It's Just Around the Corner... {+ a Giveaway!)

I know it can be hard to face it, but really, the holidays are not that far away. While most of us are still scrambling to figure out Halloween, and possibly starting to think about Thanksgiving, the stores are way ahead of us. They've already decked the aisles for the winter holiday season... yikes! It always gives me a bit of a jolt to see it all come out so early, but over the years I've come to understand the value of planning ahead for the holiday season. Little efforts here and there lead to less-stressful celebrations.

So, in that spirit, I wanted to remind you, albeit a bit early, of the Wintertime Family eGuide that I compiled with some of my favorite bloggers and writers - Celebrations of Light.
This digital guide walks you through five wintertime celebrations of light and warmth: Advent, St. Nicholas Day, St. Lucia Day, the Winter Solstice, and New Year's Eve.
Each celebration includes:
- a non-denominational ritual
- a seasonal craft or project
- a warming recipe
- and a meaningful "bright idea."
This guide is so thoughtfully written, and full of beautiful, inspiring images - it's truly a one-of-a-kind resource for creating sweet wintertime traditions for your family. Here's a little peek inside:

For more information about the Celebrations of Light eGuide, or to order your copy for immediate download, click here.

The Giveaway! - contest closed

WINNERS: Kimberly Huff and Fantask MayClan

Congratulations! Please send me your email addresses so I can send your copies out.
Thank you to everyone who entered. I really want you ALL to enjoy the Celebrations of Light eGuide, so I've created a special discount through October 27th. Use the discount code WARMTH at checkout and SAVE $5 on your copy!
For more information or to order your copy for immediate download, click here.
Leave a comment on this post for a chance to win a copy of Celebrations of Light - I'm giving away 2!  Help me spread the word for more chances to win: share links to this post on any social media site and receive more chances to win! Just be sure to come back and leave a separate comment here for each post you make. Winners will be announced on Monday, October 20th.  

xoxo - Liz


The Shifting Light

I have so much I want to be sharing in this space... but my priorities have needed to be elsewhere the past couple of weeks. I've begun the shift inward that comes with the season. It follows the shifting light, guiding me to snuggle up with my family, to take stock, and to focus some attention on self care.
All of this has been happening, much by circumstance rather than conscious choice. Both my girls took turns being ill over the past two weeks. Each one was home for days burning off high fevers and nursing sore throats. The timing couldn't have been worse as I juggled a big deadline and photo shoot, the beginning of a 10-day cleanse (for that evasive self-care), and other stuff. You know, stuff.
In between the girls'  illnesses, our sweet bunny Sandy suddenly faced an unexpected and rapid decline. A late night visit to the emergency vet was followed by a sorrowful, yet oh-so-sweet burial in our backyard. We are all feeling her absence deeply. She left us, and her sweet mate Marshmallow, way too soon.
And so this past weekend brought wellness all around. Big deadlines were put to bed. My cleanse was well under way. Yet I was grumpy, drained, wiped out... My tuned-in hubby brilliantly suggested a sunset trip to the beach. This is like a soothing balm for my soul. For all our souls.
The powder white sand between my toes, the rhythm of the waves rolling in, the smell of the salty air. And the Autumn light. Oh, the light. My eyes and my camera followed its illumination from the moment we hit the path to the shore. It quietly bathed all I love in its warm glow, then dropped, a ball of fire, into the Gulf.
I'm emerging from the past two weeks changed. I'm following the shift, watching to see where it guides me. The busy-ness of the season is here, and I want to be present for its joys, for me, for my family. I want to be writing too. Here, in my journal, elsewhere.
I am needed in many spaces, so I will be in this one as often as I can be. I hope you'll keep meeting me here. And I'd love for you to join in the conversation, whenever you feel moved to do so.
xoxo  - Liz


Welcome Fall Party (Part 2) ~ Nature Weavings

Well, I've been waiting to share our craft project from our Autumnal Equinox party until everyone's was finished...  but I'm not sure when that might happen. Mine is done though - so I'm sharing!
After dipping and decorating our caramel apples, we got deep into creating fall nature weavings. I made looms from recycled cardboard and yarn/twine (see the tutorial I followed here). Then we wove in all kinds of yarns, ribbon, and natural bits and bobs. We were all ridiculously engaged, weaving right through dinner time, until, finally, my sweet hubby ordered a pizza!
The girls enjoyed working with soft & fluffy yarns and fringed ribbon in pinks and pastels. My mother and I really got into the more natural textiles - burlap, hand-stamped linen ribbon, silk sari ribbon, and hand-spun wool yarns (some with bits of shredded newspaper incorporated). We tucked and wove in pine needles, twigs, acorns, dried leaves, and feathers - an ode to the season.
Everything we used came from our existing stashes & collections - it was a completely repurposed & recycled craft that satisfied the creative spirits of three generations.
The girls' pieces are still a work-in-progress, awaiting another burst of creative energy. I hung mine from a found stick and added a few more touches - some pinecones and fall leaves, as well as a fringe with wooden beads. After doing it once, I'm eager to make a bigger loom and try my hand at this again!


Welcome Fall Party (Part 1) ~ Caramel Apples

We celebrated the Autumnal Equinox with our third annual "welcome fall" party yesterday. (See years one and two for more fun ways to celebrate the season.) On the menu this year - caramel apples!
The girls, myself, and Nana all had a sticky, sweet time dipping and decorating mini gala apples. We followed the ideas here for using a slowcooker to melt our caramel and keep it, and some melted chocolate, warm.
We dipped and drizzled, dunked and sprinkled. Our topping choices included crushed ginger snaps, sliced almonds, melted dark chocolate, and a variety of sprinkles (cookies & cream, chocolate, and golden). Yay fall!
The results were beautiful - and delicious too! After caramel appling, we got crafty with some weaving projects that aren't quite finished... so stay tuned for Part 2 of our fall celebration.

How do you welcome fall in your nest? Feel free to share links in the comments.


Counting Your Blessings

"There is so much abundance in nature, so much to be grateful for. And it’s all available to everyone! A Sense of Place can help you to experience this abundance… to contemplate it and connect to it in a meaningful way. There are many simple blessings to be enjoyed in the natural world; small glimpses of wonder that can evoke deep emotion, trigger sweet memories, or provide inspiration, insight, or delight. ... Throughout the course, you are encouraged to seek out these moments, which often change and flow with the seasons, then to record them and connect to them. This practice teaches us to count our blessings in the moment, and to understand their transience as they come and go with the rhythms of nature, and the passing of time."

This is a quote from an interview I did with Stephanie at Wellness by Design last spring. She'd asked me how my seasonal nature journaling eCourse, A Sense of Place, nurtures a gratitude practice. {See the entire interview here.} As we enter autumn, gratitude is on my mind again. To me, fall is the season for counting and celebrating our blessings. For really taking stock of what we have and nurturing a sense of contentment, and appreciation.
This is not always simple. It's so easy to slip into a different consciousness - one of I need... I want... or I don't have enough... Messages are constantly coming at us in all directions to have more, be more, do more. One must truly make a concentrated effort to regard all she already has, is, and does. And then, to find the courage to accept that it is, in most cases, quite enough. Something to think on...
Over the years, my journaling practice has truly helped me develop a practice of gratitude. And in my seasonal journaling courses, I strive to help participants nurture the same. Through first noticing, then really observing, and finally recording the beauty, wonder, and abundance of nature, one can connect, or reconnect, to the many blessings that surround us each and every day. For me, these simple, readily-available things - a brightly-colored leaf, a crisp breeze scented with wood smoke, a golden pumpkin in my daughter's arms - make my soul sing in gratitude. What makes your soul sing?
I'd love for you to join me in the fall session of A Sense of Place, now available for download. The eCourse is self-paced, which means you take it at your own speed, and work at your own level. There's no pressure. No "sharing with the class" - unless, of course, you wish to. Participation includes membership in a private A Sense of Place Community on Facebook, where I offer extra support and inspiration, and members from all over the world often share their experiences and photos of nature in "their place."
To learn more, or register now, follow this link.
And in appreciation of my readers, here is a sample page to enjoy from A Sense of Place ~ Fall:
excerpted from A Sense of Place ~ Fall. Copyright A Natural Nester. 2014.


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!