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!

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,

Thursday's Apple Crisp

We visited the apple orchard earlier this week and so were set on making a crisp. This is Thursday's variation of my go-to recipe for this dessert, my favorite because it bakes up something amazing, and lends itself to endless variation from the fruit to the nuts to the spices. 

We let ours sit for 15 minutes to cool and set up a bit, then we dished it up and poured cream over the top. Of course, you can't go wrong with a vanilla bean whipped cream or ice cream.

This recipe could really be taken to the next level with the addition of a bottom crust. That's for next time: apple pie with crumb topping. Oh yes. Thanksgiving feels right around the corner. 

Thursday's Apple Crisp

Peel and slice your favorite variety or mix of 12 medium apples (about 4 lbs)
Sprinkle 1/4 cup cane sugar over the apples (add more or less to taste)
Grate fresh nutmeg to taste (I used 1/2 a nut)
Squeeze the juice of 1/2 a lemon and toss the mixture lightly to coat

Mix together in a food processor or stand mixer until crumbly:
1 1/4 cups flour
6 tablespoons brown sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons cane sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2/3 cup walnuts, shelled
12 tablespoons unsalted butter

pinch of sea salt

Dump and distribute the topping evenly over the apples. (I get distracted while cooking and the crumble often processes until it forms a dough, if that happens to you just pinch off little bits and assemble them on top to cover the apples.)

Bake at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes or until the juices are bubbly and the topping begins to brown. 

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Official Survey Begs More Questions

An official survey was delivered to us earlier this month. While there were no surprises, we do have a few concerns about the feasibility of siting a home on this property.

To catch you up on a little history of the land: the nine acres under contract was once a ten acre parcel. In the 1970's Henrico County purchased from the then-owner 1.3 acres in order to widen Varina road as part of a larger infrastructure renovation.

We were made aware of the land acquisition in very vague terms a couple months ago, but without an official survey there really wasn't much to go on. After some investigating, we were told that the road project had been abandoned, which was a promising bit of information, and so we initiated an inquiry process to buy back the Henrico-owned acreage in order to reconstitute the parcel. While we are theoretically set to close in November, it could be another 3-4 months before the County has a final decision and purchase price to share with us. In fact, they could come back and say that they DO intend to use the land for some future purpose, which would likely convince us to move on in our land search.

Final survey with my markings in red, yellow, and orange
From the survey, you can see that the back third of the property has been identified as protected wetland. You can also see the strip of land currently owned by Henrico County (approximately 1.5 acres) running through the front third of the property (marked by Varina Road, future relocation).

I have highlighted in yellow (not to scale) the required setbacks--or the minimum distance from which we will be allowed to build any structures--for the relevant property lines and wetland designations. Add to that the chunk of land identified for an alternative septic system (bore holes) and the back-up location in case the first system fails years down the road (red circle with squiggles), and you can see how constrained this nine acres appears for building! I've drawn an orange shaded oval to represent the roughly 1.5 acres of buildable land. Of course, 1.5 acres is plenty of space to build a home, but the uncertainty of the Henrico land weighs heavy.

If we can acquire it then our worries are mostly moot but, in the meantime, we wonder if the seller will be open to waiting out the County's process with us.

Our next steps include investigating more specifically the requirements for protecting the wetland (we think it is a 100ft. setback) and identifying the 100 year floodplain, which could pose more building restrictions! We will be meeting with an architect in early November to consider a professional opinion about our options to site the house on the land, with and without the assumption that we own the Henrico acreage. THEN, we need to check-in with the county on the progress of our buy-back inquiry and hope they've made some progress before we call a face-to-face meeting with the seller and his Realtor to discuss where to go from there.

So far, this land buying experience has been about on par with what we expected: exciting, time consuming, complicated, and slooow.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Fall comforts: a morning snapshot and the best hot cocoa

Like most mornings this time of year, we wake before the sun. Merritt, snuggled into the contours of my side, pushes off me with his feet and frees himself from the coverlet, shimmying up to sit on our shared pillow. 

“I'm ready to get up!” 

Andy is out of town this week, so there is little choice. I step bare feet to the chilled wood floors, lean over the bed to gather him up in my arms, and remind him that Brother is still sleeping nearby. In a hurry I shuffle around the bed and out into the hallway, to minimize Merritt’s opportunity to wake the entire house.

We have lived here for less than a week and I haven’t yet learned our space by heart. I shield Merritt’s eyes to flip on a light.  

He lets go and scampers off to find his place on the living room couch.
I head into the kitchen to tidy up, lifting the trash out of its can and depositing the bag on the side patio. The morning sky is brightening; a blue hue blankets our yard. Our family of recently picked pumpkins cascades down the stoop, and a feisty breeze from somewhere cooler enters my pant leg at the ankle.

The long awaited Season is finally here, Fall weather and all.

Merritt has found a book to look through. I glance in the cupboard to make a decision about breakfast. A bottle of vanilla bean paste, a bag of semisweet and milk chocolate chips are arranged neatly in waiting. I remember my intention to make hot cocoa this week. It is Monday, which means chocolate for breakfast makes so much sense.

Within minutes the mixer is whirring at high speed. Sugar, cream, and vanilla, are whipped into a dreamy shape.

Roscoe appears at the door jamb, curls disheveled. He’s curious what Momma is up to.

I melt the chips, warm the milk and cream, and combine it together to present drinking chocolate that we top high with sweet cream, flecked with vanilla bean.

I pour three small cups and pass them out to eager hands. We sit together in our sleepy state, sipping Fall in the half-dark.

Recipe adapted from an adaptation:

3.5 oz. bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
3.5 oz. milk chocolate, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup boiling water
3/4 cup whole milk
1/4 cup heavy cream

In a medium bowl, combine the bittersweet chocolate with the milk chocolate. Add the boiling water and let it stand for 1 minute. Whisk the chocolate mixture until it is smooth.

In a small saucepan, bring the milk and heavy cream just to a simmer. Add the chocolate mixture and whisk over moderate heat until hot. Pour into small mugs and garnish as you like!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The Outdoor Classroom

Behind the preschool's play yard is an acre of land that BAPP owns for nature walks and other outdoor experiences. As a novel pilot program, they are offering an outdoor classroom during the months of October through April. Classes meets for 1.5 hours every Wednesday after the official preschool day ends, and are held exclusively outside in the rain or shine, snow or sleet. (No thunder or lightening!)

Like the rest of the program at BAPP, the outdoor classroom's curriculum is driven largely by the children's interests and explorations each day. I am told they will build dens and other outdoor structures, learn safety, pursue crafts like whittling, and who knows what else! I love that Roscoe will have the opportunity to observe the nuance of each season with a group of his peers.

Roscoe is obsessed with the animal kingdom and is especially fascinated by predator/prey relationships, and the myriad ways that insects and animals are equipped with unique protections and skills.

Roscoe shared this first-day-of-camp discovery with pride and glee
Roscoe and Merritt spend a lot of time outside and their knowledge of the animal world is very impressive and yet, as much as I encourage observation and respect for what we find in nature, I've noticed that neither of them has great empathy for insects or animals. They will smash a bug without a second thought. Destroy a spider's web, kick up an ant hill, or tear up an earthworm.

My hope is that, in addition to all the lovely experiences forest camp will offer to Roscoe in the coming months, the instillation of compassion and protection for the living things that we come across in our adventures out of doors will be a part of his education and growth.

Would you send your little guy or gal to an outdoor classroom?

Thursday, October 3, 2013

13 Great Parenting Books for all Seasons (of parenting)

Does Fall make you want to get back to the basics of cozy living, and focus on your relationship with your kids?

I wrote this piece to share my favorite parenting books on RichmondMom. You can read the full article here

The start of a new season inspires (and sometimes demands!) a new family routine or rhythm, especially the transition from Summer’s jubilee to Fall-time’s responsibility and refocus on life at home.

As we march into Fall, I turn my attention from the warm, humid, and carefree adventures of a Summer spent out of doors, to the cool, crisp, and toasty retreat of September, October and November. For us these months of the year are about cultivating all that is good under our little roof, which includes quality time spent together being creative, sharing gratitude, experimenting in the kitchen, and creating a sense of tradition around the seasonal changes.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Exploring Death: conversations with my four year old

Roscoe has been bringing up the subject of death a lot lately.

He asks matter-of-fact about the way death works and then unravels in disagreement and sadness when my attempts to deliver simple and honest answers (if I can call them that) miss his mark of four year old expectation.

He asks what will happen to us when we die.

Truthfully, my version of what happens leaves a lot to be desired, even for me, as we are agnostic—some days even atheistic. So I tell him (in these and other words) that our bodies stop working but that our energy lives on in the people who love us and who have ever been affected by us, and that our energy is literally recycled back into the earth and universe to nourish the future.

He wants to keep his energy, he cries in despair. 

He asks who will take care of his toys when he dies.

I sit there contemplatively silent, thinking to myself that there’s no need to worry about this as he’ll be moved on from toys, an old man at best. Yet I understand he lives in the here and now, and that his toys represent much more to him than I may comprehend.

I fumble over my words to explain some thing that will make any sense to him at all. He rescues me mid-sentence to say that he’s got it: his kids will take care of his toys for him! He’s satisfied and happy with this answer. I flinch, overcome with a warm wash of bitter sweetness imagining it.

Later, at dinner, he climbs up onto my chair, wraps his arms around my neck and pushes his warm little body against my chest. He whispers into my ear, “I love you so much. You are so special to me. I never want to lose you.”

I wonder if he’s thinking about death again. Mine or his. His inquiries and curiosities unnerve me.

The topic of death is one of my least favorite places to wander. Not now, when the boys are so tender and young. Not when our collective dreams (even our very purpose as parents) are so vested in one another at this time in our lives.

What troubles me is my inability to create a sense of safety for him. A truth, or knowing, that he can carry with him for certain. While I can stand to wrestle with the uncertainty of life, I wish for him to be protected from it a while longer. 

How does your own certainty or uncertainty on the subject of what happens when we die effect your ability to explore the subject with your kids?

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