A Springtime Flower Party

It feels a tad weird to be writing about Springtime and flowers while currently traveling through winter weather, but Spring has already sprouted in our southern home: trees budding, wildflowers sprinkling the highways, songbirds chirping at sunrise. As Rilke wrote, “It is spring again. The earth is like a child that knows poems by heart.” And so we celebrated our youngest songbird’s eighth birthday with flowers and friends, two of her very favorite things.

To keep birthday experiences simple for our home, our children only have the option for a birthday party on certain years, a year when they can opt for a party experience with friends as their gift from me and Mark. So when they choose a party, I tend to make the details special, something they will enjoy and something to remember. Olive and I had several conversations about what type of party she wanted, which left me feeling she should consider event planning one day, as they were all such large-scale, fun ideas. In the end we opted to recreate a flower market experience and allow each friend space to make their own arrangement. Blythe thoughtfully painted a sign for Olive to hang in her shop.

Since our backyard is currently a mesh of backyard projects and renovations, I asked a dear friend if I could host the party on her beautiful property in the country. We don’t have a flower market at our farmer’s market, but they are one of my favorite things to enjoy when we travel.

When the girls arrived, they each had a spot at the table, marked with a paper doily, mason jar vase, drinking glass, and paper-lined basket for little nibbles. They each perused and gathered from the flower market (set up with a lemonade stand) and returned to their spots where they had access to scissors for trimming stems and various colors of string for decorating their vases (and for marking their personal arrangement). We talked about the importance of flowers and pollinators in the world, a repeat conversation from our homeschool group’s flower study the week before.

Once the girls finished making flowers, they sipped Italian soda and filled their baskets with berries and popcorn. We sang happy birthday to Olive with mini lemon-filled cupcakes, and she opened gifts and read thoughtful notes from friends, many of which included bubble gum. The girls each filled and stamped small envelopes with wildflower seeds to take home and grow their own cutting gardens.

Although the party created quite the mess, it was a simply, beautiful way to celebrate the season. For those of you interested in hosting your own (even for adults!), here are a list of materials I used. for younger girls, it’s best to have a few extra set of adult hands available for helping tie knots and cut difficult stems. For older girls and adults, create a bit more time for the art of arrangement with helpful tips, such as how to choose colors or arrange by height and spill. Consider the audience ages and their attention span/interest levels. Most of this group preferred to simply jump right in! Either way can be fun. Enjoy!


Garden Kale | 25 Ideas + Recipes for the Harvest

The days have been warm here, feeling more like spring than late winter. I don’t mind. I spent the day on a blanket last weekend, reading Luci Shaw’s Water My Soul, and soaking up the warm light. It’s possibly the most restorative way for me to spend alone time, tending the soil of my own soul and spirit, taking in the outdoors. In spite of a few hard freezes here, our garden kale and brussel sprouts have continued to grow, and the heirloom lettuces I let go to seed last year have blossomed again without effort! It feels miraculous. In our southern heat, these leafy greens only last as long as the weather remains cool in the evening, so I’m harvesting what I can each day, adding a bit of kale to at least one meal or juice a day. As I’ve looked for more creative ways to eat kale, here are a few recipes I’ve found. Kale Cake? Kale Pesto Slaw? Mmm. Enjoy!

  1. Simply Sauté | Toss with olive oil, sea salt, and minced garlic over the stove until a bright green color. Add to any dish.
  2. Green Juice  or this one: 5-6 de-stemmed kale leaves, 1/2 cucumber, 1/2 lemon without the rind, 1 apple, 2 sprigs of mint, 1″ piece of ginger
  3. Wilted Winter Greens Soup
  4. BBQ Kale Chips
  5. Kale and Black Bean Tacos with Roasted Red Pepper Salsa
  6. Butternut Squash + Kale Quesadillas
  7. Blueberry, Kale, and Fig Smoothie
  8. Kale and Apple Cake with Apple Icing
  9. Kale Pasta with Walnuts
  10. Pork Tenderloin with Kale and Kimchi
  11. Kale Veggie Wrap
  12. Kale with Garlic and Bacon
  13. Savory Oatmeal with Garlicky Kale
  14. Winter Farro and Kale Salad
  15. Cheesy Turmeric + Garlic Kale Chips
  16. Chocolate Cocoa Kale Chips
  17. Chive, Kale, + Parmesan Pancakes with Poached Eggs
  18. Kale + Feta Savory Torte
  19. Kale, Cherry, Sunflower Seed Salad with Savory Granola
  20. Roasted Beet, Kale, and Brie Baby Quiche
  21. Savory Corned Beef Brisket + Irish Cheddar French Toast with Kale Pesto Slaw
  22. Hide Your Kale Smoothie
  23. Warm Kale + Artichoke Dip
  24. Detox Salad with Cauliflower, Kale, and Pomegranate
  25. Kale + Popcorn

Any favorite kale recipes to share?

our homeschool in pictures | april + may

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Human knowledge is never contained in one person. It grows from the relationships we create between each other and the world, and still it is never complete. 
― Paul Kalanithi, When Breath Becomes Air


studying the characteristics of tree leaves

practicing reading and spelling with the moveable alphabet and Reading Lessons Through Literature

welcoming April’s bluebonnets

enjoying the negative space in our routine

washing dishes during afternoon kitchen clean-up

reading a vintage comic book, using a pile of laundry for a pillow (hashtag: real life)

discovering a wren’s nest in her rain boot

sifting It’s All Good and Chop, Chop, helping with the weekly meal plan

reading interesting facts from The 50 States

making their own recipe for fresh lemonade

sculpting a human heart for his rhetoric project

making a personal salad from our garden lettuce

reading picture books, napping on the lawn

our one-room schoolhouse

 our first garden cabbage

illustrating heliocentric (sun) and geocentric (earth) theories from history in Along Came Galileo

working in the garden, standing in a strong spring breeze

illustrating weather after experiencing local tornadoes, thunderstorms, and floods

(weather source books: Nature Anatomy, Oh Say Can You Say What’s the Weather Today, and Joe Kauffman’s Big Book about Earth and Space)

more images: #cloisteredaway_homeschooling


I wonder sometimes if slowness is more a state of the mind than the body, as our days never seem to be as slow I imagine them. April and May followed suit with March, eclectic and busy. But then again, spring is always a time for activity. April was cool, cloudy, and full of wildflowers, and we spent as much time as possible outdoors, in the yard, at the park, going for walks in nature or just around our neighborhood. We only planted garden herbs this year, instead of a large vegetable garden. With all of the home projects and changes around here, I needed to simplify what we’re managing this summer. Now that summer is here, I do miss watching the fruit appear on the vine. Next spring.

Like parenting, there is no script for the homeschool life, and I’m learning more confidently each year how to adapt our learning to life’s changing circumstances, instead of feeling paralyzed or guilty about never measuring up to a straight-forward plan. The home is alive, a breathing organism, and so is education. Although we had not planned a major lull in academic studies in May, the children spent the month unusually sick with viral high fevers, bronchitis, strep throat, and so on. While April was beautiful and lived mostly outdoors, May, with rotating sickness and terrible weather, was lived mostly indoors. We used the time to read more, to play, to live more unstructured. I’m grateful for the June sunshine this week.

I left for the Wild+Free conference right in the middle of May, and my mother graciously cared for my sick children and treated them with movie marathons and dress-up and library trips. Thank you again, Mom. Also, for those interested, you can now find the audio from the conference by subscribing here.

As we quickly swing into our summer rhythm, I’m also reflecting on this last year: what I learned, what I loved most, and what to keep and toss for next year. I plan to save that for another post though, as it seems too loaded for this one. As for April and May, here are the books we read. Some of the read-alouds are still in progress.


Liam | Aesop’s Fables | The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring | Treasure Island

Burke | The Hobbit | Warriors, book 1-3 | Along Came Galileo | Treasure Island  | The Molehill, Vol. 3

Blythe | The Secret Garden | Caddie Woodlawn | How To Train Your Dragon

Olive | Frog and Toad All Year | The Burgess Bird Book for Children (RA) | beginning readers

Picture Books We Loved | The Hundred Dresses | The Family Under the Bridge | Make Way for Ducklings | Carl Larsson’s A Farm: Paintings from a Bygone Age (out of print, but consider this one as an alternative) | On a Beam of Light: A Story of Albert Einstien

Family Read-Alouds | Redwall | The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (on audio) | North! Or Be Eaten | WildwoodHudson Taylor: The Man Who Believed God

Myself | Brainstorm: The Purpose and Power of the Teenage Brain | Girl on a Train | The Thirteeth Tale | All the Light We Cannot See (finally finished!) | When Breath Become Air

non-toxic spring cleaning


As the dreary (and rather long) winter weather draws to an end, something shifts in us too, doesn’t it? The spring sunlight has a way of imparting new and necessary energy to our souls as well as our environments. It becomes what Leo Tolstoy called “a time for plans and projects.” Although we’ve spent much of our recent days working outdoors clearing and planting (more on that later), indoors we’ve been welcoming the new season in a few simple and specific ways, too.  The flannel sheets and heavier linens have been tucked away and exchanged for crisp white linens and lighter coverlets. Oil diffusers replace most of the warmer candles and small hand-picked flowers gather in glass jars along our surfaces and shelves again.

There’s a reason so many people talk about cleaning in the springtime. The bright air and soft light draw attention to all the collected dust of winter, the closed window crevices and unused shelves. For years, our family has aimed to practice more natural cleaning, making or purchasing products that rely on naturally occurring ingredients rather than harmful chemicals. Since we’ve always lived in old homes, I’m also always looking for natural ways to brighten the scents that linger in older spaces.


Over the years, I’ve skeptically dabbled with essential oils, trying to distinguish truth from trend, and while we haven’t subscribed to any one organization or product, I can testify essential oils are wonderful for a variety of purposes from personal health to home. If not used medicinally–although we’ve dabbled a bit with that too–they are incredible for bringing new life into spaces through natural aromatherapy. A few of the oils, including tea tree oil, eucalyptus, rosemary and peppermint have also been known to contain antibacterial properties, too–making them an ideal choice for safe, non-toxic cleaning around the home. Like most concentrated substances, it’s best to leave the blending of oils and carriers to adults.

After a discussion about the benefits of oils, Nicole recently sent me a bottle of Young Living‘s Thieves (a blend of clove, lemon, rosemary, cinnamon, and eucalyptus) to try at home. I’ve included it in a few cleaning recipes below, and it smells divine. Beyond house cleaning, I’ve added a few drops to my own and my girls’ baths, to our diffuser, and even tried using it a bit topically. Although in several ways, I’m a novice to the world of essential oils, I jotted down a few ways our family is currently using oils to create natural cleaners for our home. I purchased amber glass spray bottles to use since oils tend to encourage the leaching in plastics. Happy spring!


| multi-purpose spray |

16 oz. glass spray bottle

2 cups filtered water

4 tsp. castile soap (I use Dr. Bronner’s Eucaplyptus soap)

40 drops of Thieves (or another anti-bacterial oil)

Shake and spray on any surface. We use this on most any hard surface in our home, including kitchen counters and tabletops, cabinet doors and knobs, bathroom counters and sinks.


| linen spray |

16 oz. spray bottle

1 cup filtered water

4 tbsp witch hazel, rubbing alcohol or vodka

20 drops lemon oil

20 drops eucalyptus oil

20 drops lavender oil

Shake and lightly spray on any linens, including bedding, fabric pillows, sofas, or rugs. As always, if you’re nervous about the material’s reaction, test a small spot first. Thank you, Kaylan, for the recipe.


| window cleaner |

16 oz. Spray Bottle

1 1/2 cup white vinegar

1/2 cup filtered water

8 drops of any citrus oil  (I always lean toward lemon or orange.)


| tub |

hand scrub brush

1 cup baking soda

1 tsp. castile soap (I use Dr. Bronner’s Eucalyptus)

5-10 drops lavender

Mix all of the ingredients together. Add just enough water to create a paste and scrub the tub with it.



toilet brush

16 oz. glass spray bottle

2 cup distilled white vinegar

1 tsp. Thieves essential oil

1/2 cup baking soda (I prefer the shaker style lid.)

Mix the vinegar and essential oils together in the spray bottle. Shake and spray all areas of the toilet. Sprinkle the baking soda in the toilet–it should bubble a bit with the vinegar–and scrub.


| freshen the air |

add the following to your oil diffuser:

1 drop lime oil

1 drop grapefruit oil

2 drops lemon oil

6 drops orange oil

I also love diffusing the YL Purification blend (Citronella, Lemongrass, Rosemary, Melaleuca, Lavandin, and Myrtle).

spring wedding bits


I know it’s been silent here recently, and I’m hoping to talk about it with you soon. The last two weekends we spent celebrating two favorite couples in our life. The kids and I were in one. Mark was in the other. Our days have been fast and full of so many emotions mixed with sweet and hard things. For the best part, Spring is here, and we’re trying to soak up every bit of it. I hope Spring is treating you all just as well.

cheers to spring! | three fresh ways to toast the new season


The kids and I picnicked in the yard earlier this week, afterward pushing our plates aside to sprawl across the blankets in the warm sun. Each day it seems we find new plant life sprouting around this old house, and the kids pick wildflowers by the handful. Both make me so happy. Since our kitchen isn’t fully functioning yet we’ve continued eating almost every dinner at my sister’s house. Only now, we can take our meals to the backyard, and the kids run off to play as soon as their bellies are full. We’ve been using the fresh herbs in her backyard to make our dinner cocktails, playing with the flavors. Each one tastes simple and fresh. Since several people have asked about these drinks after recently posting a few on Instagram, I thought I would share three here before the weekend. Enjoy and happy Friday!


one // freshly squeezed grapefruit + 2oz. gin + a splash of sparkling water + a chopped basil leaf

two // 1/2 orange + 1/2  grapefruit (both freshly squeezed) + 2 oz. of tequila + a squeeze of lime + a few sprigs of muddled mint

three // sparkling water + 2 oz. vodka + cardamom simple syrup (infuse a homemade simple syrup with cardamom pods) + muddled mint


when spring comes

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Maybe it was the way last week’s muddled grey clouds hovered like dust over my soul or the unexpected chill that forced us back into winter coats. Maybe we needed an event to share with friends — an art fair — to beckon Spring’s rich tapestry. Or maybe it was simply our waiting, our rituals of taking meals and coffee and play outdoors waiting for Spring, the true one who stays. Regardless of why, this weekend she came with sun and wind, blowing away the dust and chill, leaving us with pink shoulders. My heart is alive.

a strawberry farm











Sometimes I need
only to stand
wherever I am
to be blessed.
― Mary Oliver, Evidence: Poems

Last week the days grew so warm that on one afternoon the kids even ran through the sprinkler in the backyard. Again friends invited us along on an adventure, this time to pick strawberries, and we went in spite of life chaos because — well, because I’m learning sometimes life is chaotic; strawberries, on the other hand, only come once a year. In a moment our children quickly swarmed the ripened fields with their wagons, tossing the sun-warmed berries into their bag or box, gladly sneaking a few for tasting. It wasn’t until Liam boasted he had already collected 7 pounds that I had second thoughts about giving each child their own container. And it wasn’t until both sons stood holding bags dripping with fresh strawberry juice that I had second thoughts about giving them bags. Clearly, I am an amateur strawberry-picker. At the end of the trip, my sister and I ended up toting home a combined 25 pounds of strawberries (a nice chunk of our grocery budget), many of which were now pressed and leaking onto the car mats (thank you, rubber floor mats). While I spent the rest of the afternoon sorting, cutting, preserving, or eating berries, I kept chuckling to myself at the day’s events — what a wreck! But when I thought back through the smiles, lunch with friends, the feet in long grass, and the pleasure of plucking food from the earth, I knew I had purchased more than strawberries.

THREADS {two ways}

{two ways}


JACKET (similar herehere, or here)

DAY: dress | boots | earrings | sunglasses | bag

NIGHT: blouse | jeans | earrings (similar here or here) | clutch | heels

When it comes to clothing, I’m a sucker for two things: grey and stripes. Actually, that may be true beyond clothing now that I think of it. And since I have a very tiny clothing budget, I like for the pieces I buy to flexibly mesh for all sorts of occasions  So when I saw this jacket at Target for $25 a couple of weeks ago, I knew it would be a perfect addition to a Spring wardrobe, easily adapted to a day or night outing. Sadly, I didn’t buy it and it’s now sold out online. Womp, womp, womp. But I thought, in the event they still have it in a store near you, I would share it (and if not, I linked to some that are similar). Also note, each piece (aside from the jeans) are UNDER $50 (which may be why they keep disappearing)! What pieces are changing up your wardrobe this Spring?