Celebrate Spring with Nest Cookies & a Flower Craft

The girls and I had so much fun making these two projects for our Vernal Equinox celebration a few weeks ago, I thought I'd share. Both the bird's nest cookies and the flower stained glass craft would be ideal for upcoming seasonal celebrations such as Earth Day or Easter.
For these sweet nests, we followed the cookie recipe in The Artful Spring eBook (it's basically a thumbprint cookie made with coconut flakes). After baking, we tucked in some malted chocolate eggs. Yum!
Also taken from The Artful Spring, making flower stained glass was such a hit, the girls have been requesting to do it again. I sent them off into our yard with a small container and scissors and gave them full permission to snip any blossoms they wanted. (I'm usually pretty protective about picking flowers from the garden, so they were stoked!) They worked together to place their picks in patterns and designs on clear contact paper that I'd cut to fit a long window by the front door. Beautiful!
What kinds of seasonal crafts and goodies are you making in your nest? Please share! 


Garden Lessons

I've been spending a lot of time in my garden this spring, digging in the dirt, breathing in the orange blossoms, feeling the warm sun on my shoulders. My garden is small... living in the suburbs, I have limited land, so I've planted little plots here and there (all along the pool cage in the backyard, a small raised bed in the grass, beside the front walk, and so forth). It's not ideal. But every time I observe the beauty or abundance my garden produces despite its non-idealistic and imperfect nature, I learn a little more about acceptance.I remember to live fully and deeply right where I'm at. This is so good. 
All year-round, the lessons keep coming... this spring, only one brussel sprout plant made it, producing these tiny little sprouts. Roasted with garlic and olive oil, a dash of balsamic vinegar, and a sprinkling of salt & pepper, they were savored. Over five months of nurturing went into one dish. Patience and appreciation are cultivated alongside more acceptance.
A deep sense of gratitude comes with each harvest. The greens are abundant, enjoyed with sweet, crisp sugar snap peas, and spicy nasturtium blossoms. Fresh herbs delight the senses, redefining pleasure on a foundational level.
All this and more from a simple, haphazard little plot of land. My garden serves as a daily reminder not to wait for the perfect time or the perfect place...joy is right HERE, right NOW. Go ahead and dig deep into it!


The Ultimate Fresh Start Giveaway

START FRESH this Spring.

Revitalize your Body. Connect to Nature.

Root Deep into Yourself. Develop a Strong Sense of Place.

Be WHO you are. WHERE you are. NOW!

Sounds pretty good, right? That's what Stephanie at Wellness by Design and I thought when we read about each other's spring programs. Kindred spirits, we were drawn toward each other's teachings... me toward her spring cleanse, Deeply Rooted, and she toward my seasonal nature journaling course, A Sense of Place. In fact, we're so enthusiastic about these programs, we thought it would be fun for both of us to give away a spot in each one!
We're calling it the Ultimate FRESH START Giveaway, where you have a chance to win a spot in one of the two eCourses... both here on A Natural Nester, and over at Wellness by Design! What better way to harness the energy of spring?

One winner will receive a spot in my seasonal nature journaling eCourse, A Sense of Place. This self-paced program is designed to connect you to nature and your role in it. Read my responses to what Stephanie wanted to know about A Sense of Place in an interview on her site today, and get all the details here.
Another lucky winner will receive a spot in Stephanie's seasonal cleanse, Deeply Rooted. This gentle10-day, food-based cleanse is designed to support, instead of shock your body into detoxification (begins April 21st). You can read all about it here, but first, I asked Stephanie to provide a bit more insight into Deeply Rooted that I could share just with you. I really love what she has to say about how connected our bodies and well-being are to nature and the seasons!


Deeply Rooted is about getting back in touch with our seasonal selves and to taste
the bounty of what the spring has to offer both on our plates and in our lives. 
It’s about rooting deep into ourselves in order to sway with Mother Nature’s dance."

~ Stephanie, Wellness by Design
In the spirit of “spring cleaning,” it seems like a natural season for a cleanse. How is Deeply Rooted tied to the seasons, and specifically, what is the focus of the spring cleanse?

I have been running cleanses for a few years now and immediately recognized the necessity of connecting our needs for inner healing with the seasons. When we look at traditional Eastern healing practices, there is a direct correlation between the seasons and specific organs in our body that need extra support during a particular time. For example, in the Winter cleanse we focused on nourishing the bladder and the adrenal glands. For the Spring, we'll be paying special attention to our livers and our gall bladders.

Each cleanse menu is different, focusing on seasonal nourishing foods that help us gently cleanse our bodies and revitalize our hardworking organs so that we can live with more radiance and health. In this year's cookbook, participants will see familiar foods like strawberries, asparagus, fresh herbs, and other spring favorites, and learn how to work with them in simple yet inventive ways.

During the cleanse, the focus isn't just on food either. Each daily support letter also includes season-specific self-care practices and tips on how to address our emotional state from a seasonal standpoint. I love showing women how connecting to what nature has to offer on our plates and in our bodies allows us to feel more grounded and centered.
A fellow lover of all things beautiful and natural, I’d love to know what roles beauty and nature play in Deeply Rooted.

Along with being a certified holistic health coach, I also hold a degree in fine arts. For me, beauty every day is a non-negotiable. Bringing beauty into our lives, whether on the plate, through new self-care practices, or in our homes, is essential in order to reconnect back to ourselves. Each season allows us an opportunity to tap into its own unique beauty. Bringing flowering branches in to adorn our eating area, settling into a hot tub for a epsom salt soak for sore muscles, or making a fresh salad with radishes, sprouts, and plenty of baby greens are just a few ways we can honor the season beautifully.

What advice would you give someone who feels resistant, or fearful, of joining in a cleanse?

I used to BE one of those people! I thought cleanses had to be long, harsh, and built on deprivation. I wanted something else, so I built it myself. My cleanses aren't an experience you have "to get through." I am highly skilled in the kitchen and have developed an immense menu, full of delicious dishes for all times of the day. I am passionate about making healing food taste amazing, never bland or boring. Many of my past cleanse participants are surprised at how tasty cleansing can be and don’t even miss the foods we are eliminating.

Cleansing, especially for the first time, is one of the most empowering things you can do for yourself! I won't lie, it's not a walk in the park, but you come out on the other side feeling seriously amazing.
A cleanse is often thought of as a time of deprivation – specifically of food. Your program, however, seems to focus more on nourishment. In what ways do you guide participants in nourishing themselves? How does this relate to cleansing?
My cleanses are never about fasting, restriction, or feeling hungry all day long. I’ll show you how to take away without feeling restricted and add back in, in a way that allows you to get the answers you seek.I like to focus on abundance and I love sharing alternative ways of taking gentle, loving care of ourselves. It might me a new yoga position, a guided meditation, or extra encouragement to get outside in the sun for a bit. Seasonal cleansing is self-care in one of its highest forms.
What about the Deeply Rooted spring cleanse might surprise participants?
I think that most participants are surprised to see how tasty eating clean can be and that this program is so NOT based in "bootcamp mentality." It's totally possible to approach something big like this from a loving and gentle standpoint and STILL have it be incredibly effective.
Stephanie Perkinson is a certified holistic health & lifestyle coach and owner of Wellness by Design. She teaches women how to live "in-season" by introducing them to the magic that each earth-phase holds. She gently guides her clients back to balance on their plates, in their bodies and around their homes. She believes that with loving support, every body can find it's way home and become deeply rooted wherever it may be. She is the co-creator, along with her partner Leah Kent, of the popular e-course Feathering the Nest. A program designed to show women how to transform their homes into a nurturing soul-space. At Wellness by Design she brings to life online group programs that embrace beauty, creativity and nature as vital stepping stones to radiant wellness.



Leave a comment here about what kind of a FRESH START you are dreaming of this spring. Earn extra chances to win by sharing the link to this giveaway on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or Pinterest and come back here and tell us about it. Winners will be picked randomly this Sunday!
 Contest closed.

Congratulations to the Winners!
Deeply Rooted Spring Cleanse ~ mrskrafty
A Sense of Place, Spring ~ Melanie



The Outdoor Kitchen and a Spring Feast

The girls' outdoor kitchen is in heavy use these days. It's not fancy... a 100% kid-made workspace, consisting of a cinderblock oven and a "campfire." And stocked with pots and pans from Goodwill. But oh, the creations that come from this simple space and the imaginations of children!
Using a bamboo stick and some garden twine, they've even fashioned a water-fetching bucket!
The girls and some friends recently cooked up a spring feast with all locally-sourced ingredients (everything came from our yard and gardens). There was a fresh mint appetizer, flower tea, "meadow stew," and two kinds of lasagna, made with pounded aloe plant noodles and a rainbow of hand-foraged flowers and berries. A bird's delight, which is exactly who enjoyed this feast, ultimately!
Watching the kids play in this space reminds me of being a kid, making orange-blossom-frosted mud pies in my Florida yard. It fills my heart to know they too will have special backyard memories. And as a mama, I love witnessing their deep level of concentration as they work together, solve problems, create systems, and really exercise their creativity and imagination.
What are your kids' favorite backyard activities? Do you remember your's as a kid?


Ready for Spring!

Orange Blossoms ~ Bunnies ~ Eggs ~ Bees ~ Nests ~ Asparagus ~ Rain Showers ~ Ferns 
Earth Day ~ Frogs ~ Herb Gardens ~ Feathers ~ Salty Breezes ~ Fairies ~ Carrots
Baby Chicks ~ Strawberries ~ Picnics ~ Butterflies ~ Flowers ~ Puddles
Spring is Here!
Tomorrow, we officially welcome the season of renewal and growth with the Vernal Equinox. From here on, in the northern hemisphere, the days will gradually grow longer than the nights, until the Summer Solstice in June.
For me, Spring is a season for cleaning out and starting fresh; for growth and renewal. It's when I tend to refresh and feather my nest, focusing my attention on making my home a comfortable and peaceful sanctuary for my family. And it's a time to celebrate and nourish our connection to nature with slow walks in the woods and on the beach, dining outdoors, and playtime in the garden.
As is customary in my nest, we'll have a small "Welcome Spring" celebration. It will include dinner of braised chicken thighs and roasted root veggies, accompanied by honey-herb lemonade (a la MamaScout from the At-Home Summer Nature Camp eCurriculum), and ending with birds nest cookies (via The Artful Spring eBook). We'll start a flower stained glass craft, reset the nature table for a new season of treasures, and pull out our seasonal books.
How do you honor the arrival of spring in your nest?
  Connect to Your Place in Nature this Spring.
Explore a Vernal Pond ~ Walk in the Rain ~ Draw Spring Flowers
Dig in the Dirt ~ Creatively Capture Feathers & Ferns ~ and so much more!
The Spring session of A Sense of Place, a self-paced nature journaling eCourse, 
is available now for download. Click here for the full scoop, and to register. 


Sweet on Sourdough

I've been having a bit of a love affair with sourdough these past few weeks. After reading this post by Jenny at Nourished Kitchen (a favorite resource), I ordered my own Parisian Sourdough Starter Culture from Cultures for Health. It took no time at all for it to begin bubbling away (see the middle picture above, that is my active starter). However, the process from starter to bread, I must say, is a bit tedious, and fairly messy. But oh-so worth it! I've fallen deeply for a slice of oven-warmed bread, spread with grass-fed butter and drizzled with raw honey. Divine!

As you can see, I've been using my starter in a few different ways...
  • No-Knead Sourdough Bread - This took a few tries with various recipes to get it right (three to be exact). The recipe I really loved mysteriously disappeared from the blogosphere and is simply gone (gah!). I'm working on recreating it, and will certainly share it once I get it right... in the meantime Nourished Kitchen's recipe is a close second. It was a bit dry for me, so I added at least 1/2 cup of water... but it all depends on the hydration of your starter.
  • Sourdough Waffles - I followed this recipe, mainly because it was the simplest I found and I wasn't in the mood for complicated (I used coconut oil and white wheat flour). They were crisp & fluffy and devoured with great enthusiasm on a sunny Saturday morning.
  • Sourdough English Muffins - a friend turned me on to this recipe and they were easy to make and buttery-delicious to eat. You'll never eat a grocery store English Muffin again. (The recipe uses canning lid rings to shape the muffins!)
  • Sourdough Pancakes - I've been using up excess starter to make pancakes, following this recipe from Cultures for Health. Everyone really loves me around here right now.
  • Sourdough Chocolate Chip Banana Bread - I have bananas ripening on about half a dozen backyard trees right now. That's a lot of bananas folks. So naturally, I decided to make banana bread... and why not make it with sourdough starter, which is equally abundant around here! I used this recipe, adding a couple handfuls of dark chocolate chips (of course).
There's been a lot of buzz about sourdough around Michael Pollan's latest book Cooked - I haven't read this one yet, but plan to soon (loved his other books). Sourdough is full of health benefits and is said to be easier to digest, even possibly by some people with a gluten intolerance. I can't speak to all it's benefits (do an Internet search and you'll turn up plenty of research) - but I can certainly speak to sourdough's fabulous flavor. And to the rhythm created by maintaining a starter and baking fresh bread regularly - it feeds the soul!

Have you tried sourdough? Share your favorites! {And check out my sourdough pin board for more ideas.}


Sundae Morning

The kids love making yogurt sundaes... sweet, simple goodness, all layered up in a way that suits them. We like to enjoy these on slow mornings, or for a mid-day snack. Of course, they'd make a great dessert too. Setting out a variety of ingredients and encouraging kids to serve themselves gives them a sense of control - something I believe my particular eaters are always jockeying for at mealtime. Use mason jars, or clear juice glasses, so you can see the layers (and control the portion size!).

Your imagination's the limit when it comes to ingredients for yogurt sundaes. Here are a few of our favorites: organic vanilla yogurt, homemade granola, fresh berries, nuts, dark chocolate chips, organic cinnamon crunch cereal, whipped cream, crystallized ginger and dried fruit.