Cromwell Valley Park

A few Sundays ago we took advantage of the perfect weather to visit Cromwell Valley Park. We have been there multiple times, but this time, we went to hike the orienteering course, which uses compass and map skills to follow a trail that pretty much takes you all over the main aspects of the park.

Of course, when you start a hike everyone is excited and exuberant! 

The building are quite lovely with some walled gardens. The Willow Grove farm house contains the nature center, where we saw live animals like snakes, birds, chicks, and turtles. I particularly love the Apple House. Apparently, this building was used as a "finishing room" when there were apple and peach orchards on the property. It is in this space the fruit was boxed and then transported to be sold along the waterfront and in stalls in Baltimore City.

The Lime Kilns were in the midst of being refurbished, which was neat to see. There are three kilns and the oldest was probably in operation from 1785 onward.

The kids had a blast playing in the Nature Discovery Zone, which had a sandbox, playhouse structure, and see-saw.

It definitely was a fun day of exploring and hiking in nature. We're definitely planning on packing a lunch and going back and spending more time playing in the stream sometime soon!

Citrus Passion Body Butter

Now that the weather is warming, the flowers are blooming, and the sun is shining, it's time for lighter, fresh scents.

I recently whipped up some body butter with one of my favorite essential oil blends to create a moisturizing and delicious smelling cream that contains no harmful products.

I used this recipe to create my body butter. All you need are four ingredients: Shea butter, Coconut oil, Almond oil, and your favorite essential oil.

The oil I chose was Rocky Mountain Oils' Citrus Passion blend. I love Rocky Mountain Oils! They are a direct-to-consumer essential oil company (which I love!) and are very transparent about the quality of their oils. Customers can even find their oil's individual batch code on the bottom of the bottle and then input that number into their website to pull up the GC/MS test results. Citrus Passion is a wonderful blend of blend Bergamot, Mandarin, Grapefruit, Lime, Lemon, Tangerine, Orange, and Vanilla oils. Of course, you can also create your own blend or choose a different oil blend from a company of your choice.

Once your body butter is whipped and ready to be stored you need the right container. Essential oils need to be stored in airtight bottles that are dark to keep out sunlight. Exposing oils to light can cause the oils to oxidize quickly and therefore lose their fragrance and therapeutic qualities.

So I am delighted to partner with Infinity Jars today to introduce you to their airtight ultraviolet light filtering glass jars. I chose from their assorted glass cosmetic jars to store my body butter in and I couldn't be happier. I will be able to wash it and use it again and again.

I also got the glass push pump bottle to use this summer to store my homemade bug spray in. The bottle I used previously was really too large and this is small and easier to pack and carry around for all of our summer adventures!

If you are a person who likes to create your own cosmetics, essential oil blends, or save dried herbs from your garden, Infinity Jars makes storing easy and keeps your products from spoiling. Check out their products on their website as well as follow them on social media.

Do you like to make your own body butter or cosmetics? If so, drop me a line in the comments section letting me know your favorite recipe!

What I'm Into Right Now (March 2017)

Listening:
I've got a new audio book on tap. It's a completely fascinating look at the making of the Oxford English Dictionary, affectionately known by English majors everywhere as the OED. Who knew there was insanity and murder in the mix? I'm completely loving The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary. And, apparently Hollywood found it compelling enough to be filming a movie based on the book!

Musically I've been enjoying the album If You Leave by Daughter. It's not particularly new, but I love their melancholy, moody sound, such as in the tune, Winter.

Watching:
We finished season 2 of Hinterland. Wow, I don't know what it is about the U.K. but they certainly know how to produce a good crime series! British-produced shows come across as so much more rugged and real-to-life than the more glossy American-made series filled with super-model type actors. Although there is action, there is also time spent on creating a great character. Can't wait for season 3, whenever I can get my hands on it!

We've also enjoyed a few documentaries. The award-winning The White Helmets was exceptional and Minimalism was thought-provoking. 

Reading:
I'm almost done How the Light Gets In (isn't that a great title?) and last week as a family we finished, Where the Red Fern Grows. That certainly was a powerful book, and one I missed as a kid but am glad to have read now! We've started listening to Gone-Away Lake at lunch and The Secret Garden for our next homeschool bookclub title. I'm reading from my tattered old hardback beautifully illustrated by Graham Rust.

Eating:
The Vanilla Bean Baking Book has sent me into a baking frenzy. Goodness, I've made Chocolate Meringue Pie (pictured above), Coffee Blondies, and Mint Chocolate Bars. I'm eyeing Orange Pie, Amaretto Tartlets, Lime-Mint Bars, and Chocolate Ganache Cupcakes with Basil Buttercream. And I've added this book to my Amazon wishlist. The library does not allow me all the time I need to bake such lucious-sounding baked goods! 

What have you been loving?

Mason-Dixon Trail Rebels

My husband, Josh, is a ultra runner and had been asking me for a long time to design a logo for his trail running group. Finally, I had a chance to start creating their logo! 

They are using the logo to promote their group to help build up a local community of trail runners. They will be using it on various social media platforms, as well as creating some products in the future, like hats and stickers!

I don't get to do logos that often anymore, so it was a really fun project.

How to Prepare Your Family for Easter

A few weeks before Easter I start rummaging around for our Easter-themed books and decorations. I pull out picture books like The Colt and The King and The Tale of the Three Trees to stack in a basket on the coffee table. I find the plastic eggs. I cut branches off the dogwood tree.

The grey buds will be knobby and tight—not yet open. They look dead. I will pull my green pitcher from the shelf and arrange the bare branches in some water. Now they are ready to be transformed into a Resurrection Tree.

As a family, we’ve looked for ways to celebrate Jesus’ death and resurrection in tangible, hands-on ways. To prepare our hearts during the busy organizing of Easter baskets and planning of a Sunday dinner. Ways that build up to Easter morning, so that we have a clear idea as to why we celebrate. 

And it all starts with remembering.      

Join me over at iBelieve to read more.

What I'm Into Right Now (Feb 2017)

Listening:
I've discovered two new podcasts that have been helping me with Instagram and writing. Hashtag Authentic has been a fascinating look at how to be strategic as a creative on Instagram and is hosted by the delightful Sara Tasker. I've enjoyed her guests too, like Philippa Stanton, who I've followed for some time. Check out her gorgeous feed!

The second show is the Ann Kroeker Writing Coach podcast. First, I love the format. The podcasts run 5-7 minutes but are jam packed with encouragement and information. It's a real boost to my writing life.

Watching:
Josh and I are loving Hinterland. First of all, it's set in beautiful and rugged Wales. Since one side of Josh's family are originally from the Welsh motherland he has always wanted to visit. The episodes are long--movie length, so it's nice on a Friday night. The pace is a slow build. Lots of time to develop characters and Richard Harrington (also of Poldark and Lark Rise to Candleford) is excellent. 

We're watching A Series of Unfortunate Events on Netflix as a family. I never read the books, but my youngest sister loved them. It's a bit scary at times for the kids but so smart, witty, darkly funny, and packed with wonderful actors. 

Reading:
I'm slogging my way through The Nightingale. Yes, shoving my way through. All my friends give it a good many stars on Goodreads and it was recommended and loved by so many who have the same taste in literature as I do, but I'm just forcing my way through it. Sorry to those of you who loved it. I hope the payoff is worth it. Once I'm done I'll post a review on Goodreads.

The kids and I are reading Listening for Lions which we are LOVING. Also listening to Nim's Island on audio, which is just as fun and delightful as the movie.

Eating:
I've been getting lots of menu-planning inspiration from Megan's blog lately. She does a Menu Monday series I never miss. Our most recent win was Garlic Butter Pasta with Herbed Pork Bolognese. Just go make it. OHMYGOODNESS! It was incredible! The noodles creamy, the meat and sauce flavorful, the kale crispy and salty on top. We will be making it again and again! It felt like I was eating in a restaurant. 

What have you been loving?

Smoothie Favorites

About a year ago our blender died. I always swore I'd buy a Vitamix next. But in the end we didn't have the funds for such a large purchase so I went with something way more powerful than my original blender but not as expensive as a Vitamix: The Ninja Professional Blender

I couldn't be happier with our purchase. It blends everything I've tried with ease and has a nine-cup capacity. I no longer have to make smoothies in "batches." Although a Vitamix has lots of options and would have been great, the truth is I really mainly use a blender for smoothies, so my Ninja has been perfect for this. 

I've missed smoothies, and so have the kids! They are a cool treat in the summer and in the winter help us get our veggies to fight colds and sickness. My boys are terrible vegetable eaters, so also, it makes me feel good to know when we make green smoothies they are getting a powerful helping of spinach or kale--and with no complaints!

Some of our favorite green smoothies are the creamy Coconutty Green Smoothie, and the Green Banana Blueberry Smoothie. My daughter loves Strawberry Peach Smoothies and I'm partial to this Peanut Butter Banana & Oatmeal smoothie.

Are you a smoothie maker? Drop your favorites into the comment section!

Family Fun for Valentine's Day

I love Valentine’s Day. Growing up my mom always made the day special with pancakes for breakfast and an afternoon tea. Now, I love making the day special for my kids too. I also enjoy the fact that there’s no “right” way to celebrate it. No need to travel, buy gifts, or host a dinner. It is a fun day that brightens up winter and celebrates love. And is an opportunity to eat chocolate. Can’t pass up that opportunity!

Today I’m sharing our traditions for celebrating Valentine’s Day as a family. I hope they may inspire you to create some fun memories with your family too.

Come join me over at For the Family.

What Valentine's Day traditions do you and your family share?

What I'm Into Right Now (Jan 2017)

Listening:
Lilac Girls on Overdrive. The readers are excellent (there's three different ones for each of the main story threads) and it is gripping thus far. 

Watching:
Paranoid on Netflix
We found a winner with Paranoid! It's my favorite type of crime drama: heavy on the suspense, not heavy on explicit violence. Probably one of my favorite crime series since Broadchurch. The Brits know how to do it!

I'm also enjoying Masterpiece Theater's Victoria. It's not as good as The Crown, for sure, (comparisons can't help to be made) but I find Victoria's reign interesting, especially the early years, so I can't help but find it appealing. 

Reading:
Besides listening to Lilac Girls I'm also reading The Nightingale after so many friends who have similar reading tastes recommended it. I'm not sure why I'm doing two books set in W.W. II right now though, that probably wasn't wise.

I also bought myself an issue of Taproot magazine. I've wanted to read an issue for a long time and it is inspiring!

Eating:
Our blender broke a long time ago and I swore I'd buy a Vitamix the next time my blender went bust. However, our budget didn't allow it so I went with this Ninja. However, it's just awesome! We are back to enjoying green smoothies, trying to stay healthy this winter while everyone around us seems to get sick. My boys are TERRIBLE veggie eaters (the girls love their greens) so it's a way for me to have them get a nutritious dose of spinach in them each day. This Green Banana Blueberry Smoothie is our current fave.

And this crab soup was easy and delicious.

What have you been into lately?

What I'm Into Right Now (December 2016)

I missed the month of November but wanted to make sure I shared my December edition of What I'm Into Right Now. 

Listening:
Sarah Jarosz's newest project, Undercurrent has been on constant rotation a lot. I love her voice and style. Definitely check out her music.

Watching:
We finished up Poldark. Season 2 was a nail-biting, riveting, emotional roller coaster! If this promo doesn't make you want to watch the series, I don't know what will. And Demelza just might be one of my favorite mini-series heroines thus far.

After Poldark we discovered The Crown and it definitely deserved the two Golden Globes that it just won. Claire Foy is fabulous and I had no idea how much political/family drama was packed into the beginning of Queen Elizabeth II's reign. It's a show I like to keep my phone by me during to google the facts of the story (yeah, I'm a nerd like that) and I've been delightfully surprised at how close to history they've kept the show. The acting, writing, and cinematography are superb! Check out the trailer.

Reading:
I'm reading my first Wendell Berry and finding Hannah Coulter wise and beautiful. It is hard to believe an elderly man wrote the story of a young woman so absolutely believably and with such tender nuance! 

Eating:
We've been enjoying Rosemary Ranch Grilled Chicken and this Warm Kale Salad with Bacon, Dates, and Almonds is just the perfect winter salad!