Perhaps one of the best parts of Spring weather is all of the wildflowers blooming. We naturally are outdoors more, and so I always look for ways to bridge the natural world in my children’s play and learning. This season we have studied flower parts, collected flowers, planted wildflowers, dried wildflowers, and more recently made Sun Art. I thought I would write down a few ideas to share, activities that are versatile for ages and locale. I also listed a few of our favorite flower books to complement our learning. Happy Spring!

1. Dissect a Flower / Wildflowers can be difficult for this since the flower parts are often small and more difficult to identify. We found that Lilies worked best since their parts were easier for young ones (and adults) to identify. Consider gluing/taping and labeling the parts to a sheet of paper as you identify them for review. Microscopes aren’t necessary for this activity, but they are a special addition for older children to see small parts up close. This sturdy, American-made Magiscope is our favorite, if you’re looking for future gift ideas for your homeschool. ;)

2. Create Sun Art / This activity always turns out beautifully, and is simple enough for preschoolers to enjoy. I purchased this Sun Art paper, although a smaller size would work, too. Consider cutting the larger sheets to create bookmarks or even layer over cardstock for special cards. The children collect the flowers and arrange them indoors on the blue paper, out of the sun light. When they are ready, they take the paper to the sun and lay a piece of acrylic, the set arrive with, over the top. Press down firmly to prevent shadows, and leave it in the sunlight for a few minutes until the paper turns white. Rinse the paper under water for a minute and let it dry. All Done!

3. Flower Scavenger Hunt / Print a paper with local wildflowers and set out on a walk around the neighborhood or in a nature preserve to see how many you can find. See how many you all can name without looking it up.

4. Press Wildflowers / I loved doing this as a child, and it only works if you’re picking in an area where it’s allowed. Spread and wrap a handful of blooms on a paper towel. Press between the pages of a book.  Stack heavy books on top and leave for a few days, until the flowers are completely dry.

5. Wildflower Memory Game / Gather several different wildflowers from one area. Spread out across the table, covering each different flower with a cloth. Remove the cloth and let the children study the flower for a 30 seconds to a minute, then cover again. Send them into the field to see if they can remember which flowers were on the table. For young children, choose five flowers. For older children, choose up to 10 different flowers. My kids love this one!

6. Make Nature Faces / Cut a piece of cardboard or brown paper bag in an oval shape. Have the children collect plants and flowers to make facial features for the oval. Glue them to the board and name their nature faces to play with or hang on the wall.

7. Create Flower Crowns / Of course, flower crowns can be beautifully elaborate and complex, but they needn’t be for child play. Look for long grasses or weeds to tie or braid together. Tie flowers to the mix and wear for outdoor pretend play.

8. Plant Wildflowers / For all the activities that require picking wildflowers, here’s an opportunity to give back. Purchase seeds that will grow well in your area and create a personal garden, or spread them along empty fields and highways for the public to enjoy.

9. Dry Wildflowers and Herbs / Gather a small bunch of favorite flowers or herbs and tie them together. Hang them in an arid area of your home, near a door or window that often open, and leave them for a couple of weeks until completely dried. Cu  herbs to use in the kitchen, or hang the wildflowers in a bedroom.

10. Create a Wildflower Journal / Take photos, dry-press, or illustrate wildflowers you discover. Help your children label their common and scientific names and location. Add new pages each time you go for a nature walk or even for the next season.

11. Make Your Own Wildflower Nomenclature Cards / Nomenclature or three-part cards are a Montessori memory and learning tool, where three separate card parts are matched together. The top part is the largest with a photo of the flower, the next part has the name of the flower, the third part a description (better for older children). Create your own local nomenclature cards by taking images of flowers you discover during nature activities or play. Learn about the flower together with your children, and help them create the name card and description card for matching and memory work.

12. Play Wildflower Board Games / Make your own Bingo or memory game with photos or try this one.

13. Gift Wildflower Seed Packets / Share the gift of Spring blooms with friends and neighbors. Purchase wildflowers seeds in bulk, and add a spoonful to these mini-envelopes. Let your children stamp a wildflower on the front.

14. Grow Flowers from Seeded Paper / What a magical experiment for young children. This is best matched with beloved Eric Carle’s The Tiny Seed.

15. Color Previously Illustrated Wildflowers / This vintage styled coloring book has over 44 favorite, full-page wildflowers with information about each for your little artists. Plop down on a blanket with them and color together. Find out if any are local to your area.

FAVORITE LITERATURE + BOTANY RESOURCES  FOR YOUNG CHILDREN TO ADULTS

Miss Rumphius | This is one of my favorite books, and we read again and again each time Spring arrives. It prompts questions of what each of us are doing to make the world more beautiful.

Nature Anatomy | The spine on this book is worn thin with use and reference and is still my children’s favorite. It covers many topics lightly with beautiful illustrations, a perfect resource for wetting little appetites.

Up in the Garden Down in the Dirt | This book is larger in theme than flowers, but I appreciate how it shows the connection between the life below and above the earth’s surface, and the relational connection of the family in the garden. Plus, the illustrations are just lovely.

A Seed is Sleepy | Beautifully illustrated and labeled like each of Dainna Aston’s books, this one poetically tells the power and life of a seed.

Play the Forest School Way | This is another favorite reference for playful activities outdoors. I adapted two of the activities above from this book, and I love that they label each activity with age-appropriateness.

The Tiny Seed | Eric Carle. Need I say more? This one is perfect for exploring the way seeds travel and grow with early learners, and new copies arrive with seeded paper for you to plant and experiment with at home!

Planting a Rainbow |  This one is another perfect read with littles to introduce flower names, color, and seed bulbs.

The Curious Garden  | Peter Brown is another favorite author here. My oldest received this one as a gift several years ago, because he and the main character share a name, but I love this story for so many reasons. It models the importance of caring for the earth, the power of plant life to beautify spaces and uplift the human spirit, and the impact of even the smallest actions to create change.

The Secret Garden (I love this collector’s edition) | This is a wonderful read aloud or shared read with older children, exploring ideas about growing gardens both literally and metaphorically.

How to Be a Wildflower  | Filled with poetic quotes and ideas, this beautifully illustrated field guide is for older children and adults both to enjoy!

Botanicum | This one is currently on our wishlist, but we’ve enjoyed Animalium so much, I know we’d love the illustrations and descriptions here, too.

The Gardener | Like The Curious Garden, this introduces the contrast of urban and country settings, and the power of natural life and beautiful florals to uplift the human spirit. It is also formatted with letter writing, perhaps inspiring a lost art, even in our home.

Our family has been studying the 19th century this year, and while we are only scratching the surface of events and topics, it has been incredible to read the various narratives of women before women had the right to property, work, or education. From Sacagawea to Queen Victoria to the numerous women in pioneering homesteads to slave narratives and abolitionists and women who bravely took up new roles in the Civil War, I have been moved to read so many stories of courage and compassion, of perseverance and fortitude with my children. As a parent, I hope these powerful words become descriptions of their lives one day, too.

Although books are an important way we build character in our home, it isn’t the only one. Many of the practical character lessons our children learn occur just outside our doors, where they play with friends and build forts and garden. When possible, these lessons extend when we travel and experience other parts of the world or plan outdoor excursions. Today, I am partnering with Keenshoes our family has loved for yearsto share their new Moxie line for girls, and also a few character lessons growing in our girls through outdoor play and exploration.  

There are accumulating piles of research on the benefits of outdoor living for our children’s health: Vitamin D, decreased stress and anxiety, calming for ADD/ADHD, physical exercise, and so on. Yet as a parent, I also notice the ways outdoor living and play teaches my girls something about courage and compassion, about perseverance and beauty. When they climb trees or hike long trails, when they experience new people or ideas from history, when they rove through rivers or gather wildflowers, they are developing a greater understanding and appreciation for the world around them.

Naturally, I do not know who exactly my girls will grow up to be, but I have glimpses now when I see them try something new or speak the truth clearly, when I watch them work hard at a task or serve someone when they think nobody’s watching. As Marmee noted to her girls in Little Women, “I so wish I could give my girls a more just world. But I know they will make it a better place.” Here are a few ways giving my girls plenty of time outside is equipping them to do just that.  

Perseverance / We love to hike, especially in the spring when our Southern air is still cool. There are times, our girls grow tired before we are done, especially our youngest. These experiences are opportunities of perseverance, of continuing despite the hardship, despite knowing how much longer until we are through. To lighten the experience, we might make a game, racing to certain points or playing “I spy.” I might hand them my phone to take pictures along the way. When they finish, we always high-five and celebrate!

Courage / There are plenty of opportunities for courage in the outdoors, whether in casual tree climbing, swimming, or in learning about wildlife. One summer we camped in the mountains in Colorado, and I remember the park ranger giving us instructions about bears. One of the girls looked at me with wide eyes and asked, “Did she say bears?” When we venture into new areas together and learn about the land and wildlife, sometimes it is scary. Sometimes unknowns are scary and unpredictable, a sign for us change course. Other times, they are an opportunity for courage.

Compassion / Spending time outdoors, even simply in our backyard or growing food in our garden, cultivates a love and appreciation for the natural world, and subsequently, a longing to preserve and protect it. When we are walking and find trash in the grass or bushes, we collect it. When we garden organically, we are learning about how to take care of the earth and our bodies. When we interact with homeless on the city street, we say hello and offer them something if we can. All of these seemingly small habits are growing a deeper awareness of the world and people around us, and how we participate in caring for them.

Gratitude / Even in the youngest years, children notice bugs and leaves adults might pass by. They listen to songbirds and the rustling leaves. They enjoy animals and wildlife and playgrounds and picnics. Playing outdoors has a way of cultivating gratitude, simply by its enjoyment. When we pray together, we often thank God for pieces of nature we’ve experienced that day.

Determination / There are moments my girls spot a specific tree or boulder and are determined to conquer it. Sometimes they slip and have to start over, but I love watching them beeline for something specific to work toward. I love it even more when they find a way to help one another, by coaching steps or lending a boost.


This post is sponsored by Keen, a business our family has loved for years. All thoughts and images are my own. Always, thank you for supporting the businesses that help keep our family and this space afloat. 

Easter morning is one of my favorite mornings of the year. As with many people around the world, the day holds deep, spiritual significance for our family, and it always seems fitting to welcome the morning outdoors with the sunrise, singing birds, rustling trees, and of course brunch. The Springtime here naturally reflects the resurrection song, and it is the perfect backdrop for a celebratory Easter Brunch.

I am not a very formal person, but I do love good food, presented in a beautiful and casual manner, enjoyed with people I love. Today, I’m partnering with Williams Sonoma to introduce a few pieces of their Spring Garden collection and also share a simple brunch menu for Easter, one that is easy enough for the children to help prepare, but with just enough sophistication for the adults to enjoy, too. I’ve mentioned this before, but simple doesn’t equate to easy. Simple is more a reference to the spirit and process of the meal. Every homemade meal requires preparation and work, but as with many things, many hands lightens the effort. Involve those children!

I tried to piece together a brunch menu that felt approachable, yet still special. As a mother, I’ve learned preparation is key to simplifying meals, especially larger, more intentional ones. Many of these dishes that can be prepped or baked in advance, leaving only the last baking or setting of the table for the morning of the brunch. They are also simple enough for children of all ages to participate in helping prepare. For those wondering, I added a little note in each section of ways to include children in the process. The recipes, for the most part, are intuitive, and the details follow the planning section below. I hope this helps make a beautiful brunch feel more approachable in your own home.


BRUNCH MENU

French Radishes

Fresh Berries

Almond Croissants

Rosemary Potatoes

Spring Vegetable Egg Casserole

Lemon Bunny Cakelettes + Petit Fours

Rose + Orange Blossom Mimosas

Blood Orange Italian Soda


PLANNING AHEAD

TWO WEEKS BEFORE

  • Size (friends and family, small or large)?
  • Style (casual, formal)?
  • Menu. Write a list of family favorites to begin. If friends are joining, consider a potluck style meal.
  • Location. Inside or outside? At a friend’s house or yours?
  • Send invites or make phone calls to invite the people on your list.
  • Order any special accoutrements for the meal (bakeware, place settings, or specialty foods)
  • CHILDREN: Paint or hand-write invites.

ONE WEEK BEFORE

  • Write out your grocery list.
  • Double-check you have all of your materials, table details, and tools.

TWO DAYS BEFORE

  • Double-check with guests who are bringing food.
  • Grocery shop and pick up a few special blooms for the table.
  • Arrange flowers.
  • CHILDREN: Help trim and arrange flowers. Write name tags (if using). Make sure all the linens are clean and accounted for.

ONE DAY BEFORE

  • Bake cakelettes and petits fours in the morning, and set aside to cool.
  • Prepare the Spring Vegetable Egg Casserole. Do not bake. Cover and set aside in the fridge overnight.
  • Set the croissants on the baking tray to rise overnight.
  • Slice and store radishes.
  • Wash, pat dry, and mix berries.
  • If you have a single oven, bake the potatoes now, refrigerate overnight, and quickly reheat before brunch.
  • If you are eating indoors, set the table the night before.
  • If you are eating outdoors, neatly stack the place settings in baskets or tidy piles to quickly set up in the morning.
  • Set aside a few small baskets with treats for the kids, like these, the night before.
  • CHILDREN: Help make the cakelettes and chop vegetables. Wash and pat dry potatoes and berries. Wipe down the table and chairs to prepare for the morning.

EASTER MORNING

  • Turn on music or open the windows, if the weather permits.
  • Get dressed, make coffee, and watch the sunrise together.
  • Share a moment of gratitude.
  • Bake the croissants, potatoes, and egg casserole, timing the casserole to finish around the time you want to eat. It should take less than an hour with a double-oven. If you are baking all three with a single oven, allow up to 90 minutes.
  • Set the table.
  • Butter radishes.
  • Dust the cakelettes with powdered sugar.
  • Mix and pour drinks.
  • CHILDREN: Help set the table. Get dressed. Serve or pour non-alcoholic drinks. Set food on the table.


RECIPES

FRENCH RADISHES

Have you tried these before? So delicious. My sister first introduced me a few months ago, and they’re the quickest little appetizer. She takes it up a notch with fresh bread. Mmm. Wash and slice fresh radishes. Swipe a bit of softened unsalted butter on the top. Add sea salt.

 

ROSEMARY POTATOES

I have a family of potato-lovers, so they are always a welcome edition to any special meal. Wash 2 pounds of butter potatoes. Toss them in extra virgin olive oil. Generously sprinkle with sea salt and freshly chopped rosemary. Bake in the oven at 425F until done, approximately 35-40 minutes.

 

FRESH BERRIES

Rinse and pat dry your choice of berries. I used raspberries, blackberries, and sliced strawberries.

 

LEMON BUNNY CAKELETTES + PETITS FOURS

These mini-bunny cakelettes were my favorite part of the meal. Aren’t they cute? I used this mix to help save a bit of time and it was wonderful! Think: moist lemon pound cake. One box filled both the mini-bunny cakelet pan and the petits fours pan, and they carry the mix gluten free, too. Wink.

 

ALMOND CROISSANTS

Croissants are my pastry weakness, and these are my absolute favorite pre-made croissants––the next best thing to having a French baker in your kitchen. The chocolate are spectacular, too.  

 

SPRING VEGETABLE EGG CASSEROLE adapted from Gimme Some Oven

2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 yellow onion, peeled and diced

8 oz. baby bella mushrooms, sliced

1 lb asparagus, cut in 1” pieces

1 large carrot, peeled and diced

1 bunch of broccolini florets

1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved

4 oz goat cheese, crumbled

12 eggs, whisked

½ c. milk

Sea Salt

Black Pepper

Lightly rub butter over the surface of your casserole dish. Heat the olive oil in a pan over medium-high heat. Add the onion and sauté a few minutes until translucent. Add a bit more oil (if necessary), and stir in the garlic, carrots, asparagus, broccolini. Sauté for about 10 minutes, then add the tomatoes and mushrooms. Sauté for another few minutes. Pour half the veggie mixture into the casserole dish, layering half the goat cheese on top. Repeat. Whisk the eggs and milk together in a bowl, adding salt and pepper to taste. Pour the egg mixture over the top of the vegetables. Cover and put in the fridge overnight or bake straight away. Bake at 350F for 35-40 minutes. It is done when the knife (or toothpick) is clean. Serve immediately.


This post is sponsored by Williams Sonoma, a company our family has loved for years. All thoughts and images are my own. Thank you for supporting the businesses that help keep this space afloat. 

It feels a tad weird to be writing about Springtime and flowers while currently traveling through winter weather, but Spring has already sprouted in our southern home: trees budding, wildflowers sprinkling the highways, songbirds chirping at sunrise. As Rilke wrote, “It is spring again. The earth is like a child that knows poems by heart.” And so we celebrated our youngest songbird’s eighth birthday with flowers and friends, two of her very favorite things.

To keep birthday experiences simple for our home, our children only have the option for a birthday party on certain years, a year when they can opt for a party experience with friends as their gift from me and Mark. So when they choose a party, I tend to make the details special, something they will enjoy and something to remember. Olive and I had several conversations about what type of party she wanted, which left me feeling she should consider event planning one day, as they were all such large-scale, fun ideas. In the end we opted to recreate a flower market experience and allow each friend space to make their own arrangement. Blythe thoughtfully painted a sign for Olive to hang in her shop.

Since our backyard is currently a mesh of backyard projects and renovations, I asked a dear friend if I could host the party on her beautiful property in the country. We don’t have a flower market at our farmer’s market, but they are one of my favorite things to enjoy when we travel.

When the girls arrived, they each had a spot at the table, marked with a paper doily, mason jar vase, drinking glass, and paper-lined basket for little nibbles. They each perused and gathered from the flower market (set up with a lemonade stand) and returned to their spots where they had access to scissors for trimming stems and various colors of string for decorating their vases (and for marking their personal arrangement). We talked about the importance of flowers and pollinators in the world, a repeat conversation from our homeschool group’s flower study the week before.

Once the girls finished making flowers, they sipped Italian soda and filled their baskets with berries and popcorn. We sang happy birthday to Olive with mini lemon-filled cupcakes, and she opened gifts and read thoughtful notes from friends, many of which included bubble gum. The girls each filled and stamped small envelopes with wildflower seeds to take home and grow their own cutting gardens.

Although the party created quite the mess, it was a simply, beautiful way to celebrate the season. For those of you interested in hosting your own (even for adults!), here are a list of materials I used. for younger girls, it’s best to have a few extra set of adult hands available for helping tie knots and cut difficult stems. For older girls and adults, create a bit more time for the art of arrangement with helpful tips, such as how to choose colors or arrange by height and spill. Consider the audience ages and their attention span/interest levels. Most of this group preferred to simply jump right in! Either way can be fun. Enjoy!

MATERIALS TO CREATE YOUR OWN SPRINGTIME FLOWER PARTY

The days have been warm here, feeling more like spring than late winter. I don’t mind. I spent the day on a blanket last weekend, reading Luci Shaw’s Water My Soul, and soaking up the warm light. It’s possibly the most restorative way for me to spend alone time, tending the soil of my own soul and spirit, taking in the outdoors. In spite of a few hard freezes here, our garden kale and brussel sprouts have continued to grow, and the heirloom lettuces I let go to seed last year have blossomed again without effort! It feels miraculous. In our southern heat, these leafy greens only last as long as the weather remains cool in the evening, so I’m harvesting what I can each day, adding a bit of kale to at least one meal or juice a day. As I’ve looked for more creative ways to eat kale, here are a few recipes I’ve found. Kale Cake? Kale Pesto Slaw? Mmm. Enjoy!

  1. Simply Sauté | Toss with olive oil, sea salt, and minced garlic over the stove until a bright green color. Add to any dish.
  2. Green Juice  or this one: 5-6 de-stemmed kale leaves, 1/2 cucumber, 1/2 lemon without the rind, 1 apple, 2 sprigs of mint, 1″ piece of ginger
  3. Wilted Winter Greens Soup
  4. BBQ Kale Chips
  5. Kale and Black Bean Tacos with Roasted Red Pepper Salsa
  6. Butternut Squash + Kale Quesadillas
  7. Blueberry, Kale, and Fig Smoothie
  8. Kale and Apple Cake with Apple Icing
  9. Kale Pasta with Walnuts
  10. Pork Tenderloin with Kale and Kimchi
  11. Kale Veggie Wrap
  12. Kale with Garlic and Bacon
  13. Savory Oatmeal with Garlicky Kale
  14. Winter Farro and Kale Salad
  15. Cheesy Turmeric + Garlic Kale Chips
  16. Chocolate Cocoa Kale Chips
  17. Chive, Kale, + Parmesan Pancakes with Poached Eggs
  18. Kale + Feta Savory Torte
  19. Kale, Cherry, Sunflower Seed Salad with Savory Granola
  20. Roasted Beet, Kale, and Brie Baby Quiche
  21. Savory Corned Beef Brisket + Irish Cheddar French Toast with Kale Pesto Slaw
  22. Hide Your Kale Smoothie
  23. Warm Kale + Artichoke Dip
  24. Detox Salad with Cauliflower, Kale, and Pomegranate
  25. Kale + Popcorn

Any favorite kale recipes to share?

Chicken Soup for Winter WellnessChicken Soup for Winter Wellness

Our home has felt under the weather this last week with fevers and coughs and stuffy noses. With so many friends and extended family members also at home with the flu right now, I’ve again turned to nurture our wellness here. Although there are hundreds of homeopathic remedies to sip or rub or diffuse, this hearty Chicken Soup with Kale and Carrots is my favorite to return to during theses dreary, cold months.

While two of my children were sprawled across the sofa or in their beds feeling awful, my youngest has been bouncing on furniture and hanging from doorways, telling me how much she misses having playmates. “I am 100% extrovert! I need to be with people,” she shouted this week. I just laughed. For my little who loves people, this week has been a great lesson in how healthy busy hands can help nurture and take care of those who don’t feel well. So she’s made tea for her siblings and given her sister a foot rub. She’s written little notes and helped a ton in the kitchen, one of her favorite places.

This weekend, we decided to make our favorite chicken soup together. It is the perfect recipe for little helpers as there’s much washing, peeling, and rough chopping needed. On a side note since many have asked, Olive began chopping in the kitchen with me at age four, more because of her own interest. Now, she always uses her child’s chef knife and peeler set we gifted her a couple of Christmases ago. (The same company also sells the chef knife and finger guard on its own.) I love that it encourages proper finger placement and protection with the finger guard, but the blade is still sturdy enough to chop carrots. At nearly eight, she does all of her own chopping, although always with my supervision. Wink.

Chicken Soup for Winter Wellness Chicken Soup for Winter Wellness

Below is the recipe for one large batch of soup (serving 6-8ish). I often chop extra veggies (marked with *) to make a second bone broth after I’ve stripped the meat from the chicken. It’s a way to stretch the chicken and stock the freezer for another meal. You’ll find both listed below in the instructions. Enjoy!

CHICKEN SOUP WITH KALE+ CARROTS adapted from It’s All Good

1 whole chicken, 4-5 lbs

1 large yellow onion, quartered*

1 celery stalk, washed and roughly chopped*

1 large leek, washed really well, trimmed and chopped*

2-3 medium carrots, washed, peeled, and roughly chopped for the broth*

2-3 medium carrots, washed, peeled, and roughly chopped, reserved for the soup

a few sprigs of thyme

1 bay leaf

2-3 teaspoons of sea salt

1 teaspoon of coarsely ground black pepper

1 large bunch of kale, washed and torn into bite-size pieces

2 large soup pots

(optional) extra carrot, celery, onion, and leek chopping to set aside for a second bone broth


TO MAKE THE CHICKEN SOUP

Toss the coarsely chopped veggies [onion, celery, leek, carrots] and chicken in a pot. Cover with sea salt, black pepper, thyme, and the bay leaf. Fill the pot with cold water, covering the veggies and chicken, and bring the water to a boil over high heat. When it boils, lower the heat and simmer for 2 hours.

Pour and strain the stock into a clean pot, removing and discarding the cooked vegetables. Pull the meat off the chicken––it should fall right off the bone––adding the shredded chicken to the broth. If the chicken is too hot for your fingers, use a knife and tongs. Leave the bones in the first pot for now. Add the torn kale and fresh batch of carrots to the soup. Let the soup simmer for an additional 20 minutes. Serve and enjoy. This soup pairs really well with an easy, handmade crusty bread, too. Wink.

TO STOCK UP ADDITIONAL BONE BROTH

While the soup is simmering, add any veggie scraps or extra veggies you have chopped back into the first pot with the chicken bones. Add a bit of parsley or thyme and sea salt. Fill the pot again with cold water. Bring the pot to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer for 6 to 12 hours. I often leave it simmering overnight. Let the broth cool. Strain it into a a pot or bowl. Measure and store in the freezer for a future soup, or to sip on when your home needs nurturing wellness.

winter_skin-1 winter_skin_beautycounter

In the winter, my skin tends to feel like the branches outside my door: pale, dry, and brittle. It is more sensitive in the drier, cold air, more prone to patches of flaky skin on my cheeks and pronounced fine lines around my eyes and mouth. I crave moisture, inside and out. After writing about the importance of taking care of our skin and my personal journey with Beautycounter in this post last fall, I thought it might be helpful to share how I am nurturing my skin this season with warm liquids and safer skin care.

HYDRATE FROM THE INSIDE

Two brief notes about me: I am cold-natured and I love coffee. This means when the temperature drops and our home becomes drafty, I really struggle to remain hydrated, often mindlessly swapping drinking water for coffee in effort to keep warm. For obvious reasons, juices and smoothies tend to loose their allure in the cold months, too. I know dehydration is an enemy to our wellness in general, especially our skin wellness, so entering this winter, I needed to find other ways to nourish and hydrate my self and my skin. With the encouragement of a dear friend, I began making a small pot of loose-leaf herbal tea each morning and sipping on it throughout the day. I still have a cup of coffee in the morning, but most mornings not until after I’ve had a full cup of warm herbal tea and a large glass of water, both typically during my morning alone time. Homemade broth, bone broth, and tasty soups are other ways I nourish my skin and keep warm in the winter.

winter_skin_beautycounter_2 Nurturing Winter Skin with BeautycounterHELPING REFORM THE COSMETICS INDUSTRY

As I mentioned last fall, after reading Beautycounter’s Never List, I realized how many “all-natural” and “organic” products were in our home loaded with toxins linked to things like hormonal imbalances and even cancer. Although I had already been using essential oils in our home, even with a few skin care recipes, I felt like my skin needed a little more attention. I tried Beautycounter and immediately loved how simple and light their products are and of course how my skin felt. While I am not typically an MLM fan, I have loved partnering with Beautycounter’s initiative to educate the public about what we’re putting on our skin and their political activism to see change in legislature holding the beauty industry more accountable. Whether you use Beautycounter or not, you can find out more on how to write your senator for cosmetic reform here .

Nurturing Winter Skin with BeautycountDAILY WINTER SKIN CARE ROUTINE

morning / Each morning, I rub a fingertip of the Cleansing Balm into my skin and let it soak in a bit while I brush my teeth. Using warm water, I gently massage a few handfuls of water over my face, removing some of the balm with my fingertips (instead of the cloth). I pat dry with a towel and pump one bit of Nourishing Day Cream onto my fingertip, adding a drop or two of #2 Plumping Face Oil, and gently massage it into my skin. And that’s it! If I’m planning to wear makeup that day, I wait a bit before applying it and give some space for the moisturizers to soak in a bit more. This is a good time to dress and make my bed. Wink.

evening / When it’s time to get ready for bed, I rub a generous fingertip-sized amount of Cleansing Balm over my skin and eyelids (especially if I’ve worm mascara). I often run the cleansing cloth (included with the Cleansing Balm) under hot water, squeeze it out and rest it over my face. This only lasts about 30 seconds, but it always feels therapeutic, a gift at the end of the day. I pat my skin dry and immediately spray my face with one broad pump of Rosewater Mist. The cool contrast to the hot cloth feels wonderful. I finish with one pump of Nourishing Night Cream on my fingertip, adding two drops of Hydrating Face Oil and a dab of Rejuvenating Eye Cream around my eyes (a little creamier in texture to the Nourishing Eye Cream).

THE ALL-PURPOSE CLEANSING BALM

You might notice the emptiness of the jar, but I have loved the Cleansing Balm this winter. Although it is one of the more expensive products, it is still my favorite, with an plethora of uses. I have used it for washing my face, and also as a mask 1-2 times/week for extra hydration. I often use it as a moisturizer on my children’s faces when they become chapped, too. I use it to remove makeup. I have clients who have used it to help with eczema and dry heals, and I recently encouraged one client, who is an avid runner, to try wearing her balm before a run as a mask to preserve the moisture in her skin.
Nurturing Winter Skin BeautycounterCAUSE FOR CONCERN

Did you know many makeup lines (even expensive ones) contain toxins and heavy metals in their products that can affect our endocrine, reproductive, and nervous systems? I encourage you to begin research of your own to make your own decisions, but here’s a helpful start as to which chemicals to be concerned about and why. Although I don’t wear much makeup, I’m grateful for Beautycounter’s initiative to provide makeup that is free of these harmful things. I realize there are many women who choose not to wear makeup, and I say high-fives and way to go. When I go places without a splash of color on my cheeks or a dab of concealer under my eyes, people tend to ask if I’m feeling okay or tell me how tired I look. All to say, I’m not yet to the place where I’m swearing off makeup. Beside the point, I feel better about myself with a little color. Wink.

WINTER MAKEUP ROUTINE

For daily wear in the winter, I prefer makeup that adds moisture and a little natural flush. First, I gently apply Dew Skin Tinted Moisturizer (No. 2) with my fingertips. It has a bit of a sticky texture at first, but quickly adds a dewy look that feels really good in the winter. On a day I need extra moisture, I may skip the Dew Skin altogether and just add a bit of the Cleansing Balm to my skin, letting it soak in like a mask. Either way, I then dab on a little eye concealer (fair, pictured below) to brighten my inherited dark under-eye circles, followed by a few light strokes of mascara. Depending on the day, I use either the cream blusher (Hibiscus, in the picture below) or the blush duo (Tawny/Whisper), with a quick swipe of the lip sheer (Twig, pictured below) to moisturize my lips. I just purchased the Coralbell lip gloss to dab on top for a bit more color this spring. :)

Nurturing Winter Skin with Beautycounterwinter_skin-1-5

A GIFT FOR YOU

As a way to say thank you to my readers and to help encourage the use of safer products in your home, I am reimbursing shipping on all orders of $100 or more placed through my personal site until 11:59pm on January 31, 2017. No commitment or membership sign-up necessary. Wink.

JOIN THE BUSINESS

For those of you interested in joining the Beautycounter movement, there are two separate ways to do so:

become a member / The membership does not require you to sell anything; it allows you to receive free shipping on purchases over $100, receive special promotions, and earn 15% credit on each purchase toward future purchases. You also receive a free gift from Beautycounter if you purchase $50 or more when you sign up, currently the Rose Neroli Hand Soap. Right now, for any reader who signs up through my personal site to become a Band of Beauty member and also places a product order $100 or more, I will reimburse 10% of the order in addition to the automatic free shipping and the Rose Neroli hand lotion. Offer ends 11:59pm on January 31, 2017. 

become a consultant / As a consultant, you would officially join my Beautycounter team and have access to several other people on this same journey. Consultants receive a discount on all product immediately upon signing up and generally take a more active roll with the Beautycounter movement. Whether you are drawn to the activism, wellness, or educational aspect of the business, consultants earn income doing something they care about that benefits themselves and their homes. Through my team, you will have access to an assortment of training and business helps and are free to move toward goals however gently or assertively you desire. Plus you will have access to other training and equipping events and socials hosted by the company around the nation. If you are interested to learn more or have any specific questions about becoming a consultant, please email me: bethany <at> cloisteredaway.com I would love to talk!

Reflections for the New Year

Each new year is a baptism of sorts, a release of one thing, a grasp for another. Whether one toasts champagne or simply turns the paper page on the calendar, we cross over, like mystics. Each of us. All of us. A new year.

I realize for most of us, life carries on today as usual, cup of coffee in hand, laundry, email, work. The ordinariness of time can sometimes mask its importance. I have been cleaning out closets and re-ordering spaces around the house this last week, recalibrating our home after the holiday whirl. These sort of inventories offer the best sort of reflection, a practical accounting of days and time and space. Let it go or put it in place, practically and metaphorically. The process has been that simple.

Yet through it, I have noticed more gentleness toward myself, an ease in letting go without excuse, something atypical to me. I have packed a large box of books we have outgrown, supplies we do not use, work we have completed. I threw away old planners and tangential ideas scratched on paper, opting instead to begin with a clear mind and working space. It is difficult to toss ideas aways, but they can become cumbersome and distracting to new ones. I am trusting that the ideas that matter will circle back on their own again, in their own time.

2016 taught me more about this, about letting go of failure and disappointment and unfinished dead ends, about working with steadfastness and patience. 2016 taught me more about creating in the face of fear, dreaming in spite of failure, putting down the litmus of comparison. It taught me about the power of voice and the value of silence. It’s funny how such powerful lessons can be woven amid difficult circumstances.

Like many people, I typically journal on the cusp of each year. This year, I will be journaling daily in this archival journal my friends Ronnie and Trish just released, filled with daily prompts for cataloguing the days. For me, this annual period of reflection is less about marking tasks to accomplish in the new year and is more about noticing the hidden narrative of my days, the magic lying within the ordinariness and even the hardship. I generally reflect on our year as a family relationally and spiritually. I reflect on our community relationships. I reflect on our homeschool year. Since I am goal-oriented by nature, I prefer to jot down goals for the year ahead. Sometimes I flounder; sometimes I rise. Either way, I am learning how to hold these plans a bit more loosely, to allow them room to take organic course. They are more or less a flickering light for the path ahead. They often keep my feet moving when I feel a bit lost, even if only toward the next step.

For those who are interested, here are a few of the thoughts below I use to process each new year. May they be a flickering light for your path, too.

soult-journals

REFLECT

What was the biggest success of the last year (expected and unexpected)? 

What was the biggest disappointment or obstacle? Were these temporary circumstances or something ongoing/long-term? 

Were your expectations/goals at the beginning of the year reasonable?  Were you trying to do too much at once? Did others involved respond how you anticipated? Finances? Time?

How did you use your free time (unplanned time)? Did you even have free time? Did you rest well?  List some factors or circumstances that prohibit rest/restoration.

How did you take care of yourself? Write one thing you did for yourself that you’d like to continue.

How well did you connect with or take care of others? Name a meaningful point of connection last year. Is there a way to re-create it in the new year?

How do you feel entering the new year? (excited, anxious, fearful, expectant, overwhelmed, etc.) Are any specific life circumstances contributing to this feeling? How does this emotion fuel you? Your family’s relationships/learning? Your work? How does it deplete them?

LET GO

Take a moment to let go of accomplishment and disappointment. Acknowledge your emotions and release them. Imagine yourself being emptied and cleared. Pray and ask for wisdom.

PLAN AHEAD

What is one specific way you want to take care of yourself this year? Is this daily, weekly, monthly? Write it down. If possible, share it with someone you trust, someone who will help you prioritize it.

What is one specific, concrete way to connect with those in your home in a more meaningful way this year? Just one. Is this a daily, weekly, or monthly practice?

What is one specific, concrete way to connect with someone(s) outside of your home in a more meaningful way? Begin with one. Is this a daily, weekly, monthly practice? Write it on the calendar.

What is one area of your family daily routine you’d like to shift? (I ask myself this specifically for the homeschool, too.) What do you need to eliminate? Simplify? Add? Have more consistency in? Write it down.

What part of the follow-through do you need the most help? Physically? Logistically? Emotionally? Spiritually?

What encourages you the most in your daily living? Write down one habit change to cultivate encouragement.

Cloistered Away | Ginger CookiesCloistered Away | Ginger Cookies

I look forward to this season every year, when the home twinkles and the hearth glows, when the kitchen smells of spices and baked goods or a simmering pot on the stove, when the children and I begin afternoon tea with Advent read-aloud and crafts, when we thoughtfully plan out our gifts to make or purchase for dear and near ones. And yet this particular holiday season has been different. I have been away from my home far more than I have been in it. I actually counted the days yesterday and discovered six precious days at home in December. My heart sunk a bit. I don’t regret my days away, as they were meaningful and necessary in their own manner, even when they were unexpected. But without recognizing it, I have found myself chasing home, chasing Christmas this year. I have found myself rushed to do, do, do, to somehow catch up with time, compressing 20 days at home into six. But that pace begins to suffocate me after a while, it squelches the soul, the connection. Instead I am letting go of my own plans this year, releasing it even as I type this out. I’m releasing the unfinished baking and making, the imperfect gifts and lagging Advent readings, the crafts that were never begun, and all of those quiet afternoon cups of tea and read aloud. I’m releasing it all to embrace what we chose instead this year: to serve others in need, to offer my children a small opportunity with theater, to light candles and sing Christmas hymns and carols by candlelight most evenings, to enjoy many afternoons building forts in the woods with friends, to spend time with cousins and grandparents, even a great-grandparent during Christmas, to make wreaths and garlands for other homes instead of my own. Christmas doesn’t have to be perfect to be good. Sometimes the imperfect, the unexpected events and happenings are what make it good (and also sometimes uncomfortable for me).
Cloistered Away | Ginger CookiesCloistered Away | Ginger Cookies

Earlier this week, Olive and I spent the day at my sister’s house, baking gingerbread cookies, writing Christmas cards, and crafting with them. As it happens, we also enjoyed tea––a new loose leaf blend gifted by a dear friend, in a new Japanese tea kettle and hand thrown cup gifted by TOAST. I plan to use both often this winter, ideally with these cookies and heaps of gratitude. Kristen’s ginger cookies are my favorite cookies. Period. I prefer them extra gingery, rolled in raw sugar, soft and chewy, slightly cooled from the oven. The fresh ginger is absolutely wonderful. Rolled out and left in the oven a tad longer, this recipe also creates a perfect dough for cookie cutting, too, and as we have it, perfectly imperfect cookie decorating also. In the event you’re looking for a small afternoon craft or something delicious to share with loved ones, here’s Kristen’s simple recipe for you, a salute to letting go and receiving the day or season at hand, perfectly imperfect. They are tasty and heart-warming in every season or month of the year.

KRISTEN’S GINGER COOKIES

  • 2 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup fresh ginger, peeled and grated
  • 3/4 cup butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup blackstrap unsulphered molasses
  • 1 egg
  • raw sugar for topping

In a bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, and salt. In a separate bowl (or mixing stand), mix together the fresh ginger, butter, and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the molasses and egg. Add in the dry ingredients. Taste and check the ginger flavor of the batter. Add more if necessary (sometimes I add up to 1/2 cup of fresh ginger). Chill for at least one hour.

To bake, preheat the oven to 350 ºF.

For softer, chewier cookies, roll a spoonful of dough between your hands into a ball. Roll the ball in the raw sugar and place on a baking tray 2″ apart. Bake for 10-12 minutes.

For cookie cutting, lightly flour a surface and rolling pin. Roll out the dough evenly, about 1/4″ – 1/8.” Bake for approximately 15 minutes for a crispier cookie, checking not to burn. Cool entirely before icing.

ICING

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1-2 Tbsp milk

Wisk together. It will have a thick, glue-like consistency. Pour into a piping bag to decorate.