Fresh Starts + a Garden Tour

I love a clean slate. A fresh start. Perhaps it's just my Virgo nature; I don't know. I like using things up, emptying things out, and wiping things clean. Then I like creating and gathering anew. I like to plant, nurture, and harvest. To write and dream and collect. And when it's time, I wipe the slate clean again, ready for another new beginning.
Prepping and planting my fall garden has this magic - its always a fresh start after a brutal Florida summer. My morning workout since school started has consisted of pulling weeds, pruning overgrown plants, and doing some major cleanup in the yard. It's sweaty, dirty, buggy, and extremely soul satisfying work. I've also been spreading compost, planting seeds, and tending to new seedlings. More balm for the spirit.
This morning, I took a moment to snap a few shots around the garden... want a tour? Seed trays hold the promise of fresh produce and flowers for months to come, including kale, tatsoi, collards, peppers, tomatoes, zinnia, sunflowers, herbs and more.
There's not too much in the ground yet, so you get to see some of my garden whimsy too. This fairy gal hangs out under a bamboo teepee, currently covered in luffa vines - a new addition that survived the summer heat. The bees love the flowers, and I'm amassing a small collection of homegrown sponges for the bath!
This is what it looks like growing... it gets real big, and then matures and dries out on the vine. You crack off the dried skin and it looks like a luffa you'd buy at the store; plus it's full of seeds!
I received two beautiful new bird feeders this summer. This handmade ceramic one hangs in the butterfly garden near the garden pond, which is watched over by a sweet cherub. Filled with safflower seeds, it's a favorite of the cardinals.
And this sparkly-mosaic-roofed feeder is positioned near my gazing globe, also in the butterfly garden. When the light hits this area just right, it lights up like a disco! The blue jays and squirrels love this feeder.
Here's my potting bench. I dream of fixing it up all cute - I even have a Pinterest board devoted to adorable, and likely never-used, potting benches - but for now its simply a workhorse. I found the stool on the curb a couple weeks ago and I think I might paint it just for fun. Someday.
I have one orange and one lemon tree in my yard. This is the orange tree. I'm super happy we'll have a crop this year... the trees seem to only produce every other year.
 While the bananas just keep coming, year round. This is one of three bunches currently ripening!
I've been wanting to create a terrarium in this big glass jar for some time. Meanwhile, it went ahead and made one on its own right where I left it overturned (near a bunch of other projects waiting for my attention).
This Muscovy duck and its sibling (or mate) is out in my garden even more than I am. They eat all kinds of bugs and dropped bird seed from the ground. And they doze under the shade of a clump of banana trees. I've come to expect them each day. Perhaps they need names?

There's so much more to share... and so much more to do. But this seems like a good place for me to stop for today. How about you? I'd love to know what's happening in your garden... leave a comment and share! {Include a link to take us on a tour if you have one.}


Behind the Scenes

Edible Sarasota magazine came to my nest this week to shoot photos to accompany my articles for the fall issue. I prepped and fussed for days to get ready, but it turned out to be pretty fun. They took shots of several stages of the process of making sourdough bread, including the starter, mixing the dough, forming a boule, and baking the bread in a Dutch oven. Of course, they photographed a finished loaf too.
These are a few of my shots, taken during the stages that did not involve my hands! The shoot also included images of a tray of slow-cooked honey BBQ ribs for an article on southern-style slow-cooking. The Edible team loved my old whiskey barrel end tables on the back porch, and photographed the ribs right on one!
Watch for a link to these articles here on the blog in early October. Meanwhile, I'm thinking about coming back out from behind the scenes myself, and returning to this space on a more regular basis. My gals are back in school (1st and 5th grades!) and I'm starting to dream up what's next for A Natural Nester. Stay tuned!


Summer Kitchen :: What's Cookin'

:: al fresco cooking & dining
:: raw cherry quinoa salad with apples, scallions & pecans
:: lamb-stuffed zucchini boats
:: roasted tomato & garlic soup
:: kid-made garlic bread
:: fajitas
:: fresh lime salsa & guacamole
What's cookin' in your summer kitchen?

{Linking up with Heather today for the "This Week in My Kitchen" series...}


{Summer Catch-Up} Honoring the Sun

* Sun bread and sun tea.
* Sun mono prints, created poolside and strung into a summer banner.
* Dinner on the grill.
* A sunset swim.
We spent the Summer Solstice celebrating the sun, in the sun. It was an idealistic summer day that will be long remembered and treasured by this mama. Here's to many more sweet, sun-filled days this season!


Summer Kitchen: Kid-Made Granola

The girls made granola this week, each creating their own mix. Both started with three cups of rolled oats, 6 tablespoons of coconut oil, 4 tablespoons of raw honey, and 1/4 teaspoon of sea salt - all mounded in a pie pan. Then they added their choice of mix-ins from cinnamon, sliced almonds, sunflower seeds, vanilla extract, cocoa powder, unsweetened shredded coconut, and nut butter. They stirred it all up (using both a spatula and hands) and spread their blends out in their pans. We then baked them at 300 degrees for about 40 minutes (stirring occasionally).

After cooling the granola, we put each girls' blend into a glass jar, labeled with their creations' respective name. They both took so much pride in their homemade granola mixes and we've enjoyed munching and sharing them all week. This is a great way to get your kids involved in the kitchen!

{Linking up with Heather today for the "This Week in My Kitchen" series...}


Nature Journaling

It's week two of my summer nature journaling eCourse, A Sense of Place. We've been discovering our places in nature, determining the purpose of our journals, exploring the summer heat, looking for signs of summer, using our senses to observe, making connections to our observations, and listening to the critter symphony of summer (plus so much more!).
Registration for the live A Sense of Place eCourse is now officially closed... BUT you don't have to miss out! The course is now available as a self-paced, pdf eGuide for the remainder of the season. So jump on in. The self-paced version also includes membership in the A Sense of Place Facebook Community where I post additional journaling ideas and inspiration... and offer a bit of support to get your creative juices flowing!
The season is in full swing, and nature is begging for your attention!
 Won't you come play with us?
Learn more and register here.


{Summer Catch-Up} A Party & Photo Booth Fun

I'm behind in sharing some of our best times so far this summer, so I'll be playing a little catch up here this week. Rewind to early July ... my baby turned 10, and celebrated with a Paris-themed, sleepover, pool party with eight of her closest friends! The girls had a blast decorating their own cupcakes, swimming in the pool, holding a pajama dance party, and - the big attraction - dressing up for some photo booth fun.
A photo booth is a fun party activity - but could also provide hours of entertainment on a hot or rainy summer day. Setting up the booth was almost as much fun as doing the photo shoot. We raided our closets and dress up chest for props. For a backdrop, we simply tacked a sheet to the wall and added a wall d├ęcor Eiffel Tower from my gal's room. This was such a hit with the party girls, it was repeated at a family celebration a few nights later! And I have a feeling, we'll be doing this again before the summer ends...
Try It! Have some photo booth fun this summer.
  • Get started by selecting a location with good lighting to set up your booth.
  • Next, make a backdrop by hanging a sheet or material on the wall, or alternatively, use a screen, or paint a backdrop on easel paper to tape up.
  • Gather your props - think of things you can wear as well as hold/carry. Get your kids involved in this part - they'll love it! You can make some props too (a cut out mustache and glittery lips on bamboo skewers were among our most faves)!
  • Take turns dressing up and taking pictures - kids like to be the photographer too!
  • Be sure to print some of the best images to send home with guests, or for your family to enjoy.