Go Out and Play













This is my favorite week of the year. It doesn’t always fall on the same week on the calendar, but it always falls in April and it’s always celebrated the same way in our family. We call it “Bluebell Week” and we delay our spring break until the blue flowers bloom along the banks of Bull Run. When those sweet flowers start to chime, we heed the call and pack blankets and sunscreen and water shoes and head for the creek.

Please read the rest here and let's talk about how important it is to get outside and what the benefits are when we spend time in nature. What are your favorite ways to get out and play?

Where the Grapes Grow Sweet


In this post, I mentioned that we brought a book back from California. The Grapes Grow Sweet is the story of a family bringing in California grapes at harvest time. Beautifully illustrated with rich, watercolor pictures, the book tells the story of Julian and Adrienne Rossi, two children growing up in the fourth generation on a Napa vineyard. The story is tenderly told and every time I read it aloud to my children, I'm drawn into the warmth of this family and the love and respect they have for the people who work with them. As I mentioned in this post, I'm particularly fascinated by organic and biodynamic farming. In this book, the ecology of the vineyard comes alive, showing the insects and other creatures among the grapevines. The pictures are incredibly detailed and with each reading so far, we've noticed something new. There are some extension resources for the book here that have delighted us in the past week.

My girls were so inspired by this book that we took off last week for an impromptu visit to some Virginia vineyards, hoping to see the harvest gondolas. We headed to Loudoun County vineyards first. I found that people in the two places we stopped weren't terribly responsive to the presence of children, despite their website assurances that they were family friendly.

The next week, we went apple picking in Front Royal and then, popped around the corner to Rappahanock Cellars, a vineyard recommended by Janine in the comments of that post. Rappahanock Cellars is a family-owned vineyard and winery run by the the Delmare family. Since there are twelve kids in that family, they didn't bat an eye when I arrived with six.




We had a wonderful time. We picnicked and ran around and breathed in mountain air scented with grapevine. We had an abbreviated tour (it's harvest season), but then we got to stand at the big picture windows and watch huge mounds of grapes be transported to the hopper for pressing. 

The book absolutely came to life! We plan to go back in October because I have hunch it's a particularly wonderful place when the leaves change color. (And because we joined the wine club and opted to pick up our selections;-).

For more about our Storybook Year, please visit  here




























~A~ is for Apple (picking and pies)

First, there is apple picking.
















And then,


~Apple Crisp~





Grain-free, recipe:

In a greased 8X8 pan, toss:

  • 6 - 8 apples, peeled, cored, and sliced
  • 1/2 c sugar (substitute  2 TBS maple syrup if you want sugar-free)
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 T arrowroot powder
  • 2 T almond flour
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp grated lemon rind

Toss all ingredients together well and put in greased 8" X 8" pan. 

Mix together in a medium bowl:
  • 1 1/2 cups almond flour
  • 1/2 cup shredded coconut
  • 1/2 cup pecans, coarsely chopped
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil or unsalted butter
  • 1/3  cup maple syrup
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt

Crumble over the top of the apple mixture. Bake at 350* for about 45 minutes.


~Apple Pie~





  • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
  • 2 1/2 pounds firm, tart apples  peeled, cored, and sliced 
  • 1/2 cup sugar plus 1 tablespoon for sprinkling
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch

Melt 3 tablespoons of the butter in an iron skillet saute pan over medium heat. Add the apple wedges and saute until slightly softened, but holding their shape, just 3 to 4 minutes. Don't overcook. They're going to be baked. Add the 1/2 cup of sugar and stir to combine. Add the sugar and spices and stir.

In a bowl, combine the lemon juice and cornstarch. Stir  into the apple mixture and remove the pan from the heat. Let cool completely.

Use refrigerated pie crusts. They usually come two per pack. For the bottom crust, follow the package directions to put it in the pie pan. Fill with the cooled filling. Dot the top with the other 3 tablespoons of butter, cut into little pieces.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Roll out the other refrigerated crust and help your little learners cut the letter "A" with cookie cutters. Arrange on top and lightly brush with egg wash and sprinkle with about a teaspoon of sugar.  

Put the pie on a cookie sheet to catch any dripping and bubbling. Place on the middle rack of the oven and bake for 20 minutes.  Rotate the pie 180 degrees to move the front edge of the pie to the back of the oven. Bake until the top is golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes more. Watch carefuly throughout to ensure that the crust doesn't burn. Cover loosely with foil if it seems to be browning too quickly.

Remove the pie from the oven and let cool for 20 minutes before slicing and serving. If you slice and serve to soon, it will be runny.


~Happy Appling!~


Morning Has Broken...


It didn't begin as a new habit, really. Instead, it was a bit of serendipity. A wave of hot, sticky days--too hot and sticky to play out of doors. A mother who was ready to add more exercise to her day and was eager, too, to be outside, instead of only pedaling away on a bike that goes nowhere. I needed to bike alone, but I needed, also, to breathe in fresh air and laughter of children. And, so, early one morning, while looking at the forecast, I made a decision: if the temperature was going to soar into the 90s and above for ten days (and beyond?), we'd have to get out early or none of us would ever get out at all.

Right after breakfast, I made the announcement. Everyone was to get walking shoes; everyone was required to come along; everyone was to be cheerful. Karoline and Sarah Annie each had a stroller. Off we went!


We traveled a neighborhood trail, roughly two miles along wooded areas, grassy areas and a lake. We talked the whole way and watched for wildlife.  When we returned home, we settled into the living room, lit a candle and had some morning prayer time. The day was off to a great beginning. The time? 9:00.


It occurred to me, after the third day of this "routine," that I rather liked beginning the day with my children this way.  The rhythm is well-established: exercise, prayer, shower, dress, tea, Bible. All before 7:30. Even if the day unravels from there, I can still take comfort in the fact that I got to those things. When I considered my personal routine in light of the new habit that was unfolding, it dawned on me that the acquisition of habits could be a layering. Habit upon habit, I could build into each segment of the day the rhythm I desired. This morning walk was the next layer.


The walk suited all of us.

I loved that we were all together. it was just the right amount of physical exertion to wake us, help us focus, and energize the day. The out-of-doors time gave birth to all sorts of conversations and observations. Nature study happened, well, naturally:-). There were questions to ask and answer. There were rocks to throw, flowers to sniff, and ducks who begged us to quack back--all in our own backyard. This was the world waiting to be explored. These were the plants and animals my children should be able to name.

This habit found us and we are eager to embrace it. Our nature study time is set now. A walk to get things started, home for Morning Prayer, and then nature notebooks to record what we saw along the way (cameras tend to come with us on walks:-). This will be the way we begin our days--from now on, well into the school year, and until it's absolutely too cold to venture forth even if bundled. And why not?DSC_0648

Our first thought with regard to Nature-knowledge is that the child should have a living acquaintance with the things he sees.


Let them once get touch with Nature, and a habit is formed which will be a source of delight through life.



She will point to some lovely flower or gracious tree, not only as a beautiful work, but a beautiful thought of God, in which we may believe He finds continual pleasure, and which He is pleased to see his human children rejoice in.


Let us, before all things, be Nature-lovers; intimate acquaintance with every natural object within his reach is the first, and, possibly, the best, part of a child's education.


Beauty is everywhere--in white clouds against the blue, in the gray bole of the beech, the play of a kitten, the lovely flight and beautiful colouring of birds, in the hills and the valleys and the streams, in the wind-flower and the blossom of the broom.


What circumstances strike you in a walk in summer?


By-and-by he passes from acquaintance, the pleasant recognition of friendly faces, to knowledge, the sort of knowledge we call science.


 He begins to notice that there are resemblances between wild-rose and apple blossom, between buttercup and wood-anemone, between the large rhododendron blossom and the tiny heath floret.DSC_0613

He must be accustomed to ask "why?"--Why does the wind blow? Why does the river flow? Why is the leaf bud sticky?



Every child has a natural interest in the living things about him which it is the business of his parents to encourage.


It is infinitely well worth the mother's while to take some pains every day to secure, in the first place, that her children spend hours daily amongst the rural and natural objects; and, in the second place, to infuse them, or rather to cherish in them, the love of investigation.


The boy who is in the habit of doing sensory daily gymnastics will learn a great deal more about the beetle than he who is not so trained.


We are awaking to the use of nature-knowledge, but how we spoil things by teaching them!


The child who learns his science from a text-book, though he go to Nature for illustrations, and he who gets his information from object lessons, has no chance of forming relations with things as they are, because his kindly obtrusive teacher makes him believe that to know about things is the same as knowing them personally.


All quotes are Charlotte Mason, taken from the excellent book Hours in the Out-of-Doors: A Charlotte Mason Nature Study Handbook, available at Simply Charlotte Mason.

~repost from the archives