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Hope for Withering Seasons

I read the book Humble Roots twice last year––once in its entirety; once in slower, more intentional meditations. What rang true again and again was the title of the first chapter, “Withering on the Vine.” I could not think of a more fitting title for my own life last year. I left 2017 feeling like the crispy pine needles littering the floors. I was not unaware either, which may have made it worse. I had spent much of the Autumn doing what felt like twirling the puzzle pieces of our life to fit them better together, to be more efficient with time and energy. I took time to retreat, to pray, to write even. I shuffled the kids through amazing experiences, read books, hired an assistant, checked my children’s progress. I served in our community, connected with friends, made time for wine nights and date nights and morning coffees and travel. I listened to podcasts, to music, to books. I posted to social media, emailed with clients and brand partners, tried to write blog posts (handfuls in drafts) and slowly progressed through a project I’ve envisioned for this space the last two years. Our home life and homeschool was a mess, literally and figuratively. And in the process, I learned it is possible to have all the right puzzle pieces and totally miss their connection. It is possible in all the hustle, to lose purpose, to blur vision. I was withering under it all. I knew I needed to say no but I couldn’t even discern to what any longer. Hadn’t I taught classes and written blog posts and encouraged others on the importance of slower, more intentional living; of family mission; of disciplined, focused living, of less is more, of saying no? The answer is, of course, yes. And perhaps that shame was the most withering of all.

I am not writing these words to pass on a burden or to laden you with heaviness at the onset of a new year. I know, dear reader, you carry enough of your own. What I want to share is this: it’s okay. It’s okay if the world is running vigorous laps around you while you suck wind. It’s ok to be quiet, even when you’re expected to speak. It’s okay to pull back while others move forward, that is, in fact,  how our legs move so we can walk. It’s okay to fail, to smack into disappointment, to miss planned goals––but remember, that is not the end of the story. Courage is found in sweeping the pine needles from the floor, in using their crispy bits as kindling. Withering is not an ending, it is a beginning.

In a culture that rewards charisma, productivity, showmanship, and results––professional or personal withering can feel like failure. And why not? A garden is always more inviting in the Summer than the Winter; no one prefers a picnic beneath bare limbs and crispy leaves. But the work and purpose of the winter garden isn’t to blossom or to be an inviting space. The work of Winter is to kill off pests and disease, to cut back unhealthy limbs, to form a wet blanket for the earth. The work of Winter is to heal and nourish. Withering is not the end; it is the preparation for something new.

A Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Although I do have a few things ready for this upcoming weekend, I seem to be lagging behind the entire holiday season this year. I find the term procrastinator doesn’t suit well, as it implies I’ve been intentionally avoiding the thoughtfulness of the season. It turns out, the logistical mess of our lives this Fall has meandered into this part of the year as well. Again, I’m learning to be gentle with myself and our home, to take a deep breath and prepare for an intentional reset beginning next week. In the meantime, I have gifts to purchase and wrap and bags to pack like many of you, so at the moment, I’m feeling grateful for free two day shipping.  For those of you in the same place today, I thought I’d share a few favorites for the adults on our lists. Peace to your efforts and cheers to thoughtful gifting, even in the last minutes. Wink.


Timex Southview Watch | Something handsome for the one with classic, understated style.

Wood Soup Bowl Set | Something functional and warm for the one with open shelves or glass cabinets in the kitchen.

Brass Chamberstick Candlestick Holder | Something romantic for the late-night artist, the early morning reader, or the gracious host.  Pair with a set of these candles.

Barebones Living Small Garden Scissors | Something small for the one always lost in the garden.

Honeycat Lariat Dropbar Necklace | Something pretty for the one always borrowing your favorite necklace.

Felt Laptop Case |  Something practical for the one who commutes.

Wabi Sabi Welcome | Something reassuring for the one who feels imperfect.

Barbones Living Beacon Light | Something bright for the one who loves the outdoors.

The Haven’s Kitchen Cooking School | Something helpful for the one who wants to learn.

Bose Micro Waterproof Bluetooth Speaker | Something portable for the one who loves to move.

Everlane Cashmere Scarf | Something cheerful and cozy for the one who despises the grey winter.

betterfelt Classic Wool Slipper | Something meaningful and utilitarian for the one with cold feet.

Mkono Himmeli Hanging Planter with Ceramic Plant Holder | Something unexpected for the one who dreams of greenhouses. 

Nikon 50mm f/1.4G Lens | Something perfect for the aspiring photographer.

Matryoshka Ceramic Measuring Cups | Something unique for the one always in the kitchen.  

Afghanistan | Something stunning for the world traveler or photographer.

Phone Tripod and Remote | Something useful for the DIYer, blogger, or online socialite.

Everlane Leather Foldover Crossbody | Something special for the one who means most.

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A Gift Guide for the Homeschool

Gift giving is my love language. Whether it’s something handmade, something gently loved and no longer needed, something you can experience, or something new, I love gifting things that would mean something to the one receiving. I think we all do on some level. But I confess, I get easily overwhelmed this time of year inventorying what my children (or other people we gift to) need or what they might enjoy after a trend has passed. We do not purchase much for our children during the holidays, but what I gift them, I want to be special.

I began this gift guide two years ago as a way to share gifts that I discover in the search for meaningful and high-quality gifts for our own home. Many years, we have gifted experiences to our children, which you’ll find in the very first gift guide. These guides are not sponsored, although I do use some affiliate links to favorite businesses we support. But ultimately, these guides are a gift to you, dear readers––a gift of time on my part to ideally save some time on yours. I hope you find something or some idea that fits just right. I should also note, these gift guides build upon one another. Because I select things our home will enjoy for years (and multiple children), the gifts in my guide two years ago apply just the same today. You can find my first gift guide and my second gift guide here.  Happy holidays, friends. xx


GIFTS FOR YOUNG ARTISTS + BUSYBODIES 

1. Kinderfeets Bamboo Balance Bike  2. eeboo Learn to Draw books  3. Oragami Chic  4. Owl Cross-stitch Kit  5. Everyday Watercolor  6. Windsor & Newton Water Colour Pocket Sketch Box  7. Grimm’s Wooden Rainbow Bell Tower  8. Derwent Graphite Drawing Pencils 9. Making Waldorf Dolls  10. Woodstock Chimalong 11. Bamboozler Wooden Puzzle 12. Lino Cutting Set  13. Basket Making Kit  14. Melissa & Doug Wood Work and Project Bench  15. Seedling Create Your Own Dolly  16. Uncle Goose American Sign Language Blocks  17. Little Diggers Garden Tool Sets

GIFTS FOR YOUNG NATURALISTS + ADVENTURERS 

18. Birds of Prey 48″ Kite  19. Original Audubon Bird Call  20. The Pocket Scavenger  21. Mini Fairy Garden  22. Women Who Dared  23. Pocket Guide to the Outdoors: Based on My Side of the Mountain 24. National Geographic Hobby Rock Tumbler  25. Estwing Rock Pick  26. Swurfer Tree Swing  27. Rosie Research Solar System Bracelet Kit  28. Opinel Pocket Knife and Brown Leather Sheath  29. Animal Camouflauge  30. Knot Tying Kits  31. Treasure Hunter’s Game  32. Carson BugLoupe Magnifier  33. Flower Families: A Go-Fish Game  34. Large Moon Lamp  35. Botanicum  36. Uncle Goose Constellation Blocks  37. Children Rustic Walking Stick 

GIFTS FOR YOUNG ENGINEERS + SCIENTISTS 

38. Iggy Peck’s Big Project Book for Amazing Architects  39. Crystal Radio Kit  40. Wooden Wonders Dr. Maple Medical Kit  41. LEGO Women of Nasa Set  42. STEAM Kids  43. Science Experiments You Can Eat  44. Leatherman Multi-Tool for Kids  45. Compounded Chemistry Board Game  46. Rosie Revere’s Big Project Book for Bold Engineers  47. Thames & Kosmos Air + Water Power Experiment Kit  48. Hape Quadrilla Wooden Marble Run  49. Seedling Design Your Own Marble Maze   50. Young Architect City Planner Set  51. Grimm’s Wooden Fraction Circles  52. Prime Climb: The Beautiful, Colorful Mathematical Game  53. The Curious Kid’s Science Book  54. 11 Experiments That Failed

GIFTS FOR YOUNG TECHIES + INVENTORS

55. Piper Computer Kit  56. Wright Flyer Model  57. Tegu Magbot  58. Make: Paper Inventions  59. Tech Will Save Us Micro:Bot Pack  60. Kamigami DIY Lina Robot  61. Cozmo Programmable Robot  62. BOSEBuild Build-It Yourself Bluetooth Speaker for Kids  63. Grace Hopper: Queen of Computer Code  64. Smithsonian Maker Lab  65. Make Your Own Mud Clock  66. Tot Tube Playset  67. Ukranian Bridge Wood Puzzle  68. Castle Logix Game  69. Coding iPhone Apps for Kids  70. Thing Explainer 

GIFT FOR YOUNG FOODIES + WRITERS

71. Tombow Beginning Lettering Marker Set  72. Writing Magic: Creating Stories that Fly  73. A Year in the Woods  74. Organic Cotton Hanging Nest  75. Star Wars Death Star Ice Mold  76. Mini Alphabet Stamps  77. Children’s Kitchen Tool Set in an Herb Pot  78. Start Where You Are: A Journal of Self-Exploration  79. Large Moleskine Cahier Journal in Pastels 80. Tovla Training Chopsticks for Kids  81. How to Cook in 10 Easy Lessons   82. Toysmith Deluxe Root Viewer  83. Plays Children Love 84A Child of Books  85. Crayon Rocks  86. Harry Potter Kids Aprons  87. MasterChef Junior Cookbook  88. Curious Chef Nylon Knife Set

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Creating a Simple + Economical Thanksgiving Table

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!

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Six Favorites for Glowing Autumn Skin

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. 

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For the Weekend | Cucumber Basil Margarita

The weekend is here, and I’m bring back an old series to welcome it. This particular weekend marks the bridge between Summer and Autumn for the Northern Hemisphere, a crossover to a new season, an invitation to change. While our garden is mostly cleared and waiting for fall plantings, my sister is still fortunately stocked with beautiful Purple Basil! So before it also withers, I wanted to share a favorite drink from Summer––a Cucumber Basil Margarita. Nothing says Texas Summer like a margarita, so it seemed fitting to consider this a farewell to the Summer garden and casual evenings outdoors.

What I love most about this drink is it’s flexibility. Want to skip the alcohol? Substitute mineral water or sparking water for the tequila and make it a spritzer. Short on Basil? Substitute an herb on hand, perhaps Lavender or Cilantro or Lemon Thyme. This drink is also very strong, so sip and enjoy slowly. It’s intended to mingle with the ice, making it perfect for warm weather, too. And naturally, it pairs best with a group of friends.  Happy weekend, friends!


CUCUMBER BASIL MARGARITA, makes one drink

.25 cup cucumber, peeled and chopped

5-6 basil leaves, washed

.5 – .75 oz. maple syrup, to preferred sweetness

1 lime, halved to press

3 oz. white tequila*

ice

tools needed / shaker, citrus press, muddler, knife, vegetable peeler, cutting board

DIRECTIONS

  1. Muddle cucumber and basil together in the shaker.
  2. Press the lime juice into the shaker.
  3. Add the maple syrup and tequila.
  4. Shake.
  5. Fill a glass with ice.
  6. Remove the lid of the shaker and pour the entire shaker over the ice.
  7. Garnish with a basil leaf and enjoy!

 

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15 Nature Activities + Books to Enjoy Spring Flowers

Perhaps one of the best parts of Spring weather is all of the wildflowers blooming. We naturally are outdoors more, and so I always look for ways to bridge the natural world in my children’s play and learning. This season we have studied flower parts, collected flowers, planted wildflowers, dried wildflowers, and more recently made Sun Art. I thought I would write down a few ideas to share, activities that are versatile for ages and locale. I also listed a few of our favorite flower books to complement our learning. Happy Spring!

1. Dissect a Flower / Wildflowers can be difficult for this since the flower parts are often small and more difficult to identify. We found that Lilies worked best since their parts were easier for young ones (and adults) to identify. Consider gluing/taping and labeling the parts to a sheet of paper as you identify them for review. Microscopes aren’t necessary for this activity, but they are a special addition for older children to see small parts up close. This sturdy, American-made Magiscope is our favorite, if you’re looking for future gift ideas for your homeschool. 😉

2. Create Sun Art / This activity always turns out beautifully, and is simple enough for preschoolers to enjoy. I purchased this Sun Art paper, although a smaller size would work, too. Consider cutting the larger sheets to create bookmarks or even layer over cardstock for special cards. The children collect the flowers and arrange them indoors on the blue paper, out of the sun light. When they are ready, they take the paper to the sun and lay a piece of acrylic, the set arrive with, over the top. Press down firmly to prevent shadows, and leave it in the sunlight for a few minutes until the paper turns white. Rinse the paper under water for a minute and let it dry. All Done!

3. Flower Scavenger Hunt / Print a paper with local wildflowers and set out on a walk around the neighborhood or in a nature preserve to see how many you can find. See how many you all can name without looking it up.

4. Press Wildflowers / I loved doing this as a child, and it only works if you’re picking in an area where it’s allowed. Spread and wrap a handful of blooms on a paper towel. Press between the pages of a book.  Stack heavy books on top and leave for a few days, until the flowers are completely dry.

5. Wildflower Memory Game / Gather several different wildflowers from one area. Spread out across the table, covering each different flower with a cloth. Remove the cloth and let the children study the flower for a 30 seconds to a minute, then cover again. Send them into the field to see if they can remember which flowers were on the table. For young children, choose five flowers. For older children, choose up to 10 different flowers. My kids love this one!

6. Make Nature Faces / Cut a piece of cardboard or brown paper bag in an oval shape. Have the children collect plants and flowers to make facial features for the oval. Glue them to the board and name their nature faces to play with or hang on the wall.

7. Create Flower Crowns / Of course, flower crowns can be beautifully elaborate and complex, but they needn’t be for child play. Look for long grasses or weeds to tie or braid together. Tie flowers to the mix and wear for outdoor pretend play.

8. Plant Wildflowers / For all the activities that require picking wildflowers, here’s an opportunity to give back. Purchase seeds that will grow well in your area and create a personal garden, or spread them along empty fields and highways for the public to enjoy.

9. Dry Wildflowers and Herbs / Gather a small bunch of favorite flowers or herbs and tie them together. Hang them in an arid area of your home, near a door or window that often open, and leave them for a couple of weeks until completely dried. Cu  herbs to use in the kitchen, or hang the wildflowers in a bedroom.

10. Create a Wildflower Journal / Take photos, dry-press, or illustrate wildflowers you discover. Help your children label their common and scientific names and location. Add new pages each time you go for a nature walk or even for the next season.

11. Make Your Own Wildflower Nomenclature Cards / Nomenclature or three-part cards are a Montessori memory and learning tool, where three separate card parts are matched together. The top part is the largest with a photo of the flower, the next part has the name of the flower, the third part a description (better for older children). Create your own local nomenclature cards by taking images of flowers you discover during nature activities or play. Learn about the flower together with your children, and help them create the name card and description card for matching and memory work.

12. Play Wildflower Board Games / Make your own Bingo or memory game with photos or try this one.

13. Gift Wildflower Seed Packets / Share the gift of Spring blooms with friends and neighbors. Purchase wildflowers seeds in bulk, and add a spoonful to these mini-envelopes. Let your children stamp a wildflower on the front.

14. Grow Flowers from Seeded Paper / What a magical experiment for young children. This is best matched with beloved Eric Carle’s The Tiny Seed.

15. Color Previously Illustrated Wildflowers / This vintage styled coloring book has over 44 favorite, full-page wildflowers with information about each for your little artists. Plop down on a blanket with them and color together. Find out if any are local to your area.

FAVORITE LITERATURE + BOTANY RESOURCES  FOR YOUNG CHILDREN TO ADULTS

Miss Rumphius | This is one of my favorite books, and we read again and again each time Spring arrives. It prompts questions of what each of us are doing to make the world more beautiful.

Nature Anatomy | The spine on this book is worn thin with use and reference and is still my children’s favorite. It covers many topics lightly with beautiful illustrations, a perfect resource for wetting little appetites.

Up in the Garden Down in the Dirt | This book is larger in theme than flowers, but I appreciate how it shows the connection between the life below and above the earth’s surface, and the relational connection of the family in the garden. Plus, the illustrations are just lovely.

A Seed is Sleepy | Beautifully illustrated and labeled like each of Dainna Aston’s books, this one poetically tells the power and life of a seed.

Play the Forest School Way | This is another favorite reference for playful activities outdoors. I adapted two of the activities above from this book, and I love that they label each activity with age-appropriateness.

The Tiny Seed | Eric Carle. Need I say more? This one is perfect for exploring the way seeds travel and grow with early learners, and new copies arrive with seeded paper for you to plant and experiment with at home!

Planting a Rainbow |  This one is another perfect read with littles to introduce flower names, color, and seed bulbs.

The Curious Garden  | Peter Brown is another favorite author here. My oldest received this one as a gift several years ago, because he and the main character share a name, but I love this story for so many reasons. It models the importance of caring for the earth, the power of plant life to beautify spaces and uplift the human spirit, and the impact of even the smallest actions to create change.

The Secret Garden (I love this collector’s edition) | This is a wonderful read aloud or shared read with older children, exploring ideas about growing gardens both literally and metaphorically.

How to Be a Wildflower  | Filled with poetic quotes and ideas, this beautifully illustrated field guide is for older children and adults both to enjoy!

Botanicum | This one is currently on our wishlist, but we’ve enjoyed Animalium so much, I know we’d love the illustrations and descriptions here, too.

The Gardener | Like The Curious Garden, this introduces the contrast of urban and country settings, and the power of natural life and beautiful florals to uplift the human spirit. It is also formatted with letter writing, perhaps inspiring a lost art, even in our home.

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An Elegant Spring Picnic


Springtime is my favorite time for outdoor meals and entertaining. The days are a bit longer, the evenings a bit warmer, and mealtime conversation tends to linger. With Mother’s Day just around the corner, I’ve been thinking on ways to celebrate this beautiful and empowering journey, not just with my family, but also with the friends––the women who surround and support me in motherhood.

I have a kindred relationship with my mother, one that has greatly shaped and encouraged me, and if she lived closer, I would celebrate her in this spot, too, along with my sisters and long-time friends. Motherhood was never intended to be a solo role, and I am forever grateful to have a local tribe of women who support me with wisdom, encouragement, laughter, and practical help. It is cliché to say they make me a better mother, but they do.

In the Long-Legged House, Wendell Berry writes, “A community is the mental and spiritual condition of knowing that the place is shared, and that the people who share the place define and limit the possibilities of each other’s lives. It is the knowledge that people have of each other, their concern for each other, their trust in each other, the freedom with which they come and go among themselves.” This community doesn’t require any us to be the same, or even occupy the same roles or routines. Many of us are in different stages of life, with or without children. It doesn’t matter. They are a part of my tribe. And enjoying an elegant tapas style picnic on the lawn is one way I want to celebrate their shared place in my life.

But Spring and early Summer are a wonderful time for celebrations of any sort. Here, I wanted to create an elegant tapas-style picnic, relaxed a bit with playful colors and mismatched plates, candles, wildflowers, and blankets on the lawn. A thoughtfully planned evening, with a playful and casual vibe. I shared more tips and details for pulling together a similar meal last week over on Anthropologie’s blog

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Growing Character

Our family has been studying the 19th century this year, and while we are only scratching the surface of events and topics, it has been incredible to read the various narratives of women before women had the right to property, work, or education. From Sacagawea to Queen Victoria to the numerous women in pioneering homesteads to slave narratives and abolitionists and women who bravely took up new roles in the Civil War, I have been moved to read so many stories of courage and compassion, of perseverance and fortitude with my children. As a parent, I hope these powerful words become descriptions of their lives one day, too.

Although books are an important way we build character in our home, it isn’t the only one. Many of the practical character lessons our children learn occur just outside our doors, where they play with friends and build forts and garden. When possible, these lessons extend when we travel and experience other parts of the world or plan outdoor excursions. Today, I am partnering with Keenshoes our family has loved for yearsto share their new Moxie line for girls, and also a few character lessons growing in our girls through outdoor play and exploration.  

There are accumulating piles of research on the benefits of outdoor living for our children’s health: Vitamin D, decreased stress and anxiety, calming for ADD/ADHD, physical exercise, and so on. Yet as a parent, I also notice the ways outdoor living and play teaches my girls something about courage and compassion, about perseverance and beauty. When they climb trees or hike long trails, when they experience new people or ideas from history, when they rove through rivers or gather wildflowers, they are developing a greater understanding and appreciation for the world around them.

Naturally, I do not know who exactly my girls will grow up to be, but I have glimpses now when I see them try something new or speak the truth clearly, when I watch them work hard at a task or serve someone when they think nobody’s watching. As Marmee noted to her girls in Little Women, “I so wish I could give my girls a more just world. But I know they will make it a better place.” Here are a few ways giving my girls plenty of time outside is equipping them to do just that.  

Perseverance / We love to hike, especially in the spring when our Southern air is still cool. There are times, our girls grow tired before we are done, especially our youngest. These experiences are opportunities of perseverance, of continuing despite the hardship, despite knowing how much longer until we are through. To lighten the experience, we might make a game, racing to certain points or playing “I spy.” I might hand them my phone to take pictures along the way. When they finish, we always high-five and celebrate!

Courage / There are plenty of opportunities for courage in the outdoors, whether in casual tree climbing, swimming, or in learning about wildlife. One summer we camped in the mountains in Colorado, and I remember the park ranger giving us instructions about bears. One of the girls looked at me with wide eyes and asked, “Did she say bears?” When we venture into new areas together and learn about the land and wildlife, sometimes it is scary. Sometimes unknowns are scary and unpredictable, a sign for us change course. Other times, they are an opportunity for courage.

Compassion / Spending time outdoors, even simply in our backyard or growing food in our garden, cultivates a love and appreciation for the natural world, and subsequently, a longing to preserve and protect it. When we are walking and find trash in the grass or bushes, we collect it. When we garden organically, we are learning about how to take care of the earth and our bodies. When we interact with homeless on the city street, we say hello and offer them something if we can. All of these seemingly small habits are growing a deeper awareness of the world and people around us, and how we participate in caring for them.

Gratitude / Even in the youngest years, children notice bugs and leaves adults might pass by. They listen to songbirds and the rustling leaves. They enjoy animals and wildlife and playgrounds and picnics. Playing outdoors has a way of cultivating gratitude, simply by its enjoyment. When we pray together, we often thank God for pieces of nature we’ve experienced that day.

Determination / There are moments my girls spot a specific tree or boulder and are determined to conquer it. Sometimes they slip and have to start over, but I love watching them beeline for something specific to work toward. I love it even more when they find a way to help one another, by coaching steps or lending a boost.


This post is sponsored by Keen, a business our family has loved for years. All thoughts and images are my own. Always, thank you for supporting the businesses that help keep our family and this space afloat.