Thoughtful Thursday Feed

Thoughtful Thursday ~ Living Joyfully with Books

Vintage books

"Reading should not be presented to children as a chore or duty. It should be offered to them as a precious gift."

~ Kate DiCamillo

So important is "atmosphere" when we encourage children to read ...  and not just to read, but to be readers! How do we, as busy (often overwhelmed) parents, do this when we ourselves might struggle with the concept? I adore reading, but the fact of the matter is, I find it a challenge to fit in these days. Partly because I'm pretty busy and partly because I don't always manage my time wisely. Hello Facebook, I'm looking at you! Also, I will admit, in this age of computers and sound bites, sometimes I have to re-train my mind to slow down and concentrate. Reading a book - as opposed to a magazine or web post - often demands greater focus, something I don't always have at my disposal. And yet, still ... I surround myself with books - of all sizes and shapes - and hope that the time (and brainpower) will present itself so that occasionally I might indulge. And that's how I see it - as an indulgence, a gift!

My children are young and have so much free time - as they should! I want them to relish this freedom and choose their passions wisely and cultivate reading habits that will stay with them the rest of their lives ...

So, I say we start with atmosphere. Here are a few of my ideas:

 ❤ Have your books all about - in tidy piles or pretty baskets if it makes you feel better (it does, me) - but the point is, show that books are important. However often they are opened, they deserve to be part of the family circle. I like to set them up in displays, even - especially picture books that tie in with a current season or subject.

❤ Make trips to the library - with and without the children - and get involved at the your local branch! Participate in talks or clubs or perhaps volunteer when you can to offer help where they need it.

❤ Talk about the books you're reading or long to read, and peruse reviews in the Sunday paper. I'm forever clipping (and pinning) books I'd like to catch up with someday. Also, I just subscribed to a really neat service called "Wowbrary" which sends me a list of new releases at my library each week.

❤ Now, it goes without saying that an occasional trip to the bookstore is a real treat for the whole family - especially when a bit of pin money has been put aside for the occasion. We have a Barnes & Noble not far from here and I love to take the boys a few times a year - usually after birthdays or holidays when they've received gift cards. We splurge on a special coffee and bakery treat and just soak in all the mutual book adoration around us.

❤ It's nice to have a special time of day perhaps just before or after supper, when everyone brings what they're reading to a common area to just read together. This very often coincides with tea-time for me. Nothing says let's read! to a toddler like a mama sitting down with hot tea ;) This might not be possible everyday, but perhaps once a week can be managed? What afternoons/evenings are quiet for your family? I'm thinking of setting up a dedicated puzzle/game table in our library ... because quiet pastimes like this make a nice complement to reading.

❤ If you have a true TON of books (like we do), cycle titles in and out of circulation from time to time. It's amazing how interesting a long-stored book looks upon its return to the family shelves! You could set up a "pretend" library with a homemade library card system. You might punch "borrowing" cards and offer rewards for so many books read, while reviews (which earn extra points, natch) can be kept in a notebook with foil stars. And of course, it goes without saying, as soon as the children are "of age" a very big deal should be made about getting that first library card! We even made Earlybird a special felt pouch for his own many years ago.

❤ Subscribe to magazines and keep them somewhere easy to reach. I myself have QUITE the pile of periodicals stacked beside my reading chair, but I encourage the boys to choose a title or two of their own. Little Bear has a subscription to Babybug and Earlybird enjoys Highlights while the older boys - who used to love Legos and Star Wars - have moved on to Time and Entertainment Weekly. I have posted before about my own obsession with affinity for magazines!

❤ Take books with you in the car, to the beach or even the yard. I've laid a blanket right in the middle of the lawn and read aloud as if they were all sitting beside me and not just swinging on swings, or tossing balls or digging in the dirt. I know they can hear me - and they might even come close enough to listen, especially if I have snacks. :)

It's trendy these days to "simplify" but it's nearly impossible for me to declutter our books. We've been collecting them (one might say, amassing them) for many years and they've played such a big a part in our children's lives. And now that we have our Little Bear, why, it makes no sense whatsoever to start culling this vast collection! We'll need ALL those books again - I'm sure of it! (Or that's what I told Bill who is, in this case anyway, definitely more "on trend" than I.) But boy, am I rubbing my hands over the favorites we'll get to revisit ...

I do try, however, to use the library as much as possible because it does cut down on the volume of books filling our house and also, of course, it saves us money. As a homeschooler, the inter-library loan system is a blessing! I make use of it each week and I have been told, we are our library's best customers ... ;)

Well, we're preparing for our weekly trip to the library just now, in fact - I'm rounding up books and videos etc. and adding them to the big tote in the foyer.

Tote bag of books in foyer 2

We don't have a set day for our library run, but our library bag stays packed with things to return and I keep an eye on due dates. It's fun just to browse the library of course, but sometimes give the boys an "assignment" to find a particular type of book. For instance, I asked Crackerjack to pick out a picture book he'd like to read aloud to Little Bear, and I asked Earlybird to take out a book that is not about planets. ;) I myself am going to pick up the selection for next month's book group, and ask how long Bill's request will take to come in. And on the way to and from - as whenever we get in our car - we'll listen to our current read-aloud which is a perfect pick for this time of year! When we're deep in winter but longing for spring ...

So, how about a little conversation about how we store and organize our books? I think that will best be saved for a separate post, but it is something I'd very much like to talk about. Would you be wiling to share your thoughts (and perhaps pictures) of how you live with books at your home? I'll be taking pictures myself and we'll throw a little book party in a week or two. Does that sound like fun? :)

But, while we're on the subject of books, I'd like to address one of the pictures in yesterday's post ... I left a few of you wondering!

One womans year 5

The book I am currently reading - a chapter every night before I go to bed - is called, One Woman's Year and oh, is this book just my cup of tea! Just the kind of book I wish I had (or maybe could) write myself.

One womans year 2

The funny thing is - I bought this last June and didn't get around to reading it till just now! (See first paragraph of this post - its all about finding the time!) OWY was written in 1953 by an English wife and mother recounting her domestic "observations" throughout the months of the year. Every month has its best and least liked chore, a local excursion, a recipe or two, and an anthology, which is to say, a selection of fine reading. Here are a few pictures to give you a better idea:

One womans year 9

One womans year 6

One womans year 7

One womans year 3

The illustrations, as you can see, are lovely and Mrs. Currey's sense of dry, Birtish humor is just wonderful! I don't know how to suggest finding a copy - they are quite expensive through Amazon it appears - but perhaps try your local library or look (and ask) around at vintage bookshops or maybe try good ol' Google. In fact, it was while trying out that last option myself that I found a very nice article about the book published in the Yorkshire Post last year: "Diary of a 1950s Housewife."

Well my friends, I have truly kept you here long enough, so I will wrap up now and thank you very kindly for stopping by and reading. Please leave a comment if you have some thoughts on sharing the joy of books with your family, and keep in mind my upcoming post about book storage and organization! I would love to make it a joint effort, so as always, I am hoping for emails and photos!

You may send me correspondence at:

bysunandcandle AT gmail DOT com

Have a nice evening, everyone ... and I will see you all here again very soon!

Thoughtful Thursday ~ Planning

Good plan today quote

Happy Thursday, my friends!

I thought I'd share this "thoughtful" quote with you all today ... I really appreciate this sentiment, because goodness knows, I can get a bit obsessed with plans - and what I imagine to be THE perfect plan, which is undoubtedly, out there, somewhere, maybe just beyond my grasp ...

So I wrote this quote on the first page of my 2016 planner, and I hope it reminds me to just get on with things - today, not tomorrow! - and not worry so much if the plan/planner isn't perfect. It's more important to just get started and do what we can, while we can!

Not that there's anything wrong with dreaming about that elusive "someday" plan/planner ... right?


But speaking of plans and planners -  my own homemade 2016 planner is finally just about done and I am so relieved! It took a good long while to draw out each weekly spread by hand ... 52 weeks, plus seasonal spreads and special planning sections ... and there was probably an easier way to do it, but I didn't take the time to think too much about it - I just did it! I used quiet sitting times (nap times, mostly) to work with my pencil and ruler and Sharpie accent pens ... and now I'm just going back through the individual weeks and adding in as much information as I can. I am really loving how it looks and in just a couple of days I will post a full tour! :)

Now, I also wanted to mention another project I've been working on, and about which I am quite excited! I began designing a set of planning sheets late last year with a different end-result in mind (something spiral-bound) but have since decided they would be great to use with my weekly file folders ...

Planning sheet corner

I have chosen colors to complement the seasons, and the grid is tailored for home, garden, crafts and lessons planning. In the corner of each page is a small bit of vintage clipart I found on Pinterest with a seasonal "suggestion" for the week. I am stapling these sheets to my file folders (home/garden up front and lesson planning inside) and this seems to be working well so far!

(So said in the SECOND week of the year, lol!) 

Anyhoo! What I also wanted to say is that I think I have figured out how to save these planning sheets as PDF links and I would like to share them here at my blog! So, if you are interested, you should be able to print out these sheets for your own personal use - whether you use file folders, or not.

So please give me a few more days and I should be able to put up a post with my Deep Winter (Jan-Feb) planning sheets! I will also describe how I'm using them along with my folders (so far).


Well, my friends ~ I'll be off for now, but I do thank you for stopping by and I hope you'll swing by again when you have time. I will be back to chat more very soon!

Thoughtful Thursday ~ Wonder

O and butterfly 1

"If a child is to keep his inborn sense of wonder, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement, and mystery of the world we live in."

(Rachel Carson)

We released our last Monarch butterfly the other day, and this one, unlike the others, did not shoot off straight into the sky ... but rather lingered for a bit in our yard! Delighting us all - Little Bear most of all - as it flitted around us, stopping at this flower and that. 

O and butterfly 6

He seemed to enjoy the goldenrod very much!

Good Thursday morning, my friends! I was so excited to share that top photo with you all - isn't it sweet? I think it might be one of my all-time favorite pictures of Little Bear ... he really was quite enthralled with the whole butterfly business. He loves nature and is never happier than when he is trucking around the yard - usually with his little red wheelbarrow, and his yellow bucket hat on his head - and just stopping to look at stuff or add things to his 'barrow. We are so fortunate to live in a world filled with so many wonders ... and blessed are we who can share it with children. They remind us to stop, look ... and wonder. :)

Well, while we are on the subject of butterflies, I wanted to mention something important about Monarchs - brought to my attention recently by Michelle M. As many of you I'm sure realize, Monarchs are a threatened species; their numbers are rapidly dwindling. Climate change, pollution, loss of habitat and rampant (irresponsible) pesticide use all contribute to this calamity, but as Michelle has informed me, using butterfly "kits" to raise Monarchs might also be adding to the issue ...

If I may quote her here, as she stated this so well:

"But the problem is these kit butterflies don't have the genetic diversity that wild populations have and some scientists are very fearful that this may weaken the general population as more and more of these kit-raised monarchs are released. They may be less resistant to disease. Plus it takes many generations to complete the journey from Mexico to New England...who knows where these Monarchs' great grandchildren will think they are really from.

I truly truly don't want to rain on your parade, since raising Monarchs has been one of the top joys of my life. But if at all possible, I urge you to look for caterpillars in your own back yard or close by area and raise those on NATIVE milkweed local to your area, again, not just any milkweed from a nursery or seed packet. Perhaps you would consider amending your blog to not recommend kits?"

Michelle, I thank you, honestly, for bringing up this important information - you are certainly not raining on my parade, but only adding important depth and discernment! Learning about nature is vital as is increasing our respect for it. Admiring nature is a great first step ... but we also must seek to understand it, and foster it as best we can ... goodness knows it can use all the help it can get!

I will now be sure to look for caterpillars locally, hopefully in our own yard. (Our friend who supplied us with these beautiful butterflies lives in the next town over and she has plenty of native milkweed in her yard.) We do have milkweed growing naturally on our road, and I hope to help it spread its seed this fall. (This will work nicely with our "autumn seeds" theme this week!) And next year we will keep our eyes peeled for more milkweed, as well as eggs and caterpillars!

Here is a link to learn more: Rearing Monarchs Responsibly

 My friends, I must wrap up now but I hope you all are enjoying your week! Another quick note before I go - this one about email. I'm still having issues with "freeing space" on my laptop, so I'm "doing email" from my phone for the time being - which is nearly impossible, lol! (I hate typing on that tiny keyboard!) That said, I am also changing my email very soon ... from now on, please send any blog-related email to this address:

bysunandcandle AT gmail DOT com

(Friends and family, my personal email will stay the same - just substitute "gmail" for "comcast.")

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

Thoughtful Thursday: August Gardens

August garden 1

"There is no lack of produce in August gardens, the best of which is saved for the fairs and reunions. Jars of golden mustard pickles and crisp green cucumber slices wait in rows in the cool cellar. String beans and corn relish are counted by the dozens of jars. Jams and jellies in sparkling colors await such special occasions. Herbs are hanging from the rafters in the warm, dry shed, soon to be pulverized for winter's use, but green herbs are plentiful in the garden for fresh salads: lettuce, parsley, tarragon and chives, savory, thyme and chervil. There is no lack of garden stuff for family reunions, no indeed. Even the tomatoes are ripe, the better to flavor a casserole of summer vegetables."

From The New England Butt'ry Shelf Almanac by Mary Mason Campbell (illustrated by Tasha Tudor) - one of my FAVORITE resources for seasonal planning. I have all those pulled out right now, in a lovely stack in my workspace ... :)

Speaking of tomatoes and casseroles of summer vegetables - here's a recipe I pinned this morning and can't wait to try ... sounds delicious! :)

And here's a bit more from the August chapter, if I may share ...

"Summer falters. Mornings taste of autumn; evenings close in earlier, quietly, no longer filled with melodies of garden birds. Only the thrush may still be heard singing, or a robin calling. A cricket chirps at the door-rock and cicadas forecast first frost ("six weeks from the first song of the cicada"). Swallows gather on telephone wires and sweep through the late summer air to gather such feasts as they may. Elderberries and blueberries are dead ripe. Goldenrod lifts its fringed blossoms over the stone walls. Butterflies hover over the hollows and ditches where joe-pye weed blooms in soft purple drifts. In years gone by, to cure fevers tea was made from joe-pye weed and its sister plant, the white boneset. In the woods' damp shady places, Indian pipe rises in its ghostly white and we stoop to examine it in wonder and delight ... "

(Remember when I showed you our Indian Pipe growing by the mailbox?)


Well my friends, I hope you are all having a nice week. It's flying by is it not? Thursday already ... I am taking pictures right this minute (or in just a few) of my daybook's Thursday-Friday page so I can share how I'm using it. Really having fun setting up my lesson planner for the new year, too ... there's so much promise at this time of year!

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

*image from Let's Grow a Garden by Gyo Fujikawa

Thoughtful Thursday ... Nature Study

Butterfly on coneflowers 1

Butterfly on coneflower 2

Butterfly on coneflower 3

 "But it's not enough to merely exist," said the butterfly, "one must have sunshine, freedom and a little flower."

(Hans Christian Anderson)

I love how easy nature study can be ... especially in midsummer, when life all around us is bursting with color, sound and smell!

Over the past few days we've been noticing a pretty orange butterfly visiting our herb patch. We can see this spot easily from our kitchen window, along with several bird feeders and the woodsy woods beyond. It's a view I never tire of - and I'm grateful for it each time we sit at the table. Well, while I was watering my pots yesterday, I saw this handsome fella again - perched on a coneflower without a care in the world - and hastily drew the phone from my pocket to snap some pictures. Back inside I showed the family my photos and we started to discuss what kind of butterfly it could be ... not a Monarch surely, but a familiar orange and brown/black ...

A quick google search later (our field guide of choice these days) and a match was found - or so we think:

A Great Spangled Fritillary

It's our best guess!

I made a note in my daily domestic journal - which sits open on the kitchen counter - re ~ the name of the butterfly and the flower it was enjoying. Also under yesterday's date, I had notes about the weather (beautiful summer day! 80s and low humidity at last! brief showers late afternoon ...).  Looking back over those notes I see I also wrote about the blueberry breads I made - and the rhubarb we harvested (tons, because that plant is going crazy) and the grasshoppers that are active along the stone wall ...

Doesn't that all sound so summery ... ? :)

So it wasn't any major project or investigation - in fact, the boys were only marginally aware of my "butterfly moment" ... but they were aware. Nature, as always, was happening around them. It does its thing all the time, whether we pay it attention or not. And, I think, (hope), they couldn't help but absorb some of my curiosity and delight over this simple event. They've watched me embrace life this way this since they were little ...

Another time perhaps I would have stretched this experience into a more involved project ... a big butterfly study or craft or report. A formal journal entry with a poem or quote (like the one above) ... or even a butterfly walk through a local Audubon locale. And all those things are fantastic activities - but they do come with some planning and effort. I love planning those types of things, but honestly, what makes up the the bulk of our family's nature study is simply just being aware - tuning into the elements, the seasons, even our own senses. Remembering where we are in the year, and how it shapes our day. Becoming familiar with the flora and fauna in our own little corner of the world - the trees and plants and birds and bugs and the small furry things that run across our yard. I think that kind of "accidental" learning is equally meaningful when compared to formal studies. The things we know in our bones don't have to come come from books or documentaries or craft kits. They come from an awareness and understanding of the very world around us ... a kind of knowledge we carry with us wherever we go ... and however old we may be.

So whether a nature "event" is planned out and hands-on or simply exists in the background of our busy lives, I feel it matters. I think my boys - my computer-loving, sci-fi/fantasy, gamer boys - are growing up with a real feel for the seasons and an instinctive awareness of the nature around them. Sometimes we take the time to delve deeper, as we will do this academic year with organized outings and scheduled topics - but there will also be plenty of everyday, effortless moments ...

I'll make sure of it. :)

Meanwhile, as I mentioned previously, I am drafting a formal nature study program for the academic year ahead. It will involve multiple ages and abilities (toddler, special needs and high schooler) and it will follow an outline of monthly topics/habitats. I will be very happy to share my initial outline with you all here ... and I hope to have that for you (and myself!) sometime next month.

Well my friends, you all know I can go on and on when I get talking nature, but I'd best wrap up for now. I have a tired baby who's covered in dirt and grass and lunch stains and very much in need of a bath and a nap. He met a dragonfly this morning and was enthralled ... 

O with dragonfly

And his mama, naturally, was thrilled to watch that moment unfold ...

See you here again very soon!

Thoughtful Thursday ~ on Good Books

"We should read to give our souls a chance to luxuriate."

~ Henry Miller

Book clipart

What books feed your soul?

{Note: My previous post would not accept comments for some reason! Sorry about that ... I would love to hear about your favorite feel-good books if you have the time. As for me ... I'll recommend Mittenstrings for God and The Private World of Tasha Tudor, just off the top of my head.} 

Thoughtful Thursday: A Job and a Blessing!

KG sunflowers

We've been talking lately about mothers working at home - and all the different ways we work at home - so here's a great article that describes homeschooling as a full-time job:

Bottom line: As homescooling moms, we're working two jobs at home, not just one!

I always start off a week thinking - because I'll be at home more often than not and my time is mostly my own - that I'll be able to knock so many things off my "to-do" list. When in reality, I often struggle just to get the priorities done and I usually end the week adding more things to that list.

Anyhoo, just thought I'd share some nourishing "food for thought" for we homsechooling mamas ... let's not be hard on ourselves when we fall behind in our "keeping." Let's remember we're juggling a lot of plates above our heads.

Have a good Thursday, my friends!

Thoughtful Thursday ~ on Summer's Bounty

KG picking peaches 1

"If produce had a holiday, it would be August. All of August. There's just no better time to eat melons, corn, tomatoes, zucchini, peaches, and every other fruit and veggie you can pluck from your garden or pick up at a farmer's market ... Enjoy!"

(From Better Homes & Gardens, August 2012)

I was flipping through my BH&G, waiting for the oven timer to ring, when I came across this quote and I thought it quite lovely ... and so true! I was just thinking about our neighborhood farm stand and what might be fresh there this weekend ... I'm itching to make zucchini bread, and perhaps some peach butter.

How do you take advantage of the bountiful produce at this time of year? Do you preserve it in some way or simply enjoy it fresh while you can? Perhaps you do a little of both?

I haven't done much preserving myself, though some years I put up several jars of my grandmother's picalilli. That's a Labor Day family tradition I would very much like to honor this year! 

Anyhoo, while I'm here, two more things to share - a link and a recipe ...

From Simple Pleasures of the Garden by Susannah Seton, a recipe just perfect for this time of year:

Vegetable Gratin

2 1/2 tbsp. butter

2 tbsp. olive oil

1 medium onion

2 garlic cloves, chopped

1 medium-size green bell pepper, diced

8 smallish summer squashes (such as crookneck, pattypan, ronde de Nice, or zucchini), about 2 lbs. total, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

kernels from 2 ears of corn

Salt and pepper to taste

1/4 cup flour

1/2 cup cornmeal

4 tbsp. fresh basil or thyme, or a combination of both

2 eggs, beaten

1 cup lowfat milk

3 tbsp. freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a shallow gratin dish or other baking dish with 1/2 tbsp. of the butter. Place 1 tbsp. butter and the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the onions, garlic, and green pepper; saute over medium-high heat for 5 minutes.

Add the squash, corn, and salt and pepper; saute another 4 to 5 minutes, until the squash is nearly tender. Remove from heat and set aside.

Mix together the flour, cornmeal, basil and/or thyme. Stir in the eggs, milk and vegetables.

Spoon the mixture into the prepared dish and bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until a crust has formed and a knife inserted into the center comes out nearly clean. Dot with the remaining 1 tbsp. butter, sprinkle the cheese on top, and bake for 7 to 10 minutes longer, until the crust has browned slightly and the edges are bubbling and crispy. Serve hot or at room temperature. 

Serves 6.

Doesn't that sound delicious?!

I will certainly be making this sometime very soon ... I will pick the basil and thyme from my deck and I'll get the rest of the produce at the farmstand down the street. And I'll see what I can find for local milk, eggs, butter and cheese ... I can't wait to try it!


Also, here's a follow up to the local-food challenge article I posted about earlier this month:

"Shop-Local Challenge Trickier than I Thought"

{I'm really enjoying reading about her journey!}

Well, my friends, thanks for checking in and leaving your thoughts if you have a chance ... I hope you all have a pleasant night! 

See you here again very soon!

Thoughtful Thursday ~ on Food Choices

Here's an interesting article on food choices: "Good, Better, Best: Traditional Foods for Every Budget." (Thanks to my friend Donna for sharing the link!)

Oftentimes, the "best" food choices are the most expensive - sometimes too expensive for a typical family budget. How do we decide how and where to allocate our food dollars?

Are there certain things you buy "organic" on a regular basis?

KG apple

A little food for thought this Thursday morning ... hope your day's a good one!


A Thought for Thursday ...

"Be kinder than necessary, because everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle." (J.M. Barrie)

KG sunflowers

If you have a happy and healthy life, be grateful for it. If your time is your own, don't begrudge it. And don't assume everyone enjoys the same blessings you do.

We're all human, and often it's too easy to complain or judge. But most of us are just doing the best we can, even though sometimes our "best" falls far short of the mark. Can we find it in our hearts to accept and forgive?

Please don't think I'm preaching or pointing fingers here ... this is just something that's been weighing on me lately. And, believe me, I can use this reminder as much as anybody. Sometimes it's easy to be kind and sometimes ... not so much.

I'm guessing it's those challenging times when our kindness counts most.

My friends, I wish you all a good day. Thanks so much for stopping by ...

I'll see you here again very soon.


Thoughtful Thursday ...

On Domestic Management and Systems:

"Housekeeping of today takes its place among the professions. The modern woman plans, directs, and guides the work of the home. She grasps the responsibility of her position, puts forth all her energy and ability in directing the home life as a business. Housekeeping is becoming more and more a matter of science, and the laurels are bound to fall to the woman who conducts her household in a business-like way. Home-economics

Good home management includes the selection and care of all materials used in the home and the keeping of accurate household accounts. If one is ignorant of the right kind of food to eat, of the proper clothing to wear, of the best kind of sanitary conditions of one's house, of the laws of health, of simple pleasures and the ways of right living, how can one spend wisely the necessary money for these things in order to make the home a happy, healthful place?

One of the most important features of good home management is a system. Another is a budget."

From Home Economics: Vintage Advice and Practical Science for the 21st Century Household (a neat little book I'm enjoying right now). 


A few random notes while I'm here ...

* Saturday is National Strawberries and Cream Day! I know just what I'm baking and what I'm going to splurge on while I run my Saturday errands. :)

* The first week of May was National Herb Week - so I'm late (we were in Disney that week) - but I'm currently working on my herb list for the year. Our lavender bed is coming back nicely, but the myriad herb pots on our deck are in need of much attention. Speaking of herbs, "Herb of the Year" for 2011 is horseradish. I don't know much about horseradish other than it's a hot/spicy flavoring for dressings, sauces and mustard. Next year's HotY will be Rose. Now that will be a much easier herb to work with! ;)

* Tomorrow, the 20th, is Endangered Species Day. A fun family activity would be to choose a species to "adopt." The kids could spend time learning about the species - doing research, writing reports, making art projects, and brainstorming ways to help. An awareness/fundraising event (such as a bake sale) could be planned for collecting contributions. 

* Also, Memorial Day is right around the corner - and that means a trip to the nursery is in order! This weekend I plan to take stock of the yard and see what's what. Next weekend, weather willing, will be planting time.

Well, that's all for now. Have a great Thursday, my friends ... see you again very soon!


Thoughtful Thursday ~ Rachel Carson

"Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts." ~ Rachel Carson

What do you find beautiful in nature? 

Here are some of my favorite natural things (not surprisingly, many have been popular post subjects through the years):

a quiet snowfall

autumn leaves

dinnerplate dahlias


the full moon

red squirrels


orb weavers


an apple orchard in May

morning glories






tomatoes on the vine

deer in the woods


birch trees



Just reading this list makes me feel easy inside ~ and I'd imagine a small journal devoted to such simple, earthly pleasures would be both a comfort and joy. A page devoted to each item ~ with notes, photos and/or sketches. This might be a fun and meaningful project to do with the children - a unique and quite personal nature notebook for the year.

Happy Thursday, my friends!


Thoughtful Thursday: On Spring Cleaning


"Try it once before you rule it out. It is delightful to begin the new season with a home that's been scoured top to bottom, every drawer emptied, every piece of china washed, every bit of metal polished ... This helps you feel motivated to keep things as pleasant as they are after the spring cleaning. It also means you don't have a dozen big jobs hanging over your head, getting in the way of your free time." ~ Cheryl Mendelson, in Home Comforts: The Art and Science of Keeping House

Dear readers, what are your thoughts on Spring Cleaning? Is it something you do? On occasion or every year without fail? Is it something you look forward to ~ do you romanticize it as I do? What's your biggest obstacle to getting it done?

I like having a list of spring chores to work on throughout Lent. It feels good to work a little harder on making our home really shine for Easter Sunday. And deep household cleaning makes practical sense at this time of year, too - we can rake and sweep out of doors, and it's often mild enough to open the windows and air things out.

I thought I'd start a series of posts on the subject of Spring Cleaning. Maybe some more quotes from books, some chore lists and reports on our experiences in spring cleaning at home. Hopefully this might motivate me to actually get it done this year! 

Well, I hope you all had a lovely Thursday. Beautiful weather here today - sunny and 60 degrees! We had the windows open, the boys played in the yard, and the light lingered so nicely till well after suppertime.

Have a nice evening, everyone ... see you again sometime soon.


Thoughtful Thursday ...

A bird does not sing because it has an answer. It sings because it has a song. ~ Chinese Proverb

I went out to snip some forsythia branches this morning and found myself watching this lovely (and brave) little wren. He let me take a few pictures and then he flew off into the woods ... but I heard his sweet song a few moments later.
The whole thing took less than a minute, but it sure warmed my winter-weary heart.
Have a great Thursday, everyone!

Thoughtful Thursday ~ Appreciating Nature

"To find the universal elements enough; to find the air and the water exhilarating; to be refreshed by a morning walk or an evening saunter; to be thrilled by the stars at night; to be elated over a bird's nest or a wildflower in spring - these are some of the rewards of the simple life." ~ John Burroughs


The tufted titmouse, one of the friendliest (and most photogenic) birds to visit our feeders. 

(Have I mentioned how much I love my new camera?)


Hope you're all having a nice day!

Thoughtful Thursday ~ Our Vulnerable Hearts

"Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body."  ~ Elizabeth Stone

I've always liked this quote, but it's come to mean more to me as my boys grow and we experience more of life together. Watching our children go about their lives is like watching our own hearts out there, feeling and hoping and worrying and wondering. Life is an adventure, with expectations and surprises and all kinds of ups and downs. Today I was reminded just how vulnerable we are, we parents who dearly love our children ... 

We started our day at the doctor's office, where the older boys underwent their annual physicals. (Earlybird's visit is later this month; he stayed home with my mum this morning.) Everything went well during the exams - our pediatrician is fantastic, and both Bookworm and Crackerjack checked out A-OK. But before we could go, CJ had to get two vaccinations (ouch!) and both boys were sent down to the lab for routine bloodwork. 

So we found ourselves waiting at the - extraordinarily busy - lab, and as we waited, I asked Bookworm if he was ok going in alone or if he wanted me to come in with him. He assured me he was fine to go in alone, and so in he went after being called, and Crackerjack and I continued to wait.

But just a minute or two later, from inside the lab we heard someone shouting, "Help! Help! Help!" and techs came running from all over. For only a very brief second did I worry that the fuss might have anything to do with my son. There were plenty of people in there having blood drawn, and some were elderly and frail. But suddenly a woman came out to the waiting room to find "Bookworm's" mom. She asked me to please come with her, and to leave my younger son behind. I knew immediately something had happened to Bookworm and - oh my goodness, my friends - my heart just froze. I turned to Crackerjack (who was white as a sheet, eyes wide as saucers) and assured him everything was ok, that he should wait for me there and I would be right back.

When I entered the lab I immediately spotted Bookworm on the floor, passed out cold, with people all around him. He was slowly coming to but there was blood everywhere (or so it seemed to his frantic mother's eyes at the time). Apparently Bookworm, upon first seeing his blood being taken just up and fainted, falling out of the chair to the floor (jostling the needle and making the blood go everywhere). Friends, I should tell you right now that Bookworm is absolutely fine, but let me admit - it was an awful experience to see my boy on the floor like that.

Thankfully, he came to right away, though he was obviously disoriented and absolutely ashen. The lab techs (all wonderfully kind, helpful people) moved him to a reclining chair and got him some juice. I stayed with him and comforted him, worried over him - all the while thinking of my other son left behind in the waiting room who was most assuredly a nervous wreck - as much for himself as his brother!

And sure enough, when I went to get Crackerjack he was rather emotional, and he became even more so when I brought him in to where Bookworm was resting. I explained what had happened but stressed that his brother was all right - he just needed to rest. There was an awfully nice lady helping us out - she stayed with us and kept us entertained (distracted) with funny anecdotes and random questions for the kids. Soon enough, Bookworm was able to stand and was assisted out to the waiting room. I stayed with Crackerjack who was being prepped for his bloodwork. The poor kid was understandably a bit panicked, but thankfully - after insisting he NOT look at the needle in his arm - the tech was able to take his blood smoothly. 

Our drive home was quick - Bookworm sipped on his o.j., leaning his head against the open window along the way. Once home, he ended up getting sick a couple of times (fraying my maternal nerves a bit more) but after some rest and a few cool facecloths, he soon perked up and by lunchtime was feeling 100% fine.

So yes, this was quite a morning ... once things settled, I declared it a "sick day" - more a "mental health" day for me! - and we took the rest of the day off to recoup. And here we are now, in the late afternoon ... Bookworm's in the next room humming and snapping his fingers and talking to Crackerjack about some Lego creation they've built. The household energy is back - life feels balanced again.

But oh, my heart felt so fragile today - I felt it right there on the floor beside Bookworm, and it was beating so fast and with such fright. Like the quote at the top of my post says, it's not mine anymore - my heart now resides in my children - wherever they go and whatever they do. Whatever happens to them, it happens to me. Sure it might be safer kept tucked inside - but how much would it miss if it were? Well the answer is everything - it would miss everything. Every up and down, every bit of this great big adventure. It would miss it all.

I'm sorry I'm getting a little sappy here, it's just ... to know that what happened was an anomaly - not something harmful or life altering - is a great, big, blessed relief. But as I savor that relief, I am mindful of those parents whose children are injured, missing or seriously ill. And my heart breaks for those who have suffered the unimaginable loss of a child. I cannot possibly know their worry and grief, but I can offer them and their loved ones my heartfelt prayers.

I'll wrap up now but thank you, as always, for stopping by. My friends, hug your children extra tight tonight, and let them know your heart is always with them - everywhere and anywhere. In this life and the next. 

*Goodnight and God Bless*

Thoughtful Thursday

On my mind today:


From my page-a-day calendar:

"The thing that is so disconcerting about cleaning is that it just never gets done. As soon as we do it, we can start all over again."

This is true, and rather defeating, but I like the inspiring message just below:

"Each month this year, we will look at new options for approaching cleaning that may give us a new perspective. To fight cleaning takes a lot of energy. Perhaps everyone can be happier."

So this is what I'm mulling over this morning: how can I make housekeeping easier - on both the body and the mind? In both practice and perspective?

With the level of activity in our household, and the amount of time (as home learners) we spend at home - using dishes, creating clutter, trodding on floors - daily upkeep is a necessity. In short, cleaning is a big part of my day. 

Generally speaking, I'm pretty matter-of-fact about it. It has to be done, and it's part of what I do as a wife and a mom (I work at home, not outside of it). I enlist help where I can (growing children are more able every year). I try to follow routines that streamline my time spent on cleaning. And I'm also trying to pare down our stuff. Less stuff to clean means less time spent cleaning.

And keeping a good attitude about cleaning - about any task I take on - sets a good example for my children. I'm taking care of my responsibilities - and while I might not be whistling while I work - I'm at least getting it done without fuss and frustration.

At least on most days.

(It's easy to say all this, it's not always easy to live it!)

So I'm looking forward to reading these monthly "options" my calendar speaks of. It should be quite interesting ... in fact, I think I might skip some pages and read ahead. ;)

 How do you, dear readers, keep a good attitude about cleaning? I'd love to hear your thoughts. Do you have a book to recommend? A philosophy you follow?

Until next time - have a good Thursday, and thanks for stopping by! Don't forget it's National Chocolate Cake Day ...I just might be back with a food post later on.