Our family is traveling for Thanksgiving this year, something we haven’t done in several years. Sometimes a change of habit is in order. Still, I have received several questions from readers asking some version of how we create our weekly table, and as this next week turns the corner I thought Thanksgiving might just be the right time to share. Naturally, the ideas here apply beyond the annual Thanksgiving meal, and that’s kind of the point. I find excess table accoutrement cumbersome for our small-ish and active home, and I have learned the value of a few steady table pieces with shifting organic detail. Simplicity truly is beautiful. It also keeps the set-up manageable to involve children. Wink. Here’s a few guidelines and sources for our table.

imperfect is perfect / Our linens are often wrinkled and napkins or plates mismatched. The botanicals are sometime fresh and ornate or other times clippings from a nature walk or dried after use. Some of these details I’ve slowly let go over the years, learning sometimes the imperfect is perfect.

mix + match style | We often use our daily wear dishes and glasses, mixing in a few pieces of China plates Mark found in a flea market at the beginning of our marriage. We also have a few random pieces that were passed down to us as an inheritance. Our cloth napkins have also come from various places and people. And we use a variety of ceramic, brass, and wood candlestick holders.

layered botanicals and edibles | Sometimes I find beautiful greens in the grocery store and sometimes I find them in a field. I am always a sucker for Eucalyptus. For this particular table I used some Eucalyptus I had dried the week before, adding in some fresh greens and bare branches. For last year’s table, I foraged all the greens, adding seasonal fruit and gourds. Leaves make perfect name tags.

garland | This is extension of the last bit, but a few of you have specifically asked me about garland, so I thought I’d separate these instructions. The way I make table garland is very, very simple. I grab plenty of greens, especially if I’m foraging them. If they’re fresh, I place them in water until they’re ready to go on the table. Some plants don’t dry as well as others. I begin with the broadest foliage and place them in opposite directions at each end of the table. Then, I slowly layer them, piece by piece, a little staggered, trimming them as needed. I fill in gap with smaller pieces, and make sure the center, where the branch stems meet, are properly covered. Then I add in pieces of seasonal fruit and gourds, opening pomegranates. I only added gourds this year.

quality, neutral basics | If you follow our table for long, you’ll realize we have the same pieces used again and again. We have two white, high-quality linen table cloths, our white everyday dishes with a few China pieces that rotate, glasses and carafes, wood chargers, and a mixture of candlestick holders. Seasonal details change with the foliage and the napkins, adding color and making each table unique. We add more florals in the spring and summer and more evergreens in the winter. Even though a few of our basics were more expensive, they are things we use again and again, not simply once a year or on a holiday.

I’m sure there are details that I didn’t cover here, so feel free to ask questions in the comments. Otherwise, happy Thanksgiving to you all!

Although I do much to protect my skin in the summertime, I always seem prone to dry spots and dullness as the weather cools off and summer’s kiss fades. I imagine I’m not alone. The best combat against dryness and dullness is diet. I can always see the evidence of my diet in my skin. So when I appear piqued, I focus first on eating and drinking more fresh produce and of course drinking an appropriate amount of water. It always makes a difference.

But sometimes, especially as my skin ages, I need something more to fill in those deepening fine lines, dark spots, and dry patches. Feeling the same? Below are my six favorite products to hydrate, nourish, and leave my skin glowing.

Cleansing Balm to Hydrate / Hydrate on the inside. Hydrate on the outside. If you’re needing more moisture, this is your product. I can’t rave enough. The Cleansing Balm is my very favorite product for all seasons, but especially in the colder months when my skin becomes drier. Loaded with Vitamin C and various berry oil extracts, this will cleanse, hydrate, and brighten your skin tones. My skin looks smoother and feels softer with this balm, and I never have that “tight skin” feel after washing my face. Whether you’re a beauty minimalist or in need a catch-all product for travel, this is worth it! Rub on dry skin, and remove with a warm muslin cloth (included with the purchase).

Nourishing Cream Exfoliant to Regenerate Cells / Sloughing off dry, dead skin helps boost cell regeneration in your skin––something that happens naturally in young skin and slows down as we age. This creamy exfoliant doubles as a cleanser for me two mornings a week. The jojoba beads are gentle for your skin and the environment, as most exfoliants contain harmful plastic beads now negatively impacting our oceans and sea life.

Rejuvenating Radiance Serum to Brighten Skin Tones/ Okay, truthfully, I love the entire Rejuvenating Collection, but I noticed an immediate difference when I began using this serum twice a day beneath my moisturizer. After just a couple of weeks, it had begun noticeably firming and brightening my skin, including a couple of dark spots on my face. Plus, I only need one pump to cover my entire face and neck so it last a while.

No. 01 Brightening Face Oil to Improve Luster/ Wait. Oil? On my face? I know. Each of the face oils are a blend of seven different plant oils targeted toward specific skin treatments. This one, recently awarded by Allure’s Best of Beauty for 2017, is for brightening––exactly what I want following the sun-drenched season. The No. 1 oil includes Vitamin C and blend of several oils, including rose hip, black currant, and orange. Plus this doubles as a hair serum for frayed ends, a spot treatment for dry patches, and a primer to even makeup application.

Color Pinch Cream Blusher in Caramel to Contour Face/ This one was unexpected, but has climbed to be one of my daily favorites. I swipe it just along my cheekbones and gently rub in as a contouring bronzer. I often dab a little on my eyelids for a quick spot of color, too. Made with Jojoba ester and carnauba wax, the cream blusher blends well, but also condition and hydrate skin.

Sheer Lipstick in Currant to Add Lustrous Autumn Color/ I tend to stick with lighter, more neutral lip shades, but I love this one for Autumn. In the day, I may just dab a bit for a light flush to my lips, but I love the more concentrated color for the evening or nights out.

As a consultant with Beautycounter, I earn a commission on all purchases through my site. I am sharing them with you because I love the products, the transparency of the ingredients, the public mission for safety, and of course, because I have noticed a beautiful change in my skin as a result of using them. If you have any questions or are interested to hear more about the opportunities with Beautycounter, please feel free to email me!  Thank you for supporting my growing space and small business. You are a gift. 


“In the Kitchen” is a series celebrating the family table––the food we eat, the spaces we inhabit, and the people with whom we share it all. Each edition welcomes a new voice to this conversation on kitchen life and food, and today, I welcome Esther Meinel-Zottl, the warm-hearted voice and photographer behind Mama to the Little Ones and My Little Treasures of Life. Esther is the mother of twin preschool girls and lives in the Bavarian Alps, where her family has established a home culture that reflects nature, especially in the kitchen. Welcome, Esther!

A lot of my childhood memories are connected to the kitchen. I grew up in the former GDR, in communistic times. My parents had four kids and we always lived in really old and simple flats. No heating systems. Only some of the rooms had ovens to heat our home, and they were fueled with black coal. We had to carry up the coal from the dusty, dark basement. That was one of our chores. The kitchen with the oven was the first room to be heated in the morning. We all gathered there and I remember that my mum used to dress us there as well. She placed pots of water or milk on the oven to heat up for breakfast, and even though the kitchen was old and simple and sometimes dusty from heating with black coal, it was my favourite place to be. I connect the warm, tender, and gentle side of my mother and father with it. Sure, we had arguments and loud discussions there as well. But when we gathered at the wooden sitting area my father built, it was the most connected feeling of togetherness, the thought “we are family”. Until now, most of our long, precious, and deep conversations take place in my parent’s kitchen. It always has been the most delightful room for me, no matter the flat they or we lived in. Even now, when visiting Oma and Opa, the kitchen is where the grandchildren run first after they wake up, and most of the time, they find their grandparents in the kitchen. It’s funny that much later I realized that we also created a wooden sitting corner in our kitchen. My husband and I both grew up with wooden sitting corners, and now we have created the same, but somehow unconsciously. in_the_kitchen_esther_meinel-zottl-9in_the-kitchen_esther_meinel-zottl-6In the Kitchen with Esther -- on Cloistered Away

When we built and designed our house and when it came to make decisions about our kitchen, I must say that our ideas and perceptions were really high and clear. We wanted out kitchen to be the centre of our home and to be the place where we feel comfortable and at ease. We didn’t want to save money on that part of the house, where we both love to spend time cooking, baking, gathering and talking. And even though we built an ecological wooden house, we choose a kitchen with real, old wood. Oh yes, a lot of wood in our house. For us wood symbolizes warmth, our love and passion for nature and the natural things, and our value for the old. We wanted our kitchen to be spacious and connected with our living area. We wanted it to be a place where we all like to gather and spend time. 2 years later, I must say our kitchen really has become the centre of our house.

The girls have their own little wooden play kitchen in there and they spend more time playing in our big open kitchen than in their own room. Even though our kitchen might look and feel more like a living room, we of course also have the functional kitchen cupboards and corners. Some of them are easy to reach for the girls, so they can take out plates e.g. and help us prepare setting the table. When the girls were babies we bought the Stokke Tripp Trapp Highchairs, which are very often used by German families. Those wooden highchairs are so handy in many ways. Not only for the littles to sit on the table, but later on for them to push them around in the kitchen and to get up and stand up on them to reach our kitchen island or the sink, to be more independent and help out. For me, it always has been important to involve the girls as much as possible in my kitchen work. A lot of times that has meant I have way more work with three year olds around, more work cleaning up afterwards, more work because to instruct them and to let them try. But I know it that way now, and I want them to feel good and to enjoy the food we’re preparing, so I think it’s necessary. A year ago, it was more playing or ‘getting to know’ food ingredients with their textures, smells, colours and tastes e.g. when I let them be part of baking bread. Now they help wash/brush vegetables we have plucked from our vegetable field. They cut vegetables (the thick carrot slices are easily recognized) and fruits or squeeze our orange juice.

in_the_kitchen_esther_-meinel-zottl-7In the Kitchen with Esther - on Cloistered Away

This year’s spring, summer, and autumn have been really remarkable for me. It was the first time that we planted and grew our own vegetables at our neighbour’s field. He is an organic farmer and we’re over at his farm nearly every other day. His generous offer was truly the highlight of my year. I involved the girls with sowing and taking care of the vegetables by pulling up weeds. They loved to harvest all our vegetables and the wonder in their eyes by dragging out the carrots, by trying to get the huge zucchinis, by seeing how our peppers finally turned red or by searching and digging for the potatoes… my heart was full. They didn’t even clean the dirty carrots and they ate so much soil when they ate the carrots like little rabbits. Their pride and curiosity and their naturalness of eating our home-grown veggies in our dishes surprised me. I harvested so much mangold/chard over the summer that I tried in different dishes and I didn’t have a problem to convince them to try it. Of course potatoes and carrots are still their favourites. The gardening project this year really helped me to see that its worth investing time to involve our kids in the preparation of food and in gardening. They learnt so much and we had such wonderful and delicious meals all together.

Seasonal and regional food plays a big role for us, especially now that we moved from Munich to the countryside. We get eggs from our farmer neighbour and buy their organic certified (demeter) meat. The girls and I get milk every second or third day from another farmer in our village. That has become a wonderful routine we love to combine with an afternoon walk before. We have a really good alpine dairy half an hour from where we live. We love to buy and supply ourselves with lots of good cheese and fresh butter (you get in a huge bar. I cut that bar in 5 pieces and freeze them) there once in a while. We hiked through lots of alpine meadows this summer, here in our region, where lots of the cows live during the summer and it did not only feel like in the movie of ‘Heidi’, but it was such a joy for me to see how freely the cows live and move up there, where we get our milk and sometimes our cheese and butter.

in_the_kitchen_esther-3In the Kitchen with Esther -- on Cloistered AwayAnd because our life on the countryside here in the Bavarian Alps influences our weekly routine and our kitchen life a lot, I chose a really typical alpine recipe for you. One we all love a lot.

Kaiserschmarrn is really simple and originally from Austria. There’s probably about 50 different recipes for it, but the recipe I’m going to share with you was handed to me by my sister. She uses it to make thin pancakes (almost as thin as Crèpes). So you can try it for both. We love Kaiserschmarrn and I can’t count how often we eat it. We don’t make it that often at home, but on weekends that demand a lot. We especially love to try it at different mountain huts. It has become our hiking motivation when hiking up to a mountain hut. They usually serve it. So even though we live in the Bavarian/German Alps I choose this Austrian recipe simply because it’s typical for the alpine region (no matter if in Bavaria or Austria). I have become really picky about the right consistence of the dough/batter. It shouldn’t be too eggy or too floury or too dry. Some like it with raisins, some not. Some like to eat a sort of plum compote with it, some like applesauce with it. Some like it caramelized, some flambé.

Because I’m not the person that can go with an exact recipe (I always vary) this recipe changes as well. If I use the recipe and dough/batter to make pancakes/thin Crèpes, than I use less milk and a bit more flour. If I use the recipe for its original purpose as Kaiserschmarrn, than I use it exact like that, but I beat the egg whites and gently fold them under by the end. So all you need is:

Ingredients (serves 2 pans):

200g flour (I use spelt flour but originally wheat flour is used)

4 eggs

1 pinch of salt

750 ml milk (I mostly only use 600ml)

  • Mix the milk with egg yolks and salt and slowly add the flour. After beating the egg whites, you can carefully fold it in with the rest of the batter.
  • Use a big heatproof coated frying pan for the dough/batter.
  • Then use quiet a lot of vegetable oil with a butter flavour or butter to gently roast it.
  • Then pour in half of the batter, but don’t wonder if it’s really liquid and thin.
  • I use medium heat to cook the underside until light brown, then turn over the dough using a spatula and bake/roast it again until its golden brown. (you could also bake it for 6–8 minutes in the pre-heated oven)
  • Then I tear the Kaiserschmarrn into small pieces, using two forks or the spatula.
  • You can now spread it out on the plates and top it with icing sugar.

I love to caramelize some nuts with maple syrup and butter that I spread over the Kaiserschmarrn before I top it with icing sugar. And as mentioned before, you are welcome to cook the Kaiserschmarrn with raisins. If you do so, just spread some over the batter after you poured it into the pan.

Enjoy your meal or as we in Bavaria/Germany would say: an Guadn, lasst’s eich schmeggn!

All images and words by Esther Meinel-Zottl for Cloistered Away. You can follow more  from Esther on her blog, My Little Treasures of Life, and on Instagram, @mama_2thelittleones. Thank you, Esther!

cheddar_apple_galetteThere’s something about baked foods straight from the oven that warms both the soul and the belly. However divided a room or community or nation may be, there is solace in shared food, and most especially in pie or tarts. Perhaps it is the concrete-ness of metaphor, the whole parsed out and shared between many–or more simply, the one thing a table of empty bellies can agree on. With Thanksgiving arriving next week, I realize not all table gatherings will be peaceful in light of the election. Sometimes families and even friendships rift because of politics. The table can be a place to set aside disagreement and division. It can be a place for finding a shared sense of gratitude. This month can also be a time to attend to the thousands who will not have a table on which to eat at all–children, teens, and adults alike. There can be a shared gratitude in the community when serving others, too.

In honor of Thanksgiving this month and the oodles of discussion around food, our family has been looking for ways to cultivate gratitude in others through a few acts of kindness. As W.J. Cameron noted, “Thanksgiving, after all, is a call to action.” Serving others this season can be the exact pause they need to find gratitude, even if it’s simply putting something warm in their belly. There are many ways to nourish one another and also to stir up gratitude, but as we turn our thoughts to our own tables next week, here are a few ways to think of other’s bellies, too.


/ bake something delicious for a neighbor, like this apple cheddar galette

volunteer with a local food bank

/ bring a pre-chopped meal to another family

/ invite someone to your table

/ pay for a stranger’s coffee or meal

/ offer babysitting for a single parent or couple

/ drop off groceries to someone

volunteer with a local non-profit to feed the homeless, teen mothers, disaster relief victims, nursing home members, etc.






in_the_kitchen_cecile_molinie-2in_the_kitchen_cecile_moliniein_the_kitchen_cecile_molinie-4“In the Kitchen” is a series celebrating the family table––the food we eat, the spaces we inhabit, and the people with whom we share it all. Each edition welcomes a new voice to this conversation on kitchen life and food, and today, I welcome Cécile Molinié, the inspiring creative at Cécile Moli and contributing member of See My Paris. Cécile is the mother to four children and lives in Paris, France, where she cherishes her kitchen as both the center of their family life and the touchpoint to nature. Welcome, Cécile!

I grew up in the French countryside and at a very young age became used to helping my mother grow the vegetable garden, pick the berries, plums or apples. I learned how to preserve some of them for winter and also about the real connection between man and nature. We had a very big kitchen with a view on the garden, and as I loved cooking and found it creative and relaxing after long days at school or in college, I tried a lot of recipes, from the daily ones to the very elaborate ones. I loved it!in_the_kitchen_cecile_molinie-13in_the_kitchen_cecile_molinie-7 in_the_kitchen_cecile_molinie-9 in_the_kitchen_cecile_molinie-8When I first moved to Paris to study law more than 20 years ago, space was scarce and the kitchen was very tiny. But there is a story about Parisian kitchens, even in very chic an large classic Parisian apartments. The first time I entered such a beautiful place, I was amazed that the kitchen was isolated from the rest of the apartment, put at the end of a long, dark corridor, close to the back stairway (in French, escalier de service: the staircase used by the maids and cooks to enter the apartments by a back door in the 19th century). Most Parisian apartments are made like this. The kitchen was the place no one should see. The living room, dining room and library were very large and opulent and the kitchen very small. It was the case in the three first places we lived in with my husband and growing family until we finally bought our current apartment six years ago.

It was a big space in a modern building which had been occupied by offices for 40 years and needed a full renovation. The architect and I decided to put the kitchen at the heart of the house, close to the bedrooms, the living room, dining room, with lots of light from the terrace and a place to eat or work at a big table, a place specifically dedicated to cooking. in_the_kitchen_cecile_molinie-3in_the_kitchen_cecile_molinie-11 in_the_kitchen_cecile_molinie-5in_the_kitchen_cecile_molinie-12So this is our Parisian kitchen, one that doesn’t look so Parisian in a way! This place is where we all gather for meals or after school for homework or tea time with friends. It is always warm and welcoming. I often take my computer there to work with the kids around me. The kids like to help me cooking when they have time. Little Miss always sets the table with the silver, while the others help me with the vegetables, or the sauce, and of course with the dessert!

I decided to share a typical French dish, La Blanquette de Veau. Even the name is evocative for an English speaking person; blanquette pronounces exactly like blanket.  It is the perfect comfort dish for the cold Autumn and Winter days that all my children love and ask for––the very same one my grandmother cooked when I visited her. The recipe was inspired by the children’s cookbook pictured, one that was mine when I was a child. It is really easy to make. It just takes time to prepare and must be watched. Afterward, I always keep the remaining broth and use it to make a soup for the evening with angel hair pasta or these small letters pasta, very popular in France with the children.in_the_kitchen_cecile_molinie-6in_the_kitchen_cecile_molinie-10LA BLANQUETTE DE VEAU (Veal Stew in a White Sauce) 

Serves 6

You need :

  • 1,2 kg (2 ½ pounds) of veal shoulder cut into little cubes
  • 1 shallot, peeled and cut into slices
  • 1 big onion, peeled with the cloves stick
  • 5 cloves
  • 4 carrots, peeled and cut lenghtwise
  • 2 leeks mostly the white part (keep one green leaf for the bouquet garni below)
  • 1 bouquet garni (ie : 1 little branch of bay leaves, one of thyme, one green leaf of leek, a few springs of parsley) or at least only the bay leaves ; Tie all the herbs together into the leek leaf.
  • 1 table spoon sea salt
  • ground pepper
  • parsley or chives (optional)
  • 2 tablespoon butter
  • 2 tablespoon flour
  • ½ cup 100 ml crème fraiche (optional)
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 500g white rice

Method :

  • Put the veal pieces in a large pot (cocotte in french) add 2 liters of cold water and bring to a boil.
  • Skim and add all the vegetables, bouquet garni and salt.
  • Add some water to cover everything if necessary
  • Cover, lower the heat and let cook for one hour.
  • When the veal and vegetables are tender, remove the bouquet garni.
  • Let it cool a little bit and leave the meat in the pot and put the broth in a large bowl.
  • Cook the rice
  • Make the roux : melt the butter in a large saucepan, add  the flour, it must get a little beige (not brown), add one or two pinches of salt. Then add, one at a time, 7 to 8 laddles (3 ½ to 4 cups) of broth into the saucepan, stirring constantly between each addition. The broth turns thicker and makes a creamy white sauce.
  • Mix the creme fraiche and egg yolk.
  • Add the creme fraiche and egg yolk mixture to the sauce and stop the heat.
  • Pour this sauce into the cocotte with the meat and vegetables.
  • Sprinkle with parsley or chives if your children like little green things on their food (mine don’t )

Serve immediately with the rice. Bon appétit !

All images and words by Cécile Molinié for Cloistered Away. You can find more of Cécile’s work on Instagram @cecilemoli and @seemyparis.

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Rolling beeswax candles is perhaps one of my children’s favorite activities for the home, a task that needs tending more often in the autumn and winter seasons here. Most days, rolled candles array our mantle or tabletop, ready to light whenever the mood of our home needs a little twinkle––whether a family meal or a hum-drum school day. And every Friday night, when the kids set the table for our family Sabbath meal, the candles neatly wedge between our food and plates and flowers. I keep spare sheets in our bureau near the dining table, to quickly roll in a pinch, as they also make the perfect handmade gift for a loved one, a new neighbor, or a seasonal celebration of any sort.

With a little guidance, even preschool children can help with this activity. I’ve purchased this set several times and have never had any trouble with broken sheets or brittle-ness. And of course they always smell divine. It’s a nice starter set, as it includes everything you need, but I do recommend you also purchase an extra spool of wick, as we tend to run out of the pre-packaged wick before the wax sheets. I’ve considered contacting the same company to see if they offer an option to purchase only the wax sheets, but I haven’t done so yet. It seems silly to keep purchasing the same set when we have wick already.

We usually half the large wax sheets into smaller squares, which I recommend unless you’re looking to create particularly long or wide candles. I also encourage my children to keep their fingers straight and to roll slowly like dough––gentle, but tight rolls––as they initially want to use their finger tips to push and sometimes fold the wax instead of rolling it. This has happened a couple of times, and we’ve simply massaged the wax back together into a roll.

Sometimes I prefer the tidy, smooth lines of a tapered beeswax candle, which you can purchase nearly anywhere now. If you prefer the same, especially for special holiday meals later in the season, I’ve purchased and loved these. This fall, I hope to melt and dip our own candles with the kids, a more occasional activity as it requires more time and clean-up. I would love to hear if you have any favorite beeswax sources, for sheets or lumps of wax? I’m sure other readers would like to hear, too.

simple style | cashmere sweatersimple style | cashmere sweater

Once upon a moon, I shared simple basics from my closet here. It was a way I celebrated what I already owned and some of the ways I reinvented these essentials with a new piece or two each season. (And yes, these are inadvertently the same jeans from this post almost two years ago–still an essential in my closet, although I admit a little bit tighter.) But somewhere through life, this part fell through the cracks here. I am not a fashion blogger or a trendy shopper, so I wasn’t sure how my clothing actually fit in this space. Unashamedly, I do love quality design and even shopping, yet just as with other areas of our life, I’ve been learning the joy of living with less, of living within our budget (even when it’s quite small), and of course learning how to choose pieces I love not just for this season but also for the next and next. I am a maturing essentialist in every aspect of home life, work, and style, and that does fit here. All to say, I’m bringing my closet back into this space again. Wink.

I recently cleaned out my closet again, preparing it for the colder season by tucking away summer dresses and tops and pulling out warmer sweaters and knits. Seeing my favorite pieces from previous seasons feels a bit like Christmas. I again took notice of the colors, textures, and fits I’m drawn to year after year, shedding pieces from the summer that I didn’t wear and asking myself the hard questions about why that is. These little inventories help me understand my personal style and also to better recognize the types of pieces that compliment them. I tend to stick with soft textures in neutral tones, and although I wear do enjoy wearing dresses, I tend to be a daily jeans and t-shirt/sweater type of person. I’m okay with that.

Everlane, a company I’ve long admired for their simple basics and transparency, recently sent this V-neck cashmere sweater from their new collection to me, and I can tell already it will be a long-time favorite for its softness, versatility, and [let’s face it] color. Although I do have one sweater from a few seasons ago in a warm chartreuse and another in a deep plum, most of my knits are in various shades of grey and brown. Some might call it boring. I call it versatile. Wink. More than one of my children have even commented on this sweater’s softness when they’ve given me a hug or are snuggled up during a read-a-loud, rubbing their cheek on my shoulder a bit longer. It feels like a thin, luxe blanket, something I can get excited about having in my own closet for many years.

On a different note, Everlane also launched its first kid’s line this week, including a piece similar to this one if you’re looking to add a super soft basic to your wee one’s closet. My girls and I have a few matching pieces in other brands, and I’m always heart-warmed by how much they love dressing like me. Unfortunately, they’re already too big for this line, as they would certainly love it.

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Few things make my heart swell more with gratitude than when people I love gather around our table, especially when it is glowing with beeswax candles rolled by our children and smothered with fresh greenery and a collective of friends’ savory and sweet dishes. I do often wonder what our children will remember about our holidays, about our table. Although I have no way of knowing right now, I hope they will remember this: simple, thoughtful preparation; heaps of accumulated story and laughter; and of course, that a warm, cozy meal with others always contrasts beautifully against the cold, wet night.

Images by Tim Douglass.


I have always appreciated the simplicity of Thanksgiving, how much and how little it requires of me all at once. On one hand it is an elaborate meal, one many families take great care to celebrate with foods, people, and activities that feel meaningful to them, often handed down generationally. On the other hand, Thanksgiving is a cultural history, a connection to our country’s blended origins and a celebration of choice, of perseverance, of courage, and belief. I want my children to remember this holiday holding both parts.

As typical by this part in semester, our school routine is beginning to fall out and we’re all ready for the holiday break, BUT I’m trying to do a little school work this week to hold what little momentum we have until we pause for Christmas. I’ve scaled our work way down though. The kids will do a little math and reading each day, but we have already and will continue to spend some time doing a few other projects appropriate for the season, projects I’m quite excited about: candle-making, leaf projects, writing our gratitudes, and reading/writing/illustrating around The First Thanksgiving, a picture book from one of my favorite children’s writers Jean Craighead George. I love the more balanced perspective of this book for younger ages, that courage and hardship didn’t just belong to the Pilgrims.  It feels honest and yet approachable for a family read. If you’re interested, I recently wrote some more about how I use this book and why I return to it every year, which you can now read on the Babiekins blog