4.13.2015

Enter to Win... 8 Weeks of Backyard Fun!


offers eight weeks of guided fun, including outdoor activities, indoor projects,
arts & crafts, kid-friendly lessons, field trip ideas, recipes, and more.
Don't miss this fun & affordable family resource for summer!
 
**Enter to Win a Copy**
see below
 
Here are images from my family's adventures with the At-Home Summer Nature Camp
when it debuted (And an overview of each week's materials):
A Spot in the Shade Week
Simple Tent Making - Pack a Picnic - A Wishing Tree Basket
Nature Study & Play Bag: Insects! - Field Trip: Hop on the Bus, Gus!
pictured: wishing tree basket craft
 
 Ponds & Frogs Week
Raising Tadpoles - Pond Scum Smoothies - Five Little Speckled Frogs
Pond Dipping - Field Trip: Visit an Aquarium or Zoo
pictured: five speckled frogs on a log craft
 
 An Edible Garden Week
Farmer's Market Photo Scavenger Hunt - Farmer's Market Recipes
Fruit & Veggie Stamping - Plant a Pizza Garden - Field Trip: Visit a U-Pick Farm
pictured: local fruit & veggie stamping craft

Rain, Rain Week
Make a Rain Gauge - Cheesy Croutons & Tomato Soup - After the Rain Color Quest
Raindrop-Inspired Watercolor Painting - Field Trip: A Puddle Walk
pictured: make your own rain gauge project & rainwater art
 
The Night Sky Week
Batik Star Maps - Honey Popcorn Planets - Star Mobile & Pins
Make a Telescope - A Virtual Field Trip: Blast Off to Space
pictured: star map project, honey popcorn planets treat, star pin board craft, virtual field trip
 
Sun Fun Week
Make a Pizza Box Solar Oven - Honey Herb Lemonade - Icarus Myth Peg Dolls
Make a Shadow Sun Dial - Field Trip: Take a Dip in a Swimming Hole
pictured: Icarus myth peg dolls (story telling, art & play!)
 
At the Beach Week
Beach Small World Play - Gluten Free Sand Dollar Snickerdoodles - Sand Candles 
Family Beach Mandalas - Field Trip: Dig Your Own Sea Turtle Nest
pictured: sand dollar snickerdoodle cookies
 
Wildflowers & Bees Week
Make a Native Bee Condo - Homemade Honey Ice Cream - Meadow Branch Weaving
"Wild" Flower Mud Pies - Field Trip: Go on a Wildflower Hunt
pictured: wild flower mud pies & bee condo project
 
This one-of-a-kind resource also includes two all-summer-long projects, and custom-selected book and media suggestions to accompany every weekly theme!
 
Learn More & Purchase for Instant Download Here

Enter to Win
To enter, complete the form in the widget below. You can enter by visiting A Natural Nester on Facebook, and earn bonus entries by commenting on this blog post with what you love about summer, tweeting about the At-Home Summer Nature Camp eGuide, following @anaturalnester on Twitter, and spreading the word via your favorite social media outlets!
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3.30.2015

A Place of Enchantment

I've written before about visiting the Cross Creek, Florida estate of author Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings. After a third, recent visit, I remain enchanted. Something about this place just speaks to me, from the typewriters on the front porch and in the bedroom...
(The books on the shelf are all by authors who visited Rawlings at her Florida home - including Robert Frost, Zora Neale Hurston, Margaret Mithcell, and Thornton Wilder!)
...to the tiny kitchen showcasing cast iron, fresh eggs, and home-canned produce.
Nature collections in baskets on the porch included treasures ranging from antlers and gourds, to wasp nests and a turtle shell, to pinecones and sea shells. I even spotted a found nest tucked in a berry basket up on a shelf!
Fresh flowers, picked from the property, adorned every room.
And in the back, a gorgeous kitchen garden, chickens, and ducks. All this, tucked into an orange grove that was in full bloom - a scent that takes me back to memories of my childhood home, surrounded by a dozen citrus trees.
“I do not understand how anyone can live without some small place of enchantment to turn to.”
- Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings
 
I have more to say about this... about creating a "place of enchantment" for oneself... about writing and cooking and nature and flowers and gardening. Things I hold so dear. But for now, I just wanted to share this bit of inspiration via photos taken on a lovely weekend retreat with a dear friend.
 
xoxo - Liz


3.25.2015

A Welcome Spring Celebration (+ Easter Basket Prep)

We had a little celebration of spring on Friday, the Vernal Equinox. When the girls came home from school, they were welcomed with fresh flowers (from our garden & yard!) and some favorite spring decorations. The spring books, a clear nature table, and baskets of plastic eggs awaited them. (My gals still love to play "egg hunt" - they take turns hiding and finding plastic eggs around the house.)
Our snack was simple, and all straight from Trader Joe's this year. It was a busy week, and homemade treats were forgone for colorful, sweet goodies (I love that TJ's uses fruit & vegetable based coloring). We had strawberry lemonade, chocolate sunflower seed drops, carrot cake cookie sandwiches, and gourmet jelly beans. It was a sugar-bomb of a party, followed by lots of outdoor play to burn it off! Later in the weekend, we planted the girls Easter baskets with wheatgrass seed - it's become a tradition to have real grass in their baskets. Here are last year's on Easter morning:
Need ideas for your baskets? Last year, ours included: Surf Sweets jelly beans, Eden dried fruit pocket snacks, Wild Friends chocolate coconut peanut butter packets, Glee Gum, Endangered Species Bug Bites, and Aura Cacia Cheering Foam Bath (all these came from our local natural foods store). Also: honey sticks, Play-Doh eggs, a votive candle, markers, wind up toys from Magic Cabin, Lindt chocolate bunnies, a book, and plastic bird water whistles.

Feel free to share basket filler ideas in the comments below!

xoxo - Liz

3.16.2015

Spring = Strawberry Picking

Spring is the height of strawberry season here, and it's become an annual tradition for us to visit a local u-pick and gather a few berries straight from the source. Over the weekend, we checked out a new hydroponic farm nearby, where rows and rows of vertical planters dripped with juicy, red jewels. It was an idealistic setting and a gorgeous cool, sunny morning - a perfect ending to a full week of spring break fun.
My niece, my gals and a friend, my husband, and my mother all joined in. After filling our baskets, we explored the farm and took a little swing in some shady hammocks next to the chicken coop. On the way out, I stopped at the market stand for some produce and a few potted herbs & bell peppers to put in the garden. This is my kind of place!
We've been enjoying fresh baby spinach, radishes, and lots of strawberries (sliced and sugared) all weekend long. Spring!!
 

Read my Strawberry U-Pick It Guide.

And get recipes for

Quick Strawberry Jam Hand Pies

and Strawberry Poppy Seed Vinaigrette!

 
xoxo - Liz
  
PS - It's not too late to join A Natural Nest, the eCourse ... we're kicking off Week 1 today! And a group is gathering over on the A Sense of Place Community page where we're ramping up for some spring nature journaling. You can get the self-paced course guide here. Join in one, or both, for more spring goodness!

3.09.2015

It Starts Next Week!

The inaugural session of A Natural Nest, the eCourse, starts Monday, March 16th! Join in as we focus on creating a holistic home.

I'm pretty excited to start the first session of A Natural Nest next week! It's a six-week eCourse packed with information, guidance, ideas, tips, projects, recipes, and more to help you create a seasonal, family-centered home. Will you be joining in?This course:
Gives you building blocks to lay the foundation for a beautiful and functional home.

Offers the framework to develop your family culture and create meaningful and memorable family time.

Provides direction in strengthening the heart of your home by creating a conscious kitchen.
 
Shares basic ideas for growing some of your own food right outside your home.
 
Helps you foster creative expression as a family, including making space for creativity in your nest.
 
Encourages you to build a community that will support your family, and ideas for gathering your tribe.
PLUS: fun ideas for family time, decorating with nature, hosting a potluck, a unique DIY meal plan calendar, a welcome spring party plan, homegrown smudge sticks, a family creativity journal, creating a peace center, and SO much more!
 

Don't miss out on the inaugural, spring session of

A Natural Nest. Learn more and SIGN UP now!

3.06.2015

Gardening at School + A Kale Feast

A couple months ago, I shared my adventures nature journaling at school with my daughter's class (4th-6th grades). We also did a bit of gardening in the fall. They have four garden beds in their classroom's yard; we filled them with starts of lettuce, spinach, kale, a mix of herbs, green onions, tomatoes, and peppers. We also planted seeds for beans, radishes, and some edible flowers.
Soon after planting, visiting rabbits nibbled away most of our tender green starts. But a few things survived... and thrived under the care of these young gardeners. To my pleasure, kale was one of them, along with parsley, mint, arugula, and green onions. 
On Tuesday, we had a harvest party and feast. Two large bowls of kale were collected from the garden, as well as a hearty amount of fresh mint. The kids were super excited to see the abundant return on their efforts over the past months.
Working between their classroom kitchen and back porch, they split into groups and washed, tore, "ribboned," and massaged the kale. They crushed the mint and added it to lemonade. We made a kale salad for 30, dressed with fresh squeezed orange juice & extra virgin olive oil, and topped with roasted sunflower seeds. We also made three trays of kale chips, coated with olive oil and liberally dusted with sea salt.
It was a kale feast, washed down with minty lemonade. I was so very impressed with these kids - they have skills in the kitchen! And almost all of them (my gal not included) scarfed down the kale. Every last bite. Next up from the upper-class kitchen - green onion & mushroom quiche and frittata. And a tabouleh salad. I do believe some spring planting is on the docket too!
 
xoxo - Liz
 
****************************************************
 

Our Garden-Harvest Kale Salad
 
2 large bunches of kale (we grew lacinato, aka Tuscan, black, or dinosaur kale)  
Juice of 2 medium oranges
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup roasted sunflower seeds
Sea salt and fresh ground pepper
  1. Remove kale leaves from stem. (Hold leaf upside down; grasping top of stem in one hand, pull downwards on the leaf with other your hand, stripping the leaf from the stem).
  2. Stack 5-6 leaves at a time and roll them up longways. Slice the "roll" into 1/4-inch-thick ribbons. Repeat with all the kale. Place kale ribbons in a large bowl.
  3. Whisk together fresh squeezed orange juice and olive oil in a small bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste. Pour the dressing over the kale.
  4. Massage the dressed kale with your hands, working to break down the fiber in the leaves, and rendering it more tender. Massage for 2-5 minutes, until the kale looks wilted and feels tenderized.
  5. Sprinkle sunflower seeds over the salad and toss to combine. Add additional salt & pepper to taste. Enjoy! 

3.03.2015

Quick Garlic-Dill Pickles for Busy Mamas

Since January, I've been back working at my husband's business 3-4 days each week. Although my passion is writing, my education and background is in communications and public relations. And over the past 15 years, I've been in and out of the scene at the office, handling marketing & communications. Right now, I'm back in as the company is expanding. I'm also still maintaining my freelance gigs, and my eCourses/blog, and my household, and well, you know, all the things life with kids entails. So needless to say - I'm busy!

I find myself squeezing in the extras in all sorts of odd moments. Yesterday, during the span of time between after-school snack and my youngest daughter's dance class, I made pickles. I also ran a load of laundry, changed the water & filter in the aquarium, emptied all the trash cans, and cleaned out the fridge. But back to the pickles... I had to make a jar because my dill had gone to seed (a plus of a neglected garden), and I had this magnificent seed head begging to join some cukes for garlic dills. So I made 1 jar of quick refrigerator pickles. It took about 10 minutes, including time to photograph them. Here's the recipe, in case you want to squeeze in a jar too!
 
Quick, Refrigerator Garlic-Dill Pickles
 
1 tbsp. kosher salt
1 1/2 tbsp. organic cane sugar
1/4 tsp. black peppercorns
1/4 tsp. black mustard seeds (or any color, I just had black on hand)
1 tbsp. chopped garlic*
2-3 sections of dill + 1 dill head
1/2 cup white vinegar
4 pickling cucumbers, quartered
warm filtered water
 
Place the salt, pepper, mustard, garlic, dill, vinegar and cucumbers into a 1-quart mason jar, and then fill it to the top with warm water. Screw on the lid and shake the jar until the sugar and salt dissolve. Refrigerate for 24 hours for maximum flavor. Store up to 3 weeks, in the refrigerator. 
 
* TIP: I recently bought a jar of pre-peeled, whole garlic cloves. I love having these on hand in the fridge. It seems silly, but peeling fresh garlic always seems to add time in the kitchen and this has been a real help.
 
After dance class last evening, I came home to a very active sourdough starter that I'd pulled out of the fridge and fed right before I made the pickles. It had bubbled up and spilled all over the counter, which my girls found hilarious. So as I cleaned up the mess, and boiled water for a pasta dinner, and urged the girls to take their showers... I mixed up a batch of bread dough and left it to rise on the counter overnight. This morning, while packing lunches, I shaped the bread and preheated the Dutch oven while it rose. Shortly after, I did my morning workout to the smell of sourdough baking in the oven. Here's to another day of squeezing it all in!
 
xoxo - Liz