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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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I love making crafts that bring natural materials together!

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

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

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

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... twig star ornaments!

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

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

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

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

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

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And this was my tray ...

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

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

From the inside flap:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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"Winter is dark,

Yet each little spark

Brightens the way

To Christmas Day.

Shine little light

And show us the way

To the bright light

Of Christmas Day"

~ H. St. John

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Ok, NOW - about that GIVEAWAY!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Tea @ Dawn's ~ Early Spring Ponderings + Free Printables!

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Hello my friends, and Happy March!

Well, despite its extra day, February really seemed to fly by - and here we are beginning a new season. In the liturgical world, Lent began last week and in the natural realm, we are just 18 days away from the start of spring. (This year the equinox falls on March 19th - the earliest since 1896!)

Most of us in the northern hemisphere know however, that winter absolutely loves to linger ... and spring is perpetually running late. And here in New England our weather has been a little messed up - in that, it's not actually been all that messy! It's been a fairly mild and practically storm-free winter, and case in point here is my local forecast for next week:

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Please excuse me while I knock on wood - because that forecast is astounding for the first week of March! (And the week after that looks just as mild, if perhaps a bit more showery.)

So ... "in like a lion?" Maybe not so much. And an early spring in the cards? Well, so said the groundhog, and if it comes to pass, I for one will be very pleased. Because the only thing I don't like about New England winters - and yes, I do like them! - is that most years they just don't know when to quit! By March we're often still knee-deep in snow and I am positively longing for even the subtlest signs of spring ...

Speaking of ...

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This was last week in my little Katie Daisy journal, which I'm currently using mostly for nature notes. I've been trying to jot down every little nuance we notice - and we notice a lot as you can see! There have been plenty of little signs of spring's approach - chipmunks scampering, owls hooting, skunks digging, woodpeckers drumming ... and holy moly, the red-winged blackbirds have returned to the marsh!

March is chock-full of interesting nature, and while we're on that topic - here are two resources I think you'll enjoy:

Wild Kids Magazine March 2020

And, this great nature calendar from The Massachusetts Audubon Society:

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(I use this every month with Little Bear to see how much we can observe!)

By the way - have you seen the preview of the 20-21 Katie Daisy planner cover? It premiered on Instagram this week, and I just love the blue floral design - with touches of my favorite yellow!

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(You can pre-order on Amazon, and I believe the publication date is May 8th.)

Ok moving on now - As you can see in my top picture, on this bright and brisk St. David's Day I am enjoying a cup of Barry's decaf black tea in my beloved Royal Tara china. (The set I inherited from my grandmother - the set I supped from as I learned to love tea as a child.)

Traditionally I like to make daffodil cake on this feast day, but that was just not in the cards today. (I might make it next weekend when Crackerjack is home for spring break.) Instead I nibbled on some Girl Scout cookies, a treat my husband picked up at the grocery store yesterday. (Though they're called "shortbread" cookies now, long-ago Girl Scout that I am, I prefer to call them by their original name, Trefoils!)

So as I enjoyed my tea by a sunny window, I set about editing my latest seasonal planning printables ...

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And here they are, fresh off the presses!

Early Spring Planning Packet

My 14-page booklet includes forms for organizing various seasonal events, brainstorming comforts and joys that are special to this unique time of year, tracking early spring phenology and exploring the March and April full moons. My planner is also peppered with seasonal quotes and vintage illustrations (found on Pinterest) and is free for your personal use!

Also, since Easter is just around the corner (6 weeks and counting!) here are some extra Easter planning sheets from my Printables archive:

Easter Prep Worksheet A

Easter Prep Worksheet B

Easter Sunday

Easter Memories

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I really have such fun assembling these planning sheets, and I hope you also find them fun - and useful!

(Next up will be Late Spring and I hope to have that posted by the end of April.)

Now for the liturgical season ... Lent is upon us! And I thought I'd share a couple of things we did (and did not do) this past week, in the spirit of "keeping things real." Because as usual, my best laid plans went seriously awry and I had to make a few "adjustments."

So you might remember in my last post, I had originally planned to take Little Bear to Mass on Ash Wednesday morning so we could receive ashes at church. Then we would swing by the craft store so we could pick up the supplies for creating a new and "glittery" ALLELUIA for "burying." (An old Catholic tradition.)

And what happened instead was ... well, not quite that.

After an extremely stressful morning with Earlybird (who is back to resisting school and having a very hard time with the side effects of a certain medication - which he is now weaning off of ) we just could not make it over to church. We didn't hav the time and I didn't have the wherewithal to be perfectly honest. As it was, I had to have EB's ABA therapist come to the house to help me get him ready - ride with us even - and we arrived at school quite a bit little later than usual.

Clearly Mass was not going to happen, so instead Little Bear and I made ashes at home. :-)

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To do this, we simply burned one of last year's palms and mixed the ashes with little holy water.  I found some instructions in The Catholic Home, a lovely book I've had on my liturgical shelf for ages. Then I said a little blessing and made the sign of the cross on Little Bear's forehead. Then I let him do the same to me.

It was a simple activity and perhaps a tad unconventional, but Little Bear seemed to enjoy the experience very much. And to be honest, I relished the quiet togetherness, and appreciated the reassuring comfort of home.

Then came the time to craft a new Alleluia ... but we couldn't dash over to the craft store because I needed to be near the phone (in case Earlybird's school called), so instead, I mined my craft stash to see what we could use ...

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Happily, I found some golden alphabet stickers - had to fudge a few, making an E out of a B, and I out of an F and some Ls out of various letters - and then cut some purple construction paper into a paper cross shape.

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We then piled the letters in the middle of the cross, and folded the ends in order to make a kind of pouch. (Thereby, "burying the Alleluia.")
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Last step - a butterfly to hold the pouch closed and then we placed it on our Lenten mantle. 

(Spoiler alert: I will use those letters to make a colorful banner for Easter morning!)

Moral of the story - life does not always unfold as originally planned. I was really looking forward to attending Ash Wednesday mass with Little Bear, but what was most important that morning was figuring out how to best help Earlybird find his calm and courage. Once I had EB safely at school, I next focused my attention on Little Bear - reassuring him all was well, while listening to his worries. He's at the age where he's maturing beyond his autistic brother and we're trying to help him see and accept that EB's behaviors do not always reflect what we know is in his heart.

So for our giving gesture that day, we talked about how Earlybird acts out when something makes him feel scared or sad. And right now he's a little scared of going to school, and he feels sad to leave home. Those feelings are hard for any child but especially overwhelming for a child with autism. Earlybird can sometimes act out in very inappropriate ways.

We also talked about how all this makes Little Bear feel - nervous he said, and a little mad and a little sad. Feelings very similar to his brother's. I tried to reassure him that no feelings are wrong, because nobody can help their feelings ... but we can help how we react to them. And children need tools for managing their reactions. Little Bear can talk to us and he can pray with us and he can let Earlybird know, in different ways, that we're always, always on his side.

So we decided to make a card to encourage EB:

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I told Little Bear I was proud of HIM for trying to see things from his brother's point of view, and for forgiving him when he says things that are not very nice or when he raises his voice or makes a mess because he's mad. Or when his behavior gets in the way of something we really wanted to do. Just like his oldest two brothers before him, Little Bear will have lots of opportunities to learn patience, tolerance, forgiveness ... and I hope to help him find ways to connect with a brother whom he likes a lot  - but sometimes resents for rather "unlikeable" behavior.

There is no easy fix, and this will be a lifelong journey - we can only take each day as it comes and take it as easy on each other (and ourselves) as well can.

Written in my journal later that day, a quote I came upon, a rather timely reminder ...

"Have patience with all things, but first of all with yourself." St. Francis de Sales

❀ How perfect and lovely is that? β€

Well my friends, I hope your new month is off to a good start, and I thank you as always, for stopping by my little "home"on the web. I am grateful for your time and attention and if I may ask for you to remember our Earlybird in your prayers and thoughts and send him a little positive, happy energy. And may I ask - how are you doing ... how is your family? Have you watched any good television lately? (Sanditon, anyone?) And how is the weather where you live?

Drop me a note if you have the time, and I'll be in touch again just as soon as I can. :-) 


Birdfeeding, St. Brigid & Cute Candlemas Crafts!

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Hello everyone, and Happy Sunday! I'm popping in here today to share a few things with you all on this cool and cloudy Candlemas afternoon ... but first, how is the weather where you are? And what did your groundhog have to say? I say "your groundhog," because as I understand it there are a few of them out there - weather-predicting rodents, I mean - though I believe Punxsatawny Phil is perhaps the most famous. And happily, according to Phil, we are to expect an early spring this year, a prediction that was seconded by the esteemed Ms. G of Massachusetts, the lady groundhog who lives in Lincoln, at Drumlin Farm Sanctuary. πŸ˜Š

Continuing with a weather folklore theme, we can also turn to a old lovely verse for a hint of what's to come ...

If Candlemas Day be fair and bright,
Winter will have another flight;
But if it be dark with clouds and rain,
Winter is gone, and will not come again.

Well, it just so happens it was indeed "dark with clouds and rain" here in Massachusetts today so knockonwood perhaps an early spring truly IS in the offing!

(p.s. This Wednesday is National Meteorologist Day, so why not write a letter to your favorite weather guy or gal and let them know you appreciate them? Maybe ask them if they put any stock in groundhog predictions or other ancient weather "wisdom?")

Alrighty then, on with our post ... and how about we all offer a warm welcome to February?! Because I'm not sure about you, but January seemed awfully long. Not terribly stormy or anything, but February is just that much closer to spring - aka the actual Equinox which occurs on March 19th this year. #markyourcalendar!

And did you remember to say rabbit-rabbit yesterday? I did - though unfortunately I had already muttered a few words after midnight, such as "go back to sleep," please make coffee," and "no, it's not time for breakfast." (That last one was to the cats.) I think it still counts if you say rabbit-rabbit at some point on the first day of the month, but maybe it brings extra good luck if you remember to say it before anything else! 

Anyhoo.😜

I wanted to share a link to an absolutely wonderful resource for anyone who loves nature and following the seasons of the year, but especially perhaps for those of us who enjoy sharing that passion with children:

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The WILD KIDS February issue is here!

So remember in my last Tea post I shared a picture of Little Bear with a chickadee perched in his hand? Well, I wrote up a short article about our experience hand-feeding wild birds last month and my friend Alicia Bayer (author of Wild Kids, as well as several books on foraging and other nature-related topics) invited me to share it in her magazine!

Here's a link to the issue, and a little bit about the magazine, from Alicia:

This month, we have information on how to feed wild birds by hand, instructions to make a simple shell or stone sundial, info abut aloe and mallow, and vintage wild bird collectible cards, along with the usual seasonal poems, botanical coloring pages, nature journal pages and more.

This issue is 22 pages and as always, it is ad-free and 100% free to read online or print out.

I was so honored to be asked to contribute to this amazing magazine, and I hope to do so again in the future!

Now as you all know, nature is a huge part of our family life - observing and caring for the flora and fauna around us, and paying attention to seasonal nuances as the years come and go. We weave those nuances into our home life, our homeschooling and even in the way we practice our Catholic faith. I've posted many times through the years about the strong connection I feel to creation and the how-s and why-s of our seasonal homeschooling, but for today I'd just like to share some of the things we got up to last week! 

So last week's theme was "frost and fire," which had us focusing on the deep cold of winter and the blessing of home and warmth. I like to assign this theme to the week leading up to Candlemas since we're usually making candles and talking about fire and fire safety. And a neat counterpoint to the cozy warmth within, is the frozen world without - because at this time of year frost (along with its cohorts ice and snow) is commonplace. All creation must adapt to withstand the cold - animals outside, and humans (mostly) inside. This is a wonderful theme to explore on so many levels!

We were also focusing on two special liturgical events this week: St. Brigid's Day and Candlemas (February 1st and 2nd, respectively) and there were a few fun holidays mixed in here and there - plus we were busier than usual to boot!

Here's a quick peek at my weekly lesson plan and agenda:

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I'm working on a post about how I've been using my homemade planner lately, so I'll get into this page a bit more deeply very soon. In the interest of time though, I will move on with our week!

First, there was National Chocolate Cake Day on Monday ...

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And we celebrated with cake, natch!

This cake was also baked in celebration of my mother-in-law's birthday. I took a video of the boys singing "Happy Birthday," and if you hop on over to my Instagram page you can not only hear them sing, but also read my behind-the-scenes story of why this was such a very special "milestone" moment for our Earlybird. πŸ’™

And then Wednesday brought National Carnation Day ...

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True story: I couldn't find white carnations at the store, so this is actually a picture from last year! I love this experiment and for some reason it always works really well for us, though I hear from many folks who can't get good results. I can only say we make sure to trim the stems very short and use very small containers (baby food jars work great). We use McCormick's food coloring (found at any grocery store) and we definitely don't skimp on the drops of coloring when doctoring the water!

Also on Wednesday, we were off to our Audubon class ...

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Little Bear and I are both enjoying this weekly nature program very much! This past week we learned about "Winter's Herbivores" - deer, mice, rabbits, and groundhogs, etc.. We discussed how these plant-eating animals survive the winter and then we looked for signs of their presence throughout the sanctuary by searching for scat, seed caches, as well as chewed and stripped bark.

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I am so grateful to the Massachusetts Audubon Society for offering these wonderful classes. It's been a fantastic experience for Little Bear (and his mama) and he's learning so much - and we're meeting some really nice folks, too!

On our way home from class, LB and I stopped at the library to pick up a few books about groundhogs:

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And on Thursday we took a field trip to the garden center, to buy a few things AND soak in all that humid soil-scented air!

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Little Bear picked out a small succulent (immediately named, "Planty") and I picked up some paperwhite bulbs. We also popped into the craft store on our way home and I couldn't resist grabbing a few supplies for a Lenten craft I have in mind.

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(Still working on the details, but I hope to have our Lenten plans put together - and ready to share - by mid-month.)

Thursday also happened to be National Croissant Day ...

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... and we just happened to have a can of crescent rolls in the fridge so we whipped up these tasty treats lickedy-split! (This is not the recipe we used, but pretty close.)

Friday is usually our home-all-day day, so sometimes I plan more involved crafting for this day. So on Friday we made candles for Candlemas!

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First we made our usual melted-beeswax/mason jar candle using up some beeswax bars I had on hand as well as a cute little reusable jar. (You can find a detailed post on our process for this craft here.) This little candle will play a quiet and hopeful part in our Lenten table ...

I also happened to have a candle-making kit on hand, so I pulled that out, figuring Little Bear would love it - unfortunately, however, the craft proved a little too fiddly for his little fingers!

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So I set to work rolling those beeswax sheets, while Little Bear was put in charge of the paperwhite bulbs!

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The bulbs now live in my kitchen window by day and on top of the fridge by night - since paperwhites are poisonous for kitties and my kitties are very naughty when it comes to nice things like plants.

But at the end of the day we had a nice bunch of candles ready for blessing!

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Saturday brought February 1st and I began setting up my new calendar ...

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(More on my calendar in my next post!)

We also had some lovely traditions for St. Brigid's Day to uphold ...

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We first hung our Brigid's Cross (made last year using dried grasses from our yard) on the front door ...

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And, in honor of St. Brigid, patroness of Ireland and dairy farmers, we made butter!

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We do this every year and honestly, it just never gets old! Nor does this wonderful picture book ...

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p.s. Speaking of this feast day, I recently realized I left a page out of my Deep Winter Planning Booklet and though I've since updated the PDF, here is the missing two-sided planning sheet itself: St. Brigid's Day & Candlemas PDF.

And so that brings us to today, when I was planning to make custards for Candlemas following my mother's lovely recipe using my own hen's loverly eggs, but two things kept me from that culinary endeavor:

One, I was nearly out of eggs and two, my hens aren't laying yet!

So instead, I made some buttermilk scones (from a mix!) and served it with lemon curd (from a jar!) as well as some freshly whipped cream. (That was from scratch.)

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And yes - they were as good as they look!

Another Candlemas tradition we enjoy is walking the yard and looking for signs of spring ...

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(Inspecting a caved-in groundhog burrow.)

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(Inspecting some left-behind seed shells.)

Not much to report, but it was nice to walk the property anyway now the snow has melted and there's the faintest whiff of spring in the air ...

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And by faint I really mean non-existent, but still - just look at that smile and those rosy little cheeks! Brigid's Day and Candlemas (or Imbolc as some folks call/called it) might have once been considered a time of changing seasons - winter's end, spring's debut - but that's just not the way things roll around here. Sometimes I forget we actually live in New England and not England proper - where February is quite milder and where one might actually expect to see things like tender little snowdrops underfoot. In these parts at the start of February we mostly just have actual snow underfoot ...

But we must not lose hope! There is always hope and there are alway signs ...

Such as the owl I heard calling just this morning!

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I wish I knew how to share a video here, but even after 14 years (come March) of blogging I simply have no idea how to manage such a technological feat - so I would encourage you if A. you're on Instagram and B. you are interested - to check out my IG Stories to hear what I heard at six a.m. this morning!

I had JUST been reading this article regarding the nesting behavior of owls and enjoying my third cup of coffee when I heard it ... a great horned owl calling from somewhere in our woods. According to the article (which included a link to an owl call soundbite), owls are among the first birds to begin laying nests in the late winter. So to my mind -  and groundhog's proclamations aside - here is solid, scientific evidence that spring truly is coming!

(If you can't get on Instagram, here is the link to the soundbite. My owl sounded EXACTLY like this.)

Back inside, a bit later on in the day I began working on a little handcraft I've had in mind for some time ...

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Little Bear has been fascinated lately by the concept of a dream catcher - Bookworm still has one he made when he was young hanging in his bedroom - and though I don't believe LB's actually plagued by any bad dreams, I decided to use up a bit of my felt stash and make him a sweet-dreams pillow.

I started with a small rectangle of felt, some sheep's wool and dried lavender from the summer garden. I had LB mix the herbs with the wool while I started stitching ...

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Mind you, I'm no seamstress of any measure - I can barely thread a needle to be honest - but I figured this kind of basic stitch couldn't be too hard to do. (Notice I'm not showing you the back of this sachet!)

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Little Bear really loved the smell of the lavender and the feel of the sheep's wool ...

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And I think he really liked watching me make this. There's something very comforting, I think, about watching a parent working with their hands ... the quiet productivity, the rhythm of the needle or - as the case may be - the paintbrush or hand saw. I myself feel soothed when I work with my hands, and I love the questions he asks:

Mama, what will it be? Mama, can I help? Mama, how can you do that without stabbing yourself?

So we'll tuck this under his pillow and see how it goes!

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A couple of things I try do to when crafting: use natural materials as much as possible, and make items that are meaningful in some way to myself or someone else. I also really, really love it when a craft is made using something from a season before or perhaps is made to be used in a season yet to come. Case in point - the cross we made using grasses gathered from our garden (and soaked with snow melt). Or the candles we made and blessed on Candlemas which will appear again in our springtime Lenten journey. And the lavender we dried last summer provided a special touch - as well as a fragrant memory - to our cute little Candlemas craft.

I find it very satisfying to craft in this way, to carry a message through the year (and years) that everything is connected. We're all connected to each other, and we're all connected in many ways to the earth. Slowing ourselves down won't slow time itself, but it can leave us more open to these connections. I hope all these little moments and traditions foster a feeling of belonging in my children and that it encourages them to learn and love the cycle of the seasons, to glory in the amazing world to which we all belong. I sure am grateful I get to begin them on their pathways because everything I do for them only strengthens my own journey.

❀

And goodness, but this post got much longer than I originally intended! Did I say I was "quickly" popping in? - I think I'd best take that part out. As always though, I thank you for reading and I hope you are all doing well! I also hope that wherever you are, the day's weather has been just to your liking and that the week ahead will be a good one!

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


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

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

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

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

So I have to tell you, our Tea today is extra special because January 12th just so happens to be ... National Hot Tea Day! Yes, it's a real holiday ... or at least it has been since 2016. #whoknew πŸ€·πŸ»β€β™€οΈ 

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

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

Anyhoo.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

βœ¨πŸŒΈπŸ’›β˜•οΈβ„οΈβœ¨βœ¨πŸŒΈπŸ’›β˜•οΈβ„οΈβœ¨βœ¨πŸŒΈπŸ’›β˜•οΈβ„οΈβœ¨βœ¨πŸŒΈπŸ’›β˜•οΈβ„οΈβœ¨βœ¨πŸŒΈπŸ’›β˜•οΈβ„οΈβœ¨

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But how about January's full moon?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

More comforts and joys ...

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These guys - 'nuff said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

βœ¨πŸŒΈπŸ’›β˜•οΈβ„οΈβœ¨βœ¨πŸŒΈπŸ’›β˜•οΈβ„οΈβœ¨βœ¨πŸŒΈπŸ’›β˜•οΈβ„οΈβœ¨βœ¨πŸŒΈπŸ’›β˜•οΈβ„οΈβœ¨βœ¨πŸŒΈπŸ’›β˜•οΈβ„οΈβœ¨

A final thought before I go -

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

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

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


Tea @ Dawn's ~ 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 400Β° 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. πŸ€¦πŸ»β€β™€οΈ

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!


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

First, at 8 p.m. ...

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A Charlie Brown Christmas ... :)

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

Amiright?

And then, immediately following ...

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The Great American Baking Show: Holiday Edition!

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

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

drhanigan AT gmail DOT com

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


Bits, Bobs & Mitten Strings ... ❀

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Hello my friends, and Happy Monday Tuesday! I'm popping in today to share some Mitten Strings for God book study scheduling news, as well as a few other bits and bobs. :) I had meant to do this over the weekend, but alas ... life! And in particular, special needs parenting life. I won't get into the details of all that right now, but if I may ask for your prayers/good thoughts for Earlybird, who's having a rough time at the moment, I'd be sincerely grateful. β€

But on with the good stuff! First I'd like to share this quote from our next chapter in MSfG, "One-on-One Time" ...

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That is Little Bear of course, but the picture's a couple of years old. (It's weird that I can say that about his pictures now. Wasn't he JUST a couple of years old himself?!) It was taken during a woodsy winter solstice walk, and technically, it wasn't a "one-on-one" outing - because Bill was there, too! But I feel like this kind of picture represents the quiet times I spend connecting with LB apart from the bustle of everyday life. For this outing, we had left the noise and demands of the household behind us for a bit and it was a wonderful thing - to just focus on LB and his dear developing personality, to watch his funny expressions and listen to his very interesting thoughts. Young children have such a wonderful perspective on life, don't you think? And that's not to say I don't enjoy time spent with each of my boys, but I find myself alone with Little Bear most often these days. Spending one-on-one time definitely comes with more conscious effort as the kids grow older ... they get busy, and seem less enthralled with what their parents might have to say ... but more thoughts on all this at our next MSfG Tea!

And speaking of! Our next Mitten Strings for God study/tea will take place on Friday, February 16th. It's a bit later than I originally proposed, but I am trying to be very honest with myself about my free time - eg. how much I do and don't have! (Not nearly as much as I'd like but that's just the season of life that I'm in!) So please join me a week from this Friday for a wee chat and a winter's tea here at the blog. Let's talk about chapter 12, and the importance of making time for each of our children - while appreciating each of them for who they are. (As the mother of four sons I can honestly say that children are all just SO different, even same gender siblings raised in the very same way!)

Now, this might be a tricky chapter for me, because I don't think we (as in, Bill and I) do exceptionally well with this concept. As homeschoolers I think there's a bit of the feeling that "well, we spend tons of time together, anyway!" And special needs parenting comes into this, too - the demands it places on family life and the effects it has on maintaining balance - not to mention, sibling relationships. So I have some deep reading and thinking to do ...

As always, I'll be very eager to hear all of your thoughts on this, too! I invite you to send me those thoughts (with or without photo) or just chime in at the post itself. All are welcome to join this ongoing book study! (And at this rate we'll be talking about Mitten Strings all year!)

Now, while I'm here, I thought I'd share some photos from the past couple of weeks, beginning with Little Bear's first visit to the Lego Store ...

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Can you even believe how big he's getting? Granted, we're all crouched down around him, but he's truly getting quite tall. And the way he's talking has changed, you know? Even the way he walks is different now. It's a little heartbreaking how quickly time flies when our children are small ...

Well, about those Legos ...

Last fall, Little Bear - already a huge Duplo fan - discovered the extra-special magic of building with REAL Legos. Like the ones that BIG boys (and girls) build with. He's just four, so he's a bit young for such Lego building - they can be frustrating for little hands - but he's handling it pretty well and just loving all the creating and getting his biggest brothers (longtime Lego fans themselves) to help him out. I love this picture above because it's me with my Lego kids, big and small. And not to keep harping on the "time-flying" thing, but I swear those older boys were just the "little" Lego kids in my house. I certainly have the zillions of Legos to prove it - stashed in the attic AND the basement - not to mention the scars on my feet!

So since I'm now a bonafide 18 years + Lego Mom, I bought myself a minifig for my key ring ...

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That's "Rey" from Star Wars, in case you were wondering! :)

Now, here are some books from my "Deep Winter" basket ...

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Books that had gone MISSING because  - well, I'm not sure why they went missing. It's a bit of a mystery! Usually I'm very careful about our seasonal book collections, but somehow last year our Deep Winter and Early Spring bin got divvied up and the books ended up here and there in our basement. *GASP* Thankfully though, I found them all on Candlemas morning (Feb. 2nd) just in the nick of time to celebrate Groundhog Day!

But to back up a day, here are some pics from our February 1st, also known as "St. Brigid's Day," a lovely feast we enjoy celebrating each year ...

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Firstly, by making our own butter! (St. Brigid, is patroness of Ireland and dairymaids.) This is that ol' marble-and-cream-in-a-ball-jar trick - the one the children think is SO cool until they realize just how hard and how long they have to shake that dang jar! (Mama gets quite an arm-workout on Brigid's Day, let me tell you!) We like to serve the smidgen of butter we end up making with our bread rolls at supper. Daddy always makes sure to be suitably impressed!

We also like to make a Brigid's Cross for this feast, a craft I've only in recent years gotten the hang of ...

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We started with "rushes" from our yard. (Actually, dried ornamental grass, but they work!) Because the material was rather stiff though, we soaked them in snowmelt for about an hour before attempting to weave our cross.

(And note I said, "cross," not "crosses." Clearly we gathered enough grass to make several crosses, but in truth I overestimated the interest and energy levels of my children and their mama!)

Here's the end result:

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Now this was Brigid's Day morning ...

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Muddy, melty and the ground still smattered with snow ...

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Not to mention ice once the temperature dropped! February can be a fickle month in New England, but mostly it's just cold and snowy ... and cold.

And YET ...

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Our hens have started laying again!! To me that's a sure sign spring is in the air ... or at least, in the amount of light we are getting every day. (Which has been increasing every day since the winter solstice.) I try to keep my senses very keen to the nuances of each season and I can tell you - the light is changing, and the bird song is different ... and yes, the air smells a little different on those drippy days. I feel certain that spring is stirring in the woods, underneath the half-frozen ground, deep inside those tough yet tender branches ...

Meanwhile, back inside ...

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Archie is purrfectly content (sorry, had to) soaking up the afternoon sun, spending his winter days in a cozy basket. Even when said basket is not meant for him (but rather, my books) Archie considers it fair game.

But really, how could I move him?

So instead I set up at the kitchen table a little to the left ... 

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And worked in my homemade planner to iron out some lesson plans for the week ahead. The current week's seasonal theme? Winter citrus ... :)

Last shot:

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My kitchen window yesterday morning. It was so bright and beautiful and the air was a balmy 40Β° ... I allowed myself to focus on these delightful daffs and those fresh eggs from my hens. It made washing dishes a little less of a chore and a bit more of a blessing ... I was home, I had my family to care for, and that sunshine was so good for my soul ...

Oh, and by the way - the first picture in this post is a shot of my writing desk, with a teacup candle I made for Candlemas. Very easy to do with a bit of beeswax and a simple wick ... I think I have a post that explains how this works somewhere here, hang on ...

Yup! Here it is. Same method, just a different vessel this year! :)

Well, my friends, I'd best be off now ... but I wish you all well and thank you, as always, for joining me! I hope you enjoyed these rambling thoughts and photos and I look forward to chatting once again in the not so distant future! For now though, enjoy these lingering winter days, and please take care of yourselves and your loved ones ...

I'll see you here again very soon!


Tea & Mitten Strings: A Pause & a Plan!

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Hello my friends and Happy Sunday! I hope you are all doing well. β€ I'm popping in today to share a cup of Advent tea, and announce a little change to my December blogging schedule ...

Now, I know had promised to pick up where we left off in our Mitten Strings for God book study, and to continue on with our weekly tea schedule as well, but - and I know you all saw this coming - I think what I really need is to keep things simple this month. I have a lot going on at the moment - there's a season to savor, my concussion to coddle, and college applications to finish for my son!

So what I would like to do for now is to hit "pause" on my blogging for the rest of the month. In early January we'll gather here again for a cup of Winter's tea and hit "play" on our MSfG book study. I'm thinking there may even be a little giveaway involved ... 

But to touch on our current chapter, "Wants and Needs," I would like to say a few quick things before getting on with today's tea ... Here is a link to my post on this chapter from 2008 which I just re-read last week, and in doing so I thought:

You know what? I really like what I had to say back then!

So here's a little excerpt:

I think helping our children find and feel contentment, is vital to their happiness later in life. We grown-ups know, in our hearts, that contentment doesn't come from things, but rather, from having our needs met consistently. Because once those needs are met, we feel comfort, and comfort provides plenty of space for joy. (Did I just talk in a circle? Possibly, but please bear with me.)

There are so many places this post could go, but in the interest of time (mine and yours) I'll just offer up a few notes I jotted down for myself re this particular endeavor (and as always, these are just things I am trying - I don't presume to know what would work for your family):

  1. Expose the kids to less media/commercialism.
  2. Shop as infrequently as possible and be more thrifty with our spending.
  3. Make giving thanks a bigger part of our everyday life. Hone in on our non-material blessings.
  4. Volunteer more as a family.

Now, I think I had good intentions back then, but I know my family could definitely use a little refresher! So as we approach the new year I'll be brainstorming ways to work these four goals (back) into our life. In particular, I'd love to spend less time shopping - and make the shopping we do do more meaningful and focused. I'm pretty sure Bill would love the idea of less spending, too!

But for today, let's share some Advent tea and revel in this season of twinkling lights and sparkling snow ... and first, I am so pleased to share my friend Gill's lovely pics with you all. I can always count on Gill to share a cozy cup of tea and a peek into her life across the pond!

From Gill:

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"We are just beginning to put a few things out for Advent, and I was given this little tablescape decoration yesterday. It had rather a Scottish feel to it, so I have had a little St Andrew’s day tea beside it this afternoon ...

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"Whilst I was doing that, my menfolk were cutting down a Christmas tree for our front yard! They had a lot of fun and we now have a tree to rival the one in Trafalgar Square!"

Thank you, Gill, for sharing your warm and welcoming tea here with us! Your views are so pretty ... and I have to say, I was a little jealous of your snow when I first opened your message. ;) (We've since gotten some of our own.) But that tree - wow, it's a beauty! I especially love those large lights - so pretty! And who's that sweet little doggie posing in front? What a love!

Speaking of loves, here's my Oliver, whose favorite haunt is the library ... 

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Isn't he handsome? ❀ Archie finds his way into more of the pictures because he gets into more trouble he's always wherever we are ... whereas Oliver tends to snuggle up and sleep in quiet corners when he can find them. His favorite spot? Behind the loveseat, sidled up next to the heating register ... where I keep his preferred pet bed, natch. :)

But speaking of Archie?

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Yes, he's just LOVING the Advent season as you can see ... with all the little knicknacks to bat around and fresh greenery to nosh on ...

#andthisiswhywecanthavenicethings πŸ˜‚ 

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As part of our Advent storytelling, I made this peg doll St. Nick and, as an extra surprise, purchased that sweet little cat, one of a few new wooden figures from Bella Luna Toys. The story I told had to do with a lost cat finding a new home at the Farm, in thanks to a kind stranger in the woods (St. Nicholas/Father Christmas). I was inspired by the book seen below, one of my favorite Christmas stories of all time ...

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The Christmas Cat by Efner Tudor Holmes (and illustrated by the beloved Tasha Tudor) is such a beautiful story - especially for those of us with a soft spot for animals. What is extra sweet about this photo is that BOTH of my younger boys were sitting at this table, listening to me read aloud. (While sipping their traditional St. Nicholas Day treat, candy cane cocoa!) Earlybird is usually very uncomfortable being read to, but he was really calm and content to hear the story! Such progress he has made ... it makes this mama so happy. :)

And here's another festive spread, one I arranged a few days later, when I expected a dear friend for morning tea ...

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This is my favorite Christmas china, a set I started collecting several years ago. "Winter Greetings Everyday" it's called, and I love it most of all for the birds! Several species are represented on these dishes ... cardinals, chickadees, titmice, goldfinches ... downy woodpeckers even!

Here's another shot of my tea table last Friday ...

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This was *before* we got our first snow of the season!

Speaking of ... here I am with Little Bear on our way home from Whole Foods Saturday morning. We made a quick run to get bread, milk and a few other sundries before the storm set in!

Shopping

This chapter sprung to mind several times as we shopped ...

"Hey, can I have that?"

"Mama, I want that!"

"Wait! Mama go back, I want to look at that again!"

And me: "Honey, we don't need to buy that today, but it IS a really neat [insert desired item here]."

The snow was light as we left the store, but within a few hours, it was falling in earnest ...

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With all of two inches on the ground, Little Bear said: "This all has to go. Let’s get to work.” 

(This boy has the strongest work ethic I've ever seen in a 4 year old!)

Next morning ...

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All was calm, all was bright ... β€

I do love a December snow. An old-fashioned Christmas just isn't complete without at least a dusting of snow! (We had about 6 inches and are expecting more in the next week or so!)

And finally, here is our Christmas tree ...

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I'm quite fond of our tree this year ... and as you can see, so is Archie. :)

Well everyone, thank you very much for stopping by and taking the time to read. I hope you are all having a nice December! And Mitten Strings friends - I hope you will excuse this little break from our study and join me back here again next month!

Now, that's not to say I might not pop in again before January ... and I'll definitely be around on Facebook and Instagram! But for now, I will say ...

Blessed Advent, my friends. I wish each of you a love-filled, perfectly peaceful and happy holiday season. God bless you all and thank you so much for your friendship, kindness and care!

See you here again very soon ...


Happy Halloween ~ from My Family to Yours!

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Hello my friends, and Happy Halloween! I'm popping in today to wish you all a nice (fun & safe!) holiday and to share a few pictures from our Halloween party last weekend. What a fun time we had with our family!

Now, you all know we love entertaining, and we host several gatherings throughout the year, but this was our first big Halloween party in some time! And it was mostly our Earlybird's idea. :) He got it in his head last month that we needed to throw a Halloween party and so, together we worked out what that party would look like and how to go about making it happen!

So over the next few weeks we made up a guest list, filled out invitations - mailed those invitations with help from a kind postal worker who found THE perfect jack-o-lantern stamps for us to use! - and then set about planning out food and decorations. This project took up our whole October and boy, was it fun! 

Anyhoo ... below I have some pictures from our day, but first I'd like to share a couple more pictures of my autumn-inspired writing desk from last week's tea ... it really captures the Halloween spirit for me!

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I don't use this desk as often as I do the one in the family room - for one thing, it's a little more removed from the general household, nestled as it is along the far western wall in the library ... and though that can be a good thing sometimes, I usually can't remove myself for very long from said household! Also, I don't have a computer here and normally I need that handy when doing "work" or whatever else I might get up to. But I love having this desk all the same, and I relish it especially in the autumn time. Because the sun sets just beyond those woods, so the afternoon light is beautiful here ... which seems all the more important as we head into the dark time of year ...

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And as the days grow cold and dark, I think it's very important to create some nice, cozy spots for ourselves where we can. So I have some tea lights and "fairy" lights here in the window, along with some silk leaves and mini pumpkins. My cup of tea as described in this post is surrounded by lots of fun things: a few special books (both Mama's and Little Bear's), a pretty notebook and some Halloween cards, and right there in the middle is one of my old journals, from October, 2009. I was looking through it for ideas and getting caught up in old autumn memories!

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I have always loved Halloween and have so many fond memories from my childhood. I especially liked learning about the ancient agricultural roots of this Celtic celebration. In recent years though, I feel society's version of Halloween has become very commercialized (not to mention creepy!) so we tend to avoid outside activities. I prefer a quiet Halloween for my kids, with time spent in nature and a few special family traditions ... some festive food, grinning pumpkins, cozy lights and a little frolicking 'round the neighborhood. It's all in good fun, nothing too scary or severe. In our town tonight we are dealing with the aftermath of a crazy windstorm and so trick-or-treating has been cancelled! So instead we'll be having a "Halloween Supper" and then making some s'mores at the fire pit before wrapping things up with a few holiday specials on tv. :)

Ok, now for the party pics! First is a collage of the "Halloween" menu ...

Halloween collage

Clockwise from upper left hand corner we have:

  • witch's potion punch
  • mummy dogs
  • haunted pumpkin patch cake
  • autumn apple-pear salad
  • deli wraps in Halloween colors
  • vomiting pumpkin dip (yep, I went there)
  • Frank-en-Guac
  • bread dough bones and "dipping" sauce
  • poisoned apple cider cocktails

It was SUCH fun researching recipes! (A few of the above ideas can be found at my Halloween Pinterest board.) My mother was a big help in putting this all together, though I admit she was a bit shocked by that vomiting pumpkin! (Also, I should note - Bookworm made the bread bones and frankenstein dip!)

As for party activities, on the patio we had set up the pumpkin tic-tac-toe I showed you in this post, as well as a tabletop Jenga game Bill and Bookworm made. And then, in the way back yard (next to the old barn - my future "she shed") we set up a little "pumpkin patch" for the little kids to visit!

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(Next year we're determined to grow pumpkins for real!)

Naturally, Little Bear made sure he found his pumpkin before his cousins did ...

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Here he is with my cousin Kate's daughter, dressed up as an adorable owl ...

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They really had fun running all over the place ...

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And what a beautiful day it was ... plenty of golden sun and almost 70 degrees!

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I love it when we're able to bring a party outside ... it provides a nice change of scenery and a little breath of fresh air!

Here are my older boys with a couple of their friends ...

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They spent most of the party watching "scary movies" down in the man cave ... ;)

And here's another pumpkin patch cutie, my sweet niece, with her parents ... 

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Happy 1st Halloween, little one! πŸŽƒ

Meanwhile our girls were wondering just what the heck was going on!

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(Do you know they don't care at all for pumpkin? I thought for sure they'd love it but nope - they were completely uninterested!)

But here's their contribution to the party:

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πŸ’›

Ok, back inside now, here I am with my beloved mum ...

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Just two (good) kitchen witches brewing up a little culinary magic!

And next we have Aunt Anne (Bill's godmother) and Ami, my dear sister-in-law ...

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... aka my sweet niece's mom!

And now for a few hectic, slightly blurry foyer shots as everyone arrived ...

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And as usual there were plenty of choices at the desserts table ...

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My mum's beautiful cake (spice cake with penuche frosting) was the biggest hit, I'd wager!

And lastly, happily - and shockingly! - we were able to wrangle our four boys into a family picture! 

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Wishing all my friends here a very Happy Halloween ~ I hope your October is ending on a good note!

 Can you believe how big they're all getting? πŸ˜±

We'll have lots to talk about later this week ... November plans, another Autumn Tea and Mitten Strings, of course. (This week we're discussing chapter 5, "Simplicity.") And don't forget I will be joining Pam Barnhill at Homeschool Solutions Thursday afternoon on Facebook Live! We'll be talking about MSfG and how it's shaped my homeschooling through the years ... please wish me luck! I'm not the most tech-savvy person, as you well know, so I hope I do the interview justice!

Thanks so much for stopping by everyone ... 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!

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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!


A Quick Craft to Welcome Spring ... ❀

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... because spring IS coming, without a doubt - nevermind the historic BLIZZARD bearing down on New England as I type up this post! Yes, we are in for a lot of snow tomorrow - over a foot, maybe a foot and a half - plus high winds and all the usual hazards that arrive along with a Nor'easter ...

However! I'm keeping a steady weather eye on next Monday, which is in fact the first day of Spring - with the vernal equinox arriving at 6:29 a.m.! Early spring can indeed be snowy in our region so it just is what it is - cold and blustery perhaps - but the birds are still singing a different song, and the bulb shoots are still breaking ground, and the days are growing longer and lighter ...

Well, big snow or no, I decided on this bright and sunny (albeit cold) morning to make up a wreath in order to welcome the new season, once it arrives and whatever the weather it brings with it. It was so super easy to do, and turned out so well, I just had to share!

I began with a grapevine wreath. I like to have these on hand as they make nice seasonal wreaths or centerpieces, and can be changed up quickly with ribbons, silk flowers and little holiday do-dads. Many families use a wreath like this for a Lenten crown of thorns project at this time of year - a tradition I love, but opted not to include since I have a curious little fellow at home who would make short - and undoubtedly dangerous - work of all those toothpicks. But maybe next year ...

So to this plain wreath I added a couple of simple embellishments ...

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My materials: a spool of ecru lace ribbon (sturdy, not sheer), a bag of speckled plastic eggs in soft shades of green and white, and a sweet "moss" covered rabbit.

I found all these items at Michaels Arts & Crafts yesterday where they were having a fantastic 40% sale on Easter decor. (I also bought a really cool metal utility cart which I will tell you all about in a post later this week!)

The first thing I did was to wrap the ribbon around the wreath ...

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... using a hot-glue gun to secure the two ends. Then I used the hot-glue gun to attach the eggs and bunny to the wreath ...

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And that was it! I won't hang this until Monday morning, but here's a sneak preview ...

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(Note: I had to reattach a couple of the eggs which did not have enough glue on them. I think it helps to press them into the grapevine for a minute or so to allow the glue to take hold.)

I have always wanted an "egg wreath" for the front door but the ones I've seen at the stores have either been quite expensive - or reasonable, but a tad garish. I really like the soft greens and beiges here because to me, these are the shades of earliest spring ... just before the world explodes in a riot of Easter pastels!

(I also have a forsythia wreath which we'll hang closer to Easter, probably on Palm Sunday.)

And I love featuring two special Easter symbols in my springtime wreath - because both rabbits and eggs represent new life and have ancient roots in their holiday connection! This is something the boys and I are investigating this year: how so many aspects of nature - including the four elements and various flora and fauna - are tied in with our faith traditions. And not just ours but other faith traditions as well!

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(A page from one of my favorite holiday books - Lilies, Rabbits and Painted Eggs: The Story of Easter Symbols by Edna Barth. She has a whole series of books about holiday symbols and they are all wonderful!)

Nature has always played an important role in the shaping of humanity and its interpretation of the world around it. We obviously don't need to rely on nature as much as our ancestors once did (for example, if a crop fails, I just pay a bit more at the market - my family doesn't starve), but I think a healthy amount of knowledge and respect (along with a good dose of awe) should be part of every child's upbringing. :)

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So come on, Spring - we're ready for you! Don't be shy ... let's send Winter packing and get on with the business of new life!

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Well my friends, I thank you all for stopping by! I'll be back again soon with a new post - I have so many drafts percolating, I hardly know where to begin! - but for now I'll leave you with my wish that you all have a good week ... and my hope that wherever you are, your winter ends peacefully and promptly!

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


March Bits & Bobs ... ❀

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Hello and Happy Friday, my friends! I hope your week went well and that your new month is off to a great start! I thought I'd pop in quickly this afternoon to share a few pictures with you all - a few March "bits and bobs" if you will ... β€

With all the lovely weather lately we've been able to spend a good bit of time outside - and we were thrilled to find some true signs of spring all around us!

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Crocus shoots ...

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Daffodils, too! This is the earliest I can remember finding bulbs breaking ground ...

These guys are out and about now as well:

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Ever since the boys were little we've taken note of when the chipmunks come out of hibernation, for this is a sure sign that spring is firmly nudging winter out of its way! Usually it's sometime in late March - or even April if it's a long snowy winter - but we spied our first chipmunks at the end of February this year!

Red-winged blackbirds passing through the yard (moving from one pond to another) are another harbinger of spring and when the goldfinches start turning a brighter shade of yellow we know warmer weather is headed our way! Even more than a calendar - and you all know I love calendars! - I love using these kinds of events to feel the change not just in months but in seasons ...

Speaking of birds ...

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Our little ladies are doing well! But they're not so little anymore! (They'll be a year at the end of May.) They're enjoying the not-so-cold temperatures lately and generally lay about 3-4 eggs a day (not per hen - per flock!). I'm eyeing some "egg-collecting" aprons for spring ... :)

More birds ...

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A female cardinal and chickadee at our front feeder. The buds on the magnolia tree look promising, don't they?

The boys are loving these milder days, too ...

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There's still a smattering of snow around the yard, but for the most part it's all gone. All the snow melt has left several vernal pools in our neighborhood however ... and I simply cannot WAIT for those first mild nights when we can hear that telltale sound ... peep peep peep!

(Working on a vernal pond walk for our Nature Club next month!)

More outdoor fun ...

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My middle boys reminding Little Bear how to pedal!

We are expecting colder weather this weekend, but the long-range forecast shows a nice rebound back into the 40s. That might not sound too "Springy" to you, but around here what that means is NO SNOW! And at this point in the year I'm ready to be done with snow. It's just too lovely to see all the bits of greenery and tiny critters bravely poking up and around the yard, happily doing their spring thing.

"Spring things" aside, I snapped this picture on Thursday when the ol' March wind was blowing like CRAZY ...

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All I could think was, "In like a lion ..."

Backing up a few days though, on (Shrove) Tuesday evening, per family pre-Lent tradition, we made masks!

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It's a very simple craft - paper plates cut in half, with eye holes and a popsicle stick for a handle. We do this just about every year. Sometimes I put out feathers and stickers and other craft materials but this year the dot-markers were the big hit with the younger boys!

Here's Little Bear modeling the mask I decorated ...

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I actually like how the dot marker masks came out best!

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That night we had pancakes for supper - complete with maple syrup, grilled apple-chicken sausages, home fries (aka Smiley fries) and paczki for dessert. That's pretty decadent, but that's the point on Shrove/Fat Tuesday!

The next morning we buried the alleluia, and I turned my attention to the March calendar. How I love these vintage papers and stickers!

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I thought these little elves (gnomes?) looked very much like leprechauns ...

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I've ordered several sets of Victorian style stickers for decorating my calendars ... it's something very small but it sure makes me smile!

Now, here I am at my kitchen counter, attempting to get a handle on the weekend plans (p.o.w. notebook on left) and an overview of next week's agenda (small orange planner on right). I'm planning to do a "where I work" post next week - because as much as I love my desks, it's here that I usually keep and manage all my planning paraphernalia!

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My pre-planning was a bit slow this week, so I'll be doing some last minute scurrying over the weekend. Office hours are a must! And I'll take pictures so I can finally get up that "planning routine, part two" post ...

I really can't complain about a crimp in my planning time, though ...

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... because we've been doing lots of this. :)

Hanging out and taking things slow ... making funny faces for Mama's cell phone. As much as I love this boy's smile, I do enjoy all his funny faces, too! We were being couch potatoes here - all curled up with blankets, books, tea, matchbox cars and molasses cookies. I can't think of a better way to spend a quiet, homey afternoon ...

And so March is off! And Lent is underway ...

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On Wednesday night, the first stone was chosen from our basket and this week our Lenten theme is "prayer." So we began our conversation over supper - about how we might work more prayer into our lives - and just what "more prayer" might look like, for each of us. It was a good talk - one we'll continue once Bookworm gets home for spring break tonight. Hooray!

Prayer can be so very different from one person to the next - and from one faith to another. It's important, I think, to be aware of that - and respectful of that. Some are steadfast prayer "warriors," others perhaps less so. Some prefer a prepared script while others rely more on private thoughts. Some need certain visuals or sacramentals, sacred spaces or even special music. For me it's usually a combination of these things - and different things on different days! As I told my boys, prayer for me is whatever opens my heart to God - His purpose for me - and cultivates a sense of serenity, acceptance and gratitude. Sometimes it's a collection of words I memorized as a child, sometimes it's a litany of petitions as I fall asleep at night ... and sometimes it's just the way I feel as I stand in my yard, turn my face to the sun and breathe in ... letting a deep appreciation for this wondrous world fill me. To me, these are all forms of prayer. I always encourage my children to pray, but I don't expect it to be just like I do. I hope that they'll find their own form of prayer ... and in this way it will be most meaningful. β€

Well my friends, I will let you go as I've kept you here quite long enough! But as always I thank you for stopping by ... I hope you enjoy your weekend! Take care of yourselves and your loved ones ... 

I'll see you here again very soon!


A Late Winter's Tea ... (and a Winner!) ❀

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Hello my friends, and Happy Friday! Goodness, is it ever a BEAUTIFUL day here in New England! The temperature, as I type up this post, has soared to a balmy 73 Β° ... the sun is shining ... the birds are singing ... the snow is melting ... we even spied a chipmunk darting across the backyard! What a tease this weather is though, as I'm sure we still have plenty of winter ahead (March can be quite snowy in our parts!). Still, this is a lovely break - a fresh mental breeze to awaken one's winter-weary spirit. β€

But in spite of this day's decidedly spring-like behavior, I'm here to share a cup of Late Winter's Tea with you all! And at the very end of our Tea I will tell you who won my Day Designer giveaway! You can of course, jump down to the end of the post to see who that might be ... ;)

So for today's tea I am using a very pretty cup and saucer set - a gift from my dear friend, Emma. I love the red toile pattern and shape of this set - especially the handy little nook for a snack! Today's snack is a couple of oatmeal-raisin cookies - but as you can see - and as I noticed after I took this picture! - someone had made off with one of the cookies! Ahem! ;) The tea is a new one for me - Newman's Own English Breakfast. Not my usual afternoon tea as this one is fully caffeinated and rather bold-flavored, but on this particular day I was in need of an energy boost!

So I prepared my cup and moved out to the library where I've been busy cleaning this week - haven't really done that since this was December's "Christmas room" - and I'll have a post with a tour in a bit because it's slowly becoming our Spring room. :) I just got our Lenten mantle organized and I'm now working on our homeschool shelves and my writing desk ... as well as our liturgical bookcase! Yes, this room was in dire need of a lift! (Not to mention a good dusting and sweeping!) I love the light here at this time of day though ... the sun sets just behind the woods outside the window shown above and below ... the light lingering later and later each day. I use this desk as a spot to sit and write ... rather than compute (my computer desk is out in the family room). It's a more feminine "mother's desk" and I love changing things up as the seasons turn ... :)

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Also shown in the these photos is my brand new spring purse! I had some birthday money just burning a hole in my pocket, and spotted this pretty bag at TJ Maxx. Honestly, I was just running into the CVS next door but that robin's egg blue really reached out and grabbed me, right through the store-front window! What I really love about this bag (aside from the color and the affordable price) is the softness of the bag itself. Very flexible but with a sturdy bottom. And roomy! Plenty of space inside for all the things I like take along with me when I'm out and about ...

(A more detailed Spring purse post to come!)

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It's not often I can spend a lot of time here puttering in notebooks and writing out letters, but I try to get here a few times a week. I have some things set up in this room to keep Little Bear busy (toys and puzzles, puppets and books) while I sit for a bit, and there's always the promise of "a story or two" once Mama is done. :) 

Speaking of books ...

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I have a small table at the end of the desk which holds reading materials and an in-basket. A small bin holds notecards and seasonal cards. In the foreground are two sets of our favorite seasonal picture books - one set by Gerda Muller and the other by Eva-Maria Ott-Heidmann. These are wordless picture books with the loveliest illustrations celebrating the many nuances of the year. My boys have loved these books for years - we just pore over them and talk about what we see in the pictures, what might be going on. I try to keep them together and out of the general stash of board books- not just to keep them in good shape, but also so I can look through them myself from time to time!

Also in this picture you can see we have our window open ... that made tidying this room all the more enjoyable! The little baskets were Little Bear's doing - he was collecting (wooden) eggs to set aside for Easter. :) And an open window always invites the kitties out from wherever they're slumbering ...

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Needless to say we got ourselves outside for a bit!

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Late winter is such a special time of year ... spring comes so slowly, and each little hallmark is a treasured gift. The brighter days, the softness of the air, the change in the birdsong ... the dripping and melting ... and resulting muddy puddles!

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The boys attempted to shovel away any lingering snow patches from the driveway ... while I just closed my eyes and enjoyed the warmth of the sun, the freshness of the air. What a glorious day! (Note the double-trunked tree in the background - my favorite oak.❀)

Ok, now before I go and before I get to announcing my giveaway winner ... here's a look at a little project I'm having fun with right now:

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Some of you might remember last year I made myself a homemade weekly planner. I loved that notebook so much - though I ended up not using it as I'd hoped to. Well, I determined to try again ... so I ordered myself the very same notebook!

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These Fringe notebooks really do it for me. They're just beautiful - inside and out - and perfect for my needs. Love the binding, the paper, the covers! So I am tweaking how I organize the insides (learning from last year's mistakes!) and taking it very slowly. So far all I've done is this ...

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A dated reference calendar washi-taped into the front cover. :) I'm counting pages and sketching grids now, and will share more details very soon. (Would you all like a how-to post on diy planners?) This one, which is meant to organize our family's seasons, will run Spring through Winter, and since we are on the very doorstep of March I'd best get cracking!

More to come on this project, but for right now I'd like to finally announce just who won my extra Day Designer planner! And so after a random drawing I am happy to announce that the giveaway winner is ...

BETH!

Congratulations, Beth! I hope you enjoy the planner! I will be in touch this evening to arrange mailing details and then get this planner out to you ASAP!

And my sincere thanks to everyone for taking the time to leave me such wonderful comments. I loved reading each and every one of them and am grateful you took the time to share your thoughts with me! Your very kind words, thoughtful suggestions and interesting questions are all much appreciated. And you've all got me percolating with ideas and inspiration! So I printed out the comments thread and highlighted each topic area mentioned (color-coding them, naturally). I will keep these pages in my binder and work up a list of "posts to come." I will say you definitely like organizing and planning posts the best! There was also many mentions of homeschooling, seasonal celebrations, meal planning, homemaking and weaving our family faith into everyday living. Lots of tea and chat posts, too! 

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So stay tuned for all kinds of posts to come ... but for right now, before I go, I'd like to answer one question that popped up a couple of times ...

"Why do you call your mother, "Mum" which sounds so very British?" :)

Well, I have to say I think it might be a New England thing as I have other local friends who call their moms "Mum," too, but I think for us it's just a family thing. My mother called her mother "Mum," and her mother (my grandmother) did the same. My maternal great-grandmother was Scottish - as in, came here from Scotland - so I'm thinking perhaps this is where it began.

So there's that! :)

My own boys call me Mama - although as they've grown older that has pretty much morphed into, "Mom." :)

So that's all for today, my friends ... but I do hope you've enjoyed my post and as always I thank you for stopping by! Take care of yourselves and your loved ones ...

I will see you here again very soon!


A Sunny, Snowy Nature Club ... ❀

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Hello and Happy Friday, friends! I have a quick post to share today, because oh my gosh, was it ever a beautiful day! Just perfect for our February Nature Club meeting. This month we met at a local farm to walk some wintry trails ... and were pleasantly surprised to find it was also the first day of their maple season! So before setting out on our walk, the kids got to visit the sugar shack and hear about how maple syrup is made ...

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Now, if you're from New England you are probably familiar with the tale of how sap is turned into syrup, but honestly, it just never gets old! Earlybird especially was absolutely fascinated by the steam and the smell and the miracle that is maple sugaring. (Meanwhile I was furiously composing a maple syrup unit study in my head! Though come to think of it, I have plenty of prior experience with this topic ... I'll have to see which former lesson plan I can "tap" into!)

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Maple sugaring is, for me, one of those happy, hopeful, early spring harbingers ... because the sap runs once daytime temps reach the 50s while the nights stay below freezing. We're just getting there as we round the month's bend - hitting 50 on Sunday! - and hopefully that will turn the tide a bit. Not that I'm complaining too much about our very "February" weather, mind you. The snow is awfully pretty (says she who doesn't have to shovel, ahem) but we have had A LOT of it lately. I mean, I'm romancing the heck out of Winter over here, but I'll admit, Spring will be a sight for sore eyes!

But back to Winter for a bit! I hope you enjoy a little glimpse of our day spent in the New England countryside ... :)

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There is quite possibly nothing cuter than a little one with cheeks all rosy from time spent outside!

So, lessons to learn in February (aside from the history and science of maple sugaring!): learning patience, optimism and trust. Waiting for that which comes next, appreciating the good in the now ... all while knowing our faith will absolutely be rewarded. ❀ That's pretty much a New England winter in a nutshell!

(Fyi, Spring is precisely 31 days away!)

;)

Well my friends, I hope you enjoyed this glimpse of our day! As much as I love being home, it was so good to get out today, mingle with friends and soak up some of that glorious sunshine! I will be back soon with the second part of my planning routine post as well as a progress report for the "52 Weeks Organized Home Challenge"... but ... FIRST!

This weekend I will be posting a little giveaway ... I teased it over on my Facebook page earlier today if you want a sneak peek! I will wait to tell you more but will get that post up as soon as I can - hopefully tomorrow but possibly Sunday. I think you will be really excited about this giveaway - I know I am! 

So take care of yourselves and your loved ones, my friends ... I will see you here again very soon!


Cozy, Comfy, Yummy ... ❀

Just popping in quickly to wish you all a very Happy Valentine's Day! I hope your day has been just lovely. β€ It's bright and sunny here, there is snow EVERYWHERE and it's pretty cold, I must say! Cardigans are my constant companions these days ... :)

Sharing a few photos from the last couple of days ... as a blizzard moved in, we battened and hunkered ... lit candles just in case ... and then the sun came out. Here's a toast to February comforts and joys ... 

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"Winter, a lingering season, is a time to gather golden moments, embark upon a sentimental journey, and enjoy every idle hour." ~ John Boswell

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Keep warm, my friends - inside and out! I'll see you here again very soon ...


My February Planner ... with printable links! ❀

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Hello, my friends ... and Happy Tuesday!

With February now well underway, I thought you might like a peek at my planning pages for the month ahead. January has been retired to a storage binder so it's time to move February to the front of the line!

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Isn't the cover page pretty? :)

So first up in my homekeeping binder - before the actual "planner" section - comes my domestic journal. I've blogged about how and why I journal many times before so I won't bore you with details here, but I'd like to show you the first couple of pages in February ...

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Ok, I lied, here are a few (hopefully not boring) details ...

Along with handwritten notes, I add clippings from current magazines, newspapers, catalogs (etc.). I adore periodicals - I'm a bit of an information junkie, actually. I choose to save timely things to reflect what's going on right now, and I particularly like things that look visually appealing in my journal. So the journal pages shown above reflect February themes - the Superbowl, Valentines, winter driving, indoor plants and the late winter garden (hellebores, or Lenten Rose) ...

There is also a recipe for a chocolate bundt cake. ❀ And yes, it might seem odd to "bury" a recipe in a journal, but I have a method for keeping track of journal recipes and a system for what gets put in here as opposed to being filed away with other recipes. (More on that in my next #52Weeks progress report, "Cookbook and Recipes," to come later this week!)

I keep my binder open on my kitchen counter at all times (save parties, natch) so I can easily jot things down as they come to me. I add clippings as I can too - catching up during weekend office hours, when I review my journal from the past week. Sometimes I fall behind and keep a small pile of clippings "to journal" in my inbox, but preferably I add things on a daily basis as I come across them in the interest of keeping current.

Ok, now comes the planning section of my binder! First is the February title page ...

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Then immediately comes the month-at-a-glance calendar ...

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Confession: I have not yet fully embraced this homemade month-at-a-glance calendar. I like how it looks, but it's a bit cramped for me. I tend to need more space in a monthly calendar, because while I do write small, I write A LOT! So for now I'm keeping a second calendar in each monthly section (see the tabs sticking out along the edge of the binder?). This Day-Timer brand calendar features a two-page spread, with a large, lined grid. I've used this calendar for several years now and find it efficient and comfortable.

Just beyond the calendar in the picture above are my "Winter Term" planning and note pages which I moved forward from January. These are pretty basic in design, but give me a place where I can organize our home learning goals for the next few months.

Next we have a brainstorming page for February titled, "Romancing the Winter" ...

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Now, I realize some (many?) people find it hard to "embrace" winter - but I honestly love it. Not that I don't yearn for spring when winter lingers into March (which it's known to do in New England), but truly, there's so much to relish in each and every season. My journal (and planner) help remind me of that! So this is just a place where I can write down all the lovely ways to enjoy February ...

Some might find these sheets a bit "silly," but I do not hesitate to include things like this in my planners. I feel seasonal enjoyment lends such richness and comfort to my family's life and if I don't plan for it (imagine it, write it down, work it into our life), it can slip through our fingers too easily as one day blurs into the next. This is why I keep pages like this right beside more "practical" planning sheets. The fun things we did in this post are thanks to this kind of planning. :)

Ok, the next page is for planning "February Festivities: ...

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I included St. Brigid's Day, Candlemas, St. Valentine's Day and Shrove Tuesday on this sheet. These are all liturgical feasts/events but I might also have included National Weatherman's Day, Laura Ingall Wilder's Birthday, or Superbowl Sunday. It's all about selecting a few events I want to plan and prepare for each month - with crafts, activities, and/or special foods for my family.

And right after that comes "February Lenten Planning" ...

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... including an outline for "The 40 days of Lent."

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Lent doesn't actually begin until March 1st but since I want to do my planning ahead this month, these sheets will reside in February. I've just started gathering my thoughts for the season ahead and this is the place I go when I want to make a note or a list.

Next comes the February Overview page and then the weekly planning sections begin ...

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This shows a week to come and so it has not been filled out yet. I do most of my "filling in" the weekend before a new Monday. Each weekly planning section contains a seasonally-inspired overview on the left (in Feb. that includes 1/30-2/5, 2/6-2/12, 2/13-2/19, 2/20-2/26) and a home learning worksheet on the right. I'm trying out a couple of extra printables in this section as well (seen in more detail in this post).

(Note: You can find planning sheets for all the months of the year in this post here.)

The remaining sheets in my February planner include a Review Page and event planning pages for St. Valentine's Day and Presidents' Days. (I decided I needed more space for planning Valentines than just the small box in the "Festivities" page.) When I have an idea for observing these holidays I jot them down on their planning pages.

Here's the binder as it sits on my kitchen counter, open to this week's overview ...

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A binder clip allows me to flip between the day's journaling page and the current week's planning section. It's a system that seems to be working well for me - not that I'm not always tweaking! Forever tweaking ...

Ok, one last picture then... here is this week's file folder, which I keep tucked inside my binder (you can see it just under that binder clip above!). When I pulled the folder out last Thursday I found the page below inside ...

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I was so happy to find this sheet left in here from last year! It reminded me that the bluebirds pass through our area right around now! They enjoy our front burning bush hedge but I want to make up some of these treats to welcome them (lure them) to our yard. This works well with our "Valentines for the Birds" theme next week!

(Another reason to embrace February ... and I definitely would have forgotten about those bluebirds had I not seen this reminder, but now we'll keep an eye out!

Well my friends, I'm going to wrap up and let you go - but I do hope you've enjoyed this peek at my February planner. Please let me know if you have any questions or would like me to clarify (or expand on) anything. I'm always happy to talk planning!

For now though, I thank you for stopping by and I wish you all a pleasant evening ... still snowing steadily here and boy is it pretty out there. Before I go, here's a picture of the creek up the road ... I snapped this just a little while ago:

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


Welcome, February! ❀

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Good Thursday morning, my friends! I hope your February is off to a great start! We've been busy here with homeschooling and home projects and some of us are nursing a head cold, while a couple of others are just getting over feeling unwell. (I'm happy to say, I'm in the latter group!) Currently I am working on a post about the February section of my planning binder but computer time is a wee bit scarce right now ... so it might be another day or two. Still, I thought I'd pop in and share a few photos from our week so far. This is one of my favorite weeks in the year because it's just rich with "deep winter" goodness - St. Brigid's Day, Candlemas, Groundhog's Day ... not to mention, the Superbowl! (Go Pats!)

Anyhoo ... as I type up this post (late on Thursday, nearing teatime) the snow is flying! It's been sunny all morning (though chilly), but just now the skies got very dark and then suddenly the flakes were falling fast! We're all home now - including Bill (the one with the head cold) - so I don't mind one bit. Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow ... seems the groundhog was right after all!

Speaking of groundhogs ...

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I made this for the boys today and they got such a kick out of it! (Not to mention they were thrilled for a cake out of the blue!) I saw a variation of this idea on Pinterest and had to add it to the week's "crafts and comforts." It's just an 8x8 vanilla snack cake (Trader Joe's) topped with homemade cocoa frosting - mounded in the middle to resemble a groundhog's den. Then I stuck a Teddy Graham in the middle (taking on the role of the groundhog here, popping up to look for his shadow) and sprinkled the "ground" with crushed chocolate cookies (dirt), green sugar (grass) and tiny white candies (snow). Cute to behold, but even more importantly ... really delicious with a cup of milk after lunch!

Also in the kitchen today ... I have several potatoes baking for tonight's shepherd(ess) pie. Don't potatoes in the oven just smell amazing? In a bit (meaning, once I finish this post) I will put the kettle on and get the younger boys to help me make a loaf of Irish soda bread to go with tonight's dinner. And do you know what we will have on that bread ... ?

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Yes, our very own homemade butter! ❀

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We've been making butter on the feast of St. Brigid (patroness of Ireland, dairymaids, cattle and midwives) for many years, but this was Little Bear's first time with the project! And he was pretty impressed - if not much help with the actual shaking. He's only three, so I cut him some slack!

Also for St. Brigid's Day and Candlemas (yesterday and today, respectively) ... winter citrus candles!

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I like to melt beeswax and make candles on Candlemas, but this year I kept it a bit simpler. As crafts go, this was pretty quick and easy! The trickiest bit is getting the orange flesh away from the orange shell neatly. So I just hollowed out an orange and split it in half ... pressed a small star-shaped cookie cutter in one end and stuck whole cloves all around the opening. Then I placed a beeswax tealight inside ... smelled SO amazing. Even after the orange peel started smoking. Oops!

(Of course, it goes without saying, I keep burning candles well out of reach of the children and I never leave them unattended. It's nice to light them while you say a verse or prayer - then quickly snuff them out.)

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I thought the star shape was reminiscent of Brigid's cloak as described in this story - one of our favorite February books! There are so many wonderful picture books to enjoy all through the year ...

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I try to organize mine by seasonal flavor. I have huge baskets in our basement with books filed by season. Right now we have our "deep winter" books up in the schoolroom ... and I must admit - as much as I enjoy them, I'm itching to get to those "early spring" titles!

But there is joy and value in every season, and winter certainly has us in its grip ...

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Now that I have a "real" camera again (a birthday present from Bill and the boys) I am always hoping to get outside and snap photos. I particularly love the early morning ... although this (pre-sunrise) picture is dark, I like how it represents the harsh beauty of winter. I also just love rosehips, period. :)

Back out in the learning room (aka the sunroom), I have a nature corner set up and this is our verse for the month ...

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Lovely words from Be Blest: A Celebration of Seasons, one of my favorite poetry books. β€

Another family tradition at Brigid's Day/Candlemas (nevermind what the groundhog says!) is to organize and bless our spring seeds ...

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I have all kinds of grand plans for the gardens this year! Last year it was all about building the coop and settling our hens, but this year I hope to expand our gardens - flowers, herbs and veggies. Maybe some fruit bushes. Clearly, there will be plenty of morning glories ... ;)

Another quick craft for February ...

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I cut out hearts from pretty scrapbooking paper and made up a garland for the library mantle ...

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I had the grapevine balls on hand (they came off a string of lights) and threaded them with the paper hearts on a length of twine, then hung the garland just beneath the lip of the mantle. Meanwhile, up above ...

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A boxwood wreath - the last of our "Christmas greenery," which was supposed to come down today  - is sporting several Victorian valentines. (Barnes & Noble has the loveliest, old-fashioned notecards for each holiday ... reasonably priced, too!) And just below the wreath is a message for the month (craft store letters painted robin's egg blue ... need a second coat!) and some red beeswax tea lights. I'll be making salt-dough candleholders with the boys for these tealights later this month. The jar candles on either end were made last Candlemas.

Oh, and finally!

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I saw an idea on Facebook - and I cannot remember its origin now! - but it was to use post-its as little love notes for your child(ren) ... one a day leading up to February 14th. I found these cute heart-shaped post-it notes on Amazon (actually, with Lent in mind but they work well here) and embellished a plain craft board wreath with a "Love" banner. (Glittery adhesive stickers against scrapbook paper cut into a banner shape.) Each day I will add a note, filling the whole wreath, with all the different ways we love. Maybe something to love about life, about the world around us ... or maybe something we love about each other. They're not personalized but something I hope each family member enjoys reading each day. Thinking about all the ways we are blessed by love in our life!

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Well my friends, I'd best wrap up now ... this post has gone on MUCH longer than I intended ... teatime has arrived and the sun is shining once again! So as always, I thank you for your time and attention and I wish you a pleasant evening (or day as the case may be). I hope all is well with you where you are ... and I hope to be back again in just a few days to talk more about my February planner ... and plans! :)

In the meantime, take care of yourselves and your loved ones ... I'll see you here again very soon!


Advent Tea, Week 3 ~ Finding Joy in Creation ❀

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

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

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

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:)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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So glad we made sure to fill our feeders yesterday!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Good morning, pretty girls!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*❀*

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

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

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

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

drhanigan AT gmail DOT com

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

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

I will see you all here again very soon!


Advent Tea, Week 2: Plants & Peace

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Hello my friends, and Happy Friday!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Oliver thought this was a GREAT idea.

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

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

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

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

Soon I'll be starting fruitcakes ...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See you here again very soon!


A Spot of Thanksgiving Tea πŸ’›

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Hello, my friends ~ and Happy Thanksgiving Eve! :) Things here are all a-bustle as we prepare for tomorrow's big family gathering. My happiest news is that our oldest son came home last night from college! It is so good to see our Bookworm! Despite all the cleaning and decorating I've been doing this week, our Thanksgiving holiday officially began once this boy stepped in our front door ...

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(I never sleep so well as when ALL my boys are at home.)

So today I'd like to pour you all a cup of tea, offer you a cookie or two - pre-made I'm afraid, but quite tasty! - and catch up over a little Turkey Day chat:

If you're American, how are you celebrating this wonderful holiday? What's your favorite tradition? What does your menu look like this year? For my friends living outside America, how does your weekend look? Are you enjoying these last days of late autumn?

And how about your weather? It's VERY cold and windy in these parts ...

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We even had our first snow the other night! Just a coating, but it was quite pretty. A gentle reminder that more white stuff is coming ...

So if you had a peek at my Thanksgiving planner then you know I have lots of things to do this week! I absolutely relish this week though, because Thanksgiving is all about family, home, food and GRATITUDE. A time that highlights all the dearest pleasures of home, and the kinds of things I love doing best ... baking, decorating, welcoming, remembering. And with all my boys home and the house shining and smelling of baking - well, I'm a very happy mama today!

So here is where I was yesterday - out in the sunroom, working on table linens, flowers, place cards ...

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... and lists, of course! Always the lists. :)

Now, I usually drink my tea out of a very large mug but it's nice sometimes to sit down with a fine china teacup don't you think? And as you see in my top photo, I enjoyed yesterday's tea in a beautiful cup that once belonged to a dear friend's grandmother. When Shoshana stayed with us last month she was in the midst of cleaning out her ailing mother's home, preparing to sell it this fall. A difficult task (both physically and emotionally) and I was glad we were able to find some time to sit down and really talk. As she cleaned, Shoshana found many family treasures, including unpacked boxes of teacups that once belonged to her maternal grandmother. Knowing how I love teacups, she offered them to me!

So as I sipped my from that cup yesterday, I thought fondly of Shoshana and our friendship that dates back to kindergarten. Shosh (or Susie as I called her growing up) has lived in California for many years, so we don't get to see each other very often but I am so grateful for her friendship. There were lots of cups to choose from but I picked the black and white print yesterday because it reminded me of a pilgrim. :)

(And by the way, I was drinking "American Breakfast" tea - a caffeinated blend because I needed a little shot in the arm yesterday!)

But now here's today's tea ...

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Back to my favorite decaf - with a spoonful of raw sugar and LOTS of organic whole milk - served in one of my gigantic tea mugs. Oh, and those cookies ...

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These are just Pilsbury holiday sugar cookies - because yes, I'm a sucker for holiday marketing! Just pop them in the oven and 10 minutes later, freshly baked cookies! I made them for the boys this week but honestly, I'm pretty sure I've eaten the most of anyone so far.

And here again is my helper, assisting in the placement of china and napkins and turkeys. :)

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About those paper turkeys ... remember I showed them to you in a previous post? Well, as you can see they are serving as place cards and on the back of each turkey we glued a printout of our grace ...

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He was SUCH a big help with those glue sticks ... ;)

And now each guest can follow along with the grace as it is said ...

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After grace, each guest can use the crayon by their plate to write down what they're thankful for then hang their turkey blessings on the learning line. It will be fun to see what everyone says!

Now before I go, a few random things ...

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This is my favorite Thanksgiving decoration - a pretty little pilgrim-turkey-angel jingle bell ornament I've had for years. I have it hanging in my kitchen window. :)

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Our favorite holiday special ... we watch it every year WHEN it is on. (I mean, we could watch it any time obviously - between YouTube and DVDs - but there's something really neat about participating in the annual airing!) Which is tonight, by the way - at 8 p.m. on ABC. :)

And here's me, having tea in the sunroom (aka learning room), wearing a new sweater I bought myself this morning!

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I have a longtime love for cardigans, and my favorite is one I've had for years - a long soft gray sweater that I wear ALL the time in cool/cold weather. Well, it was time to have a second sweater for changing things up! I saw this navy blue cardigan at Target and couldn't resist. And then I had to show you all, because if you're looking for a soft and WARM, kick-around, but nice-enough-to-wear-out kind of sweater, this is it. $30 is not bad in my opinion for a well-crafted sweater. There were other colors to choose from but I just honed right in on this deep blue. It's one of my favorite colors to wear.

Oh, and there are pockets! :)

Had to share this too ...

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A fresh binder and pad of vintage-style cardstock! Revamping my homekeeping binder with fresh supplies makes me very happy! I'm working on tweaking last year's seasonal planning sheets so that they're current for 2017. Adding a few new page designs, too. Hope to have a post on all that sometime in early December!

Here's a peek at the November-themed page ...

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(P.s. Remember a while back on Facebook I mentioned I was hosting a homeschool moms meeting with the discussion topic, "time management tools?" Well I have not forgotten I promised to share notes from that meeting! But we had so much to discuss, we're actually having a follow-up meeting next month! In a future post I'll tell you all about the meetings and all the different planning styles we discussed.)

One last picture ...

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Basking in the sun, taking all the holiday prep in stride (while Oliver hides) is my Archie. :)

Now I have a couple of pies to make and some cranberries to brandy, but first a bit of housekeeping ...

(And how about another cup of tea?)

ADVENT NOTES 

I will post the follow up to my Advent planning sheets after the holiday (but hopefully over the weekend, or at the very latest early next week). I have notes on each of the planning sections to share, but I'm still in the midst of organizing this year's plans! (Hitting the craft store on Friday!)

I can show you this though ...

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So this is something we'll be doing for Advent! I saw an idea on Pinterest (originating at this blog here) and I just thought - how very clever! I'm still mulling this over, but I will fill you all in once I get all those pockets filled in!

ADVENT TEA


I will also be hosting a weekly tea here all throughout Advent ... up till New Year's actually! Stay tuned for more details but I would love to have you join me. This year I am eager to see YOUR favorite tea cup. What do you like to drink your tea/coffee/cocoa/mulled cider in best? Every one that sends me a picture of their favorite cup (or mug) will be entered in my Winter Comforts Giveaway. This package will be mailed out after the new year. :)

Note: I still don't have my blog email up and running so for now, if you'd like to send me a picture (or just a hello!) you can send it to drhanigan AT gmail DOT com. :)

Ok, I think that's all I have for now. I do hope you enjoyed our tea, and I would love to hear from you if you have a moment. I know many of us are busy scrambling about getting ready for tomorrow's big feast, so maybe we'll catch up in a few days. But as always, I thank you for joining me here and I look forward to visiting again! 

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

AND HAPPY THANKSGIVING!