lazy on that front lately, and it feels good to get my ideas and materials in order. (You can be sure I'll be posting more on that subject just as soon as I have more to share!)

 

Well my friends, thanks so much for stopping by and letting me "ramble on" and reflect on my day. And thank you again - still! - for all the wonderful replies regarding Little Bear's sleeping habits ... I'll keep you all posted on that subject, too.

Many blessings on your day, and see you all here again very soon!


Crowned Cupcakes for Today's Feast

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This feast day snuck up on me! Autumn has flown by and suddenly it's the last Sunday on the Catholic calendar! (Next week we begin Advent, and with it, a new liturgical year.) It was during the homily today at Mass that I found myself envisioning a quick but easy treat in honor of Christ the King (today's feast). (Not to suggest Father's homily wasn't interesting, but sometimes I find myself getting little ideas as I listen and it's all I can do not to whip out the post-it note pad, lol.) So I mentally surveyed my craft supplies and thought of golden doilies which would make nice little crowns. It being Sunday - a day for family dinners and special desserts - I thought I would make some delicious cupcakes, and "crown" them with a little help from the kids.

Now, Bookworm and Bill were off very early to Cambridge today, where BW is participating in a neat program at MIT. They'll be there all day, so the younger boys and I ran a few errands and while we were out I picked up some gold cupcake liners and edible glitter.

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At home I dug out those aforementioned doilies and some colorful sequins (for "crown jewels"). Then I set in on making the cake ...

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Now for spontaneous baking like this, I usually rely on a chocolate package mix that's EB-friendly, but I really wanted to make white cupcakes. (The liturgical color for today's feast.) So I used the "tender white cake" recipe off the back of the King Arthur Cake Flour box and though it's a little more work, it makes such a wonderful cake! It uses both vanilla and almond flavoring and the texture is so light and tender ... and the cakes bake up nice and golden:

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So while the cupcakes cooled, I set the boys to work on the crowns. I gave them each some doilies, scissors, glue sticks and sequins and let them have at it.

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(Note Crackerjack's divided attention - he's watching Scooby Doo in the background, lol.)

So the boys cut the doilies in half and then swiped the smooth front with a glue stick. Then they pressed on the colorful sequins.

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Then we let them dry, and I headed back to the kitchen to whip up some buttercream frosting.

To decorate and assemble the cupcakes, I first spread some of the edible gold glitter (simple decorating sugar) on a plate:

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CJ dipped the frosted cupcake into the glitter:

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Then he placed a crown on top, bending it to shape, and gently nestling the edge of the crown into the frosting. (It held easily - no need for toothpicks.)

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Ta-da!

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Happy Feast Day!

I think these would be fun for any party that had to do with royalty - whether it be knights and castles or princesses (fairy or otherwise). They were so easy to make and I think the final result is pretty festive!

~~~~

Well, my friends, I hope you all had a nice weekend. Now, as for my next post, it will be "cranberries" for certain! I know I keep promising that post - and truly, I have it all written - but I was so pleased with today's last minute project I just had to share it!

So I hope you all have a nice night ... Bill and Bookworm just got home, so I'm off to hear all about their adventures. (And start supper!)

Take care, and as always, thanks so much for stopping by ... I'll be back here again very soon!

:)


Devil's Food Cupcakes and Blackberry Punch ...

It must be Michaelmas!

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And a very happy Michaelmas to all!

We started our celebrating a little early this year ~ we had some dear friends over for a visit yesterday afternoon, and so, in honor of the feast day upon us, I made up some sweet, symbolic treats.

The "devil's food" cupcakes are topped with buttercream frosting and pierced by colorful cocktail swords. (Miniature replicas of Michael's own valiant weapon.) At the top of the tier I placed an image of the archangel himself (something I found online and printed out on cardstock), and at the very bottom of the arrangement, lurking beneath, you see one of our (many) dragon toys. 

Then I mixed up some blackberry punch ...

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This is simply an Ocean Spray 100% juice blend (cranberry-blackberry-blueberry), mixed with ice, fresh blackberries and a splash of club soda. It was very refreshing on this warm autumn day!

If you're familiar with the legend of St. Michael, then you know blackberries are no longer fit for consumption after his feast day. And this would be because the devil, as he was cast out of heaven (at the hands of St. Michael), landed in a thorny blackberry patch. He spat upon the berries, thereby poisoning them for the rest of the harvest year.

My boys get such a kick out of this feast day! They always have and I hope in some way they always do. :)

Later today Earlybird and I will make a small Michaelmas lantern ...

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We've made lots of lanterns through the years - some made from glass, some from paper, some from tin. Some were quick and easy - some were more ornate. Well this time our lantern will be very child-friendly. I found this little plastic "paint bucket" at the craft store. (It was near the wedding paraphernalia.) Today we will cover it with a thin layer of glue and some torn bits of colorful tissue paper. Once dry, and as the light fades from the day, we will pop in a battery-operated tea light and place it in a window to shine.

Simple, seasonal fun.

:)

Have a great Thursday, my friends ... see you again sometime soon!


Dear Winter ...

Weatherforecast

Enough already, all right?

I know I have no right to ask that. This is January after all ... and this IS what Winter does in New England at this time of year. But the snow and the cold have been relentless lately!

So yes, as you can see from forecast above, we're getting several inches MORE snow today ... on top of all the snow we already have ... and then there will be FRIGID temperatures after that ... and let's not even discuss the "major storm" cooking for next week!

Sigh.

Now, dear readers, you know I love snow, but this weather is really cramping our style! We had to cancel our January Nature Club meeting - the day was just too cold and conditions too icy for a winter walk in the woods. And we also had to postpone our "Greek Mythology Night" to next week, because of poor travel conditions and inadequate parking on our street. (The plows will surely be busy this evening.)

Grumble. Grumble.

OK, I'm done complaining. It's Friday, after all. We're healthy and happy and (thanks to telecommuting) we'll all be home together today. And in addition to it being Squirrel Appreciation Day (those little guys will be hard at work keeping warm and full today!), it also happens to be the feast of St. Agnes, a saint near and dear to our hearts.

If you're interested in celebrating this feast day, here are a couple of posts from my past describing the crafts we made and snacks we ate in honor of St. Agnes:

2008

2009

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Before I go, l'd like to wish a very happy birthday to my friend Penny in Vt, a longtime reader and one of my most frequent commenters. Penny, my dear, did you "order" birthday snow, too? ;) Either way, I hope you have a lovely day!

Thanks so much for stopping by this morning, everyone! Keep warm and safe wherever you are ... we'll do the same here. :)

See you all again very soon ...


Doves for Sunday

I was sifting through my (ridiculously messy) craft bins earlier today and found my dove-shaped cookie cutter. Right after I mentally added "clean out craft bins" to my weekend to-do list, I remembered making these cookies ...

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... and this craft ...

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... three years ago.

I then realized these projects go along with this Sunday's Mass. (Has it really been 3 years?!)

You could also use the cutter to make dove shapes out of toast and spread them with cream cheese (a snipped raisin or mini chocolate chip could serve for an eye). And the hanging paper doves would make pretty Valentine's decorations. :)

I'll pop back on sometime over the weekend - I've got lots of puttering to do and projects to work on. And of course there's a Pats game to watch on Sunday afternoon - though I'm sending Bill to my folks' house so he can watch the big game in relative peace with my dad. ;)

So have a great weekend, my friends! I'll be seeing you all again very soon!


Bringing in the May ~

“The moon shines bright and stars give light,Lilyofthevalleyarrangement_3

A little before the day

So God bless you all, both great and small

And send you a joyful May.”

(From a traditional English May carol)

**************************************

I'm still working on that May Themes & Plans post, but since May Day (and Ascension Day!) is upon us, I thought I'd share a few of our plans for today. :)

In the backyard ...

Look for dandelion puffs to blow (if there are any left after last night's frost!). Blow bubbles up into the sky. (I'll be mixing up a homemade solution, using a lavender-scented dishwashing detergent as the base.) Climb the play "tower" and watch the clouds passing by. Look for the corners of our property - and beat the bounds* in old English tradition. *I believe willow was traditional, but we'll use pruned forsythia branches. ;) In the northwest corner, I'll spend a little time tidying up the Mary garden.

At the craft table ...

Earlybird will do some blue, purple and white finger painting. The older boys will work on a small map of our backyard; on it they will mark the boundaries and note where we've found neat things so far this spring (like big worms, buried acorns and a mysterious tunnel). I'll be making a tin can May basket to set on our nature table (wrapping it with spring-shaded yarn). Then we'll fill it with whatever is blooming including branches of the Ascension flower (lilacs).

For teatime ...

I'll whip up some little meringue "cloud" cookies, and serve them with a fruity "May Punch." We'll read our Magnifikid for this Sunday's Mass, and the boys will start learning a new Marian prayer. I'll move the statue of Our Lady to our mantel and place some (silk) flowering vines around it.

And there's our day in a nutshell! I'll be back soon with more themes and plans ... but for now, a very Happy May, and many Blessings to you!


Tea & a Craft (& Supper!) for the Holy Father

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To honor his birthday (today) and his visit to our country (this week)!

We began shortly after lunchtime - after I hauled called the boys inside from the yard (it's glorious here today!) - with some apple strudel and an easy coloring craft ...

But, a word or two first about the strudel - I had hoped to make some homemade, in honor of our Pope's German heritage, but it just wasn't to be. Oh, I had plenty of apples and raisins on hand ... but, try as I might, the extra time to scratch-bake never materialized. (Fancy that.) So instead I had Bill pick up some strudel at the grocery store on his way home from work last night - and technically, it was a danish, but that's ok. :)

While the boys munched, I showed them several interesting and child-friendly articles I'd saved about the Holy Father and his visit to the U.S. They especially liked the ones that discussed his favorite things and what he was like as a "regular person."

We found where Bavaria was on the world map ~

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And placed a foam sticker there to remind us.

The gorgeous weather was distracting beckoning us, so we moved the "craft part" of the day to the deck. I had found a neat article in the Sunday Globe that discussed Pope Benedict's coat-of-arms in detail. I displayed it for the boys and gave them sheets to color as they wished. In true form, Bookworm colored it to match the picture as closely as possible, while Crackerjack used whatever shades struck his fancy. Earlybird was still eating lunch, and couldn't be lured from his mac-and-cheese to participate. :)

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Inside we hung up the final products ~

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And I read a lovely book aloud to the boys. I bought Joseph and Chico some time back, with this week specifically in mind. Oh, what a nice story! We are proud owners of 3 (once 5) cats, so the boys were thrilled to learn their Pope was a cat lover!   

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This next photo doesn't really fit here, but I thought it looked so nice, I stuck it in anyway. ;) This is the tablecloth I wanted to use for our dinner tonight - it needed airing, so it spent the day hanging out in the spring sunshine.

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And before we knew it, it was time for supper ...

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Bill brought home some German wine (love the label!), and some Orange Fanta for the boys (we read it was the Pope's favorite!) ...

And I cooked up a German(ish)-themed meal ~

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Sausage with apples, potatoes and peppers roasted in a cider dressing, pumpernickel bread and applesauce. Very yummy, I must say ...

But not quite as yummy as the Black Forest cake!

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This afternoon I Tivo'd (real word, yes?) a special on EWTN, called Joseph Ratzinger: A Pope from Germany. My thought was that we'd sit down atogether to watch it tonight after supper. But it will have to wait for tomorrow, because here we sit now, at 8 p.m. ~ and between all the sun and the fresh air today (and who am I kidding the enormous meal, lol) we are all feeling sleepy and ready for bed. In fact, Earlybird's already there!

So I'm off! But as always, thanks for stopping by and sharing in our day. I hope you all had a good one, too. :)


Cake and a Craft for The Annunciation

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To be perfectly honest, I was a bit tired after yesterday's shindig, but I still wanted to do something special with the boys for today's Feast, The Annunciation of the Lord, (technically, a Solemnity, but a day to rejoice nonetheless). On this day last year we brought roses (and, ahem, rocks) to a nearby Marian statue, but this year I was determined to stay in. Between the rain and the snow, it was downright unhospitable for even a brief outing, so while the flakes fell fast and furious, and the boys finished their math, I got started on the cake.

Now, you're probaby saying to yourself, "She baked a cake? Didn't she say they had a whole bunch of desserts leftover from yesterday's party?"

(Well yes I did ... and we did (still do) ... but nothing Earlybird can eat, and I wanted him to have something fresh and festive for today. Besides, I love to bake.)

Anyhoo. I had wanted to try making homemade angel food cake, which is a traditional food for today, but at the last minute I realized I don't own a tube pan! (How can that be??) I wasn't sure if a bundt pan would cut it, so instead, I reached for a lemon cake mix I had on the shelf. So easy, and I kind of liked how golden it came out. :)

And with all the time I saved using a box mix, I made up some lemon whipped cream with EB:

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(Picture by Bookworm.)

Then, I turned a Ziploc bag into a makeshift piping tube ...

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And got fancy with the whipped cream ... :)

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(More photos by my Bookworm.)

And we fished blueberries out of the fruit salad to place all around ...

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All that was needed was a pretty centerpiece - so I plucked a few leftover tulips (aka "Mary's Prayers") and voila ~

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A fun, yummy feast day treat!

As the boys ate, we read about the Angelus, and I showed them this famous painting. I also showed them the Daily Missal you see below; it has just come into my happy possession. It was printed in 1959 and belonged to my grandfather. (Thank you so much, Mum and Uncle George!)

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Here's the lovely page for The Annunciation:

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And then it was time to get our hands dirty!

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I read a suggestion in this lovely book to plant marigold seeds on this feast. (Marigold = Mary's Gold.) The boys have been itching to plant something, so a few dixie cups and some potting soil later, and we were good to go! :)

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Note the variety of Marigold = Crackerjack! Which of course, made his day. ;)

First we scooped the potting soil into the cups carefully:

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Next we fished out the seeds:

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And each of my boys prepared his own special cup:

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Bookworm added the water:

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And now the cups will sit in a window full of spring sun. (Once it returns!)

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And there you have it, our day in a (rather large, chatty) nutshell. (Though I left out the part about the flock of wild turkeys that passed through ... that caused some excitement around here!) I hope your day was a good one, too. Good night for now ~ I'll see you all sometime tomorrow.


Tea & a Craft for Palm Sunday

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But before I get to the craft - or the tea for that matter - I must show you a few pictures from our "recess" today. It wasn't very warm out, but we're just so in the spring mood these days, we couldn't help ourselves. Admittedly, there was not a lot of spring to be found, but we did spy, of all things, a spider (alive!):

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The boys inisisted I show you the spider, even though I felt it didn't really go with the whole tea-drinking, craft-making theme of my post. But I suppose this is a household of boys after all ... :)

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Earlybird and Crackerjack were mighty glad to get back in the saddle!

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While I headed in to make lunch, the boys filled a bowl with all kinds of treasures for the nature shelf ~ spruce cones and needles, bark, acorns and maple tree buds. They also found evidence of a skunk visit, and several small but deep burrows which must belong to either a mole or a chipmunk. (Or maybe something else? Any ideas?)

After lunch, it was time for our tea-and-a-craft; our focus this week, Palm Sunday.

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I saw a neat project in The Big Book of Catholic Customs and Traditions for Children's Faith Formation ~ a Palm Sunday banner made of green paper hand (or palm) prints. I thought this would make a nice decoration for the learning room this week.

Now, one of my fellas was a bit too squirmy to have his hand traced (I'm not naming names!) but he did acquiesce to having his palms photocopied, lol!

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After cutting out all the hands (a tricky task which fell upon me) we lined them up along a long length of green paper, a "spine" for our palm frond and taped them all down. Bookworm made a Hosanna sign, and then we hung up our "palm of palms" in the windows (top photo).

And for tea? Irish decaf with plenty of sugar and milk and a batch of freshly baked oatmeal date cookies. As in palm dates, of course. ;)

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As we munched, we looked over this week's Magnifikid and talked about the word Hosanna. I asked the boys if they recognized it (they did) and asked if they could name at which point it is said (or sung) during Mass (they could).

Our final plan for the afternoon was to run through their roles for the Passion Play this weekend, but a friend of Crackerjack's showed up on the doorstep so we put that off for a while. We still have a few things to tweak on their costumes, but I think they have their parts down pretty well. :)

Well, I'm going to wrap things up here now, as it's just T-20 minutes to Lost! (Is it true this is the last episode for awhile? That went fast.) Have a good night, everyone ~ I'll see you all sometime tomorrow. 


Tea & a Craft for the 5th Sunday in Lent

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Today's weather could not have cooperated better if I had asked it to. A dark gloomy morning gave way to a bright and brisk afternoon ~ just in time for our weekly tea-and-a-craft! So, after our lessons were all done (more or less) it was time to gather the boys 'round the table for a little snack, a quick craft and some chat about this Sunday's gospel.

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First thing first ~ I read aloud from our Magnifikid and then Bookworm read aloud the story of Lazarus from our Children's Bible. The boys were familiar with the story and recalled seeing it acted out at VBS last year.

This passage in particular stood out:

Jesus told her, "I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?" (John 11:25-26)

(Now this certainly gave us something to discuss!)

Once our conversation slowed, it was time for some refreshement, and this time our snack doubled as our craft! I had heard of resurrection cookies before, but in this month's issue of Take Out magazine, I noticed a brief mention of something called resurrection rolls. They sounded intriguing, so I looked them up online, and found further instructions here.

In addition to a can of refrigerated crescent rolls, these were the main ingredients:

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Cinnamon-sugar, melted butter and marshmallows; yesiree, the boys dove right in!

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Each marshmallow was first dipped in melted butter and then rolled in cinnamon-sugar, before getting wrapped up in a triangle of crescent dough:

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They baked at 400 degrees for 15 minutes.

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Now, I think the rolls are actually supposed to stay closed; ours burst open as they baked (oozing marshmallow all over my cookie sheet). By the time they had cooled, and were ready to show to the boys, they looked like little caves and were definitely empty inside.

(Note: Next time I will be sure to get the 10 ounce can of crescent dough instead of the 8, and I will be more careful about pinching the dough tightly closed over the marshmallows. I might even cut back a bit on the cinnamon measurement - the mixture was yummy but a bit pungent.)

Here's Bookworm showing you his roll:

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And here's Crackerjack's cracked open:

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This was quite easy and fun ~ a nice symbolic craft for the season. It would be easy to do this with a group of children at an Easter party, and I also think it would make a special family breakfast on Easter morn. Quite delicious with coffee or punch (and portable for those backyard egg hunts). You could set out all the ingredients the night before, so the rolls are ready to assemble early Sunday morning.

Before I go, I must show you the beautiful Hellebore I purchased at the grocery store last night. I have wanted one for so long! (Especially since Rebecca showed us hers two years ago!)

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The Hellebore is also called the Lenten Rose because it blooms right around Lent each year. An early bloomer is most welcome in the garden, especially up here in the northeast! I will do my best to tend my little "rose" until it warms up enough to plant it outside. (I have just the corner for it!) Sometime before I move it out though, I will have the boys sketch it for their field journals, as a sign of early spring.

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Well, now I'd best wrap up; I've kept you all long enough! It's 4:00 anyway ~ time to tidy and cook. On the menu tonight: turkey meatloaf, maple acorn squash, roasted potatoes and garlic breadsticks. Good hearty late winter fare. :)

I hope you had a wonderful Wednesday, and I hope to see you all again sometime tomorrow!


Tea & a Craft for The Chair of St. Peter

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For this week's tea & a craft, we focused on today's feast, The Chair of St. Peter. For "tea" we had hot milky cocoa in celebration of the snow (still falling fast and furious as I type) but no other treats were served. (We were all saving our "one sweet a day" for the cherry cobbler bubbling away in the crockpot!) We first read today's gospel, and then we read ahead for Sunday in our Magnifikid. And then, much to the boys surprise, I opened up my laptop ...

... for an online tour of St. Peter's Basilica!

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The boys were fascinated by this floorplan:

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We quickly found the Cathedra Petri on the map and opened its link:

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The image of The Holy Spirit, in stained glass above the Altar is so striking.

I then remembered we had a great picture of the Basilica in one of our Discoveries books - it happens to be a fold-out multi-page section.

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Next I pulled out a fun little paperback story, Lost in Peter's Tomb. Bookworm read this last year (and its sequel Break-in at the Basilica) but not Crackerjack. In fact, I had forgotten we had these books until just today! (You know, as much as I love to plan, half the time I'm making things up as we go, lol.)

Bookworm remembered a passage about the Chair of St. Peter in the book:

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"There's another picture of a dove at the end of the church," observes an excited Delaney, pointing toward the very end of the basilica.

"Is that a giant's chair?" Delaney asks, seeing what looks like a chair floating in gold and silver clouds beneath the dove. Now Delaney is sure giants live here.

"That is the very famous and sacred 'Chair of Peter' or Cathedra Petri in Latin," says the workman.

"Did Peter actually sit in that chair?" questions Riley. "It looks awfully big. How big was Peter?"

"No, he wasn't a giant. Just a normal-sized person. I don't think he ever actually sat in that chair," answers the workman. "It looks to be about ten feet tall; much too big for the average man to sit in. That big chair more importantly symbolizing that this is the place where the head of the Church belongs. However, a chair that Peter really did sit in is enclosed inside that big bronze chair."

Next we set about making our craft for the day, our own "stained glass" dove:

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I've shared this craft method before - it's a very common one, and a favorite of mine. Easy for the boys to do too, if I prepare things ahead. It's just bits of colorful tissue paper stuck onto clear contact paper, around a printed out image, and all set within a construction paper frame.

Our finished product:

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Which we added to our Lenten cross:

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So far we have a panel for St. Valentine, and now one for the Chair of Peter. Over the next four weeks we'll add the rest of the panels, colorful images representing special days of the season. Come Easter Sunday our cross will be filled with color and light!

Well, our day has now come to a close. The snow is still falling, and here we sit together, savoring these steaming bowls of cherry cobbler and watching a wonderful movie. A fitting choice for this time of year, as we long for the return of the spring. :)

Have a wonderful weekend, my friends!