Stay Curious.
Dig Deeper.
Nurture What Matters.
Be BoldHeart.
Enjoy Your Life.

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The BoldHeartMama desires to enjoy living out the choices that she’s made for herself and for her family. She is a relentless learner: curious, inquisitive, and open to the possibilities of her life and of the human condition. She understands that there isn't one right way—she asks questions that dig deeper to make sense of it all and to find her own path.

She pays attention to and nurtures whatever it is she really cares about, letting go of the rest (for now) knowing she can't do and be everything all at once. She embraces her imperfections in favor of "good enough"—her imperfect self, her imperfect home, her imperfect mothering, her imperfect desires—and she never stops evolving as a woman and mother. She is a BoldHeart, authentic and true to herself.

The BoldHeartMama knows there is only this one life and she's all in. She is present and engaged and making things happen. Her intuition is her guide. She seeks to be inspired and relies on her creativity and her resourcefulness to solve the big and little challenges that she and her family face together as they navigate their relationships and their world.

The BoldHeartMama is willing to take calculated risks to make her biggest dreams come true. She is living out her BoldHeart in the moment, making small moves and taking little steps that add up, and she's cultivating a good life for herself and her family in the process. Read More!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Fostering a Spirit of Philanthropy at Home

I wrote this post for RichmondMom. You can read the full post here.

philanthropy
Donations to the VCU Children's Hospital (2102) and Community Clean Up (2010)

If the word Philanthropy connotes an act of giving reserved only for the wealthiest or most privileged families, think again!

To be a Philanthropist simply means to DO GOOD by sharing your talents, interests, and resources of time, money, or voice. Acts of giving will look different for every family, but any effort, big or small, which blooms with intention to directly or indirectly improve the human condition now or for future generations, that’s Philanthropy!

Ready to get started? Here are a few ways you can cultivate a philanthropic spirit in your home:

Practice: The best way to begin to establish a new routine is to practice the desired behavior or skill. Integrate a tradition of giving, and communicate and nurture in your family life a value that says giving back is an important and worthwhile responsibility. Let the seasonal changes inspire your opportunities to give back, but don’t save all your love for the Holiday.

Lead by example: Invite your kids to observe and participate in your grown-up acts of philanthropy, whatever they may look like. Demonstrate your personal commitment to the causes your family chooses to support and work alongside your kids to accomplish shared goals. By working together you’ll foster a deeper connection with each other and develop a greater sense of purpose and belonging within the context of your community.

Identify or create an opportunity: Consider the shared interests of your family members, your combined availability, and the amount of time or money that you feel you can give. Let your child decide how he or she wants to get involved. Think big! Think small! Think local! Think International! The opportunities you choose should encourage a sense of awareness, appreciation, curiosity, and compassion for others. Above all else keep it fun and age appropriate.

Document and celebrate your efforts: Keep track of the work your family does, the causes you contribute to, the events you volunteer for, or the small acts of kindness that you offer to others. Maybe you’ll take photos or video clips, keep a family journal, or create a wall hanging or poster to display in a common area of your home. However you choose to document your adventures, regularly review and celebrate all the ways your family works together to make your world a better place to live.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

We're Considering Homeschooling

Since their birth, I have deeply felt the profound demands of my role as a mother and so have never seriously considered (or had interest in) adding to it the responsibility of personally delivering the boys' formal education. Always with an open mind, but also having little experience with homeschooling methods, I've held preconceived ideas and curiosities about the kind of family who chooses to homeschool, what motivates them, what their intentions are, what their learning days look like, and how the decision translates for their children in the short and long term.

With that said, Roscoe turns five in May and planning for the 2014 school year has been in the works for months already. We are confident that Roscoe should have a play kindergarten year versus an academic one. We submitted our application to Waldorf last month although interviews won't begin until after the New Year.

Recent conversations I've shared with a few mothers outside my circle, whose ideas, philosophies and perspectives on child-rearing (and life) I really respect, have sparked a sudden shift in my thinking on the subject of formal education. Given that 1. every kid has different emotional, developmental, and educational needs over time, and 2. every family unit has changing needs and priorities as a function of finances, proximity and access, career paths, childbearing, and more, it makes sense that a child's education doesn't have to be all or nothing whether public, private, or home school is chosen.

I'm learning that children from many families I know have experienced a mix of these educational models; weaving in and out in a nonlinear progression that reflects the needs and resources of their family at given points in time. With this mindset, to choose to homeschool feels less a commitment, and more an opportunity.

Our primary motivation to homeschool is the freedom and flexibility that our family would have to live, work, and learn together (we only have one short lifetime!) and the resources it would free up to do some serious traveling as a family throughout each year. 

The kindergarten year feels ideal to begin with, and the leap from play-based Waldorf to home-based learning doesn't feel that great. Maybe we'll love it, or need to tweak it (probably!), or learn that it's not for us. However it manifests, it's exciting to think about what the upcoming school year could be like for us with the river city as our classroom, taking advantage of the well established local homeschool network to support our learning, and then stepping out to explore the world together.

This year I've grown to love even more the Reggio-Emilia approach that the boys are engaged in at preschool, which highlights project based learning. If we decide to move in this direction, we would probably adopt that approach.

We are definitely in the exploratory phase of this inquiry, and right now I'm honestly working through my ambivalence on a range of topics and what-ifs that stem from this surprising change in heart. While I will attempt to figure out the biggest pieces, I am compelled to be bold in making decisions that feel right, knowing and trusting that we will figure it out as we go.


This could be the craziest idea we've had yet, or the most incredible, right?!

If you are considering homeschooling your kids, where is your process taking you? If you are a homeschooling mama do you have resources to share?

A few resources I've been pouring over:
The Camp Creek Blog: project-based homeschooling
Project-Based Homeschooling: Mentoring self directed learners
Virginia Homeschool Groups: Community groups for local support and collaboration
VaHomeschoolers: the organization of Virginia homeschoolers
The VaHomeschoolers Connection: the VaHomeschoolers blog
The Home School Legal Defense Association: learn the laws in your state

Other books on my radar:
Working in the Reggio Way
An Encounter with Reggio-Emilia: Children's Early Learning Made Visible 

Monday, December 2, 2013

Santa's Lap: 2013

Roscoe 4.5, Merritt 2.5
I think this year's photo captures their personalities well. Roscoe is looking quite mischievous and Merritt is keeping it cool.

The Ultimate Foodie Mama Gift Guide 2013

I wrote this post for RichmondMom. You can read the full article here

foodie mama gift guide

If you’re wondering what to gift to the passionate, hardworking, and hedonistic foodie mama in your life, or just need a few ideas for yourself, look no further! I've got some goodies to inspire your gifting this Holiday Season.

Details, prices, and places to shop after the jump!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Home, moving forward

We are in the process of tying up loose ends with the seller of the Varina lot to recoup our earnest money and be released from the contract. The Seller contacted a lawyer about our request to be released and is now asking us to cover some of the costs he incurred for the perc test and survey. That may turn into another story but for now we are hopeful that we will soon be cleared from any perceived financial responsibility owed to the property owner.

It was back in June that we first eyed that parcel of land, and here we are six months later and the whole deal has fallen through. We were cautious but optimistic moving through the steps to purchase the lot, however, by September we were feeling pretty good about our chance for success and so when we learned that our landlord was listing our former rental house for sale, we didn't think too hard before scooping up another little rental across town. We signed an 18 month lease, with a month to month option after that, and moved-in over the month of October. We calculated a year needed to design and finance our Varina home, then another 6-8 months for construction.

Now that we're here, in this little house, with no land and no home building project in the works, we've decided to just cool it for the next year. We looked around some for other available properties, and it really is such an investment in time and energy, we are feeling ready for a break after all the excitement and dashed hope. Our original intent was to wait until next year to get serious about finding land, anyway, but when a chance opportunity presented a large, reasonably priced, ideally located parcel of land, we wanted to go for it.

Fortunately, the location of this new house that I've affectionately coined our "little dump", is central to all our favorite places, and we're back in the general neighborhood we lived in when we were in college. Happy memories!

Less than a mile from our new rental, I can run by the river every day!
Despite the nickname, we are feeling quite happy with this place. The floor plan is much better suited for life with two kids, who still require so much attention and assistance with their activities. We can hear and see each other from almost anywhere in the house, and they seem happier to play independently because I am always nearby.

It is a single level with two bedrooms (the kids are sharing with bunkbeds!), 1.5 bath, a laundry room (major upgrade from the laundry closet in our last rental), an office for me, a sunny playroom for the kids, a central kitchen/dining/living space, and a huge fenced in backyard. The detached garage and finished attic provide a lot of storage space and so we quickly went to work filling it all up with the stuff that we don't regularly use or need. Much of our furniture is in storage, and most of the clutter is stored in the attic.

I've been practicing a toy rotation so that the kids can enjoy all of their things in a way that is more meaningful, and I'm pleased with how well it is working out for all of us. The attic space has a great pull-down stair, which has made it so convenient to move toys into and out of storage every week.

We also have all wood floors so there are no carpets to stain, and we purposely left our floor rugs in the garage so that all we have to do is a quick sweep and the house is tidy. No more vacuuming.

It is our dreaming nature to always have something in the works, and both Andy and I feel like relaxing for a bit. (But of course, last night I brought up that I'd actually like to have another a baby, pretty sure! And I realize that would be quite another project, but...we will have to feel that one out.) We're streamlining, and simplifying, and it feels good so we're going with it. If a magical property appears perhaps we will consider it, but we've turned off our searches for now.  

Monday, November 18, 2013

The Half Marathon

Naturally, we were running late on Saturday morning, and traffic was disordered due to road blocks and other race infrastructure challenges. I hopped out of the car five or six blocks from the course after we realized we were traveling in futile circles. I made my way to the start line, skipping the long waits at the port-o-johns in favor of chancing it somewhere along the course.

I missed my 2:30 heat, but joined the very last group of runners, marked with a "J" instead of a pace time. Squished in to the crowd, we inched our way closer to the official start, the bandstand music blaring louder and louder. The rain had been pouring in sheets all morning but transitioned to a cool mist as we started out down Broad Street.

I'm learning to be confident in claiming all parts of me, not just the ones that I am best at, or most talented, or the ones I get paid for. All the parts of me that bring me joy are of equal consequence and so I am a runner. I like the solitude that running offers. In that space I can be in the moment or out of it. I can go places when I run, and I can feel my city in a way that just isn't possible in a car. Races are an especially happy aspect of running. I feel a super sense when I am on a course, a heightened awareness that is energizing and just feels really good. The runners, the spectators, the sounds, the views. The work of pushing my body to move distance, across time. I love that running is truly for everyone. I love that people are at the heart of every race. I like running alongside them, being passed, and passing too. Energy radiates and the race is our one shining opportunity to culminate many months of effort and preparation.

I started the run counting miles up, until I got to the halfway point, and then I started counting miles down. The course was hilly around miles 6 and 7 but flattened out again after that. My toes fell asleep a few times and required a little stretch in the last half, but otherwise, I felt pretty strong.

When I reached the 12 mile mark, I was ready to be done, knowing that the last .1 mile always feels incredibly far. Distance running and birth share some sentimental parallels for me and so I thought a lot about my client mamas, and my friends, and my own birth experiences in that last little stretch.

A nice surprise was that the final .6 miles of the course was downhill, which made for a mad sprint to the finish.

This morning, Roscoe insisted that I wear my medal around my neck to drop him off at school. I obliged his request and as we said our goodbyes I offered it to him to keep for the day. I stayed back to chat with another mom, and caught the beginning of morning circle time, when he stood up and told the story of how his Momma ran a half-marathon and won, holding up my medal to prove it.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Listening practice, another step toward caring for self

If I can sum up my goals for this upcoming year in just one word, it is: LISTEN

I'm really good at following the lead of my kids, observing them, listening and validating their needs, trusting them, and mothering them in ways that respect who they are. 

I'm really good at following the lead of my mama clients in birth, observing them, listening to their needs, trusting their bodies, and supporting them in ways that respect and facilitate their priorities and their process. 

I believe that little bodies and birthing bodies have innate intuition, insight, and guidance. Yet, in order to be heard there needs to be someone present and willing to listen. 

Despite how ingrained TRUST IN BODY is for me, I've had a slow realization that in some very basic ways I've lost touch with my own inner knowing. Over time, and with a lot of practice, I've become accustomed to ignoring and overriding the voice that signals hunger, fullness, a need for sleep, or time to rest. I've lost trust in my own body to tell me what it needs. 

I don't mean to imply that I have an inherent flaw, I'm referring to the subtleties of : 
  • over-committing my person or my time to activities that I know aren't the best use of my limited resources. 
  • choosing to stay up late watching another episode of my favorite show instead of listening to my exhausted body and going to bed to refuel with adequate sleep. 
  • Eating lunch at noon just because it's "lunchtime", even though I'm not hungry.
  • Ignoring hunger for hours because I'm immersed in writing or running errands, or think I'll eat less overall if I can just hold off. 
  • knowing that what I really need now is to read a book, or take a yoga class, or chat with a friend, or take a nap, and instead of honoring those requests I feel compelled to check social media accounts, run 5 miles, check off items from my work to-dos, or stay awake to tidy the house. 
Do you know what I mean? 

I used to make these little decisions as a result of a lack of awareness, but lately it has been in spite of a rather well developed one. I'm switching gears from ignoring and overriding what I feel, to cultivating a generally quieter and less stressful lifestyle more conducive to hearing even the softest calls, listening for them, hearing them without judgement, trusting that there is some wisdom present, and then choosing to care for myself.

So, this week the kids have been sick with Fall colds, and I have had a lingering migraine that served as my first cue that I was probably next in line for a scratchy throat and sinus congestion. I've been dragging all week, just tired, and grumpy.

Instead of using the time that I generally rely on to get my work done and to write, and to keep home, I chose to spend most of it sleeping or laying about. It's a hard thing to do, to choose self care over productivity, but I have to start somewhere, and this week while my list of to-dos remains lengthy, it feels really good to practice listening.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Walking away from our dream lot

As of last week, we've had in-hand everything needed from the seller to properly assess and review the feasibility of building a home on this lot: a soil test with certification letter, and an official survey.

When the land survey was delivered in early October, it became apparent that we needed to learn more about the right-of-way owned by Henrico County and so we began an inquiry to determine if and for how much we could buy the acreage back.

Without sharing every painful detail, over the past few weeks we have been in touch with the Real Property department to check-in and gather progress updates. All was looking promising until today. Of the three departments that needed to officially sign off on the request, Utilities said it was not a problem as did the Planning department.

I called this morning to inquire about Public Works, the department responsible for roads, and was told over the phone that they are holding on to the right-of-way for future road projects, and then this afternoon I received the official document signed by the Director of Public Works.



And so there it is.

Some time in the yet to be determined future, Varina Road will be realigned, and the uncertainty of what that project may entail (a two lane road? a four lane road?) presents a whole host of unknowns that just doesn't feel like our "dream" lot as it first appeared.

In addition to all the building restrictions placed on the land, as detailed in this post, the fact that one day there will also be a major road fronting the property, essentially in our front yard, is enough for us.

We're going to think on it tonight, but we'll likely have to pass on this one.

Isn't that a bummer, to have to start back at the beginning?

Monday, November 11, 2013

Home Town

Quincy, California 2013
I met this image of my hometown in my Instagram feed this morning, posted by a long ago friend.

Born in Oregon, my family found home in the small, often neglected towns of the West Coast in Arizona and California. I lived my elementary and middle school years in Quincy, a tiny town that documented a population of 1,728 in the 2010 census.

Quincy has roots in the gold rush, but in my mind it is a logging town. My father's career with the US Forest Service brought our family to Quincy and is eventually the reason we moved away from it. While there are many things I took with meand left behindwhen we headed East for Virginia, the land is what compels my heart to claim this little valley home as my own.

So many truly good memories thread through those foothills, main street, the canyon and the river that carves it out.

***
Starlit skies canopy our bonfire parties, cleverly tucked away, accessible only by dusty roads snaking through the mountain ever greens. No curfew, the night stretches before us. 

Bike rides across town, gears clicking, we climb the hills out of our seats. Hands-free down Bucks Lake Road, empty afternoons with choose our own adventures. Skinny dips at Lover's Leapan ever-changing swimming hole at the whim of the Feather River. Dry heat, and hot rocks to spread out on. No time limits, or commitments. A freedom I never did find anywhere else. 

And then Snow. Snow that comes and never leaves, because the temperatures don't waver between the months of November and March. Snow so high we have to dig tunnels from our doorsteps, and yes, walk a mile to school. Sledding, and snow ball fights, and friends gathered outside in clusters, enveloped in our own chatter and breath smoke. The setting sun hints at rest with promise that tomorrow we can start again.
***

I've returned to Quincy many times since I moved away. At my last visit I was twenty-five weeks pregnant with Roscoe.

My trips back are always half full and half empty. It will never be what it once was, in those care-free days of childhood and early adolescence. Yet, almost 16 years later, I recognize how my venturesome spirit is grounded in the best parts of what that time was like for me, influencing so much of who I am and what I now crave for my own family.

This photo depicts Quincy exactly as I remember it, with love and longing.

Just gorgeous.

But I know that filters and perspective offer a dreamlike portrait memory that is more lovely than would be reality.

I am grateful for the ways that growing up in that small town, which offered us little more than the landscape that served to entertain us, has instilled in me a hunger for creativity and movement, and an appreciation for friendships built on whatever we can find out of doors to share together.  

Friday, November 8, 2013

A weekend alone, and other Gifts from the Sea

Roscoe, 3 years old
For a few weeks we've had an out of town trip planned for this weekend. I am on call for my mama clients, as I usually am, and my back-up happens to be out of the area as well, so I seized an opportunity for solitude and made the decision to stay home. Andy and the boys headed South to NC a couple hours ago, leaving me alone in my own home for the first time since becoming a mother 4.5 years ago.

I recently finished a short book called Gift From the Sea, authored by Anne Morrow Lindbergh, a mother who write's on "the shape of a woman's life" from a vacation cottage on Captiva Island. The beach and the shells she finds there inspire analogies that illustrate the chapters of her own experience, from the channelled whelk, to the double sun-rise, to the Argonauta.    

Anne's words read so plain and true. She declares the truth of my own conflicted energy as a woman and mother, a human being with responsibility and distraction. So poignant, the book resonated wildly in my own heart for weeks after I read it, mirroring my own experience through shared sentiments, with words that I've wanted to write but hadn't yet found.

Gifts from the Sea has inspired my intentions for the upcoming year in huge ways and, in the quiet peace of tonight, I want to share a little excerpt from the chapter titled Channelled Whelk:
_____________________________________


"For to be a woman is to have interests and duties, raying out in all directions from the central mother-core, like spokes from the hub of a wheel. The pattern of our lives is essentially circular. We must be open to all points of the compass; husband, children, friends, home, community; stretched out, exposed, sensitive like a spider's web to each breeze that blows, to each call that comes. How difficult for us then, to achieve a balance in the midst of these contradictory tensions, and yet how necessary for the proper functioning of our lives. How much we need, and how arduous of attainment is that steadiness preached in all rules for holy living. How desirable and how distant is the ideal of the contemplative, artist or saintthe inner inviolable core, the single eye.

With a new awareness, both painful and humorous, I begin to understand why the saints were rarely married women. I am convinced it has nothing inherently to do, as I once supposed, with chastity or children. It has to do primarily with distractions. The bearing, rearing, feeding and educating of children; the running of a house with its thousand details; human relationships with their myriad pullwoman's normal occupations in general run counter to creative life, or contemplative life, or saintly life. The problem is not merely one of Woman and Career, Woman and the Home, Woman and Independence. It is more basically: how to remain whole in the midst of the distractions of life; how to remain balanced, no matter what centrifugal forces tend to pull one off center; how to remain strong no matter what shocks come in at the periphery and tend to crack the hub of the wheel.

What is the answer? There is no easy answer, no complete answer. I have only clues, shells from the sea. The bare beauty of the channelled whelk tells me that one answer, and perhaps a first step, is in simplification of life, in cutting out some of the distractions. But how? Total retirement is not possible. I cannot shed my responsibilities. I cannot permanently inhabit a desert island. I cannot be a nun in the midst of family life. I would not want to be. The solution for me, surely, is neither in total renunciation of the world, nor in total acceptance of it. I must find a balance somewhere, or an alternating rhythm between these two extremes; a swinging of the pendulum between solitude and communion, between retreat and return. In my periods of retreat, perhaps I can learn something to carry back into my worldly life. I can at least practice for these two weeks the simplification of outward life, as a beginning. I can follow this superficial clue, and see where it leads. Here, in beach living, I can try."
_____________________________________

Happy Friday, and if you haven't yet read Gifts from the Sea, I hope it finds a way onto your Holiday wish-list. 

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Color Inspired by Nature

The banks of the James river are one of my very favorite places to spend time. We have so many photos of our adventures in and around the River, wouldn't it be cool to use some of them to inspire an interior color palette for our new house? Here are a few photos from today.













Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Ward off the goblins with these nightlight lanterns

These little nightlight lanterns were inspired by a legend I discovered in the book I'm reading about Greek-American holiday. It says that during the time of the Dodecameron (December 25 - January 6) mischievous goblins called kalikantzari, who live beneath the surface of the earth and try to destroy the world's Good, emerge to disrupt people's lives with pranks and tricks, like spilled milk, disappearing keys, and broken glass.

Fire and light protect people from the kalikantzari and so on Christmas Eve a fire is lit to prevent the goblins from coming down the chimney. Sometimes bonfires are built in the villages of Greece, and people carry a candle with them at night for protection.

Looking ahead to December, I wanted the kids to have little vessels for candlelight, and this tutorial made for a special project we could work on together. 

Decoupage tissue paper on a clean jelly jar and let dry completely


Add 22-gauge wire around rim to form a handle, string the wire with beads and secure


Color changing LED lights are fire-free and plenty bright, we put more than one in each jar for a rainbow glow effect.
An Instagram preview of the lanterns at night
In December, we'll look forward to blaming any suspicious holiday chaos on the kalkantzari but, when nightfalls, and we're snuggled together in bed, we'll be protected from the brunt of their malevolence, safe by the light of our lanterns.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

NaBloPoMo 2013

It's that time of year again. NaBloPoMo.

Views from my morning run
I blogged June 2012's NaBloPoMo and really, really enjoyed writing every single day.

I'm gearing up for hibernation. My current Bradley Method series ends this Sunday, and I have four doula client families giving birth between now and the beginning of January. I will be taking off the first four months of the New Year to pursue some little projects I've been wanting to dive into, as well as to complete my lactation course that has been in-progress for months. I'll be coming back in the Spring/Summer with exclusive MamaBorn offerings that will allow me to meet the needs of a broader range of clients.

Self care is at the top of my list right now, which includes a commitment to more writing. NaBloPoMo fits in nicely, nestled here in November. Writing every day tends to shift my focus from broody, crafted topic posts to lighter, more timely snapshots of life. Are you ready? I am!

I'm looking forward to ending the year with a slower pace, and welcoming 2014 with energy and creativity to do all the things I love most.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Meeting the Architect

Nature walk on the lot this afternoon
We interviewed a small architectural firm this morning to learn more about the costs and process of hiring comprehensive design services. This firm's portfolio includes a wide variety of projects ranging from historical adaptive reuse to all types of new construction, which fits our needs really well. We have a connection with one of the architects, Scott, and feel really good about hiring him.

At his request, prior to our meeting, we shared our Houzz ideabooks, which we continue to add to and refine, a written Program (or list and description of the spaces we want to design), and images of the original sketches we drafted mid-Summer. (We have since backed way off from the literal barn translation, but the concept and floor plan still reflect our basic vision.) 

The Program list we shared included:
-House that ages gracefully
-Simplest necessary form
-High quality, durable materials that underscore comfort and luxury
-Designed for efficiency in construction methods and materials, and functionality for daily living
-Encourages intimate family interaction
-Accommodates large gatherings for entertaining
-Natural, rustic feel paired with industrial elements
-Lets the site in (outdoors can be seen and experienced from inside through the hours of the day and seasons of the year)
-Designed for outdoor living

Specs:
-3 family bedrooms
-Office
-Guest bunks/area
-Carport
-Shed for storage
-Workshop outbuilding
-Fenced in garden
    When Scott arrived we discussed our goals and values for our future home, received some good feedback about some of the more "out there" ideas we've had, and asked a lot of questions. The most pressing and curious of which, were the costs for services and structure of payment.

    We learned that the architectural design process happens in two phases: 
    Phase 1: Drafting the Schematic Drawing, to include a final floor plan and elevation. This phase takes about 6 weeks, depending on how decisive and quick Andy and I can be, and is billed by the hour. Cost estimate: ~$4,500.
    Phase 2: Design Development, to draft construction documents that specify all details like building materials, finishes, paint selections, etc. This phase takes about 10 weeks and is billed in monthly installments. Estimated cost $10,000-$15,000.

    Somewhere in there we may have to pay a structural engineer ($3,000) to review our final plans.

    We are pleased with these numbers as many firms base their fees on a percentage of construction costs, and these estimates are considerably lower than we expected.

    We're still waiting on the Seller who owes us a county Certification Letter for the septic system, which is way, way, overdue. After that, we will check in with the County about progress related to abandonment of the Henrico owned land, then broach the subject with the Seller to request additional time before closing.

    Next Steps: 
    1. Close on the property, and buy back the land owned by Henrico County (Eek, so many fingers crossed on this one!)
    2. Walk the property with our architect, to consider the best way to site the house
    3. Begin the first phase of the design process: Schematic Drawing

    Sunday, November 3, 2013

    Feed the Birds: a classic craft for every kid (even those with nut allergies)

    Every year we make an offering to the birds and squirrels that share outdoor space with us. Similar to last year's sticks-in-the-dirt craft, we used peanut butter to adhere birdseed to some leftover bagels that we hung like ornaments in the trees and bushes around the backyard.


    I spread out all the ingredients, shared some direction about the steps needed to build the feeders, and then gave them space to do their work.




    I helped them cut and tie the string with a knot at the top so the bagels could be hung on branches. (On second thought we could have just strung the branches through the holes in the bagels.) Roscoe favored a small tree in the back corner of the yard and hung most of them there.




    Proud face
    The next morning, when we set out into the yard with high hopes to find evidence that the squirrels had visited, we were surprised to discover just one piece of string lying under the tree. All the bagels were gone. Every. Single. One! The kids were ecstatic.

    If you want to join in on the fun you'll need:
    • A bag of wild bird or squirrel food, we buy variety mixes at Target or the local grocery store.
    • A fat to adhere the seed, we use peanut butter. (If your little guy or gal has a nut allergy you can substitute lard, suet, or SunButter (made from sunflower seeds).) 
    • An object to which you can spread the fat. Try pine cones; gathered sticks; toilet paper rolls; bread slices, rolls, or a baguette; whole or pieces of fruit. 
    • String to hang the feeders: twine, yarn, or ribbon. Or not! You can also lay them out in rows or piles on a bench, chair, or in a flower pot; or nestle them in the little nooks and crannies of your yard. There are no rules! 

    Friday, November 1, 2013

    Pumpkin Spice Cake with Vanilla Bean Cream Cheese Icing: recipe reveal


    I've blogged this Pumpkin cake before, and referenced it in many posts over the years.

    It is so incredibly good and by now I've made it my own, so are you ready to hear what's in it?




    Pumpkin.  

    Cozy.

    Freshly grated nutmeg.

    Christmas.

    Vanilla bean paste.

    Heaping teaspoonfuls of cinnamon, clove, and allspice.

    Joy.

    Oh, and some butter. 



    The cake is dense, spicy, and moist. It's full of flavor and not too sweet.


    A fluffy vanilla bean cream cheese icing raises the charm and sophistication of this otherwise humble little spice cake.



    Pumpkin Spice Cake with Cream Cheese Icing
    1 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
    3 1/4 cups cane sugar

    3 eggs
    1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste (or extract)

    1 heaping teaspoon ground cinnamon
    1 heaping teaspoon clove
    1 heaping teaspoon allspice
    1/2 freshly grated nutmeg pod (or 1 teaspoon ground, heaping of course)
    1/4 teaspoon sea salt (or kosher)
    ~2 cups pure pumpkin, canned or fresh (~15oz.)
    2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
    1 teaspoon baking soda
    1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
    2. Grease and flour a bundt pan.
    3. In a stand mixer cream butter and sugar; mix on medium until it starts to form a crumbly mix, then turn up the speed to high for 2 minutes until light and fluffy. Scrape the sides of the mixing bowl.
    4. One at a time, beat in each of three eggs. Scrape the sides of the mixing bowl. 
    5. Add vanilla bean paste, nutmeg, cinnamon, clove, allspice, sea salt, and pumpkin. You can't add too much spice! Mix on medium speed until everything is well combined. 
    6. Add flour all at once, with the baking soda, and stir on the lowest setting until it begins to form a batter, then increase the speed to high for 5 or 6 seconds. The batter should be well combined, but take care not to over-stir!
    7. Pour into prepared bundt pan.
    Bake at 350 for 55 minutes, plus or minus 5 minutes. Check for doneness at 50 minutes and keep a close eye. If a knife inserted into the middle comes out with a few crumbs on it, then it's just right.

    Let the cake sit for a half hour, and then do your best to plop it out of the pan. If part of the top breaks off you can just nestle the pieces back into their spot and frost over it.

    While you wait for the cake to cool turn your attention to the icing.

    Cream Cheese Icing
    16 ounces cream cheese, 2 packages, room temperature
    1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
    32 ounces powdered sugar, 2 boxes
    Two tablespoons vanilla bean paste (or extract if you don't want vanilla seeds in your icing)
    1. A half-recipe will cover an entire bundt cake with a nice layer of icing, but the amount specified here will give you plenty to pile high on the cake, and enjoy by the spoonful too. 
    2. Using a whisk attachment beat cream cheese, butter, and vanilla bean paste on medium until they start to come together, then mix on high speed until well combined. Scrape the sides of the mixing bowl.
    3. Add powdered sugar on a low speed to avoid a powdery sugar cloud in your kitchen. Once it begins to combine you can whip it on high for a few minutes until the icing is smooth and airy.
    Allow cake to cool completely before icing it, at least a couple hours. To get the hand-frosted look use a butter knife or frosting spatula to spread the icing over the cake to provide full, even coverage. Just move the icing around until you think it looks pretty.

    I think the cake tastes best after I let it sit for 12-24 hours before cutting into it. This gives the icing a chance to hang with the cake, soak into it a little bit, and develop an eggshell thin crust, which offers a nice texture.

    Enjoy!

    How to Have a Happy Holiday

    It's November!  Thanksgiving and Christmas are up next. How will you make the most of this Holiday Season?

    I wrote this post for RichmondMom. You can read the full article here
    _______________________________


    One reason the Holidays bring so much joy is because this time of year is ripe for opportunities to share and receive gratitude. The rhythms and rituals of the season give us reason and permission to slow down, feel, connect, and reflect on all the good things that are right in front of us. In the company of our best friends and family we are filled with nostalgia for time we’ve shared together, and moved to create experiences that foster a sense of familial continuity and belonging.

    This year, revel in the goodness of your life by taking time to practice gratitude in ways that will invite joy into your holiday season.

    Wednesday, October 30, 2013

    Halloween Costumes, a sneak peak

    Alligator Merritt

    Roscoe as "Dark Vader"
    The kids fluctuated with their costume ideas straight through last week when Merritt discovered a set of alligator slippers among the many boxes yet to be found a home, and Roscoe fell in love with light sabers.

    Merritt's costume is a home-made-hand-me-down from Roscoe's third halloween, which made my work easy this year.  Roscoe's costume was semi-homemade: a toddler sized mask and cape, a pair of black pants and a shirt, and this easy tutorial for a do-it-yourself light saber.

    Friday, October 25, 2013

    Apple Picking


    It was a windy Tuesday up at the Carter Mountain Orchard. Hazy but gorgeous views overlooking the Blue Ridge Mountains made for a nice reward after climbing up, up, and up, in our car, not to mention the 1.5 hour drive from Richmond.

    Apple picking season is nearing its end, and the trees were really picked over. Fortunately, the kids found a few with low lying fruit.








    They gathered what they wanted, probably only 10 apples each, and tromped from aisle to aisle with their plastic bags slung over their shoulders. The kids were grumpy from walking so far, and I called it a good afternoon when the need for a third potty break was announced.




    We made our way back to the general store and perused our options for take-home treats. I chose a few pounds of apples that had already been picked. For the road we grabbed a dozen apple cider doughnuts, a gallon of apple cider, and a pound of apple butter.


    We opted to drive home mid-afternoon so we could be back in time to greet Poppa, who was coming home 3 days early from his planned business trip.

    Next time we head West, I will build in time for a diversion to Christian's Pizza Pantops, their avocado and feta pizza is so so good, and a promenade in downtown Charlottesville. The kids love the toy store, and we all enjoy Splendora's. It sounds like a day trip will be something to look forward to before Winter arrives. But, I digress.

    Looking back, here are a few scenes from previous years at the apple orchard: 2009 when Roscoe was a few months old, and the following year when I was already 3 months pregnant with Merritt 2010,
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