a birthday picnic, some reflections, and a dream

I turn thirty-three years old tomorrow. Thirty-three? That doesn't seem right. It's funny how we construct identities for ourselves. Identities that have to do with age are especially foolish. Time marches on, we all know this. But somehow I have, for the last seven years, identified as a young mom. Partly because Sheldon is 16 years older than me and partly because when I had Fiona at 25, I was the first of my close friends to start a family. But thirty-three is solidly planted in the thirties, and the thirties are solidly planted in the middle of life, and one stepson and three daughters in, I am solidly planted in parenthood. I am here and this is the life I've made for myself. Many of my biggest decisions–who to marry, how many children to have-have been made. This feels good, but also different. All these years, I have somehow continued to feel new to the world, but I don't feel new anymore. I feel capable and experienced and beaten and bruised and wise and aware and very much of this world.

But at thirty-three, there are still thousands of choices left to make and dreams to be had. After eleven years in our beloved Fell's Point with Sheldon and fifteen years total in the city, we are moving back to the woods and fireflies and open spaces of my childhood. We haven't found the perfect home yet, but we will, and it will have trees to climb and a little creek and a rope swing. It will have a kitchen window overlooking a garden and a few chickens. The next phase of our lives will be spent building our own homestead, trying to live a more sustainable life, and rediscovering our place in the natural world. I'm guessing I'll feel new again in no time.

Thanks to my Mama for the birthday picnic!

Grateful

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I could easily spend the rest of the evening (or the rest of my life, really) finding the right words to express the gratitude in my heart—for a present, supportive and loving family, for nourishing food on our table, for the gift of spending every hour of my life with people I love—but I am short on time in the most beautiful way I can imagine. I have a baby downstairs who needs nursing, children who need feeding, and a home that needs tending, so a simple Thank You will have to do. A thousand times, Thank You.

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I hope you all had a peaceful Thanksgiving with the ones you love.

Love & Joy

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Just like our holiday card mailing list, the blog is getting our holiday wishes a little late, too. The holidays were really great this year, but I have to admit the amount of House Love work I had to get done did cast a tiny shadow on some of the festivities. I hope that next year I'm able to manage my workflow a bit better! I am finally catching my breath and hoping to take a week or two off after finishing up some orders this weekend.

This year, we continued many of the family traditions we've established over the years, including little gifts of homemade peppermint bark for teachers, friends and family. This year, we included a bar of Sweet Mint Soap made locally by Biggs & Featherbelle, too. And for the very first time since having Fiona, we have an official family holiday card! So sweet, right?

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I printed out Phoebe's illustrated gift tags from the Taproot Blog and used Whole foods bags as wrapping paper for many of our gifts. They turned out so cute! The kids had a lot of fun distributing our cards and little gifts to friends and neighbors.

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I hope you all enjoyed your holidays! Here's to 2014.

snowy day bliss balls

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Hm, it's Monday already? I'm slightly embarrassed to admit that I—quite literally—didn't leave the house all weekend. I am still running on the New Year adrenaline and have been rearranging spaces, both real and virtual. You might have noticed? My poor, neglected blog was in need of some attention. I updated my logo, added some buttons in the sidebar and added back the recommended reading section. Oh! And for the first time since I started blogging, I have proper about and press pages. I'm so official. This week, I plan on sharing some of the real world rearranging I've been doing, too. Some spaces are a little rough around the edges, but if I wait until everything is perfect to do a home tour, well, it won't happen!

All of this rearranging is also because I've truly taken the mental leap into homeschooling. With Fiona approaching four years old, and it being the time of year that one applies to charter/private schools, I've spent the last several months reading and researching and solidifying our commitment to homeschooling. Things haven't changed too much since we 'started'. We still have all the same elements in our day: morning walks, playtime, storytime, art, baking and cooking. The only real change is that I am paying more attention to rhythm. I'm working to make transitions between activities smooth and peaceful.

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I've never been a big fan of reading a book to children then immediately doing an activity based on it. It often feels a bit contrived to me and takes away from the simple enjoyment of just sitting down and reading a book, then letting the story linger in their minds as they go about their day.

That isn't to say that it isn't important to use stories to make connections about the world around us and to spur the imagination. Fiona had read the book The Snowy Day as part of a homeschool group a couple days before she asked to make bliss balls. As we were rolling them into balls on the coconut flakes, it occurred to me that they were starting to look like snow balls. I mentioned this to Fiona, and as naturally as that, she went right into imaginative play based on the story she had heard earlier in the week. We even made a little snowman!

In some ways, this embodies the way I hope to homeschool. Learning through simply living. Letting our minds make natural connections as we move through our days, doing important, real work. We measured, followed directions, worked together, imagined and played, all while making something that would nourish our bodies. Now that is my kind of activity-based-on-a-book.

kitchen elves

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Fiona's fascination with all things Santa carried through the whole holiday season, so any time we were making anything Christmas related, we were playing the parts of little elves. Much of the elving happened in the kitchen, as usual. Some edible, some not.

This Candy Cane Playdough is SO cute. We followed Jean's directions in her e-book, The Artful Winter. The directions are also on her blog here. The best part of the recipe is that it includes peppermint essential oil, which really adds to the experience of making the dough. It just smells so good!

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Fiona and Elsa were both able to help mix, knead and add the natural food dye and glitter. I think these little playdough sets would make cute Valentine's Day gifts, too. This project reminds me of another playdough idea on Sew Liberated where she mixed in googly eyes. Love that!

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This is the second year in a row of using this recipe for peppermint bark. So, so yummy. I think this tradition is sticking around. After it had all been given away or eaten, I had a couple evenings in a row where I had a lingering feeling that something was missing... then I realized it was the peppermint bark. Wah! I had made such a nice, sweet bite before bed.

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Then, of course, sugar cookies. They were originally meant to be brought around to some of our neighborhood friends, but then Fiona got a diagnosis of pneumonia (you may remember I had it a week or so before she did), and since she had taken such a huge role in making the cookies, I decided we'd keep our germs to ourselves. It worked out alright, though. More for us! ;)

But phew, I have to admit to being kind of relieved to have less sweets in the house after all that holiday feasting. Anyone else feel kind of bloated?