The Back of the Bus

It's particularly cold here in Florida this morning - 36 degrees. Just a few minutes ago, bundled in my warmest coat and, cradling a hot mug of coffee, I opened the side door of our minivan and watched my girls scamper toward the school bus, their breaths puffing out before them. My 7-year-old wore her warmest coat - a big, puffy, purple number she was delighted to adorn on this rare cold day. My 10-and-a-half-year-old donned only a thin, long-sleeved shirt under her uniform T-shirt; her lightweight hoodie just slung over one arm. Too cool for enforced warmth.

So, as I sat in the warm silence of my car, I watched my little one's blonde, curly head bop down the aisle to her seat in the middle of the bus. And then I saw my first-born, so tall and lanky, make her way to the very back row. This is where the big girls sit - the older girls. I watched as a 4th grader vacated a back row seat; my girl stood watch and then slipped into place next to her fellow fifth-grade friends. She had rank.

The pony-tailed heads of the girls in the back rows bent low and close toward one another. This is coveted time - a sacred 20 minute drive to talk and laugh and share. I know how much my daughter craves and cherishes social interaction right now. Her friends are top priority.

A lump formed in my throat and my stomach tightened a bit as I watched and realized there is no going back. A decade made up of long, often-trying days has flown by in the blink of an eye. The clichĂ© smacked me in the face - they grow up so fast. I searched to see my younger one's head among the rows - she still snuggles up on my lap, and craves mama time the most. I know how truly short-lived this is now, and I'm grateful for her middle-of-the-bus position.

I'm home now, and my nest will be empty and quiet for the next seven hours. This is not new... but on this unusually cold Friday, it feels different somehow. I feel the space, the silence, the stillness a little deeper. It's bittersweet. This alone time I used to crave with all my being has become, well, more commonplace. And I wonder, will I blink again and find myself yearning for the closeness, the noise, the chaos of these fleeting days?

In no time, I'll be back at the bus stop, collecting my girls, who will be hungry and happy to start the weekend. Tonight, we'll make and eat homemade pizzas together. We'll snuggle under blankets by the fire and finish the last couple chapters of Harry Potter. I can hardly wait!

Happy weekending, friends!

xoxo - Liz


Sunday, At Dusk (+ a 2-for-1 Deal)

The gorgeous Florida-winter weather of sunshine and cool breezes drew us all outdoors over the weekend. The girls played in their backyard play space for hours with neighborhood friends; and I spent some time in the garden cleaning up and preparing for spring. As the sun set on Sunday, a sweet contentment fell over me.
While my eldest lingered in the backyard, my husband fired up the grill, and my youngest swung in the hammock chair on our back porch. I sat with a glass of wine, enjoying watching the descending sunlight illuminate my little world, and snapping pictures.
It was a sweet moment. One to pause and take in the beauty of nature, the bounty of my garden, the warmth of my family, and the promise of what's yet to come. My cup runneth over.
xoxo - Liz

Join in A Natural Nest, the eCourse... 2-for-1!

I'm super excited about the wonderful group of women forming for A Natural Nest, the eCourse. This 6-week, guided course is all about creating a family-centered, seasonal home. Beginning March 16th, we'll be harnessing spring's energy of renewal and growth to explore the themes of: Nest - Nurture - Nourish - Grow - Create - and Gather. I'll offer simple, yet meaningful, ways to build a holistic home that runs smoothly, supports a conscious lifestyle, fosters creativity, and honors nature & the seasons.
I would really LOVE for you to join us! In fact, I've decided to extend my 2-for-1 newsletter deal through the end of February. That means you can bring along a friend for free, or you and a buddy can split the course cost! (Just include your friend's name and email address in the notes when you register... or contact me direct about a split payment option.)


Handmade with Love

This year, I'm committing, as much as possible, to only giving homemade, homegrown gifts. Partly for budget reasons, and partly for the principle. There's something about giving something you have crafted with your own hands, or nourished over time... Even the smallest, simplest items feel special when they are handmade, infused with love and intention.
Last weekend, we had my parents over to honor my father's birthday. This man loves plants. As a child, I spent many a Saturday alongside him, pruning and weeding the meticulously crafted landscape around our home. Over the years, he's maintained glorious orchid collections and practiced the Japanese art of Bonsai. His love is deep - even after suffering a debilitating spinal chord injury over a decade ago that left him with the use of only one arm, my daddy is still propagating and styling bonsai trees.

So when I saw Japanese moss balls - a planting style derived from bonsai and known as kokedama - on my Pinterest feed, I knew what I wanted to make for my father's gift. They were super easy (I followed the directions here) and affordable to make; and he absolutely loved them! I used young ferns that I dug from my yard, and potting soil I had on hand. My purchases were peat moss, new garden twine, and sheet moss - about $12 at Lowe's. Of course, I practiced first and made one for myself with a bulb I had on hand. Kokedama can be hung with twine, like I did the ferns for my dad, or they can sit in a bowl or on a saucer, which is how I left mine. I just love these, and I even have materials left to make more!

At our gathering, I had a (belated) birthday gift for my mother too. For her, I embroidered a flour sack towel with a cute little hen and chick design from Doodle Stitching: The Motif Collection. My mother is an avid cook. To her, making a pot of soup from whatever is on hand is the definition of pure joy! I spent as much time by her side in the kitchen as a child as I did by my father's in the yard. She taught me how cooking and creativity go hand-in-hand just by doing what comes naturally to her. Hence, a kitchen towel, stitched with love for her French-country inspired kitchen, seemed an ideal gift. I wrapped it simply and tucked a small bag of saved loofah seeds into the ribbon, as my mother has raved about the homegrown sponge I gifted her at the holidays. A gardener herself, now she can grow - and ultimately gift - her own!

What are your favorite handmade, homegrown gifts to
give (or receive)? I'd love to hear your ideas!


A Nature Walk, a Picnic, and a Possum Stick

We went on a picnic and a nature walk over the weekend at a favorite park. The weather was divine - cool, crisp, sunny. We packed a mash up of what was in the fridge and pantry for our picnic: tuna salad, leftover kale salad, crackers, peanut butter, oranges, pears, and cheese sticks. We call this a "snack lunch," when you have a little bit of this and a little bit of that. Snack lunches are best enjoyed picnic style, outdoors.
To go for our walk in the woods, my girls both wore dresses... I wished they wore play clothes, but I said nothing. They really like dresses, and I'm practicing not nagging them. They also both carried huge water bottles onto the trail, despite my warning that I was unwilling to carry them should they get tired of lugging them around. I'm also practicing setting boundaries.
Kids have minds of their own, for sure... and their own ideas of how a nature walk should go. My girls decided to bring along a huge "walking stick," a fallen branch they had brought home from Nana's yard a couple of weeks ago. It was loaded in the car and traveled with us... and from it they hung two stuffed possums. Yes, possums. These guys joined us for our picnic, and then the smaller one went with us on our hike, hanging from the stick.  I once again warned I was unwilling to carry the possum stick at any point. Boundaries.
Toward the end of the walk, both the stick and my youngest gal's water bottle became a burden. No big surprise. My husband carried the possum stick for a while; I assured him it wasn't too weird as we passed other non-possum-stick-carrying families. My daughter whined and kicked her water bottle along the path dramatically; I bit my tounge and said nothing. When the bottle was left on a bench, I didn't pick it up. She went back for it, and kicked it along a bit more. She never once asked me to carry it. I held her hand and talked to her of other things. And she made it the whole way, responsible for her own bottle. (She did tell me next time she will leave it in the car.)
From the path, we saw five deer back in the canopy. We stood watching them for some time and they watched us back. We spotted a pileated woodpecker on a tree, a hawk on a fence, and regal ospreys soaring overhead in clear blue skies. Along the way, we admired wildflowers with zebra longwing butterflies flitting about them, Spanish moss dripping from the oaks, and the sun peeking through the fronds of tall palm trees. This is Florida in January.
The day was an odd mix of magical, weird, ordinary, irritating, and deeply fulfilling experiences. Which pretty much sums up parenting. As we returned to our car, there was a man down near the water playing a flute. Yes, a flute. So strange, yet so beautiful. He faced us in the parking area and played us out as we packed up and pulled away.
Life is never boring, friends.

xoxo - Liz


Garden Harvest + Inspired Meals

I feel like I've been pretty negligent in tending my garden this season. Yet, it's still producing. I went out on Friday to harvest some collard greens, which were to be part of a meal I was preparing for a family going through a very challenging time. The lighting was great, so I ran back in to grab my camera and shoot a few pics. 
So, I ended up harvesting a lot more than collards... the bounty filled my dining table: collard greens, kale, mixed greens, swiss chard, tatsoi, green onions & chives, cauliflower, tomatoes, nasturtiums, herbs, zinnia, and a couple of loofahs. I also picked a few oranges and lemons, though clearing those trees is another day's work.
I feel so blessed to have all this fresh, homegrown food - and happy I could share some too! I cooked up the collards southern style, along with some slow-cooked honey BBQ ribs, a sourdough bread boule, and apple crisp. The meal - and an edible bouquet of nasturtiums, basil, rosemary, parsley, and dill - was all packaged up and delivered to my grateful friend and her family. Yesterday, I roasted the cauliflower and turned the kale into a house-favorite, massaged kale salad - perfect with backyard-lemon-and-herb roasted chicken. Harvest inspired meals to come: tatsoi, basil, & feta quiche (love this with a creamy tomato bisque); pasta with swiss chard, tomatoes, & chicken sausage; and quite a few mixed greens salads.

It's a good time to live in Florida! (Somebody please remind me come July.)

xoxo - Liz

PS - To me, keeping a basic kitchen garden & growing fresh flowers are important parts of creating a holistic home. I'll be talking about this - and more - in my upcoming new eCourse A Natural Nest. Won't you join in? Learn more and reserve your space here.


Recipes from my Nest: Beyond Waffles & Lemon Season

I have a couple of new pieces that just published in the winter issue of Edible Sarasota magazine. Hop on over to read the digital edition, or jump right to my articles:

On the Grid: Beyond the Basic Waffle with waffle-maker recipes for doughnuts, crab cakes, and spinach & mushroom quesadillas.

Pucker Up: It's Lemon Season with recipes for preserved lemons, honey Meyer lemon curd, and caramelized sea scallops in lemon-butter sauce.

Share your favorite ways to use a waffle maker,
and your best uses for seasonal citrus in the comments!
xoxo - Liz


Creating a Seasonal, Family-Centered Home

I've been writing here in this space since the fall of 2008... that's about six and a half years, friends. When I started, my eldest daughter was newly 4, my youngest was 9 months. I have learned and grown so much over these years as the mother of two young children. I've watched my life and my home morph and change with each passing year as I pursue creating a seasonal, family-centered nest. It's been my ongoing goal to build a holistic home, a supportive and loving family culture, a strong connection to community, and a full-family commitment to living mindfully.
Pictures from an early blog post... to present.
Next year, my big gal will begin middle school! Like all parents, I am aghast at how quickly time is passing. As I reflect on my years mothering small children - and my new ventures into the realm of preteen -  I'm grateful for all the efforts I've made to create a steady, nurturing, family-centered home. I believe it will serve us well in the years to come. So it is in this spirit that I have created a new eCourse - A Natural Nest - which shares many of my core principles and tools for creating a strong and healthy home base.
The first session of A Natural Nest debuts in March, and focuses on creating a holistic home. Over the course of six weeks, the eCourse will cover broad topics such as creating rhythms & routines, living within your means, and identifying guiding family principles. It will touch on everyday ideas for developing a decorating style, sharing family fun times, and creating kid-friendly spaces in your home. I'll talk about gardening, meal planning, celebrating the seasons, fostering creativity & a love of nature, and building community. Each week, I'll share what has worked for me... what has become the foundation of my home and family life. Plus, some of my favorite creative and simple ideas, activities, projects, and recipes.
A compilation of all I have learned during my first 10 years of creating a family-centered, natural nest, this course is ideal for families with young children. And I believe it is equally well suited for families with children of all ages... I simply haven't walked the full road yet myself. I hope you'll join in!
Want to learn more?
Thanks for stopping by!
xoxo - Liz